6,000 square kilometers of leisure time
So, it’s good that you’re here! If you’d follow me, please. It’s not far: along the Praterstraße to the Praterstern we’ll have arrived: in the Wiener Prater. A place for nature-lovers and partygoers, sportspeople, for amusement seekers and for lovers of life. In short, a place where the people of Vienna spend their free time, and, once a year, show off their best costumes for the “Wiener Wiesn”, the Viennese equivalent of the Munich Oktoberfest. See for yourself: the green Prater is a relaxing place. Meadows and original wetlands are spread out over an area of 6,000 square kilometres. The almost five-kilometre-long Hauptallee (main avenue) with its venerable chestnut trees is the lifeline of the spacious park. Here you can stroll along the well-trodden recreational path to the romantic Lusthaus (summer house). You should treat yourself to a break here; after all, the former hunting lodge played host to the Vienna Congress in 1814-1815, and today is still a charming café and restaurant.
“In the Prater the trees are in bloom, blazing in their fragrant green. So kiss, just kiss and don’t delay, because springtime is back in Vienna.” From the operetta “Frühling in Wien” (“Spring in Vienna”) by Robert Stolz (1880-1975)
History of the famous Viennese Prater
For a long time the Prater was reserved as a hunting ground for the royal family. The rules were strict even for the nobility: dogs were prohibited, pleasure rides were only permitted on the Hauptallee, and getting out your coach was not allowed, so as not to frighten the game animals. We have Emperor Joseph II to thank that the former wetlands are now open to everybody as a huge public park.
Since 1775 the Prater has been the people’s first choice for outdoor recreation, and soon after it was opened up, beer gardens, coffeehouses and bocce courts began to spring up.
From these modest beginnings the “Wurstelprater” at the western end of the green Prater emerged, the notorious amusement park with 250 fairground attractions gathered around the Vienna Riesenrad (giant ferris wheel). If you’re in a poetic mood you shouldn’t miss a ride on this Viennese landmark with its panoramic views over the city. The ghost-train and the flight-simulator on the other hand are a bit louder. And if you’d prefer to explore the culinary delights of the Prater the rustic Schweizerhaus, with its hearty Stelzen (pork knuckles), or the prize-winning Eisvogel restaurant are recommended. Both are unique and typical for the Prater.
Text: Lucia Czernin, Fotos: Christine Wurnig