Audio 1 - INTRODUCTION:
Welcome! Welcome to Vienna! Our audio guide (audio guides) will accompany you throughout your stay in the Austrian capital. By listening to the audio guide, you will discover the most significant monuments and learn some relevant historical facts. Visiting Vienna is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the imperial grandeur of the city, once the heart of the powerful Habsburg monarchy. The splendor and sumptuousness of its many palaces and monuments leave an indelible mark on the visitor.
Few cities can boast so much cultural and historical offerings. Cradle of the music par excellence, you will be able to immerse yourself in the works of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert or Johann Strauss. Afterwards, you will feel like an emperor or empress, following in the footsteps of the famous Sissi, and discovering the elegant palaces of the city of Vienna.
Let’s begin the tour!
Audio 2 – THE VIENNA OPERA:
There is no more famous opera in the world than that of Vienna, and for this reason we begin the audio guide (audio guides) with one of the most iconic visits in the Austrian capital.
In 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph decided to build a large boulevard in the heart of the city to modernize its appearance. This urbanization not only had the effect of changing the face of the capital, but also transformed it from top to bottom. The construction of the opera house is what contributed most to this metamorphosis. It was initiated by the architects Eduard van der Nüll and August Sicard von Sicardsburg.
Inaugurated in 1869 with the presentation of a work by Mozart, the neo-Renaissance building was a disappointment for the Viennese, who expected something more majestic. The first architect died, tormented by the idea of having failed. The second architect did not stand the pressure any better, as he died of a heart attack.
During World War II, the site was destroyed by Allied bombs and the building caught fire. The entrance, with frescoes painted by Moritz von Schwind, the main stairs, the hall and the tearoom were saved. Almost the entire setting for more than 120 operas, and about 150,000 costumes, were destroyed.
The reconstruction of the building began quickly, maintaining the original style and keeping the same colors: red, gold and ivory, but decorated in a more modern way. The reconstructed theater was reopened on November 5, 1955 with the opera by Beethoven, Fidelio, conducted by Karl Böhm. In 1993 the stage was renovated and equipped with the most advanced acoustic technologies.
To fully enjoy the beauty and acoustics of the Opera, how about attending one of the many performances that take place in this incredible setting?
Audio 3 - THE VIENNA PARLAMENT:
Like the Opera House, the Vienna Parliament was built during the renovation of the Ringstrasse and is one of the most remarkable monuments of this great avenue. Work began in 1874 and was completed 10 years later. The neoclassical style building that we currently see with the audio guide (audio guides) reminds us of ancient Greece: Theophil Hansen chose this style because the Hellenes were the first people who loved freedom and law above all. Materials from all the countries of the kingdom were used for its construction. The Pallas-Athena fountain at the entrance of the building represents the wisdom of the State.
After its construction, the building hosted the seat of parliament of the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the fall of the Habsburgs in 1918, the Vienna Parliament witnessed one of the most important episodes in the country's history, when the deputies proclaimed the transition to the Republic.
Today, it has two large meeting rooms, joined by a central portico. One is the headquarters of the National Council, and the other is occupied by the Federal Council.
Audio 4 – AUSTRIAN IMPERIAL PALACE:
The Hofburg Imperial Palace is the largest palace in the city of Vienna. It was the residence of most of the Austrian royalty, especially the Habsburg dynasty, who reigned for over 600 years, from 1276 until the fall of the monarchy in 1918. The imperial apartments are the rooms that Francis Joseph I inhabited from 1857 to 1916, and the same ones in which the Empress Elisabeth (known as Sissy) lived until her tragic death. It is currently the residence of the President of the Austrian Republic.
The Hofburg is also known as a winter residence, since the imperial family's favorite summer residence was Schonbrunn Palace, whose audio guide (audio guides) you can hear in the following audio. It is located in the old part of the city, in the first district, on the banks of the Danube.
The palace has 2600 rooms. The sovereigns who have occupied this palace, the seat of power for six centuries, have for the most part wanted to leave their mark. From Gothic to historicism, in vogue in the 19th century, all styles are represented in the dozen buildings that make up the palace. In these buildings are the old imperial halls, several museums, two chapels, the Austrian National Library, the Spanish Riding School, the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna and the offices of the President of the Republic.
The Treasure Chamber is the name given to 21 rooms occupied by treasures, both sacred and secular, amassed by the Habsburgs throughout centuries. These treasures include, among other objects, the crown jewels and insignia of the Holy Roman Empire, the painting of Emperor Maximilian I by Bernhard Strigel, and the treasures acquired when he married Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
Audio 5 - SCHONBRUNN PALACE:
The imperial complex of Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria, due to its high historical importance. Its sumptuous architecture and ornamentation in the style of Versailles were the reason to add it to the list of UNESCO's world cultural heritage sites in 1996. Maria Theresa, Emperor Franz Joseph, Empress Elisabeth and other monarchs once resided here. The palace has 1441 rooms, of which 45 can be visited with the audio guide (audio guides).
