Vienna

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Never ask a person from Vienna about the name of the district he or she lives in, because it is very probable that they will not know the answer. The city of Vienna does not consist of names, it consists of numbers. Like in Paris, all the districts have a name and a number; here, from 1 to 23.

The city can be divided in four different parts. First, there is the centre; the 1st district. Around the 1st district, you will find the famous Ringstrasse (built by Emperor Franz Joseph I instead of medieval city walls). Between the 'Ring' and the 'Gürtel' (belt), lie districts number 3 to 9, whilst the first and the second districts are separated by a small river, the Donaukanal. Beyond the Gürtel, south, west and north of the 1st district, you will find districts 10 to 20 and, last but not least, there are the two districts on the opposite bank of the river Danube, the Viennese call them 'Transdanubien'. District number 23 is situated south of the city center.

The 1st district ' Innere Stadt: The historic centre

This is the first, the most elegant and one of the most expensive districts Vienna. The most splendid boutiques, the most expensive hotels, the most important politicians, the Burgtheater, the State Opera, the Austrian President and most of the historic monuments ' they are all situated in the 1st district or 'Innere Stadt' (inner city), to give it its full name. Here you will find medieval Vienna ' old houses, small, cobbled streets, romantic squares which sometimes look as if Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could be coming round the next corner. Right through the 1st district runs Kärtnerstrasse, pedestrian zone and shopping boulevard, with the State Opera at one end and Stephansplatz with Stephansdom at the other. In the small streets around Kärtnerstrasse you will find jewelry shops, fashion boutiques ' from Chanel to Gucci and Prada ' as well as antique stores and the best cafés in town, like the Griensteidl, the Demel, the Diglas or the Bräunerhof.

The 2nd district- Leopoldstadt: Schnitzler, Strauss and Mahler

Leopoldstadt, the city's 2nd district, is separated from the centre of Vienna by the Danube Canal, and, along with the 20th district Brigittenau, forms a misshapen island bordered to the east by the main arm of the Danube. For the most part, it is a dull and uninteresting residential suburb, only redeemed by the Prater, the vast city park, with its funfair, ferris wheel, woods and numerous recreational facilities. Between 1600 and 1939, Leopoldstadt was the centre of Vienna's Jewish community. After 1848 thousands took the opportunity to leave the shtetls of Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary and Galicia and migrated to the capital of the Habsburg empire. The majority arrived by train at Wien Nord and settled in the surrounding district of Leopoldstadt, where housing conditions were poor and rents cheap. The Strauss family, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler and Theodor Herzl all lived here at some point, before moving up in the world to the city's richer suburbs.

The 3rd district- Landstrasse: Rich and poor

Vienna's 3rd district lies to the east and south-east of the Innere Stadt, framed to the east by the Danube Canal (Donaukanal) and to the west by Prinz-Eugen-Strasse, and Arsenalstrasse. It is predominantly a working-class-area, with a high immigrant population, mostly refugees from the former eastern bloc Yugoslavia. The one exception is the diplomatic quarter close to Schwarzenbergplatz and around the Belvedere. Here you will find splendid houses, expensive hotels and excellent restaurants. But the most important sight of the 3rd district is the Belvedere, probably Vienna's most beautiful rococo palace. The other sights such as the KunstHaus, designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Hundertwasserhaus and the Wittgensteinhaus plus the Museum of the 20th century and the Heeresgeschichtliche Museum are widely dispersed all around the district.

The 4th district ' Wieden: From Belvedere to Naschmarkt

In Wieden ' situated between Karlsplatz, Wienzeile and Gürtel ' the atmosphere is a more splendid one than in the neighbouring 3rd district. The 4th is one of the better presented residential suburbs close to the city centre, with patrician houses, pretty restaurants and chic bars. Here you will find RadioKulturhaus, the Theresianum and last but not least the Naschmarkt ' Vienna's biggest and most adventurous market.

The 5th district ' Margarethen

Margarethen lies next to Wieden between Gürtel and Wienzeile and is mostly a dull working-class suburb. There are no major attractions, besides the Flea Market on Wienzeile, which takes place every Saturday.

The 6th and 7th district ' Mariahilf and Neubau: Artists, Students, Bohemiéns

Between Wienzeile and Lerchenfelderstrasse, between Ringstrasse and Gürtel you will find Mariahilf and Neubau, divided by Vienna's biggest shopping boulevard, the Mariahilferstrasse. Back in the sixties and seventies, this area was rather dull, poor and not very beautiful. Once the place of many warehouses and beautiful patrician houses, housing conditions in the fifties were bad and rents cheap, therefore very attractive for artists and students. Today, the old warehouses are chic studios and flats, the old Biedermeier quarter Spittelberg was saved from demolition and refurbished. Also, Mariahilferstrasse became a splendid shopping area. With lots of good restaurants, chic bars and night-clubs the 6th and the 7th district have perhaps the busiest nightlife in town.

