A Travel Guide to the Ringstraße - Part III
A bit behind the Johann Strauss Memorial, you can find the Kursalon ("Spa Pavilion"), where mineral water cures used to be taken by Vienna′s aristocracy. It was built between 1865 and 1867 in pseudo-Renaissance style. Since the Viennese were rather keen on waltz, it soon became a venue for concerts and events - which it still is, actually, but the concerts are mostly of the touristy kind.
The park itself had been opened in 1862, by the way. Behind the park you can find the "Münze Österreich", the National Mint of Austria with temporary exhibitions. The topic is usually history or - your might have guessed - numismatics. Back on track at the Ringstraße, walk by the plain and ugly Theodor-Herzl-Platz Square, where you can see more remains of the old City Walls alongside with the wedding-tart-like Palais Coburg Palace (there are few Palais in Vienna that truly deserve the translation "Palace", but the Palais Coburg clearly does).
Move on until you get to the Wollzeile and Karl-Lueger-Platz Square. Here you can see a memorial for Vienna′s legendary mayor Karl Lueger, of whom most guidebooks say that he was an anti-Semite. Whilst this is quite the case, I don′t get why this is more significant than his contributions to modernising Vienna and govern it during its economic bloom in the late 19th century (when most non-Jewish Viennese were anti-Semites anyway).
Wollzeile: Attractions all Over the Place
More sights to note at this square: There are some more remains of the city walls and a cast model of Vienna with "idealised" city walls - it illustrates the fondness of the Viennese for their walls. Austrians still like to build walls and fences around things and I am sure that the only reason for the lack of a fence all around the country is that the communists have been faster.
To gastronomic institutions at the square are the "Plachutta", a high-end restaurant specialising on traditional "Wiener Küche" (Austrian Cuisine) and the "Café Prückl" with its 1950ies interiors, one of Vienna′s traditional cafes. Behind the Karl-Lueger-Square, you can dive into the Old University district with the Jesuitenkirche, the Old Aula and loads of charming lanes.
Moving on along the Ringstraße, you will find the "Museum für Angewandte Kunst" (Museum of Applied Art or MAK) in a neo-Renaissance building. Keep on walking and ignore the pompous "We-are-the-most-glorious-city-in-the-whole-wide-World" architecture, as there is worse to come ahead. The former "K.K. Kriegsministerium" ("Ministry of War") is probably the best (or worst) example for imperialistic madness in Vienna. For a more charming piece of architecture, simply turn around to see Otto Wagner′s "Postsparkasse" in plain…well, either late Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) or early Art Deco.
Last Bits of the Ringstraße
If you keep on walking, you will eventually get to the Donaukanal or Danube Canal, where the Ringstraße ends. The building at the very end of the boulevard is the "Urania", an educational building and star observatory. It was designed by one of Otto Wagner′s student, Max Fabiani, and opened in 1910. Today, it houses the observatory (still), a puppet theatre quite famous in Austria due to TV appearances, a cinema and a café as well as lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
Talks and courses and a wide range of subjects are still held in the Urania. The building and the observatory were seriously damaged in 1944, when the Urania was hit by a bomb. Repairs followed and managed to fix most of the damage until 1956 and since a recent renovation too place, the building is all nice and shiny.
If you decide to follow the Franz-Josef-Kai to get back to the Ringturm - in order to finally complete the circle around the entire first district - you will walk by the ancient Ruprechtskirche and see the church Maria-am-Gestade. This part of the Ring is seriously ugly, though, because of terrible war damages that were later fixed in cheap 1950ies concrete. The entire boulevard is very accessible by tram, although the traditional circular ones were closed in 2008. If you got the time, it is worth walking, anyway. However, this might take a lot of time, as the Ring boulevard is more than 5 kilometres long. And as you know by now, it is covered with attractions. Cycling might be a good compromise.
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Vienna by District
District Overview - 1st (Innere Stadt) - 2nd (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd (Landstraße) - 4th (Wieden) - 5th (Margareten) - 6th (Mariahilf) - 7th (Neubau) - 8th (Josefstadt) - 9th (Alsergrund) - 10th (Favoriten) - 11th (Simmering) - 12th (Meidling) - 13th (Hietzing) - 14th (Penzing) - 15th (Fünfhaus) - 16th (Ottakring) - 17th (Hernals) - 18th (Währing) - 19th (Döbling) - 20th (Brigittenau) - 21st (Floridsdorf) - 22nd (Donaustadt) - 23rd (Liesing) - Ringstraße - Surroundings