Discover “good old Vienna” at the Grand Ferdinand, Hotel on the Ring
To see one of the most important sights in Vienna one does not even have to enter a building. Instead one saunters along the “Ringstraße”, the Vienna Ring Boulevard – often called simply “the Ring” –, which spans the Inner City. Of course, there are plenty of museums and venues all along the Ring Boulevard. The real sight, however, is the grand boulevard itself.
History of the Ringstraße
In 1875 the fortification walls in Vienna were razed. All of a sudden, Vienna had a relatively large empty and unused area. Without further ado, Emperor Franz Joseph I. tendered an architectural competition.
Many submissions were entered in the competition, but none of the designs truly convinced the Emperor. He charged a committee with consolidating the best ideas from the competition in one concept. The Ringstraße was born. It was inaugurated in 1865 even though various sections of the boulevard were only completed thereafter.
Next to the many public buildings along the Ring Boulevard many an aristocrat or affluent privatier built a private edifice as well. Those “city palaces”, the so-called “palais”, often almost eclipsed the public buildings in magnificence.
Vienna Ring Boulevard: A street of splendour
Looking at the Ring today one can easily imagine its former glory, despite all modernisation and advances. The tramway, lovingly called “the bim” by the Viennese, has replaced the horse tram which once took people around the Ring. And while cars could once go either way around the Ring, it has been a one-way street since 1972. What hasn‘t changed, however, are the well-kept historical buildings lining Vienna’s grand boulevard. There’s a reason, after all, why the Ring is part of the World Heritage Historic Center of Vienna.
Sightseeingtour along the Ring
Even if one was to restrict one’s sightseeing tour to the 5.2 kilometres long Ring Boulevard, one wouldn’t run out of sights to see. There’s the remarkable Vienna State Opera, built in the neo-renaissance style, Vienna City Hall in its flemish-gothic style, and the Parliament in all its neo-attic glory. Also worth a visit are Burgtheater and, right across from it, the main building of the University of Vienna.
Not far from that you’ll find Palais Epstein – one of the magnificent private city palaces, built by Theophil von Hansen, who also designed the famous concert hall Musikverein. Next to Donaukanal (the Danube Canal) you’ll find Urania, and if you’re going for the only church building on the Ring you’ll have to see the neo-gothic church Votivkirche.
The many gardens, parks and lawns along the Ring are an invitation to linger for tourists and locals alike. On pleasant days, Burggarten functions as picnic site, sunbed, and open-air gym alike. Those less inclined to sit on the grass simply stop at Café im Palmenhaus located at the back of Burggarten.
Not far from there, at Volksgarten, a visit to the neoclassical Theseus Temple by Pietro di Nobile is an absolute must. The temple is a scaled down replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens and is sometimes used as a venue for events.
Along the Ring Boulevard the monuments are so plentiful, one could almost trip over one at every corner. The Mozart Monument at Burggarten, the Goethe Monument on Opernring and the Lueger Monument on Stubenring are just three of many.
High culture in Vienna doesn’t have to be expensive
Vienna has been, and still is, rife with high culture, and the Ring is a good starting point. Burgtheater is the theatre in Vienna – once they take the stage here, actors and actresses know they’ve made it.
The opera equivalent to this is, of course, the Vienna State Opera on Opernring. The best seats in the house go for almost 300 Euros, but Vienna has a strong standing room tradition, making high culture affordable for every aficionado, even at the State Opera, where the 567 standing room tickets are so popular that people queue for them – after all the cheapest standing room only tickets are available for only 2 Euros.
Access to high culture is even easier at the square in front of City Hall Vienna. Every summer, for more than 25 years, the open air Film Festival takes place there. Throughout summer – whatever the weather – broadcasts of films, operettas, concerts, ballet performances, and even live transmissions from the Vienna State Opera are shown on a giant screen in the square. Culinary stands around the square supply the audience with international cuisine.
Overall, Vienna offers plenty of opera houses, theatres and cabarets to keep visitors entertained for days on end. Most of them are in easy reach by foot or public transport from the Grand Ferdinand’s central location on Schubertring.