Am Hof Square Vienna & Surroundings
The "Am Hof" Square means "By the Court", which doesn′t make sense at the first glance. The Hofburg as the Imperial Palace is rather far. However, on one corner of the square is a house that once served as the Ministry of War, until it moved to the Ringstraße. A plate on this building recalls that this is the site that was once occupied by the original court of the Babenberg Dukes in the Middle Ages.
Beyond this, the Am Hof Square is the biggest open space in the inner city and still occupied by market stalls selling crafts, books and antiques alongside with the odd souvenir. The central part is occupied by a Mariensäule ("Column of Mary") built by Emperor Ferdinand III upon the occasion of beating the Swedish forces in the 30-Years′-War really well. The huge, Baroque church "Kirche Am Hof" was the site from where Emperor Franz II proclaimed the end of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation in 1804.
From its balcony, to be precise. This move eventually made him become Emperor Franz I of Austria a bit later. The core of the church is anything than Baroque, as one can tell from the backside - it dates back to the 14th century. The inside is a cocktail of styles and not particularly appealing.
Museums & other Attractions by Am Hof
Around the corner of the church, you will find the Uhrenmuseum branch of the Wien Museum; the "Puppen und Spielzeug Museum" ("Doll and Toys Museum") is next doors and, around the corner and a bit further down a lane, you can find the "Teddybärenmuseum" (Museum of Teddy Bears). Both of the latter two museums aim at an audience with a historical interest in the items they display - do not expect happy children, as the exhibition is rather "classically" arranged and not too big. There are other museums in Vienna that are more exciting for kids.
Back to Am Hof Square: The building left of the alley leading to the museums has a cannonball gilded in gold on display in its fašade. This cannon ball was found in the wall after the Turkish Siege of 1529 and kept as a souvenir ever since. There are several of these things all over the first district, but with all the gold, this is a particularly nice one. The opulent Baroque house to the left hand side is the old "Zeughaus", where armour used to be stored. It was built in the 18th century and is now used by the Viennese Fire Brigades.
Other nearby attractions include the BA-CA Kunstforum
and Palais Ferstel around the corner at the Freyung; the
Schottenstift Abbey further down on
the Freyung. The
Judenplatz with the Altes Rathaus and the
Museum Judenplatz; and the
Peterskirche. The shopping lanes of
Graben and Kohlmarkt are not too far either, nor is the
Minoritenkirche with the surrounding city palaces now used by Austrian ministries.
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