Written by Joy S on 30 Jul, 2010
The Volksprater is Vienna's favourite outdoor gathering place since the emperor opened it to the public in 1766.It is a big park with miles of greenery and lots of open space to run around and relax in. In the 19th century, the Hauptallee was…Read More
The Volksprater is Vienna's favourite outdoor gathering place since the emperor opened it to the public in 1766.It is a big park with miles of greenery and lots of open space to run around and relax in. In the 19th century, the Hauptallee was a long promenade lined with chestnut trees where people dressed up and strolled. Today there are lots of places to relax, as well as 3 play areas with swings and climbing frames. You can also rent bikes here and cycle through the traffic free paths. Younger children will enjoy the Lilliput Bahn - a miniature train which goes on quite a long ride through the park. For older children there is also mini golf and trampolines.There are also a few beergardens - we had dinner in one of these, before going back to the funfair.The funfair has a whole selection of amusement park rides and roller coasters. It is a mix of old and new, with its Miraculum Magic Theatre, traditional carousels, ghost trains, tacky slot machine arcades, Punch and Judy shows and museum plus countless restaurants, cafes and snack stands. Right at the entrance to the Volksprater is the highlight of the area - the Riesenrad or giant ferris wheel. Looking at this, you think you are stepping back into the 19th century. The wheel was built for the Universal Exhibition in 1897 by British engineer Walter Bassett. It was built to commemorate the 50th year of Franz Joseph's reign. The giant wheel was supposed to be a temporary exhibit, but like the Eiffel Tower, which had been built for the World Fair in Paris a decade earlier, it never closed.Heavily damaged in 1945, it was reopened in 1947 as a symbol of Vienna rising from the ashes. At its highest point it is 220 feet high. One revolution in the wheel takes 20 minutes. You stand in roomy, wide windowed cabins where you can move from side to side and enjoy the wonderful views of Vienna.Our cabin was covered in grafitti inside - a shame - but do be aware if you suffer from vertigo, this would not be a fun thing to do. The cabin does sway a fair bit during the ride, and my stomach flipped a few times along the way!The Prater is charming at night. Tiny lights are strung in the trees around the open air cafes and beer gardens and the rides are decked out in coloured light bulbs. From the top of the Riesenrad, Vienna's profile sparkles. I would definitely recommend doing this in the dark, as you get a different perspective of this beautiful city. Close
Written by Joy S on 25 Jul, 2010
You can't miss Stephansdom - the cathedral - right in the middle of the city. It is a Gothic building with an amazing roof covered with green, yellow, white and black tiles in geometric designs. There is a bronze model of the church…Read More
You can't miss Stephansdom - the cathedral - right in the middle of the city. It is a Gothic building with an amazing roof covered with green, yellow, white and black tiles in geometric designs. There is a bronze model of the church outside the building - this gives you a feeling for the overall shape of the building and the roof design.We climbed up the South Tower - 343 steps twist round and round. It cost us 8 Euros for a family ticket to endure this ordeal. At the top though you get a lovely panorama of the city and a great view of the amazing roof tiles. The climb back down is almost as bad - round and round again but this time your knees take all the strain. We all felt a bit dizzy at the bottom, but soon recovered!Walk around the church and compare the height of the North and South Tower. The North Tower is very short compared to the soaring South Tower.At the top of the North Tower is the Pummerin Bell. This is one of the biggest bells in Europe. It was completed in 1711 to commemorate the victory of Vienna against the invading Turks. In World War I the bell was destroyed, but was recast again afterwards from metal from the old bell.Near the lift to the Pummerin is a sculpture of Jesus that originally stood outside the church. According to legend, three young men mocked the statue, attributing the suffering in Jesus' face to toothache. That night the three lads had terrible toothaches, until they returned to the church to ask forgiveness and their toothaches were cured.Right next to this statue is a self portrait of Anton Pilgram, the stone mason who carved the pulpit in the middle of the church. e is leaning out over the sill, holding his compass and square.The founder of the Hapsburg dynasty - Rudolph IV built the cathedral and he and his