Vienna is the capital and a federal state of Austria. The city lies on the Danube and Wienerwald, the easternmost of the Alps and measures 415 km2. Vienna has 20.4 percent of Austria’s population, with 1 867 582 residents (2017).
Early on, the city became a center for trade between southeastern Europe and Central Europe, and as a hub of the Habsburg Empire, it became one of Europe’s largest and most magnificent cities in the 19th century.
The business world has on several occasions experienced major restructuring difficulties, especially after the two world wars. After World War I, the city lost much of its natural surroundings, with the borders to Czechoslovakia and Hungary being drawn only 35 and 50 km from the city border. After World War II, Vienna, with a special status, remained within the Soviet occupation zone of Austria until 1955. Today, the city has a versatile business, based among other things on electric power transmission from the Alps, nearby petroleum deposits, banking and stock exchange activities and other service industries as well an ever-increasing tourist flow.
Vienna is the country’s most important industrial city. The most important groups are the electrical and transport industry, the clothing, food and beverage industries, the graphic and chemical industries. The fashion industry and crafts also play an important role.
Transport and Communications
When Austria lost large tracts of land after World War I, Vienna remained in the northeastern corner of the country. This led to a particularly strong expansion of the transport lines to the west and south, while the traffic east and north was quite modest. Since 1990, contact with neighboring countries behind the former Iron Curtain, now all EU members, has been steadily growing, and Vienna is increasingly taking on its old role as a hub for traffic in all directions with lively shipping traffic on the Danube, an extended motorway and railway system and a dense flight network from Schwechat main airport southeast of the city. Local traffic is handled by subways, suburban lanes, city lanes, tramways and bus lines, which together form a tightly masked grid.
Public institutions and culture
Vienna is the seat of several international bodies, including the OPEC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). From 1974, after New York and Geneva, Vienna has become the permanent seat of UN conferences. Vienna is also the seat of a Catholic archbishop, an evangelical bishop and a Greek Orthodox metropolitan.
The city has one of Europe’s oldest universities (from 1365), especially known for its medical faculty. In 2004, this was transformed into an independent institution, the Medical University of Vienna. There is also a technical university and universities of commerce, agricultural sciences and veterinary medicine, academies of music, visual arts and crafts. The State Archives and the National Library have particularly valuable collections from the long reign of the Habsburg dynasty. The Museum of Art History has an impressive antique section and a unique collection of Brueghel-paintings. Equally rich is the Natural History Museum with its geological and botanical collections. The Austrian National Gallery in the Castle of Belvedere has large collections of paintings, in particular the outstanding collections of Austrian art from the Middle Ages and the Baroque period. Sammlung Albertina, the world’s largest graphic collection, comprises a total of over 2 million magazines, including drawings by Albrecht Dürer. The Austrian Theater Museum in Palais Lobkowitz, which holds 1.4 million exhibition objects, is the world leader in its field.
Since the era of Viennese classicism around 1800, Vienna has been the world’s leading music city with famous composers and performers in opera, operetta and ballet, orchestras and choirs. Vienna has numerous theaters, including the national theater Burgtheater and State Opera. The leading operatic scene is Volksoper. In May and June, annual festival games are held which include all arts. Since 1982, an annual ballet festival also takes place in Vienna. Vienna New Year’s Concert Harmonics are broadcast live to the world from the golden hall of the Musikvereinsgebäude. Internationally known is also the 500 year old boys choir Wiener Sängerknaben (founded 1498).
Vienna’s Innenstadt is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This old city center is bounded by an arm of the Danube (Danube Canal) and the wide, 4 km long Ringstrasse, which is built on the 13th century ring wall. In the middle of the Innere Stadt lies the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, one of Central Europe’s most magnificent Gothic buildings, restored after major destruction during World War II. Here is also the city’s shopping and entertainment center. Further southwest is the huge Hofburg building complex, the Habsburgs residence for six centuries, which includes the Ethnographic Museum, the National Library and the Spanish Riding School. In the west lies the Burgtheater and in the south Staatsoper, both facing the ring. Alongside this are a number of 19th-century monumental buildings of older styles, such as the University of Italian Renaissance, the City Hall (New Gothic) outside the City Hall Park, the Parliament (Neoclassicism), the Natural History and Art History Museum and the Schillerplatz Art Academy. The technical college and concert hall, Musikvereinsgebäude, is also close to the ring. To the south of it lies Karlskirche, one of the Baroque’s most stately buildings constructed by Fischer von Erlach, and further to the southeast stretches a belt of parks, including Belvedere, with a magnificent Baroque castle.
A little way off the Ringstrasse, the Gürtel Streets, built in the 1890s on the ravaged ramparts dating from the early 18th century. They are crossed by wide entry and business streets, including Mariahilfer Strasse to the southwest. Between them are dense residential neighborhoods, which in the highlands to the west turn into residential areas. In the southwest lies the summer palace Schönbrunn, further out the great Lainzer Tiergarten in the Wienerwald, and further north to the Währing, Nussdorf, Sievering and Grinzing in scenic surroundings with wine cultivation, about 700 vineyards, most with their own watering places. These “Heurigen Rooms” are very popular places to go.
The lower regions in the southeast and north are industrial areas, including Döbling with the Karl-Marx-Hof working homes on the river terrace, but with well-known excursion places such as Kahlenberg (483 meters above sea level), Hermannskogel (542 meters above sea level) and Kobenzl in the north. On an elongated island between the Danube Canal and the Danube lies the densely populated district of Leopoldstadt with the Augarten Park. From the square Praterstern, streets radiate in all directions, including the magnificent Praterstrasse towards Innere Stadt. Farther southeast is the large park Prater with amusement facilities, trade shows, sports facilities and nature park. Florisdorf on the northeast side of the regulated Danube was incorporated in the city in 1905. On an island between the Danube and the river Arte Alte Danube lies the Danube Park with the 252 meter high Danube Tower, which was built in 1964. The tower has an observation platform. This is where the UN Center was built in 1978, Das Vienna International Center or UNO-City. At the Alte Danube there are facilities for swimming and water sports.
In the suburb of Hinterbrühl lies Seegrotte, Europe’s largest underground lake (6200 square meters). During World War II, parts of it were dried up, and warplanes were produced here, including the world’s first jet fighter. Today, boat trips in Seegrotte are a popular tourist destination.