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Exploring the History of Vienna

Exploring the History of Vienna

Historical Panorama of ViennaVienna exudes history. The  city that once formed the frontier between the Roman Empire and the Barbarians to the north, was also home to the vast Babenberg and Habsburgdynasties, eventually becoming the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and in 1804 the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

After the First World War, Vienna became known throughout Europe as "Red Vienna" because of the socialist nature of the city. During the Second World War Austria became a provincial center of the Third Reich after Nazis occupied the country and incorporated it into Germany. Austria was later liberated by the Allies and became independent once again on May 15th 1955, declaring "everlasting neutrality" in its state treaty.

Because of the rich and abundant history of Vienna, Austria's largest city, a visitor can spend days or even weeks enthralled in the many historic sights and monuments. Each one has a special historic significance illustrating the past glory of Austria - for those looking to explore her history, Vienna is the place to be!

Hofburg, Vienna's Imperial Palace, located in the center of the city was home to the Habsburg imperial family who reigned for more than seven centuries. Within the palace, tourists can visit and view several very unique attractions.

The Imperial Apartments, for example, were home to the royal family until 1918. These magnificent living quarters were expanded in accordance with the family's growing power and realm. Visitors can explore the many rooms including an "audience room" where private citizens were give the opportunity to speak with the Imperial Family.

Another sight within the Imperial Palace is the spectacular Imperial Silver Collection. Sure to leave any and all visitors in awe, this collection used in the Imperial Court right up to 1918 features silver, gold and porcelain collections from around the world. The highlight of the collection is the famous "Milan Centerpiece" which is over 30 meters long.

Being at one time the capital city of the Holy Roman Empire, numerous treasures of the past are held in the Imperial Palace. The crowns of both the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (first used in 962) and the Austrian Emperor (first used in 1602) are available for visitors to view. Each contains a plethora of valuable jewels.

The Imperial Palace is also home to the Austrian National Library, the largest baroque library in Europe, as well as the Chapel of the Imperial Palace which features the world famous Vienna Boys Choir every Sunday from September until March. This event is so popular that seating is reserved two months ahead. The Palace is also the home of the famous Spanish Riding School.

If you want to see
the Habsburg family art collections not found in the Imperial Palace,  you may want to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum ("The Museum of Art History"), constructed in the 1870-80's and opened to the public in 1891. The museum not only houses extensive art collections but also an extensive numismatic collection featuring 700,000 items including ancient coins, paper money, orders, and various other items.

A historic church building in Vienna is Karlskirche, or "The Church of St. Charles". The Emperor Charles VI built this magnificent church as fulfillment of a promise to God for the abatement of the Black Plague in Europe in the early 18thcentury. Completed by the son of Charles VI after the latter's death, the lavishly decorated building was completed in 1737 and stands at a towering 236 feet.

Other historic religious sites include "St. Mary's on the Bank" (Marie Am Gestade), the Church of St. Michael, and Votivkirche among others.

No visit to historic Vienna would be complete without a visit to the Schönbrunn Palace. Originally referred to as "Katterburg" in the 14th century, the palace came into the possession of the Habsburg family in 1569. The building was the residence of many of Vienna's famous families, including Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth, Maria Theresa, Franz Karl and Sophie, as well as others. Visitors can tour the apartments and admire the many frescoes and interior beautifications created throughout the many different epochs. The grounds also include faux Roman ruins, a zoo, tropical greenhouse and even a butterfly museum. Reserve as much time as you can when visiting the palace, it covers around 300 acres of land and is an extensive tour.

A special place to visit is the Belvedere Palace, constructed for Prince Eugene of Savoy, a French prince who relocated to Vienna for a commission in the Austrian Calvary, and who went on to become a military legend. There are actually 2 palaces on the grounds in the center of a fantastic park. Each palace contains rich examples of Austrian art from the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. The grounds of the surrounding alpine garden feature more than 4,000 varieties of flora.

Other sites in Vienna with historical significance include Wiener Staatsoper ("The Vienna State Opera House") which was reconstructed following World War II and is a symbol of Austria's resurgence, as well as the Freud Apartment, where the world famous Sigmund Freud lived and practiced from 1891 to 1938 before fleeing from the Nazis to England.

Several days of sightseeing at a minimum are needed to capture the historical majesty that is Vienna.