Westbahnhof Station, Vienna:
Bridge between Western Austria & the Capital
The Westbahnhof Station is one of the two main train stations of Vienna - as of 2008, that is. For the future, the Südbahnhof will serve all international trains that go through the Westbahnhof now. This includes trains to and from Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Through another route, the Westbahnhof offers connections to Ungary, Serbia and Romania. The Südbahnhof will be called "Hauptbahnhof" or Main Station and get a link to the western railway through a tunnel under the Lainzer Tiergarten.
As soon as the traffic goes to Südbahnhof, many rail tracks of the Westbahnhof will not be needed any longer - there are building proposals for new housing developments. The Westbahnhof (meaning "Western Station") is the starting point of all trains that go west from Vienna and was opened in December of 1858, when a railway link between Vienna and Linz was established - the "k.k. private Kaiserin Elisabeth Bahn". The Westbahnhof station consisted of four individual sections in Historicist style.
The central hall was 104 metres long and 27.2 metres wide, with no platforms, but four rail tracks, and flanked by two towers and an administrative building. The architect was Moritz Löhr. This first Westbahnhof was extended and modernised in 1912. It gained a fifth rail track and proper platforms, but the two decorative towers were removed. The glass roof was enlarged. In April of 1945, the Westbahnhof was hit badly by bombs and had to be closed. Most of the central building was destroyed.
Westbahnhof Station Vienna after WWII: Link to the West
Soon after fighting had ceased only a few weeks later, the train traffic was started at the Westbahnhof again, but the building itself could not be used. In 1949, the remaining parts were finally demolished and a new station built until 1952. The new Westbahnhof was a design by the architects Hartinger and Wöhnhart and contained eleven railtracks with platforms in between, a small administrative section, a central hall on two levels and service pavilions. By no mean an aesthetically pleasing building, the Westbahnhof is listed nonetheless - mostly for its innovative roof construction.
In 1993, the Westbahnhof was connected to subway U3; the other subway link is to U6, which originates in the Wiener Stadtbahn. Funny background story: Until 2006, the Westbahnhof had a police station, which was closed because of an "animal infestation". Since the Westbahnhof will be extensively renovated in the next years and get a new role in Vienna′s traffic lines altogether, the Ministry of Internal Affairs decided not to re-open the office in the old building.
The new Westbahnhof Station - smaller, but modern
Construction work has started in 2007 - after four years and investments of a proposed 120 million Euros, the re-modelled Westbahnhof will be finished in 2011. The Westbahnhof is also connected to several trams and busses, and has a taxi stand. The surroundings of the Westbahnhof are considered a bad area, especially the part of the outer Mariahiflerstraße is known for drug traffic and illegal prostitution.
The prostitutes have moved to the area west of the station - I remember a visit to Vienna in the summer of 2003, when almost every side-street between Westbahnhof and Zieglergasse was full of illegal prostitutes - as of 2008, there is no sign of them anymore.
There are very few attractions near Westbahnhof; the Gürtel area is among the worst of Vienna. Mariahilferstraße between Westbahnhof and the city centre is the primary shopping mall of Vienna. The Wiener Stadthalle is an event and concert venue; the Stadtbibliothek or Public Library of Vienna was built just after 2000 to re-vive the Gürtel (didn′t work). The Raimundtheater theatre is in walking distance and so is the church Maria vom Siege. Otherwise, I recommend to see Westbahnhof from a practical viewpoint and make use of U3 to get to the centre.
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Official website of the Vienna Tourist Information
Wikipedia on the Westbahnhof Station in Vienna