Giant Ferris Wheel

One of the landmarks of Vienna

Gondola ferris wheel

The Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) is simply a part of Vienna. Even today, more than 100 years after it opened, a sedate ride on the nostalgic ferris wheel delights visitors with its marvelous views over the rooftops of the city. And that even though the Giant Ferris Wheel should actually no longer be standing: in 1916 approval was given for its demolition, but luckily, due to lack of funds, the deconstruction of the more than 400-ton structure was never carried out

“If you haven’t had a ride on the Riesenrad at least once in your life, you’ve never really been to Vienna!” A Viennese conviction: along with the Stephansdom cathedral and Schönbrunn palace the Riesenrad is one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions.

The Viennese Giant Ferris Wheel was built in 1897 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the accession to the throne of Emperor Franz Joseph I. In those days panoramic ferris wheels were very popular and could be found in many cities; with a diameter of 60.96 metres and a height of 64.75 metres Vienna’s was one the world’s largest.

The Giant Ferris Wheel had escaped demolition

but it only just survived World War II – in 1944 it was almost completed destroyed by fire. But the Viennese clung to their landmark: together with the St. Stephen`s Cathedral, the opera house and the Burgtheater, the Giant Ferris Wheel was one of the first constructions to be restored, and in 1947 it was already revolving again, albeit with only half of its original 30 carriages, due to safety considerations.

 Vienna seen from the Ferris wheel


 Prater ferris wheel

The Viennese Giant Ferris Wheel, with its 15 carriages, became a symbol of the rebuilding of the city.

One complete revolution of the ferris wheel takes four minutes and 15 seconds: just as long as the scene in the film “The Third Man” (1949) in which Orson Welles confesses his shady dealings to his old friend Joseph Cottons. In reality, a ride on the Viennese Giant Ferris Wheel lasts quite a bit longer: the wheel only travels the distance between two carriages before pausing to enable passengers to get in and out. The most recent renovation of the Giant Ferris Wheel was carried out in 2008: its forecourt was repainted in candy colours, and so constitutes the gateway to the actual Prater amusement park, with its roller coasters, ghost-trains and halls of mirrors.

Text: Kornelia Kopf, Fotos: Christine Wurnig