wife are buried in the crypt. In later years, the crypt became too crowded for all the Hapsburgs.On Stephansplatz near the North Tower of Stephandsom, thre are lots of horse drawn carriages or fiaker lined up. I thoroughly recommend a ride in one of these - it is a delightful clip clop through the old streets. It cost us 65 Euro for 35 minutes, with the driver giving a commentary and pointing out places of interest.There are lots of buskers and street performers also in Stephansplatz. Some of them are very good and we enjoyed watching them for an hour, while getting a much needed rest from pounding the pavements.In the Middle Ages, Stephansplatz was occupied by a cemetery, but today is a popular meeting place for tourists and locals. If you go down to the entrance of the U1 and U3 subway lines under the square, you will see the remains of the 13th century Gothic chapel - Virgilkapelle. This chapel was uncovered during the construction of the underground tunnels.On the corner of Stephansplatz and Karntnerstrasse look out for Stock im Eisen, a piece of wood covered in nails and enclosed in a protective case. The wood is said to be a leftover from the Viennese woods that once used to stretch as far as Stephansdom. 16th century blacksmiths used to drive a nail for luck into the tree, each time they left Vienna. Today, the gnarled and rusty log is covered with an almost uninterrupted casing of hand forged nails.At noon every day in the Hoher Markt, watch twelve figures progress around the large guilded and copper Anker clock. Each figure is someone important from the history of Vienna, such as the Roman Marcus Aurelius, Empress Maria Theresia and Joseph Haydn.Stroll along Kartnerstrasse and browse in the lovely shops there. Look out for Philharmonikerstrasse and on one side of this street, you will see the lights of Vienna's best known hotel - the Hotel Sacher. The Sachertorte is supposed to be delicious - we did not have time to try it unfortunately.Eventually you come to the Staatsoper - the Opera House. It was built between 1861 and 1865 in a style inspired by the French Renaissance and faithfully reconstructed after World War II. It was so severely criticised when it was unveiled, that one of its architects, Eduard van der Null committed suicide.You can see all these sights on foot and all in one day. There are also very good guided tours of Vienna - we did one of these on an extremely wet day, and as well as being very interesting and informative, they are a great way to get your bearings in this city full of architectural and historical treats. Close
Written by Joy S on 22 Jul, 2010
* Take the Vienna subway - the U-Bahn - it is wonderful. Fast and modern trains run every three minutes or so and will take you throughout the city. Viennese buy their tickets in advance, usually in blocks of 5 at a time…Read More
* Take the Vienna subway - the U-Bahn - it is wonderful. Fast and modern trains run every three minutes or so and will take you throughout the city. Viennese buy their tickets in advance, usually in blocks of 5 at a time from the tabacs. Once a ticket has been stamped it is only valid for one trip in one direction. The traims are also a practical way to get around and a great way to see the city. Lines 1 and 2 will bring you to all the major sights on the Ringstrasse.* Vienna is a good year round destination. If you go to Vienna in summer, you will not see the Lippizaner stallions (on holidays) or the Vienna Boys Choir (they are usually away performing on tour).* There is no end of fun food in Vienna. Bratwurst is available at snack stands everywhere. Schinkenfleckerl - ham and noodles is also delicious. Vienna is also famous for its desserts. Two places to go are Aida which has chocolate cakes and lovely fruit pastries and Demel's. This place has been open since 1887 and is one of the reasons Vienna is known as Europe's pastry capital. It sets up an Olympic sized array of more than sixty pastries in its front rooms. The 5 layer chocolate Anna torte and the Sachertorte are house specialities. Sample the goods here and then go across the road to the Hotel Sacher's cafe to compare. Both insist they have the original recipe for Sachertorte. Sacher also does a great strudel.* Another dish to definitely try is Tafelspitz (boiled beef), a favourite of Emperor Franz Josef. It might sound dull, but it is far from bland. Boiled to a tender delicacy it is flavoured with spices and served with grated potatoes. The best Tafelspitz in Austria is apparently served in Vienna as the chefs have been making the dish here for decades. It was one of the tastiest dishes I tried in Austria.