You wouldn’t normally think of a cemetery as a place of rest and relaxation, at least not for the living. But St. Marx Cemetery (German: St Marxer Friedhof) is different.
It’s actually an ex-cemetery, having closed in 1874, and is now a combination of park, overgrown graveyard and – most importantly – site of cultural pilgrimage thanks to one particularly prominent resident: Mozart.
“Overgrown graveyard” as a description sounds menacing, creating visions of skeletal remains rising in the night to ambush innocent tourists and refusing to pose for selfies.
The opposite is true: this is a tranquil, green oasis full of trees, shrubs and flowers. “Almost tranquil”, I should say, since the nearby flyover means a distant drone of vehicles is ever-present.
Nature has largely been left to sculpt her own tribute to the fallen, with ivy-clad gravestones and weeping angels poking their heads through garlands of green. Almost as if the headstones and plants grew up together. There is a programme of restoration in place, but I don’t think anyone wants them to hurry it up.
I was there in late April and treated to great swathes of spring flowers and more Buddleia than most of the rest of Vienna put together. Benches tucked away in alleyways and small glades let you sit and listen to the constant chatter of birds and watch a cavalcade of insects skip past. I can only imagine the myriads of butterflies that must appear later.
Most of the gravestones are for 19th-century dignitaries and minor celebrities, which won’t mean much if you’re not familiar with Viennese history. Composers, artists and architects. Actors and authors. Military men and business luminaries of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Mozart’s grave is described in more detail here, but it’s quite unusual for St.Marx. It’s well-kept for a start, and also stands isolated from other graves and nature in a small island between two paths.
How to get there
Tram: 18 or 71 to St.Marx (and follow the “St. Marx Friedhof” signs)
Bus: 74A to Hoffmannsthalgasse (and another short walk)