Throughout history, this simple hunting estate has become one of the most beautiful baroque gardens in Europe. In the park of Schönbrunn Palace you will find impressive fountains, statues, monuments, trees and plants, as well as the spectacular Gloriette, designed by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg. It also has a zoo, which is the oldest in the world, founded in 1752 as an imperial beast house.
The palace and its gardens were built starting in 1696, after the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire. Charles VI showed no particular interest in Schönbrunn, but his daughter, Maria Theresa, turned the palace into the summer residence of the Habsburgs, a status it retained until the end of the monarchy in 1918. During Maria Theresa's rule, and from 1743 onwards, major extensions and renovations of the palace were carried out under the leadership of Nikolaus von Pacassi, who had already worked for the imperial family at the Hofburg, the emperor's winter residence. Most of the interior decoration originated in this period and is one of the few existing examples of the so-called Austrian rococo.
In addition to its aesthetic beauty, Schönbrunn Palace is of unquestionable historical importance, as it was the scene of numerous important events. The piano prodigy Mozart played in the Hall of Mirrors when he was 6 years old. Maria Theresa used the round Chinese cabinet to hold secret conferences with Prince and State Chancellor Kaunitz. The Chinese Blue Room was the place where Emperor Charles I signed the end of the monarchy in 1918. We can also mention in this audio guide that the members of the Vienna Congress met in the Great Gallery between 1814 and 1815.
Audio 6 – BELVEDERE PALACE:
Belvedere Palace in Vienna is considered one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in the world and is therefore a World Heritage Site. It is undoubtedly one of the places in Vienna to visit with the audio guide (audio guides), not only for the building and its gardens, but also for the works of art that are exhibited in the old palace halls. In fact, it is currently being used as a museum that houses an important sampling of Austrian art from medieval times to the present.
The palace complex was commissioned by Prince Eugene of Savoy as a summer residence and venue for celebrations in the 15th century, placing it where the city gates were at that time. After Prince Eugene's death, the palace was acquired by Empress Maria Theresa, who named it Belvedere because of the beautiful views of Vienna it offered.
The palace complex is composed of two palaces: the Upper Belvedere and the Lower Belvedere. Both are linked by a huge French-style garden organized on three levels, with numerous sculptures and fountains. In addition, the Orangery, a glass greenhouse for citrus plants, and the stables, which housed the prince's 14 most beautiful horses, were added, and today the collection of medieval art is on display.
The Lower Belvedere was the first to be built, between 1714 and 1716, designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. This palace highlights the sumptuousness of the reception rooms such as the Marble Gallery, the Golden Hall, the Hall of the Grotesques, or the Hall of Mirrors. These are surprisingly elegant venues in which artists and sculptors who shaped the city during Vienna's Golden Age (between 1683 and 1780) play a leading role.
The Upper Belvedere was built later, between 1717 and 1726 with the idea of celebrating holidays and thus increasing the popularity of Prince Eugene. It is the main building and has a more elaborate facade. The Austrian gallery of the 19th and 20th centuries is exhibited there, with the works of Gustav Klimt with the portraits "The Kiss" and "Judith" standing out. In addition to the incredible collection of paintings, the area formed by the Terrena room, the chapel and the marble room is also noteworthy.
Audio 7 – ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL:
Stephansdom Cathedral is one of the most important sights in Vienna and the city revolves around it. The cathedral becomes the starting and ending point of the days that tourists spend in Vienna because in the vicinity there are a lot of monuments and places to visit with the audio guide (audio guides), in addition to most of the restaurants and cafes.
Stephansdom, Vienna's most important religious symbol, was built on the ruins of a Romanesque church dedicated to St. Stephen built in 1147, although only the Giant's Gate and the Towers of the Pagans remain from the old temple.
The cathedral is crowned by a large spire-shaped tower built in the Gothic style, which, with its 137 meters height, can be seen from many different points in Vienna. After an arduous ascent in the form of a spiral staircase, you have a beautiful view of the city center from the tower's vantage point.
The Pummerin bell hanging from the north tower was cast from the cannons left by the Turkish troops when they withdrew from the capital in 1683. Damaged in 1945, the Viennese recast the remains to create the current bell.
At the back of the cathedral, you can see the Tile Roof, formed by more than 250,000 tiles that had to be restored after being seriously damaged during the Second World War.
The interior of Vienna Cathedral houses the mortal remains of many members of the Habsburg family. A visit to the 18th century catacombs and the Cathedral Museum with its many treasures is highly recommended to complete the tour.
