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
- 2019 dates: Sept 14-15
- 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 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.
Last 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.
Doors open at around 69 locations in 2019. For the complete overview, check the listings at the Open House Wien website. Note that some places are in the surrounding province of Lower Austria.
The highlights are a matter of taste, but the 2019 event has a couple of themes to whet your appetite. For example:
- Urban manufacturing, introducing you to production facilities embedded in the city landscape
Those with a fondness for beer might, for example, enjoy 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 want a bit of history, you can always visit 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 on the Open House Wien weekend.
2019 dates & tickets
The 2019 event takes place on the weekend of September 14th and 15th. However, some locations open on the Saturday only. Check the listings for details.
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.