The 8th and the 9th ' Josefstadt and Alsergrund: Home of the patricians

Between Ringstrasse and Gürtel, between Lerchenfelderstrasse and Donaukanal there are the districts Josefstadt and Alsergrund ' two very nice residential areas, with large patrician houses. Many wealthy Viennese, who rather want to live in the city centre and not in a villa outside town, have a flat here. The main attractions ' beside many good restaurants and bars ' are the Theater in der Josefstadt, the Volksoper, the new university campus as well as the house where Sigmund Freud used to live.

The 10th, 11th and 12th district ' Favoriten, Simmering and Meidling: Working class suburbs

The only sight in these districts south of the Gürtel is the Zentralfriedhof in the outskirts of Simmering, but in general, these are dull and unattractive working-class suburbs, dominated by vast council flat buildings, from the tenement houses of the twenties to the huge council blocks of the 80ies and 90ies.

The 13th district ' Hietzing: Gardens, mansions, palaces

A very nice and fashionable garden suburb west of the 5th district with lots of splendid villas and gardens, ranging from the Biedermeier summer residences (beloved by the 19th century nobility), to the Jugendstil and modernist villas favoured by the more successful artists and businessmen of late-imperial Vienna. Here you will find Schönbrunn palace with its park as well as the Lainzer Tiergarten, the former imperial hunting ground, nowadays Vienna's second vast park besides the Prater.

The 14th, 15th and 15th district ' Rudolfsheim and Ottakring: Turn of the century Vienna

The 15th and 16th district with its patrician houses (situated between the Gürtel and the Wienerwald, west of the city centre) were all built at the same time as the Ringstrasse, but today, housing conditions are very poor (lots of flats still have no bathroom!). Once a working class area, Rudolfsheim and Ottakring now have the highest immigrant population of Vienna. In the hilly part of Ottakring, you will find some beautiful old villas, as well as Schloß Wilhelminenberg and Villa Aurora.

The 17th, 18th and 19th district ' Hernals, Währing, Döbling: Villas, vinyards, Vienna woods

Beyond the Gürtel, towards the Vienna Woods north of the centre, the villas get bigger, the surroundings greener and the streets more splendid, the further you go up the hills. Whoever wants to live in a green, quiet area (and has to money to pay for it) comes here. In these districts you will find beautiful Heurigen restaurants (especially in Grinzing and NEustift am Walde, both in the 19th district), nice walks through the Vienna woods and a very quiet atmosphere. The smartest and most beautiful public swimming pool of Vienna is situated in Döbling; on a hill high above the city, the Krapfenwaldlbad, besides being very relaxing, has a wonderful view of the whole of Vienna.

The 21st and 22nd district ' Floridsdorf and Donaustadt: Transdanubia

The Viennese call these districts Transdanubien (beyond the Danube), because they are situated on the other side of the river bank, east of the city centre. Here you will find Vienna's most popular recreational area; the Donauinsel. As the name suggests, this is a very thin, very long, artificial island in the river Danube. A paradise for rollerblading, cycling, jogging, walking (the dog), as well as swimming and sunbathing in summer. Besides that, the area close to the U1-underground station, called the 'sunken city', has a very busy nightlife with bars, restaurants and night-clubs from June to September.

Both districts are a rather cheap (and somewhat rough) residential area. Nevertheless, the Donaustadt is the district of Vienna, where the "real" Viennese people are said to live. There is even a TV-soap-opera called Kaisermühlen-Blues (Kaisermühlen is a part of Donaustadt), which describes the life of the common people who live there.

The 23rd district ' Liesing: Small houses, huge council blocks and Heurige

Liesing, to the south of the city centre and its southern border towards Niederösterreich, is so huge that it comprises small, detached houses, huge council blocks and nice Heurigen places at the same time. Villages like Mauer and Atzgersdorf are part of the 23rd district. Even though they are so rural, it is hard to believe you are still in Vienna. But except of some nice Heurigen places, you will find no major sights here.

History of Vienna

Vienna was originally a Celtic settlement on the site of the present-day city. The region around Vienna was first inhabited in the late Stone age, and Vienna itself was founded as a Bronze age settlement in about 800 BC. Settled by Celts from about 400 BC, the Romans later established a military camp called Vindobona among various Celtic settlements, to serve as a border fortress on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire against the Germanic tribes north of the Danube River. This camp was located in the area now circumscribed by Graben, Tiefer Graben, the Church of St. Mary's on the Bank, St. Rupert's Church and Rotenturmstrasse. The remains can still be seen today at the Michaelerplatz.

With the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Barbarian invasions reduced the Roman town to ruins. Vindobona diminished in importance until the 8th century, when the Frankish Emperor, Charlemagne, made it part of his Eastern march and part of the holy Roman empire. In 881 the name "Wenia" for Vienna is documented in the annals of the city of Salzburg, the first mention since Roman times.