* There is masses of choice when it comes to eating out in the evening. There are traditional restaurants serving Wiener Schnitzel and other local specialities, Italian restaurants and wonderful Turkish places which are very popular with the locals. These are great value. Head for the Naschmarkt which is Vienna's biggest market. It is great for food stalls, especially those selling spices and herbs and for Gree, Turkish, Italian and Japanese restaurants with gardens where you can eat outside in summer.* Vienna is by no means a cheap city, however prices still remain reasonable when compared to places such as London. * It is said that at any time of the day or night in Vienna, someone somewhere is playing the music of Mozart. You might hear it in an opera house, a church, a festival, an open-air concert or a cafe.* Revisit the Hapsburgs in Vienna - you can still witness their grandeur as you stroll through the Inner City. The Hofburg, the family's winter palace is a living architectural textbook dating from 1279. Also visit Schonnbrunn, the sprawling summer palace which lies on the outskirts of the city and has magnificient gardens.* Stroll along the Kartnerstrasse. This is at the heart of Viennese life and is a bustling, pedestrian only street. From morning to night, shoppers parade along, there are street performers, musicians, magicians and lots of cafe terraces for some of the best people watching in Vienna.* Vienna is probably one of the safest capital cities in Europe. We were out at all times of the day and evening, and always felt completely safe. Do be aware of pickpockets though, especially when travelling on a packed underground train or in the Prater. Close
Full of gilded Hapsburg palaces and regal parks on the banks of the Danube, Vienna is a wonderful city. Tradition and innovation walk hand in hand. This is a city not to be rushed. Few places in the world glide so effortlessly…Read More
Full of gilded Hapsburg palaces and regal parks on the banks of the Danube, Vienna is a wonderful city. Tradition and innovation walk hand in hand. This is a city not to be rushed. Few places in the world glide so effortlessly between the present and the past as here. You can easily recognise its splendid historical side - grand imperial palaces, magnificient squqres, baroque interiors and then the Hofburg where the Hapsburg rulers lived and ruled.Vienna is one of the great capital cities of Europe and was for centuries the main stamping ground of hte Hapsburg rulers of the Austro Hungarian Empire. From the late 18th century onwards, the culture, particularly music, was famous throughout Europe. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss and Mahler all lived in the city, composing wonderful music which is still played in concert halls all over the world. At the end of the 19th century, the city's artists and architects such as Klimt and Loos brought about an artistic revolution. Look out for the glinting Space Needle like object that hovers over the North end of Vienna - this is the city's waste incinerator designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.Huddled up against the Slovak, Czech Republic and Hungarian borders in Austria's east, Vienna is home to almost 2.5% of the country's 8.3 million population. The Danube, not quite as blue as Strauss would have you believe, washes through the city on its way to the Black Sea.Vienna's history has largely been dictated by its geography, right at the very heart of Europe. A hotbed for espionage when the countries to its east were Communist, Vienna was also heavily bombed during World War II. And the reason coffee is so popular here - it was brought to the city by the Turks when they were trying to invade in 1529 and 1683.This is a city that loves music and food and is a great place to bring children. They will have a ball enjoying traditional sweets and hot chocolate. At every turn, you will hear waltzes and impromptu violin concerts on street corners, this, along with magificient museums and palaces, atmospheric coffeehouses with an old fashioned feel and a UNESCO World Heritage listed historic centre makes it a great place for a break.Our highlights in Vienna were:* strolling around, drinking in the marvellous architecture and especially enjoying all the street performers. By the cathedral they are especially diverse - our son would have stayed watching the different acts for hours.* the coffee houses - so lovely and elegant - a perfect place to relax and enjoy a drink, before recommencing the tourist trail.* a fiaker ride through the streets of the city - you could almost imagine what it must have been like to be a member of the Habsburg family.* the Lippizaner stallions - we went to their morning training session and watched them practise in the stunning surroundings of the Hofburg. This was a real highlight, particularly since we were not in Vienna during one of their performances.* Hundertwasserhaus - crazy, zany, fun and definitely worth going to have a look at this creation of Friedensreich Hundertwasser.* The Prater Park and the funfair - a bit tacky but fun nonetheless with thrills and spills a plenty. Close
