Your chances of encountering a celebrity during a stroll increase considerably once you’re in the historic center of Vienna. And even if the modern-day stars don’t want to show themselves, you’ll still be surrounded by VIPs (Very Important Places): in the winding alleyways around Ballgasse and Franziskanerplatz you’ll encounter mediaeval Vienna, on Michaelerplatz and at Stubentor the Romans, and in between the imperial city presents itself at its most impressive. It’s not surprising therefore that UNESCO includes the historical city centre on its list of World Cultural Heritage sites.
“The streets of Vienna are paved with culture, the streets of other cities with asphalt.” The Austrian writer Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
750 heritage-protected objects are crowded into this conglomeration of the centuries. The one that literally stands head-and-shoulders above the rest is St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom): the “Steffl” is 107 metres long, 34 metres wide, at its highest point 136.4 metres tall, and home to the 20.130-ton Pummerin, the second-largest free-swinging ringing church bell in Europe.
60 museums are located here. They range from major international collections such as the Albertina and the Kusthistorisches Museum (museum of fine art) to small specialist museums such as the teddy bear or the clock museum.
The first district of Vienna covers an area of 3.01 square kilometres. Up until 1850, along the line of what is now the Ring Boulevard, the old town was surrounded by the ancient city walls, the border between the city and “the provinces”.
Innumerable things of beauty both large and small compete for your attention when you wander through the city centre. Even long-time residents of Vienna often stop in front of a house to admire its facade, or to take a peek into a courtyard which reveals much more than its entrance might indicate.
The inner city is much more than just a celebrities’ playground; it’s also a treasure trove of unique jewels just waiting to be discovered.
Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig