Historic Centre of Vienna

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The Historic Centre of Vienna bears outstanding witness to a continuing interchange of values throughout the 2nd millennium AD.

Three key periods of European cultural and political development – the Middle Ages, the Baroque period and the Gründerzeit – are exceptionally well illustrated by the urban and architectural heritage of Vienna.

Beginning in the 12th century, the settlement expanded beyond the Roman defences, which were demolished.

The medieval town walls surrounded a much larger area; they were rebuilt during the Ottoman conflicts in the 16th and 17th centuries and provided with bastions.

This remained the core of Vienna until the walls were demolished in the second half of the 19th century.

This inner city contains a number of medieval historic buildings, including the Schottenkloster, the oldest monastery in Austria, the churches of Maria am Gestade (one of the main Gothic structures), Michaelerkirche, Minoritenkirche, and Minoritenkloster, from the 13th century. St Stephen’s Cathedral dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.

The period also saw the construction of civic ensembles, such as initial parts of the Hofburg.

Whereas the monastic complexes were generally built from stone, becoming part of the defenses of the medieval city, the residential quarters were of timber and suffered frequent fires.

In 1874 the Hofburg complex was extended with the Neue Hofburg, an ‘imperial forum’, and joined with large museum complexes into a single ensemble.

The burg theater, the parliament, the town hall, and the university formed another ensemble linked with these.

To this was added the opera house as well as a large number of public and private buildings along the Ringstrasse, on the line of the demolished walls.

From the late 19th century to 1938, the city remained a centre of high culture and modernism.

A world capital of music, the city played host to composers such as Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler and Richard Strauss.

The city’s cultural contributions in the first half of the 20th century included, among many, the Vienna Secession movement, psychoanalysis, the Second Viennese School, the architecture of Adolf Loos and the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle.

In 1913, Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Tito, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Stalin all lived within a few miles of each other in central Vienna, with some of them being regulars at the same coffeehouses.

It still is a living tribute to Habsburg times.

This dynasty ruled most of Central Europe between 1273 and 1918.

Its emperor Frederick III transformed Vienna from a medieval market town into an imperial residence.

This attracted other nobility and a lot of artists.

In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the city first (in a tie with Vancouver, Canada) for the world’s most livable cities (in the 2012 survey of 140 cities Vienna was ranked number two, behind Melbourne).

For four consecutive years (2009–2012), the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Vienna first in its annual “Quality of Living” survey of hundreds of cities around the world, a title the city has reclaimed in 2014.