Audio 8 – THE MUSEUM OF ART HISTORY:
The Museum of Art History in Vienna is one of the first museums of fine and decorative arts in the world. It is located in a spectacular palace on Maria Theresa Square, right in front of its twin, the Museum of Natural History, which you can explore at the following point in this audio guide (audio guides).
The two museums on Ringstraße were commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I to permanently house the incredible art collection of the Habsburg dynasty and at the same time make it accessible to the general public. The facade was built of sandstone. The building has a rectangular floor plan and is crowned by a colossal statue of Pallas Athena.
The museum's funds came mainly from the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs: Maximilian I collected artists like Dürer; Ferdinand of Tyrol devoted himself to portraits and armor; Emperor Rudolf II added more works by Dürer, Correggio and Brueghel the Elder, although most of his vast collection is scattered; and finally, we can also find the collection of paintings made by Ferdinand III at the request of Archduke Leopold William of Habsburg.
The Vienna Museum of Art History devotes several rooms to artefacts from ancient Egypt. Even the rooms are decorated like an Egyptian temple to accommodate sarcophagi, mummies and the famous turquoise blue hippopotamus statuette.
The mysterious Egyptian rooms are followed by a series of dimly lit rooms in which countless pieces of art from Classical Greece and Ancient Rome are on display. The delicate forms of the reliefs on the Amazon sarcophagus deserve special attention, as well as the busts of Roman emperors and citizens.
Audio 9 – THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY:
Located near the Imperial Palace, the museum building was inaugurated in 1889 at the same time as the Museum of Art History. Both museums have identical exteriors and stand opposite each other in the Maria-Theresien-Platz. They were built between 1872 and 1891 on Ringstraße according to the plan drawn up by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer.
Once we have crossed the threshold of the Vienna Museum of Natural History, we discover a luxuriously decorated edifice with various types of marble, ornamental stucco, gold leaf and all kinds of paintings, making the building a work of art in itself. The final touch is the imposing dome of 60 meters in height, along with the elegant main staircase where you can find the sculpture of Antonio Canova: Teseo killing the Centaur.
During the visit to the roof of the Museum of Natural History you will also be able to enjoy a unique view of the historical center of Vienna and the Ringstrasse.
The Habsburgs collected everything from insects to pterosaurs to precious stones and minerals under this roof. The insect collections date back to 1793 when Francis I of Austria acquired the scientific collections of Joseph Natterer, father of the later zoologist, Johann Natterer. Numerous dissected specimens of animals already extinct or in great danger of extinction are the reason why this collection has an immeasurable value.
In the following audio guide (audio guides), we will discover other remarkable elements of the collection of the Vienna Museum of Natural History.
Audio 10 - MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTION:
Let's continue our tour with the audio guide (audio guides) through the extensive collection of the Vienna Museum of Natural History.
The masterpiece of the collection is the "Venus of Willendorf", a piece 29,500 years old and only eleven centimeters in size, which was found in 1908 in Wachau, Lower Austria. This jewel of Palaeolithic sculpture is one of the most famous archaeological finds in the world and is on display in the room known as the "Venus Room."
In the Digital Planetarium, with an inner vault of about 8.5 meters in diameter, several live performances are projected several times a day on different topics of astronomy, biology, prehistory and the seabed.
The Dinosaur Room allows us to discover skeletons and vestiges of the gigantic prehistoric animals and an enormously realistic Allosaurus, which moves and emits threatening roars. The first life-like model of the world of a "bird of terror," as well as new exhibits of the skull of a Triceratops complete the impressive permanent exhibition.
It is also worth a visit to the largest and oldest collection of meteorites in the world, where you can admire 1,100 rocks "fallen from the sky,” Furthermore, with the help of a simulator, the impact of a meteorite has been staged on a 3D screen.
Audio 11 – THE VOLKSGARTEN:
If at any time during your visit to Vienna you need to take a break, you can go to one of the wonderful parks in the heart of the city at any time. The Volksgarten or "people's garden" is especially worthy of a visit; it is a large triangular-shaped garden, famous for its magnificent rose gardens with some 400 varieties of roses.
The garden was designed in 1819 by the court gardener, Franz Antoine der Ältere, and Ludwig von Remy. The Volksgarten is located where the city's front-line walls once stood, destroyed by Napoleon in 1809. Later, when the Ringstraβe was opened, the garden was expanded.
Almost in the center of the Volksgarten is the Temple of Theseus, erected in 1820 by Von Nobile to house the sculptural group of the Greek god Theseus and the Minotaur, a work by Canova, which is currently in the Museum of Art History.
The garden is also home to a large number of monuments, effigies and fountains, among which we should mention in this audio guide (audio guides), the monument to Empress Sissi, which was erected by Friedrich Ohmann in 1906, after the assassination of the Empress in 1898.
