Cen­tral Perk

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - CONTENTS - By Binu Starnegg

Sur­rounded by restau­rants and cul­tural land­marks, the his­toric Stadt­park gives ur­ban­ites some much-needed respite.

For all the rolling Prater mead­ows and vine­yards in the Vienna Woods, green space in the city cen­ter is in short sup­ply – were it not for the Stadt­park (city park), pop­u­lar as ever with hu­mans and pi­geons as it was in the 19th cen­tury. Com­pleted in 1862 dur­ing the Ringstrasse project, which saw the city walls razed in fa­vor of a wide, op­u­lent boule­vard, it was one of the first pur­pose-built parks in the city. It was per­fectly placed, right where the Vienna river reemerges af­ter dis­ap­pear­ing un­der­ground at Naschmarkt – the point of en­try to the Vienna “sew­ers” (more ac­cu­rately, run off from the city wa­ter sys­tem) used by Harry Lime (Or­son Welles) in Carol Reed’s noir clas­sic, The Third Man. A Ju­gend­stil prom­e­nade flanks both sides of the river, di­vid­ing the Stadt­park in two: the smaller side to­ward Heu­markt has a chil­dren’s play­ground and bas­ket­ball cages, as well as a turn-of-the-cen­tury pavil­ion that houses the sto­ried Steir­ereck – with two cov­eted Miche­lin stars, it’s widely re­garded as the coun­try’s finest restau­rant. The Ringstrasse side is land­scaped in English Gar­den style, with ponds and mon­u­ments to Vienna’s fa­mous (mostly mu­si­cal) sons – Franz Schu­bert, An­ton Bruck­ner, Robert Stolz and, most promi­nently, Jo­hann Strauss the younger, whose gilded statue re­mains one of the city’s most fa­mous photo ops.


Exit the his­toric U4 Stadt­park sta­tion to Jo­han­nes­gasse and you’ll be right in the ac­tion: To your left, you’ll see the Garte­namt on the next street cor­ner, a small, charm­ing two-story cot­tage hung with trel­lises, which is the head­quar­ters of the mu­nic­i­pal gar­den­ers. To your right on the cor­ner with Parkring is the sto­ried Kur­sa­lon, a café, restau­rant and ball­room built in the 1860s and made fa­mous by Strauss him­self, who fre­quently per­formed

there. Fit­tingly, the Kur­sa­lon’s large parkside ter­race is within sight of the glided mon­u­ment, the mae­stro for­ever play­ing his fid­dle. Pop­u­lar with high so­ci­ety dur­ing the 19th cen­tury, it’s still an event venue, of­ten for din­ner con­certs cater­ing to tourists. If you look straight ahead though, you’ll see the pres­ti­gious Konz­erthaus, home of the Vienna Sym­phony Orches­tra. Built in 1913 in a hy­brid of his­tori­cism and Ju­gend­stil styles, it opened to a pre­lude by the early modernist Richard Strauss, and re­mains one of the city’s pre­miere mu­si­cal venues, boast­ing three sound­proofed au­di­to­ri­ums. Next to it is the Akademiethe­ater, built by the same ar­chi­tects. The sec­ond stage of the fa­bled Burgth­e­ater, it has re­cently be­gun sur-ti­tling se­lect plays in English. Flank­ing the Konz­erthaus on the other side is the Eis­laufverein, one of the old­est ice skat­ing as­so­ci­a­tions in the world. Op­er­at­ing here since 1901, it be­came an ar­ti­fi­cial rink in 1912, and is sched­uled to up­grade again as part of the con­tro­ver­sial “Heu­markt Pro­jekt,” a real es­tate de­vel­op­ment that is en­dan­ger­ing cen­tral Vienna’s UNESCO world her­itage sta­tus (see “Vienna Red Listed,” MET Sep 2017). Start­ing next sea­son, the Eis­laufverein will move to nearby Sch­warzen­berg­platz for two win­ters await­ing their new premises, which will con­vert to a pub­lic square with an un­der­ground rink in the off-sea­son.


On the out­skirts of the park, sev­eral other points of in­ter­est await. On Parkring, there’s the Garten­baukino, an iconic movie the­ater opened in 1960 that spe­cial­izes in orig­i­nal lan­guage films, pro­jected onto a vast 15.45m by 6.5m screen. It's one of the few cin­e­mas still able to show 70mm prints. On the third district side is the Münze Öster­re­ich (Aus­trian Mint), on Heu­markt since 1834, al­though it’s much older – leg­end dates their first coins pressed out of the sil­ver bul­lion paid as ran­som by Eng­land for Richard the Lionheart in 1194. Aus­trian Euro coins are still milled on site. Just down the road is another prime of­fice: the Bier­amt (beer depart­ment), a restau­rant and wa­ter­ing hole pop­u­lar for its rus­tic at­mos­phere and large se­lec­tion of suds. Closer to the Konz­erthaus is the Gmoakeller, a staunchly tra­di­tional Wirtshaus (tav­ern) and among the old­est in the city. In busi­ness since 1858, it was al­legedly a site for the assig­na­tions of crown prince Rudolf with his lover Mary Vet­sera; to­day, it’s qual­ity fare and time-worn charm make it a neigh­bor­hood fa­vorite and post-per­for­mance haunt. While not nearly as large as Lon­don’s Hyde Park, the Stadt­park pro­vides a per­fect botan­i­cal back­drop to Vienna’s ur­ban­ites, with numer­ous notable in­sti­tu­tions all in walk­ing dis­tance. Whether you’re a lovestruck cou­ple strolling down the prom­e­nade, feed­ing ducks at the pond or tak­ing a selfie with the golden waltz king, the Stadt­park re­mains Vienna’s in­ner city oa­sis.

KUR­SA­LON (& STRAUSS MON­U­MENT) 1., Jo­han­nes­gasse 33 Re­opens Feb 12 Mon-sun 17:00-21:00 (restau­rant) (01) 512 57 90 kur­sa­lon­wien.at KONZ­ERTHAUS 3., Lothringer­straße 20 (01) 242 002 konz­erthaus. Lorem ip­sum AKADEMIETHE­ATER 3., Liszt­straße 1 (01) 514 44 41...

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