Vienna, Fifth District: Margareten
Margareten is the Fifth District of Vienna and situated within the Gürtel Road, which marks to historic outer city walls of Vienna. In 1850, the city of Vienna - which until then consisted only of today′s first district - was extended to include all the suburbs within the Linienwall, the outer city wall.
Back then, Margareten became part of the fourth district or Wieden. Soon the wise people of Vienna′s administration realised that Wieden was a nice chunk of Vienna, whereas today′s Margareten was, is and will always be a bit of a shithole. In order to accommodate this, they decided to divide the district into two - Margareten as we know it was born, in 1861.
Back then, Margareten was primarily a district of craftsmen - but this was soon to change. In the decades that followed, Margareten turned increasingly into a labourer′s district, with all the side-effects of the time: It was the era of socialism gaining shape and Margareten was on the frontier of a movement that won more and more support. Within a few years, shelters for the growing numbers of homeless people in Vienna were built, educational institutions and hospitals for the poor.
Margareten becomes "Labourer's Ringstraße"
The years that followed WWI are often called the time of the "Red Vienna", when the city was firmly ruled by the Social Democrats. In these years, Margareten became an experimental ground for communal living space and the construction of large apartment blocks for people with low income. One of the first of these buildings was the Theodor-Körner Hof, which is still seen as an important element in Vienna′s architectural heritage.
The Gürtel in Margareten was referred to as the "Ringstraße of the Proletarians". The era of the "Red Vienna" ended in something often called a "civil war" and the establishment of a fascist regime by the conservatives. Margareten became a battle ground for a few days - as one of the most important "labourer districts", it was a bastion for the social democrats.
During WWII, the important role that Margareten played for transportation (due to its railways and stations) led to serious bombardment and destruction. In the years after WWII, the population of Margareten decreased and the district became a fairly unpopular one; the reason was mostly the ever increasing traffic in Vienna. Much of the traffic ran along the Gürtel, which turned from a popular living area into a terribly noisy region of Vienna and became the city′s primary red-light district. Another problem was that most of the buildings in Margareten were built before WWI and had to be extensively refurbished in order to make them meet modern living standards.
Current Residents of Vienna's 5th District
As a result, the population of Margareten gained a large percentage of foreigners, mostly people from Turkey and former Yugoslavia. All in all, the social status of Margareten deteriorated gradually until the 1990ies. Since then, some revitalisation projects and the central location of Margareten have helped the district to establish itself as a reasonably priced, but well-connected area in the heart of Vienna with a population of approximately 50,000 - but growing. That being said, don′t expect too much from it.
In terms of sightseeing, there is the odd little church, like the Baroque church St. Joseph. Temporarily, the church served as a tomb for Franz Schubert, until the body was dragged away into the celebrity corpse section of the Zentralfriedhof central cemetery. Otherwise, the main attractions are probably the various examples for Socialist architecture, especially around the Gürtel area.
Beyond that, there are many other references to the socialist heritage of Margareten, from the educational centre to labourer′s theatres and the odd little museum. The best museum is probably the district′s museum, which will tell you more about the history and social situation of Margareten throughout the past three centuries. The neighbourhood around Kettenbrückengasse is popular with a young and studenty crowd; it is full of small bars, cafes and independent shops and certainly the most charming corner of Margareten.
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Sightseeing Guides to Vienna's Districts
District Overview - 1st District (Innere Stadt) - 2nd District (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd District (Landstraße) - 4th District (Wieden) - 5th District (Margareten) - 6th District (Mariahilf) - 7th District (Neubau) - 8th District (Josefstadt) - 9th District (Alsergrund) - 10th District (Favoriten) - 11th District (Simmering) - 12th District (Meidling) - 13th District (Hietzing) - 14th District (Penzing) - 15th District (Fünfhaus) - 16th District (Ottakring) - 17th District (Hernals) - 18th District (Währing) - 19th District (Döbling) - 20th District (Brigittenau) - 21st District (Floridsdorf) - 22nd District (Donaustadt) - 23rd District (Liesing)