If you're looking for more green spaces like this for walking and relaxing, Vienna has many other attractive parks: for example, the Stadtpark is the park with the most monuments and sculptures in Vienna. Another option is the Burggarten, designed in the English style, which was the private gardens of Emperor Franz Joseph I. You can also visit the Vienna Rathauspark, with its symmetrical shape, the Sigmund Freud Park or the Bruno Kreisky Park.
Audio 12 – THE NASCHMARKT:
Next point of the audio guide (audio guides), the Naschmarkt is the most popular street market in Vienna. Located on Wienzeile Street, it extends approximately 1.5 kilometers.
The Naschmarkt has existed since the 16th century. At that time, it mainly sold milk bottles. Beginning in 1793, all fruits and vegetables that arrived in Vienna by wagon had to be sold at the Naschmarkt. On the other hand, products arriving by boat on the Danube were sold in other parts of the city.
Today, you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from all over the world, exotic spices, meat, fish, cheese, and bread, such as Kaisersemmeln, a typical Austrian round bread. There are also many small restaurants that offer traditional Viennese food: don't miss the Kaiserschmarrn, which consists of slices of a kind of sweet, thick crêpe, often with raisins, ground almonds and jam or apple pieces; or the Palatschinken, the local crêpes filled with apricot jam.
The Naschmarkt is undoubtedly the best place in town to watch the Austrians doing their daily shopping, as well as visitors from all over the world. The market vendors and shopkeepers also represent a wide cross-section of Vienna's population, from the well-represented local Austrian cheese makers to a wide diversity of ethnic groups, making Vienna a multicultural city.
Audio 13 – ST. CHARLES BORROMEO CHURCH:
The church that we now discover with the audio guide (audio guides) is a symbol of the religious and political power of the imperial dynasty of the Habsburgs.
During the severe plague epidemic that struck Vienna in 1713 and claimed the lives of some 8,000 people, Emperor Charles VI promised that as soon as the city was free of this calamity, he would erect a church dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan and hero of the plague epidemic of 1576. The year after the epidemic, a competition was announced for the church project, which was awarded to Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. The funds for the construction of the church were provided by the Jews of Vienna.
The work began in 1716, and after the death of the architect in 1723, the work was continued, until its completion in 1737, by his son Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach. The building is 80 meters high by 60 meters wide and is the second largest church in the capital after St. Stephen's Cathedral.
The church is a masterpiece of Baroque eclecticism, combining different styles: the central facade represents a Greek portico, the columns next to it are of Baroque inspiration; they are inspired by the Trajanic column of Rome, with a spiral arrangement presenting scenes from the life of St. Charles Borromeo. The entrance is dominated by a gigantic dome. The two side pavilions show Roman Baroque influences and Chinese-influenced décor. The interior houses carvings and altarpieces made by the most famous artists of the time, such as Daniel Gran and Altomonte. It highlights the dome in which you can see a fresco painted by Johann Michael Rottmayr of Salzburg, made between 1725 and 1730, called "The Apotheosis of St. Charles Borromeo," which would be the last commission that the artist fulfilled.
The high altar, in which Alberto Camesina and Ferdinand Maxmilián Brokoff participated, presents a stucco relief with Saint Charles ascending to the heavens on a cloud.
Audio 14 – THE ALBERTINA MUSEUM:
For any art lover, touring the Albertina Museum with the audio guide (audio guides) is one of the best activities in Vienna. Located in the center of the city, just behind the Opera, the Albertina Museum has the most extensive graphical collections in the world, with more than 65 thousand drawings and around one million engravings.
The repertoire of drawings includes an unparalleled core of Dürer, with some 120 pieces, as well as examples of Pisanello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael. The Flemish school is also represented, with works by El Bosco, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Cranach, Rubens, Van Dyck, and Rembrandt. From the French Romantic period, Boucher and Fragonard are excellent examples, and the collection continues to the impressionism and movements of the late nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century with Cezanne, Klimt, Egon Schiele, Kandinsky and Francis Bacon.
The Albertina was built in one of the last remaining sections within the walls of Vienna, the Bastion of Augustus. Initially it was the residence of several well-known figures in the city, including Duke Albert of Saxony-Teschen, who had his collection of paintings brought from Brussels, where he had served as governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. Unfortunately, a third of the collection was lost when the ship carrying it sank. The collection had been started by Duke Albert and Count Giacomo Durazzo, the Austrian ambassador to Venice, who in 1776 gave 30,000 works of art to Duke Albert and his wife Marie-Christine. The collection was enriched by Albert's descendants.
In 1919, this cultural center passed from being part of the Habsburgs to the Republic of Austria. One year later the collection of engravings was unified with that of the old official court library, later giving it its current name in honor of its former owner. Although it was damaged by bombing in 1945, the building was remodeled and today is a prestigious and fascinating art center.