Off the Beaten Path

Nearly every part of Vienna contains pleasant surprises.  In the center of the city, the inquisitive tourist should consider relaxing in one of the famous old coffee houses, such as Griensteidl or Hawelka.  Students of history may wish to view the tombs of the Habsburgs in the Imperial Crypt (Kaisergruft) beneath the simple Capuchin Church (look for the famous skull that adorns the tomb of Empress Maria Theresa and the plain coffin of her son, Joseph II).  Another option is to inspect the hearts of the Habsburgs in the Hearts Crypt (Herzgruft) of the Augustinian Church of the Hofburg.  Those whose appetite for the macabre is insatiable may wish to tour the catacombs of Stephansdom.
The Hundertwasserhaus (Hundertwasser House), located in the District III or Landstraße, was the inspiration of the Austrian artist-turned-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1920-2000).  The Austrian chancellor, Bruno Kreisky (1911-1990), suggested that Hundertwasser design a residential structure in Vienna based on the architectural concepts that Hundertwasser had been elaborating for some time.  Since he had no architectural training or experience, Hundertwasser relied on the expertise of Josef Krawina (born 1928), who is the building’s co-creator.  As a result of Hundertwasser’s constant criticism of straight lines in buildings, his structure has none, and the floors are not level.  Trees and plants are on the roofs, and a few actually emerge from the interior of the structure.

Most tourists do not venture beyond the Ring, which is a mistake because there is so much more to Vienna.  In District III, Landstraße, is St. Marx Cemetery, the resting place of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).  When contemplating his memorial, remember that nobodyknows specifically where he was buried because the custom of the time was to bury individuals in mass graves without markers.  Also in District III, near the Schwarzenburg Palace and behind the Der Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain that dates from 1873, stands the controversial Soviet War Memorial that many Viennese would love to see demolished.  A short walk to District IV brings one to the delightful Baroque Karlskirche, with its oval dome.  Not far are two Secession gems: the Karlsplatz Metro stop of Otto Wagner (1841-1918) and the Secession Building (see Secession Vienna below).  For an evening of fun, take in the sights and sounds of the famous Prater amusement park in District II, Leopoldstadt, the part of Vienna that Adolf Hitler criticized in his Mein Kampf for having too many Jews whom he claimed preyed on the poor and unsuspecting. 

For those who are willing to travel on public transportation to a quiet section of the city, take a tram ride to Grinzing, which is part of District XIX, Döbling.  During the day, one can visit the cemetery with the graves of  the composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and his wife, the femme fatale Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879-1964), who was the wife of Mahler, the architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969), and finally the writer Franz Werfel (1890-1945) as well as the lover of the artist Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980).  Afterward, select a restaurant for a pleasant dinner and a glass of Austrian wine.

Another interesting outing is a visit to Mauer in District XXIII, Liesing, southwest of the city center.  Situated on Rysergasse and Georgengasse is the so-called Wotruba Church, formally the Church of the Most Holy Trinity (Kirche zur Heiligsten Dreifaltigkeit).  The Austrian sculptor Fritz Wotruba (1907-1975), who had a Czech father and a Hungarian mother, began work on the church in 1974, shortly before he died, and in 1976, the architect Fritz G. Mayr (born 1931) completed the structure.  The church has 152 randomly-placed concrete blocks, the largest being 64 cubic meters and weighing 141 tons.  Although a superb example of Brutalist architecture, the church has had its critics, including some residents of the Mauer community.  That is to be expected since Brutalism is the style even casual observers of architecture love to hate.  While in Mauer, find the cemetery and search out the resting place of John Banner (1910-1973) by finding Gruppe 57, Reihe 2, Nummer 26.  Banner was the actor who, between 1965 and 1971, played Master Sergeant Hans Georg Schultz in the television series Hogan's Heroes (in German, Ein Käfig voller Helden, that is, A Cage Full of Heroes).  When families no longer pay the rental for cemetery plots, the rights to place a grave stone on the plot transfer to another, so there is only a temporary marker on the Johann Hübner family stone noting that Banner also is buried there.  Since Mauer and specifically the Wotruba Church border the large park known as the Vienna Woods (German: Wienerwald), consider exploring the park, especially if an MP3 player is available with a version of the famous waltz from 1868 by the younger Johann Strauss (1825-1899) titled "Tales from the Vienna Woods."

Gasometer in Vienna is a perfect example of adaptive reuse in architecture.  Until the late 1970s, the buildings, which date from the 1890s, distilled gas from coal for the city.  After the Second World War, Vienna began using natural gas, and the city officials retired the Gasometer facilities.  In the 1990s, Vienna began converting the buildings for use as apartments, offices, an entertainment complex, and a shopping mall.  In 2001, they opened to the public.  Anyone venturing to District XI, Simmering, should stop at Gasometer to explore the shops, have some refreshments in the food court, and marvel at the engineering feat of the past and the architectural innovation of the present.

