One of the problems for a growing city is where to put all the people – and not just the live ones. As Vienna neared the end of the 19th century, it was clear that the existing cemeteries weren’t up to the job long-term.
So the authorities raided the savings account and bought up a large plot of land to the southeast of the city and turned it into a new cemetery, which opened in 1874.
It’s since grown progressively and now occupies about 2.5 million square meters, with over 300,000 graves and crypts and more than 3 million “inhabitants.” This makes it one of the biggest cemeteries in the world, perhaps second only to the Wadi-us-Salaam (Valley of Peace) cemetery in Iraq.
It’s so large that it has its own railway station and a bus service inside the cemetery itself.
It’s also multi-denominational, meaning there are dedicated areas for many of the world’s religions, including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and various orthodox churches.
The literal translation of Zentralfriedhof is “central cemetery,” but there’s nothing remotely central about it. Even today, it’s a good 20 minute tram ride from the edge of the city center.
In its early incarnations it was so unpopular (thanks to the distance from the center) that the authorities had to think of ways to make it more attractive – hence the development of the Ehrengräber or honorary graves as a kind of tourist attraction.
As you might expect from a city with a rich artistic background, the Zentralfriedhof houses many famous names, including Beethoven. Architecturally, the key elements are the gateposts at the main entrance (see photo) and the Jugendstil church at its center.
Address: Main entrance (Tor 2), Simmeringer Hauptstraße 234 , 1110 Vienna. The cemetery is served by trams 71 and 6, and the S7 train (Schnellbahn). There’s also parking space and you can take your car inside (for a fee). It’s always open from 8am to 5pm, with slightly longer opening hours at selected times of the year.