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Vienna 2015: 150 years of the Ringstrasse

From military fortification to showpiece boulevard: In 2015, Vienna’s grand Ringstrasse celebrates the 150th anniversary of its opening. The Ringstrasse is one of the most magnificent boulevards in the world. Nowhere else can you find such a dense concentration of architecturally stunning representative buildings, palaces and parks.

Parliament in Vienna
Parliament in Vienna
View of the Ringstrasse from the roof of the Burgtheater © Wien Tourismus, Christian Stemper
View of the Ringstrasse from the roof of the Burgtheater © Wien Tourismus, Christian Stemper
Where gigantic city walls once protected Vienna’s imperial center from her enemies, the Ringstrasse Boulevard now circles the city. The construction of the Ringstrasse was the greatest municipal planning project of the time: buildings of imperial and democratic significance alternated with the palaces of the aspiring bourgeoisie to create a splendid representative boulevard for the rapidly expanding city. On May 1, 1865, Emperor Franz Joseph inaugurated the newly completed Ringstrasse, and it has been a driving force in the city’s cultural life ever since.
 
Walk along the Ringstrasse today, or better yet, take the Ringstrassen tramway for a tour of some of Vienna’s most impressive buildings: the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Vienna State Opera, the Neue Burg, and the Burgtheater. The Parliament, City Hall and the university arose as “buildings for the people”. There are also some magnificent palaces built by prominent members of the Jewish population, which had received full legal rights in the second half of the nineteenth century and used the opportunity to purchase property along the Ringstrasse for grand mansions such as the Palais Ephrussi and the Palais Epstein.
 
The Ringstrasse is not only a collection of beautiful historicist architecture. At their peak, more than twenty-seven cafés profited from the popularity of the Ringstrasse as an elegant promenade of the wealthy. On your tour, stop at the Café Prueckl, or the Café Landtmann for a Melange and some pastries and soak up the typical Viennese atmosphere. The “Ring” today has become a modern boulevard for everyone. Numerous events take place here throughout the year, from the Vienna Film Festival and the Rainbow Parade to the Vienna City Marathon. And the section of the Ring along the Danube Canal has become a hotspot: an urban bar scene and modern architecture attract a primarily young audience.
 
For 2015, numerous institutions along the Ringstrasse are planning special program for the anniversary. Among them the “Metropolis Experiment” exhibition that will be on display at the Vienna Museum starting in May 2014. The exhibition shows the changes the city underwent for the 1873 world exhibition.
 

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