Perhaps a stroll on a warm summer's day in a park that is a bit closer to the city center is more appealing.  In front of the Rathaus on the Ring is a pleasant park for a quick getaway from the busy city.  On summer evenings, the Viennese city government provides free films and concerts in the portion of the park immediately in front of the Rathaus.  In the evening, consider visiting the Stadtpark, with another Metro stop by Otto Wagner, a famous memorial to the younger Johann Strauss (1825-1899), the Wienfluß or Wein River, and the Kursalon, where the Viennese once danced to the Strauss family waltzes.

Museums in Vienna

The Reichsrat on the Ring in Vienna is the site of a museum dedicated to Austria's historic parliament.  It is one example of the many small museums that visitors to the city often overlook.

Like Berlin and Dresden, Vienna has a wealth of museums.  The historic European paintings and Classical objects are at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum), which Franz Joseph (1830-1916, reigned 1848-1916) established to display the collections of the Habsburg dynasty.  Opposite, in an identical building, is the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum), which has a rather modest collection.  Among the new additions to the museums in the city is the Museums Quartier, with its seven museums.  For those who love the Secession, be sure to visit Belvedere and the Secession Building.  Given the number of museums in the city and the likelihood that even the most avid museum goer will experience museum overload, planning which museums and which collections one will visit is essential.  The list below represents some of the most frequented museums but is by no means complete.  For a list of all museums in Vienna, see
The Albertina has a superior graphics arts collection.

Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art (Österreichische Museum für Volkskunde) --
The museum collections at Belvedere concentrate on Austrian artists (see Palaces in Vienna below).

Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum) --
The Kunsthistorisches Museum displays the work of Europe’s old masters and has an excellent collection of Classical objects.

Imperial Apartments
Silver Collection
Sisi Museum (devoted to Franz Joseph’s wife, Elisabeth)

Collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in the Hofburg (see the Art History Museum above)

Collection of Arms and Armour (Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer) --

Collection of Historic Musical Instruments (Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente) --

Ephesos Museum --
This museum includes artifacts from the ancient city of Ephesus.
The Schatzkammer exhibits crowns and other imperial and royal treasures.

Museum of Ethnology --
This is a collection of artifacts from throughout the world.

Jewish Museum (Jüdisches Museum) --
See Palais Eskeles in Palaces in Vienna below.

KunstHausWien is a museum dedicated to the work of the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000).

Künstlerhaus Wien --
The Künstlerhaus features temporary exhibitions on painting, sculpture, applied art, and architecture.

Museums Quartier --

Architekturzentrum Wien (Vienna Architectural Center) --

Design Forum Wien (Vienna Design Forum) --
The museum presents exhibitions on all sorts of design, including interiors.

Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna Art Hall) --
The Kunsthalle organizes temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.
The Leopold Museum exhibits modern Austrian art, including the Secession.

MUMOK or MUseum MOderner Kunst (Museum of Modern Art) --

quartier21 --
quartier 21 offers unconventional presentations of contemporary art and culture, including digital art.

ZOOM Kindermuseum (ZOOM Children’s Museum) --

Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) --

Reichsrat --
Although the Reichsrat is a working legislature, it does have a visitors' center and exhibition.

The Viennese Secession Building [Wiener Secessionsgebäude] (1897-1898), the work of the architect Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908), was home to the artists of the Secession, known in Germany as Jugendstil and in France as Art Nouveau.  It now houses various exhibitions and is the permanent home of the "Beethoven Frieze" by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918).  A specific web page for the "Beethoven Frieze" is at  The entire frieze is available at

There are nearly twenty museums in this group, including those dedicated to musicians, archaeology, Otto Wagner, and more specific items, such as clocks.

Secession Vienna

Architectural works of Otto Wagner (1841-1918).  From top to bottom: The Hofpavillon Hietzing metro stop outside of Schönbrunn, the Österreichische Postsparkasse or Austrian Postal Savings Bank, and the Majolica House.

Vienna has an even richer Secession architectural heritage than Prague.  For the person who enjoys this cultural period of the final years of the Habsburg Monarchy, the opportunities in Vienna seem endless.  Some of the works of the architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918) appear in the illustrations above.  Note that the interior of the original interior Hofpavillon Hietzing outside of Schönbrunn is preserved and is open for visitors (see  Tourists also may wish to visit his other structures, including the Karlsplatz metro stop, which now has an exhibition about Wagner (see and other metro buildings around Vienna.  Wagner's St. Leopold church at the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital (other architects designed the remaining buildings on the campus) is truly an architectural gem and worth the time it takes to travel to see it using public transportation.  Near the Karlsplatz metro station is the Secession Hall or Secession Building Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908) built as an exhibition hall for the Secession artists.  Today, it hosts various artistic exhibits, but in the basement, on permanent display, is the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) that includes the famous The Kiss for the Whole World.  More information about the building, including a virtual tour, is available from the Vienna tourism information web site here.  Artistic works of Klimt and others are at the Belvedere Palace, the Leopold Museum, the Albertina, and the Wien (Vienna) Museum.  Several web sites and tour books in print offer more clues to seeking out Secession culture in Vienna.