Written by alias843 on 06 Apr, 2010
In spite of, or perhaps due to, the fact that Vienna becomes pitch dark by 4:30pm in the month of December, there’s a lot to do all day long and the short days are hardly a deterrent to anyone looking to have a festive Christmas…Read More
In spite of, or perhaps due to, the fact that Vienna becomes pitch dark by 4:30pm in the month of December, there’s a lot to do all day long and the short days are hardly a deterrent to anyone looking to have a festive Christmas season in Vienna. Maximizing the limited daylight is important though and we made a real effort to get out with the sun in the morning so we could get some good pictures of all the landmarks before the sun went down.It does mean that visiting Vienna over the advent season is a totally different experience than visiting in the summer when the days drag out well into the evening and everything is bursting with life. Fortunately, the Viennese are determined not to let the dark and sometimes gloomy weather keep them indoors. There are the famous Christmas markets all around the city, with the most famous being the one in front of the Rathaus. At these markets, you can fight the bundled up crowds to buy unique handicrafts and souvenirs or you can gorge yourself on delicious street food, best washed down with a steaming mug of Glühwein (delicious Austrian mulled wine) or if you’re of the teetotaling persuasion Kinderpunsch is also on offer.If all the anticipatory shopping and the smell of spiced wine isn’t enough to beat back the midwinter blues, the Viennese have also decided to light up the night by stringing all the trees with giant lights in all manner of festive shapes, from gifts to animals. The Rathaus itself is all decked out for the season, the façade having been transformed into a massive advent calendar, counting out the days until Christmas. Giant lamps in the shape of candles also serve to light the whole scene. Getting a look at the Rathaus from across the street is an unforgettable sight.If you don’t want to spend all of your time milling through markets (though you certainly could) no worries. The museums are all still open up until Christmas Eve as is the Hundertwasser Haus (a Vienna must-see) and most other main attractions. You also can’t forget the giant Vienna Ferris wheel, a fun way to get great views during the day or an eerily old-fashioned experience by night with the city lights below. There are also a number of attractions that are set up especially for winter. There are skating rinks and even ice set up for a curling tournament when we were there. The main shopping streets like Mariahilfer Strasse are also bustling with activity as last-minute sales draw in lots of holiday shoppers. Grabbing a cup of coffee and watching the crowds go by is a great way to spend an hour or so. Advent in Vienna was an unforgettable experience, steeped in holiday tradition and also a fierce sense that the lack of daylight is not going to keep the city from enjoying itself. Definitely recommend you see for yourself. Close
Spending the days leading up to Christmas in Vienna was a no-brainer. There are Christmas markets, pretty lights and all manner of things to do. Christmas day itself, however, seemed to pose a challenge. If you are at all familiar with Austria,…Read More
Spending the days leading up to Christmas in Vienna was a no-brainer. There are Christmas markets, pretty lights and all manner of things to do. Christmas day itself, however, seemed to pose a challenge. If you are at all familiar with Austria, you know that on Sundays and holidays, everything shuts down. Even grocery stores are closed. Knowing this, we tried to plan a day that wouldn’t rely on opening hours.We started the day with some pastry we’d stockpiled from the day before, and then we set out to Stefansplatz for Christmas mass in the beautiful Stefansdom cathedral. We aren’t Catholic and not especially religious but this seemed like it would be a must-do and apparently many others agreed with us, the church was packed. It was also unheated. An Austrian once explained to me that this was part of the character of the place and that one shouldn’t be thinking of comfort when one was supposed to be contemplating God. Whatever the reason, it provided the Viennese attendees with a convenient excuse to don their finest furs. And to keep them on for the duration. It was freezing.After mass, we hopped a tram, then another tram then several busses. Finally, after