Top historic sites in Vienna

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. The current Romanesque and Gothic form of the cathedral was largely initiated by Duke Rudolf IV (1339–1365) and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches, the first a parish church consecrated in 1147. The most important religious building in Vienna, St. Stephen's Cathedral h ...
Founded: 1359 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace is the former imperial palace in the centre of Vienna. Part of the palace forms the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. Built in the 13th century and expanded in the centuries since, the palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history, including monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was the principal imperial ...
Founded: 1279 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Museumsquartier

The MuseumsQuartier Wien, one of the largest culture and art complexes in the world, is a playground for culture seekers. Spend the entire day diving into the vibrant sprawl of renowned museums, exhibition halls and art spaces. The Museumsquartier contains Baroque buildings as well as Modern architecture by the architects Laurids and Manfred Ortner. Additional highlights include Leopold Museum (one of the largest collect ...
Founded: 2001 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Kunsthistorisches Museum

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an art museum in Vienna. Housed in its festive palatial building on Ringstraße, it is crowned with an octagonal dome. It is the largest art museum in the country. It was opened around 1891 at the same time as the Naturhistorisches Museum, by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary. The two museums have similar exteriors and face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz. Both buildings we ...
Founded: 1891 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Albertina

Albertina museum houses one of the largest and most important print rooms in the world with approximately 65,000 drawings and approximately 1 million old master prints, as well as more modern graphic works, photographs and architectural drawings. Apart from the graphics collection the museum has recently acquired on permanent loan two significant collections of Impressionist and early 20th-century art, some of which will ...
Founded: 1805 | Location: Vienna, Austria

St. Peter's Church

St. Peter"s Church (Peterskirche) is thought to occupy the oldest Christian sacred site in Vienna, as a church has stood here since the second half of the 4th century. According to legend, Charlemagne founded a larger church here in 792. The mediaeval church had three altars, with an apse in the south instead of the normal eastern orientation. This unusual feature has triggered many discussions among experts, and it ...
Founded: 1701-1733 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence located in Vienna. The 1,441-room Baroque palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the country. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. The site of the Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn is o ...
Founded: 1740 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Minoritenkirche

The Minoritenkirche is a church built in French Gothic style in Vienna old town. The site on which the church is built was given to followers of Francis of Assisi in 1224. The foundation stone was laid by King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1276. Duke Albrecht II later supported the building process, especially the main portal. The Gothic Ludwig choir was built between 1316 and 1328, and used as a mausoleum in the 14th and 15th ...
Founded: 1276 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Capuchin Church and Imperial Crypt

The Capuchin Church in Vienna, Austria is a church and monastery run by the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. It is most famous for containing the Imperial Crypt, the final resting place for members of the House of Habsburg. About 1599 the Capuchin brothers resided at Vienna on their way to Prague, where they had been sent by Pope Clement VIII in the course of the Counter-Reformation. The church was donated by will of Anna ...
Founded: 1599-1632 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Burgtheater

The Burgtheater (Imperial Court Theatre) opened on 14 March 1741, the creation of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa of Austria who wanted a theatre next to her palace. Three Mozart operas premiered there. The theatre's first building adjoined the Hofburg at Michaelerplatz, opposite St. Michael's Church. The theatre was moved to a new building at the Ringstraße in 1888 designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von H ...
Founded: 1888 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Karlskirche

Widely considered the most outstanding baroque church in Vienna, as well as one of the city's greatest buildings, Karlskirche is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, one of the great counter-reformers of the 16th century. In 1713, one year after the last great plague epidemic, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, pledged to build a church for his namesake patron saint, Charles Borromeo, who was revered as a healer for plague s ...
Founded: 1716-1737 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Austrian Parliament Building

The Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna is where the two houses of the Austrian Parliament conduct their sessions. The foundation stone was laid in 1874 and the building was completed in 1883. The architect responsible for its Greek Revival style was Theophil Hansen. He designed the building holistically, aiming to have each element harmonizing with all the others. He was therefore also responsible for the interior dec ...
Founded: 1874-1883 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Musikverein

The Wiener Musikverein is a concert hall in the Innere Stadt borough of Vienna. It is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. The 'Great Hall' (Großer Saal), due to its highly regarded acoustics, is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world, along with Berlin"s Konzerthaus, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and Boston"s Symphony Hall. With the exception of Boston Symphony Hall, none ...
Founded: 1870 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Belvedere

Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), an accomplished general and art connoisseur, built the Belvedere palace as his summer residence. Today, the Belvedere, one of the most important baroque buildings in Austria, is located in Vienna’s third district. However at the time of its construction, the palace was located outside the city gates. Belvedere palace consists of two seperate buildings: the Upper and Lower Belvedere, w ...
Founded: 1712 | Location: Vienna, Austria

St. Rupert's Church

St. Rupert"s Church is traditionally considered to be the oldest church in Vienna. The church is located in one of the oldest parts of the city, the section of the Roman Vindobona. According to legend, it was founded by Cunald and Gisalrich, companions of Rupert during his occupation of the seat of bishop of Salzburg. However, because Salzburg had influence over religious issues in Vienna between 796 and 829, it is m ...
Founded: c. 800 AD | Location: Vienna, Austria

Schottenstift

The Schottenstift (Scottish Abbey) is a Roman Catholic monastery founded in Vienna in 1155 when Henry II of Austria brought Irish monks to Vienna. The monks did not come directly from Ireland, but came instead from Scots Monastery in Regensburg, Germany. Henry granted the new monastery extensive privileges. Construction of the first monastery started in 1160, and the structure was consecrated in 1200. The monastery was ou ...
Founded: 1160 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Votive Church

The Votive Church (Votivkirche) is a neo-Gothic church located on the Ringstraße in Vienna. Following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, the Emperor"s brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian inaugurated a campaign to create a church to thank God for saving the Emperor"s life. Funds for construction were solicited from throughout the Empire. The church was dedicated in 1879. The Vot ...
Founded: 1879 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Vienna Central Cemetery

The Vienna Central Cemetery (Wiener Zentralfriedhof) is one of the largest cemeteries in the world, largest by number of interred in Europe and most famous cemetery in Vienna. Unlike many others, the Vienna Central Cemetery is not one that has evolved slowly with the passing of time. The decision to establish a new, big cemetery for Vienna came in 1863 when it became clear that – due to industrialisation – the city's ...
Founded: 1874 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Technisches Museum

The Technisches Museum Wien dates from the early 20th century. The decision to establish a technical museum was made in 1908, construction of the building started in 1909 and the museum was opened in 1918. The unique exhibits, from the past to the future, make the museum a showplace for exciting technological developments. Multimedia presentations illuminate the influence of technological achievements on our society, eco ...
Founded: 1918 | Location: Vienna, Austria

Klosterneuburg Abbey

Klosterneuburg Monastery was founded in 1114 by Saint Leopold III of Babenberg, the patron saint of Austria, and his second wife Agnes of Germany. In 1136, the abbey church was consecrated after 22 years of construction. The form of that original basilica has survived for nine centuries, despite many subsequent modifications and reconstructions. The abbey church, dedicated the Nativity of Mary, was later remodeled in the ...
Founded: 1114 | Location: Klosterneuburg, Austria

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.