The Ringstrasse

When Napoleon entered Vienna in triumph in 1806 he found the population tightly enclosed within the masses defences which had withstood the Siege of the Ottoman Turks in 1692.

But Napoleon did not like towns to have defences, as they impeded his progress, so he instructed his engineers to knock down two of the bastions and to turn them into gardens.  This was the beginning of the process that was to lead fifty years later to the construction of the Ringstrasse.  The best known of the gardens today is the Burggarden, or the town garden.

Here is a Burggarten, a pleasant garden in the heart of the city.





In the corner of the Burggarten is its most spectacular feature – the statue of Mozart by Viktor Tilgner, unveiled originally in 1896 it was moved here in 1953.  The plinth includes reliefs from Don Giovanni with frolicking cherubs on either side.

The destruction of the two bastions ruined the defensive potential of Vienna’s walls but they still acted as sn appalling corset restricting development to within the old Medieval town.  However, the walls were surrounded by a very wide Glassi, an open area forming a field of fire.  And so in 1857 the Emperor Franz-Josef announced that the walls were to be demolished and imperial boulevards were to be laid out in their place.  Between 1860 and 1890 twelve major public buildings were set down along the Ringstrasse, including the Parliament, the Town Hall and two magnificent museums.  And it is these buildings that form the most spectacular architecture in Vienna today and stand as a testamony to the vision of Franz-Josef, who would remain as emperor until his death in 1916.

The most impressive of the buildings is the Parliament built within a decade of the Royal Procromation of 1857, Austria had become a constitutional monarchy, at least in theory and therefore the Parliament building was particularly important, erected in 1883 to the design of the Danish architect Theophil Hansen.


In many ways the finest building on the Ringstrasse is the Rathaus, or Town Hall, built in a Victorian Gothic style that inevitably reminded me of St Pancras railway station.  I first saw it from the gardens of the Hofburg, shimmering in the distance .

And here is the Rathaus close up.  Bizarrely there was a circus in the forecourt which seemed a little out of place for such an august institution.




Opposite the Rathaus is the Burgtheater, the town theatre.  In the forecourt of the Rathaus however there was open air dining, apparently part of the circus which in its way seemed not inappropriate.




And here is a closeup of the front of the Rathaus as seen in the evening.  The design was apparently based on the Hotel de Ville in Brussels.





Then there is the Opera House seen here from the outside.  Unfortunately we were not able to get inside to see the sumptuous internal decoration, but from the outside it is certainly very large.




And here outside are two people dressed in the appropriate court dress, selling tickets for a Vienese concert that evening.






The other two great buildings along the Ringstrasse are the two superb museums

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