about a 45 minute journey, we arrived at our destination, the Vienna woods. A popular Christmas destination, as we learned to our surprise. Both the busses and the trails were packed with people out for a stroll through the snow covered forests. We could see why it was so popular, the trees were all frosted with a thick coating of snow, the sky was a brilliant blue, and the temperatures hovered just above freezing. Perfection. The woods also provided lovely views of vineyards and fields below. It all seemed so very far removed from the streets of Vienna, teeming with shoppers and tourists. A very little distance from the bus stop, the crowds thinned out and we wandered some trails without seeing hardly any other souls.We ate sandwiches in the woods. We were well prepared as getting caught out hungry was not on our Christmas agenda. And most everything was closed, even bakeries in transit centers. If you are planning on Christmas in Vienna, make your reservations or buy some food in advance because the situation is bleak. Or you will wind up enjoying overpriced and underwhelming Chinese food, as we did when we decided on a late dinner. Not a recommended experience. Everything else was delightful though and the Vienna woods in winter are a must-experience. It is a completely different place with all the snow on the ground.Also make sure to check public transportation schedules carefully, as holiday schedule means that busses and trams run infrequently and some routes not at all. As lovely as the Vienna woods are, you surely don’t want to wind up stuck because you missed the last bus. Close
Written by dangaroo on 27 Dec, 2008
Recently, I was supposed to fly from Yerevan in Armenia to Riga in Latvia but Air Baltic the company flying between the two destinations, closed the connection and they re-routed me via Vienna with the first leg of the journey being ran by Austrian Airlines.It…Read More
Recently, I was supposed to fly from Yerevan in Armenia to Riga in Latvia but Air Baltic the company flying between the two destinations, closed the connection and they re-routed me via Vienna with the first leg of the journey being ran by Austrian Airlines.It didn't actually occur to me that this was happening until t he airport, firstly the Austrian Airlines staff at Yerevan airport were really quite helpful and their efforts can't be faulted. Whilst I waited in the new snazzy lounge at Zvartnots airport, I couldn't help but notice that the clientelle ont he plane looked a little bit classier than on a budget airline, considering I was knackered (flight left at 5.45 am - had been in the pub until midnight, then walked 10km and finally hitched the last 10km to the airport), I was quite excited about the prospect of some luxury.So, the time arrives and we pile on to the aeroplane, somehow the plane filled up despite the waiting room being considerably quieter - it seemed as if it was an incredibly small plane actually. They gave free blankets and pillows, which was quite impressive as it was only a 3 hour journey, the food was a bit dodgyish - omelette and a small hotdog like sausage and a yoghurt. I was quite thirsty by now, so I was quite happy to get quite a few drinks - a coke and two waters for free wasn't too shabby!The seating arrangement was an absolute disaster! I've flown with quite a lot of airlines and just about every budget airline in Europe and the Middle East and never have I seen so little room to manouevre. My seat wouldn't recline, whilst the man in front of me's seat was stuck reclined - something he discovered having been shouted at for having it down (it wasn't his fault, it wouldn't go up!), in fact the staff seemed a bit shitty all round - doing a lot of tutting and general face acheing, the sterned faced Austrians were hardly a laugh.A lot of people seemed to be transferring to other destinations and the majority of passengers were Armenian, when the staff blurted out messages in grumpy German or short and sharp English, the Armenians didn't have a clue what they were saying - I thought it would have made sense to have at least one Armenian working on there or at the very least a Russian speaker!I received the change to Austrian Airlines for free and now I'm reviewing it - I guess I can consider it as a 50p bonus with 2 waters, a coke and a dodgy Austrian breakfast but I would never pay the regular price for a ticket with this airline.Cramped and grumpy staff (at least in the case of this flight), a flight which was full of people mostly looking to have some breakfast and then go to sleep was made quite complicated by the dodgy seating arrangements and aggressive behaviour of the girls working on the plane. The pilot needn't have bothered talking through the radio, at least not in English because the speakers were full of feedback and his words were incomprehendible - basically just waking everyone up! Close
