Plenty of Vienna’s architectural treasures remain closed to the public. Which is bad luck for us. Except on one weekend a year, when the Open House Wien initiative invites you to tour dozens of them for free.
- Guided tours of interesting houses, workplaces, and industrial buildings
- Often the only time a building opens to the public
- Some tours may be in English
- 2020 dates: TBA (was Sept 14-15 in 2019)
- See also: European Heritage Day | What to do in Vienna
Architectural tours for free
Think of Vienna and you probably think of palaces, museums, and churches (and, possibly, chocolate cake). But this is a city of almost 2 million people, and most of us, sadly, don’t live or work in a baroque masterpiece.
Open House Wien (Open House Vienna) introduces you to some of the architectural jewels among the other buildings. Each has its own attraction, whether innovative design, historical importance, or relevance to some prevailing issue of the day.
So you might discover some of the public housing gems created during the 20th century, look inside a 19th-century factory once famous for its piano manufacture, or view a house built on stilts.
One year, I used the Open House opportunity to take a look at an early example of a council flat with a fitted kitchen (far more interesting than that perhaps sounds).
The event is only made possible by the kindness of participating institutions and, particularly, the efforts of dozens of volunteers. It’s all part of a wider initiative, Open House Worldwide, which began in 1992 in London.
Since the last Open House event only just finished, details for 2020 remain understandably elusive. Watch this space or check for listings at the Open House Wien website. But to give you an idea of what to expect, around 69 locations participated in 2019. Note that some places were in the surrounding province of Lower Austria.
The highlights are always a matter of taste, but the 2019 event had a couple of themes to whet the appetite. For example:
- Urban manufacturing, introducing you to production facilities embedded in the city landscape
Those with a fondness for beer would have, for example, enjoyed a tour around Ottakringer Brewery or the 100 Blumen Brewery (one of the businesses now located in that old piano factory I mentioned earlier).
- Social housing, taking you into the unique world of Vienna’s integrated housing projects
These complexes combine living spaces, shops, and leisure facilities in one, often supported with groundbreaking design from the early 20th century.
- Green Vienna, with, for example, the chance to get a peek at the replanted (in the vegetation sense of the word) roof and courtyard of one forward-thinking Viennese housing complex
And if you still wanted a bit of history, you could have visited Palais Ferstl: built in 1853 in a neoromanesque style, heavily damaged in WWII, and completely renovated in recent years. Also home to the wonderful Café Central.
These examples cover just a few of the possibilities from the Open House Wien weekend.
2020 dates & tickets
I’ll update this page as soon as I get hold of dates. The 2019 event took place on the weekend of September 14th and 15th. However, some locations opened on the Saturday only.
You don’t need a ticket, because it’s free. However, note that most tours are inevitably in German and you may have to wait at a location for the next tour slot.
My tip: pick those locations where the visual component is most important to you, then it doesn’t matter which language the tour is in.