Hauptbibliothek Wien: Vienna′s Public Library

Once upon a time, there was a popular area in Vienna called the "Gürtel". From there, one could see the green hills of the Vienna Woods, was well-connected to the city centre and enjoyed living in an affordable, yet decent area. Then suddenly, after WWII, many Viennese could afford cars - and transformed the Gürtel into a six-lane heavy-traffic monster. The happy people from the Gürtel neighbourhood moved away, brothels and porn cinemas moved in instead, and within a few years, the area was transformed into a dump.

Since the 1990ies, the city of Vienna tries desperately to find a way to make the Gürtel a bit more attractive. This applies in particular to the surroundings of the Westbahnhof station, a notorious neighbourhood known for its red-light companies and exorbitant crime rates. One of the measures to brush up the Westbahnhof area was to transfer Vienna′s public library here.

The result was the construction of a 150 metre long and 26 metre wide building that looks a bit like a modern Maya pyramid. It occupies some 6,000 square metres and is home to 240,000 books, annotations and magazines, as well as 60,000 items of electronic media (such as CDs, DVDs and videos). Every year, the main library attracts approximately one million visitors. Many of them come only to climb the outdoor stairs and to enjoy the view from the top of the library building. From here, you can see the hills of the Vienna Woods I the outskirts of Ottakring, Hernals, Währing and Döbling.

Re-viving the Gürtel: Vienna Public Library

The Vienna Library building was designed by Ernst Mayr and opened only in 2003. The inside of the building is easily as attractive as its outside: Reading rooms, internet corners and audio facilities - not to forget the café, this is still Vienna after all - make it a state of the art library and probably one of the fanciest in Europe. Stepping outside the building, you will quickly realise that its surroundings are still the same craphole they used to be before 2003. But maybe all it takes to improve is time. And a nuclear bomb.

Attractions nearby are limited, but there: The Otto-Wagner-pavilions of the subway; the Brunnenmarkt market in nearby Ottakring; the Mariahilferstraße, Vienna′s most important shopping lane; and the historicist church of Maria vom Siege. The best thing you can do, though, is to get the U3 subway line and head towards the city centre as quickly as possible.

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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

Further Reading

Official Website Vienna Public Library (English)

Directory of Libraries in Austria, including Vienna