Written by Mandan Lynn on 24 Jan, 2007
A necessary stop on my trip to Vienna was the opera. I didn't make reservations, thinking I could just stop by the venue the day before and pick up some last-minute tickets. This was easier said than done.We first went to the State Opera because…Read More
A necessary stop on my trip to Vienna was the opera. I didn't make reservations, thinking I could just stop by the venue the day before and pick up some last-minute tickets. This was easier said than done.We first went to the State Opera because I was told that it is the better venue, but it was sold out for the January 1 performance of Die Fledermaus, a traditional opera that is performed every New Year—at both venues. Apparently everyone recognizes the Staatsoper as the superior opera.The next day we went to the Volksoper to try to reserve tickets. However, the box office had only been open for 3 hours that day (as it was New Year's Eve), and we missed it. The handsome gentleman in the lobby suggested coming tomorrow between 9am and noon for tickets—and good luck, he said, because he figured it would be hard to do at this late date.I was nervous, especially when we opted to sleep straight through the box office hours after celebrating a Happy New Year the night before. I was nervous, but I was determined. You can't visit Vienna without seeing an opera, can you? My brother thought you could, but I doubted it.I had heard about the super-cheap (1,50 euro) standing room tickets, so we hurried to the Volksoper around 4:30 that afternoon to score some for ourselves. The woman told us the box office won't open again until 5pm.Perfect. Time to get something to eat. I fretted most of the time that the line would be too long and we would miss our chance. The boys reassured me. In retrospect, I think it was because they were hoping the line would be too long and we would miss our chance...We were back just before 5:00. The line was not so long at all. We waited a few minutes—long enough to decide that standing for 3 hours wasn't our cup of tea, and we decided to try for the cheapest actual seats. "Three hours!" my brother exclaimed, who until that point had been a pretty good sport about the whole opera thing. It turned out that the cheapest actual seats were €6,00 if we wanted to sit apart, and €19,00 if we wanted to sit together. However, if we waited until 5:30pm to buy our tickets, we could get the student price—best available seats for €8,00! So that's what we did. We ended up in seats that normally cost €50,00, sitting next to a well-dressed man who fell asleep before the opera even began.And my brother? He managed to stay awake for the entire performance of Die Fledermaus. Close
Written by marif on 15 Mar, 2004
The Innere Stadt is not the only place in Vienna where attractions meet you at every corner. If you venture outside Ringstrasse, there are so many attractions worth seeing you'll be spoilt for choice. Don't miss the following:
1. Schloss Schonbrunn, reached from Landstrasse Wien…Read More
The Innere Stadt is not the only place in Vienna where attractions meet you at every corner. If you venture outside Ringstrasse, there are so many attractions worth seeing you'll be spoilt for choice. Don't miss the following:
1. Schloss Schonbrunn, reached from Landstrasse Wien Mitte by U-bahn U4 (8th stop) or Tram 10, is a huge palace which was formerly used as a summer retreat by Emperor Franz Josef. There are many attractions inside, the highlight being the Great Gallery which overlooks the garden. In addition to this, don't fail to inspect the Emperor's bedroom and the majestic banquet room, both decorated with fine gilded furniture and beautiful portraits. You can opt for one of two tours: one covers the whole palace, the other goes through a shorter route. In each case, together with the entrance ticket, you'll be handed a personal audio guide in English. Some distance away from the palace, the Gloriette monument, the Zoo and the Palm House charge separate entrance tickets but roaming about in the palace gardens is free. Here you can easily spend a whole day walking along the garden paths from one attraction to the other.
2. The Prater fun park, reached from Stephansplatz by U-bahn U1 (3rd stop), Tram 5 or Tram 21, is a large place aimed primarily for the young. Entrance to the park and the adjoining sports complex is free. A ride on the Giant Ferris Wheel from whose rotating cabins the view of Vienna and its surroundings is excellent is a must for any visitor, young or not so young. However, some breathtaking rides are recommended only for those who are fully fit.
