Tag Archives: architecture

St. Stephan’s Cathedral

St. Stephan’s Cathedral, aka Stephansdom, is the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Vienna and an important historical landmark. The cathedral is open for visitation throughout the day, but guided tours are only offered between services. The visitor can choose an all-inclusive tour (warning: the only English-language cathedral tour is Monday-Saturday at 10:3o), or can pick and choose which parts of the cathedral they want to see a la carte.

We visited the cathedral today and chose to do the tour of the catacombs (Euro 5 per adult) and climb to the top of the south tower (Euro 5 per adult). The catacomb tour was in both English and German, and handouts in additional languages were available at the beginning of the tour. The tour lasted about 30 minutes and shed some light on the more macabre parts of Vienna’s history: for example, visitors view a room where the walls are made of skeletal remains that were cleaned and stacked by inmates as part of their prison sentence.

Photography was not allowed during this tour, as the catacombs continue to be used primarily as a cemetery. The tour guide was very enthusiastic about the topic and was willing to answer any questions, so if you are shameless about asking questions (as I am) you can learn a lot beyond the canned spiel. The tour was well worth the price.

Next for us was the 343-stair climb to the top of the cathedral’s south tower. The staircase was very narrow (and two-way), made of stone, and spiraled the entire way to the top. I personally would not have attempted to do this climb with either my young children or parents, and it is definitely not handicap-accessible. (There is an elevator to the top of the bell tower, though, so stroller- or wheelchair-bound people can still get to the top of the cathedral.)

View from the top

View from the top

When you get to the top of the tower, you are rewarded with amazing panorama views of the city. There are signs over the windows orienting you to the compass points, and each window has a telescope to enhance viewing (Euro 0,50). There are also German-language signs that give additional history of the tower itself, as well as a somewhat tacky souvenir stand. Again, I thought this experience was well worth the price.


  • Visit the cathedral’s website for complete details of the guided tours.
  • Read the Wikipedia article on the cathedral for additional background on the building and its history.



Wien um 1900

While Emperor Franz Joseph I sought to glorify the Austrian empire’s past through a series of construction projects, most notably the creation of the Ring Road with the extravagant buildings that adorn it, a group of local artists were focused on the present. They struggled to create a modern form of art and in the process, they broke away from the artistic establishment that they viewed as backward-looking.

This break-away is known as the Secession and its art in the form of paintings, architecture, and applied arts helped create the mythology of “Fin de siècle Vienna.” I am not a huge fan of art, but this movement and era caught my interest and a visit to the Museum for Applied Arts‘ exhibit “Vienna 1900” furthered this interest. I purchased a copy of the book Wien um 1900 and decided to take walk around the city to see some of the Secession architecture.

The following post describes this walk and gives a little history of each building. A caveat before we begin: I am not an artist, art historian, or even an art afficionado. I chose the buildings for this walk based solely on which ones looked most interesting, and I’ve likely left more historically and/or artistically important buildings out. That’s OK with me and I hope it’s OK with you, too.

Click here to see all of these buildings plotted out on a map, and click on the title of each destination to see a picture of the building in question. This walk should take around an hour and a half, if all you do is follow the route and take pictures. Allow for more time if you want to go into any of the buildings that are open to the public.

To begin the walk take public transport to Schottentor (U2 train, or trams 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, or 43) and walk to Michaelerplatz from there: turn left onto Schottengasse (Bank Austria will be ahead of you on the corner, and Votivkirche will be behind you). Continue on Schottengasse until the road forks at Freyung, then take a slight right onto Herrengasse. Follow Herrengasse to Michaelerplatz; number 3 is on your left as soon as you get to the plaza. (950 meters, approximately 10 minutes.)

1. Loos Haus, Michaelerplatz 3, 1010 Wien
Designed by Adolf Loos and built in the years 1909-11, this building caused scandal because of its lack of external ornament. The story goes that Emperor Franz Josef’s aesthetic sensibilities were so offended by this building that he kept the curtains in the windows of the Hofburg facing it closed. The bottom floor is currently occupied by Raiffeisenbank.

To get to the next destination: turn left onto Kohlmarkt; the book shop is a few buildings down on the left. (Less than 1 minute.)

2. Buchhandlung Manz, Kohlmarkt 16, 1010 Wien
This book shop was also designed by Adolf Loos and built 1901-1902. Presumably it caused less controversy than the Goldmann & Salatsch building.

To get to the next destination: continue on Kohlmarkt toward Graben, then turn right onto Graben (the Julius Meinl coffee shop and grocery will be on your left). Continue down Graben and turn right onto Seilergasse, and left onto Kaerntner Durchgang. (550 meters, approximately 6 minutes.)

3. Loos American Bar, Kaerntner Durchgang, 1010 Wien
This bar was designed by Loos after his visit to the United States. It was built in 1908 and was originally called the Kaerntner Bar. Loos not only designed the façade of the bar, but he designed almost every detail within as well: the underlit tables, a drinking set used by the bar, etc.

There is a sign on the bar’s window that says photography and “sight seeing” (i.e., popping your head in to look around) is not allowed. If you want to see the interior of the bar plan to go in for a drink, but note that the bar does not open until 12:00.