Medieval Vienna

In the 10th century, the German Babenberg dynasty acquired Vienna, and during their reign of almost three centuries, the city became a major trading centre. In 955 the holy Roman Emperor, Otto I, expelled Hungarian tribes from the Eastern March. After ousting the Hungarians, Emperor Otto I established a border province of the 'empire towards the east' - hence the name "Ostarrichi", modern German; Österreich. In 976 he made a gift of Vienna to the Babenbergs, who, despite further incursions by the Hungarians, restored the city's importance as a centre of trade and culture. In about 1155, the Babenbergs moved their court to Vienna. In 1246, border squabbles with the Hungarians flared up into fighting. The Austrians were victorious, but the Babenberg duke Friedrich II was killed in battle without having any male heirs, leaving his family line extinct.

Following his death and the ensuing interregnum, the Habsburgs began centuries of rule over Austria. In 1276, Rudolf I of Habsburg, Holy Roman emperor since 1273, mounted a campaign against Premysl Ottokar II, king of Bohemia, who had taken over the orphaned Babenberg lands, for "insubordination to the Empire." Ottokar was killed in battle in 1278. Four years later, Rudolf I of Habsburg installed his two sons as rulers of Austria. The Habsburgs will reign the country for over 600 years, until 1918.

Renaissance Vienna

Under Maximilian I, Vienna was transformed into a centre for the arts. The Habsburgs were invariably elected Holy Roman Emperor, and by the 16th century their mighty empire had expanded into Spain, Holland, Burgundy, Bohemia and Hungary. Under Karl V, the empire was called 'the country were the sun never sets', because the Habsburgs also reigned in Mexico and South America. But it was under constant threat; in 1529 the Turks, having conquered the Balkans, laid siege to Vienna for the first time. They were not successful, but they stayed on for the next 150 years as a very dangerous neighbour in control of most of Hungary. Constant inroads into Austria were a scourge at the time. In 1679, a severe epidemic of the black plague ravaged Vienna.

The Turkish threat to Vienna ended in 1683, when Kara Mustapha's forces were repelled. In the following decades, they were pushed out of Hungary and down the Balkan Peninsula. Freed from the Turkish threat and the hub of an expanding empire, Vienna expanded under the reign of Karl VI; the Karlskirche, the Belvedere palaces and many other Baroque buildings were constructed, and created what was called "Vienna gloriosa".

From 1740 to 1790, Empress Maria Theresa and her son, Joseph II, reformed Austria. They abolished torture and serfdom, established tolerance for non-Catholic religious denominations, created a totally new administrative structure of the empire, introduced compulsory elementary education for everyone, put the army on a new footing, founded Vienna's General Hospital and opened the Prater gardens and Augarten park to the general public. The vast palace of Schönbrunn was completed by the Empress, who also presided over Vienna's development as the musical capital of Europe. The long reign of Maria Theresia was seen as a time of serenity, wealth and sensible administration, despite a background of frequent wars.

Biedermeier Vienna

Napoleons defeat of Austria in 1809 was a humiliation for Emperor Franz I. The French conqueror briefly occupied Schönbrunn palace, demolished part of the city walls, and even married Franz I's daughter Marie-Louise.

In 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, which restored the established order in Europe, Franz I and his minister, Prince Metternich, imposed autocratic rule in Austria. The middle class, excluded from political life, retreated into the artistic and domestic pursuits that characterised the the Biedermeier age. In 1848, revolutionary uprisings drove Metternich from power, but led to a new period of conservative rule under Franz Joseph I. In 1857, he ordered the walls encircling the city to be demolished. During 1858 to 1865, the Ringstrasse was laid out as the show boulevard of the Imperial Capital.

The 20th century

In the second half of the 19th century, Vienna attracted gifted men and women from all over the empire, as well as traders from Eastern Europe. However, the resulting ethnic brew often resulted in overcrowding and social tensions. The turn of the century was a time of intellectual ferment in Vienna; this was the age of Freud, of the writers Karl Kraus and Arthur Schnitzler, and of the Secession and Jugendstil. At this time, artists such as Gustav Klimt and the architects Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos created revolutionary new styles. This was all set against a decaying Habsburg empire, which Karl I's abdication in 1918 brought to an end. After World War I, the German speaking remains of the Habsburg empire became a republic.

In 1919, the Social Democrats gained the majority in Vienna's city government and retained it in all free elections.

From 1919 to 1934, Vienna's Social Democrats gained international acclaim for their municipal policies (municipal housing projects, a restructuring of the school system, social advances), despite a worldwide economic crisis and conflicts with the (predominantly Conservative) rest of Austria.

Until 1934, the rift between Austria's Conservatives, many of whom advocated authoritarian rule (similar to the economically prosperous neighbour Germany) and the Social Democrats deepened, and led a to the civil war. The army secured the rule of the Conservative Federal Government. Vienna's mayor was deposed. Two decades of struggle between the left and right political parties ended with the the union of Austria with Nazi-Germany (the Anschluß), in 1938. Thousands of people enthusiastically greeted Hitler when he held his first speech in Austria on Heldenplatz.

After World War II, Vienna was split among the Allies until 1955, when Austria regained independence, declaring itself a neutral state. In 1979, the Uno-City is opened. After the fall of the Soviet empire in 1989, Vienna regained status as a gateway between the East and the West.

 

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