3. On a Saturday morning, visit the flea market behind the Naschmarkt at Linke Wienzeile 6, within walking distance of Karlsplatz metro station. More than anything else, it is a top venue for buying items to add to your collections. Obviously it attracts numerous collectors of old postcards, badges, medals, stamps, coins, hand tools and army memorabilia. If you intend buying, remember that bargaining is essential because prices aren't cheap. Check as best you can if the things you intend buying are truly authentic and in good working order.
4. Schloss Belvedere, also within walking distance of Karlsplatz, is a large Baroque palace which houses the Austrian Gallery. It has two sections: Untere Belvedere, entrance from Rennweg 6A and Obere Belvedere, entrance from Prinz Eugen strasse 27. Both sections are worth seeing but if your time is limited, stick to Obere Belvedere. Here the highlights are the rooms which contain collections of works produced by Austrian artists of the 19th century.
5. Stroll along Dr Karl Lueger Ring and see the wonderful, elaborate architecture of the neo-Gothic Rathaus. Don't miss admiring the red geraniums which adorn the windows and balconies. On the other side of the ring opposite the Rathaus, the Baroque National Theatre built in the 19th-century is also worth a look. Continue along Dr K. Renner Ring where the huge Athena statue directs visitors towards the entrance to the Austrian Parliament, another imposing edifice, which is topped by the national flag of Austria.
After the Babenbergs ruled Austria for more than two centuries, the country fell into the hands of the Habsburgs in 1278. These rich aristocratic rulers started buying large stretches of land from bankrupt lords annexing these to the Austrian territory. In 1363, the large area…Read More
After the Babenbergs ruled Austria for more than two centuries, the country fell into the hands of the Habsburgs in 1278. These rich aristocratic rulers started buying large stretches of land from bankrupt lords annexing these to the Austrian territory. In 1363, the large area known as Tirol and extending from Lienz in the south to Salzburg and the Lake District in the north was added to Austrian land. Members of the Habsburg Dynasty were pushed to marry in the families of other European rulers with the aim of inheriting more land abroad. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was in fact a Habsburg, the eldest son of Philip who besides Austria was already ruling the Netherlands. As Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V was too much involved with European politics, often at the cost of neglecting the Austrian territory. In 1521, he handed over Austria to his brother Ferdinand who was the first Habsburg to rule Austria from Vienna.
Starting in 1618, the Thirty Years' War, a religious rather than a political conflict caused massive unrest throughout Europe. Austria was hard hit and large stretches of the Austrian territory including Vienna were devastated. At the same time, the Turks were setting their foot on the European continent and for more than five decades, Austrian rulers used all their energy in stopping the Turks from advancing further into Europe.
When in 1740, Maria-Theresa whose big statue adorns Maria-Theresien platz in Vienna's Hofburg was crowned Empress, Austria started on a road of political, economic and educational reform. Half a century or so later however, Austria was defeated by Napolean and civil unrest and internal uprisings dominated for three or four decades until Austria was defeated for a second time by the mighty Prussians. Forced to form a dual monarchy with Hungary, Franz Josef whose painted portraits hang on the walls of Schloss Schonbrunn was the key to economic reforms and to the new face Austria's capital was getting.
Franz Josef died when the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was in war with Serbia, a war that paved the way to World War I. After the war, the dual monarchy was dissolved and Austria was declared republic. However, vast stretches of land from Czechoslovakia to Poland that were controlled by the Habsburgs were lost causing economic and social problems. Feeling the people's pulse throbbing with social unrest and grasping the exact moment, Hitler found no problems to invade Austria incorporating it into the German state. Heavily bombed during World War II and divided into 4 zones by the Allied forces after Germany was defeated, Austria was fortunate enough to get a ratification treaty soon after, guaranteeing the withdrawal of the occupying powers by 1955.
Since then Austria has taken steps to recover both economically and socially. Buildings destroyed during the war were rebuilt, churches and palaces restored, new museums opened and skiing facilities in the mountains improved. Tourists started visiting by the thousands and the income from tourism supplementing the income from exports made the country one of the wealthiest in Europe.