Palaces in Vienna

Schloß Schönbrunn as seen through the Neptunbrunnen or Neptune’s Fountain.

There are more than 50 palaces in Vienna, and anyone touring the city should devote enough time to see at least a few.

The imperial and royal family had two important residences. The first was the Hofburg, in the center of Vienna, and the second was the Schönbrunn Palace outside of the city center but still within the city limits. Originally a hunting lodge, Schönbrunn was the work of Maria Theresa (1717-1780; reigned, 1740-1780), who began constructing a palace on the grounds shortly after she came to power. The architect of the original structure was Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723), also the architect of the Karlskirche (see Off the Beaten Path above), and Maria Theresa had the Italian architect Nicolò Pacassi (1716–1790) alter and expand the palace and give it a uniform appearance in the Rococo style. Visiting the interior is a delight,especially if one has not had the opportunity of visiting the Hofburg. Plan to spend time on the palace grounds exploring the Neptunbrunnen, Glorietta, Roman Ruin, Tiergarten (Zoo), and the Orangery (a conservatory or botanical gardens). Schönbrunn was to Austria what the much larger Versailles was to France, Sanssouci was to Prussia, and Peterhof was to Russia. Visit all four during the course of a lifetime and determine which is the most compelling. The web site for Schönbrunn Palace is

The famous Jewish Rothschild family that built a fortune through banking and finance owned several palaces in Vienna. The Nazis confiscated all the palaces and their contents, and several structures that survived the war were so damaged that they were demolished. Only a few survive.

Some palaces to consider visiting in Vienna are below (not a complete list):

Albertina once was the residence of Prince Albert Casimir August of Saxony, Duke of Teschen (1738-1822), the Albertina now exhibits the prince’s collection of graphics and prints. The Albertina is in District I, that is, the city center, and its web site is

Belvedere, in District III, was the residence of the dashing Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), one of Austria’s greatest military leaders, and was the design of Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt (1668-1745). Today, it serves as a museum that exhibits specifically Austrian art in a dozen historical categories. Its web site is

Palais Coburg, located at Coburgbastei 4, was built in the Neo-Classical style in the 1840s and now is an exclusive hotel. Its web page is

Embassy of Russia, a Neo-Renaissance palace at Reisnerstraße 45-47 in District III, has been the seat of the Russian ambassador to Austria since the 1890s.

Palais Ephrussi, built as a Neo-Baroque palace in the nineteenth century by the architect of the Reichsrat, Theophil Edvard von Hansen (1813-1891), served as the headquarters for the Nazi party and now is an office building. It is on the Ring and opposite the Votivkirche.

Palais Eskeles was once in the hands of a Jewish noble family and now is the location of the Jewish Museum. Its address is Judenplatz 8 in the city center. The museum is closed on Saturdays. See and Museums in Vienna above.

Hermesvilla was the Neo-Baroque palace that Franz Joseph (1830-1916; reigned, 1848-1916) built between 1882 and 1886 for his wife, Elisabeth, better known as Sisi (1837-1898). It is located outside of the city center in Lainzer Tiergarten. The architect was Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer (1833-1894), who is famous for constructing the Burgtheater and the identical Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum (see Museums in Vienna above). It now is the venue for special exhibitions for the Vienna Museum. See

Hotel Imperial on the Kärntner Ring has been a luxury hotel since the 1870s, but Duke Philipp of Württemberg (1838-1917) originally built it in the 1860s as his residence. The web site for the hotel is

Palais Hoyos, which has three segments, is the work of the Secession architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918). The building at Rennweg 3 in District III, now the Croatian Embassy, was where Wagner lived, and the composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) lived at Rennweg 5.

Palais Kinsky was built in the early eighteenth century in the Baroque style and was the birthplace of the famous Polish military figure Józef Poniatowski (1763-1813), the nephew of the Polish king during the Partitions of Poland. Józef Poniatowski died at the Battle of Leipzig as a marshal of France. The palace, located in the center of the city at Freyung 4, now hosts auctions (see and other businesses.

Palais Lieben-Auspitz, a Neo-Baroque structure at Dr. Karl Lueger Ring 4 in District I, now houses the Café Landtmann. See

Liechtenstein Garden Palace, located in District XI and completed in the early eighteenth century, now is a museum that exhibits the collection of the Liechtenstein family (see Museums in Vienna above).

Palais Lobkowitz, built in the late seventeenth century in the Baroque style, now houses the Theatermuseum of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Its address is Lobkowitzplatz 2 in the city center. See

Palais Schwarzenberg, in District III near the Soviet War Memorial, was the work of two architects, Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (see above for their other famous works), in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. It is among Vienna’s most famous palaces. Part of the structure serves as a luxury hotel, and the Schwarzenberg family still owns the property.

Stadtpalais Liechtenstein at Bankgasee 9, built during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century in the Baroque style, is still the private residence of the Liechtenstein family. It is being restored to serve as a museum for the family’s paintings (see Museums in Vienna above).

Palais Todesco, next to the Vienna State Opera, was built in the nineteenth century. Its interior designer was Theophil von Hansen, the designer of the Reichsrat.