To get to the next two destinations: back-track toward Seilergasse then turn right on to Seilergasse. Turn left on to Graben; both 10 and 13 Graben are on the left. (170 meters, approximately 2 minutes.)

4. Anker Haus, Graben 10, 1010 Wien
This was the only commercial building designed by Otto Wagner that has been preserved. It was built in the years 1894-5.

5. Schneidersalon Knize, Graben 13 1010 Wien
This building was designed by Loos and built in the years 1909-13. This men’s clothing store was founded in 1858 and by the time Loos designed the building, the company had become a supplier of clothing to the court. The building is in the same condition today as it was when it originally opened.

To get to the next destination: continue on Graben and take it to the end, then turn right onto Tuchlauben (at the corner where the Julius Meinl coffee shop is located). Take an immediate left on to Bognergasse. (280 meters, approximately 4 minutes.)

6. Haus der Apotheke zum Weissen Engel, Bognergasse 9, 1010 Wien
The “white angel” pharmacy existed as early as 1587, albeit in a different location. The “white angel” pharmacy relocated a couple times before it arrived at Bognergasse in 1891. The original building was demolished and Oskar Laske designed the building that stands there today; it was constructed 1901-2. This is one of the last remaining pharmacies in the “Jugendstil” (“young style” or Art Nouveau).

To get to the next destination: Back-track to Tuchlauben, then turn left onto Tuchlauben and right onto Brandstaette. (450 meters, approximately 5 minutes.)

7. Zacherlhaus, Brandstätte 6, 1010 Wien
This house was designed by Josef Plecnik, a student of Otto Wagner’s, and built in the years 1903-5.  The house was designed for Johann Evangelist Zacherl, son of the founder of the Zacherlfabrik, Johan Zacherl. The house had to be restored after World War II and is owned by the Zacherl family to this day.

To get to the next destination: continue on Brandstaette and turn left onto Kramergasse, left onto Lichtenstegasse, and continue towards Hoher Markt. The clock is on the corner of Lichtenstegasse and Bauernmarkt. (270 meters, approximately 3 minutes.)

8. Anker-Uhr, Hoher Markt, 1010 Wien
This clock was designed by Franz Matsch and built in 1913. At 12:00 noon every day, the clock plays music and prominent figures of Viennese history circle the clock. The clock was commissioned by the insurance firm  Der Anker, which also purchased Wagner’s Anker Haus (hence the name).

From here you will need to walk to Schwedenplatz and take the U4 train to Karlsplatz. To get to Schwedenplatz: while you are facing the clock, turn right on to Lichtenstegasse, then turn left onto Rotenturmstrasse and follow it to Franz-Josefs-Kai/B227. The U4 station is on the right. (550 meters, approximately 6 minutes.)

When you are exiting the train at the Karlsplatz station, follow the signs for Karlsplatz. Once you leave the station itself, take the stairs or paved sidewalk to the left by the “Ressel Park” sign. Follow the sidewalk at the top towards the right and you will see the Pavillon pictured in the link below.

10. Pavillons am Karlsplatz, Karlsplatz, 1040 Wien
Otto Wagner designed the building at the Karlsplatz station on the U4 line, which was built in 1899. This was part of the overall project that Wagner was commissioned to do: namely, the design of all the structures and stations. I chose this specific station as an example because it was a convenient link between the sites in the first district, and the Secession Gallery.

To get to the next destination: Cross the tram lines on your left as you’re facing the Pavillon, then cross the street (Karlsplatz) and turn left onto the street that you just crossed. Cross Kaerntnerstrasse and continue down the street you are on. Cross Operngasse, then turn left onto the street that you just crossed.  Operngasse will become Friedrichstrasse and the building you’re looking for is on the right (almost directly across from Naschmarkt) and has a large golden dome. (450 meters, approximately 6 minutes.)

11. Secessions-Gebaeude, Friedrichstrasse 12, 1010 Wien
This building, designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich and built in the years 1897-98, is where the Secession gallery is located. It is open Tuesday – Sunday 10:00-6:00 and permanently displays Gustav Klimt’s “The Beethoven Frieze” alongside changing exhibits of contemporary artists.

To get to the final destination on the walking tour: continue on Friedrichstrasse. Once you cross Getreidemarkt, the street becomes Linke Wienzeile: buildings 38 and 40 are both on the right side. (550 meters, approximately 6 minutes.)

12. Wienzeilehaueser, Linke Wienzeile 38 and 40, 1060 Wien
Complete your trip by ogling at these row houses designed by Otto Wagner and built in the years 1898-99. The Linke Wienzeile runs parallel to the Naschmarkt, should you need to refuel after spending the day enjoying some examples of architecture from the Secession movement. The U4 stop “Kettenbrueckengasse” is also nearby.

Children´s Museum – Schloss Schönbrunn Experience

Schloss Schönbrunn offers a children’s museum that explores both the architecture and history of the palace in a way that is easily accessible to young children. Kids really like learning about what life was like for the children who lived  there.

There are many hands-on items in the museum, such as historic toys, wigs, costumes, and smelling cans containing scents of the perfumes and foods of bygone years. The path through the museum is “lead” by Poldi, the friendly ghost, and at one point the kids discover “Poldi’s Room.” The museum is open on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, and daily during Viennese school holidays.


Also on the Schönbrunn grounds are a maze, playground, park land, and the zoo.