Vienna’s main cemetery – the Zentralfriedhof – is a curious place. Although a working cemetery and home to some particularly famous graves, it’s almost as well-known for its flora and fauna.
- Vienna’s largest cemetery
- Like a landscaped park in many areas
- Known for its composer graves, including Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Brahms
- A little away from the centre, but easily reached by car or tram
- See also: Famous graves
The central cemetery
(Beethoven’s last resting place)
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 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, which they turned into a new cemetery in 1874.
This Zentralfriedhof 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.
(The memorial to Mozart)
The Zentralfriedhof is 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.
In its early incarnations, the Zentralfriedhof found little public approval (thanks to the distance from the centre). So little, in fact, that the authorities had to think of ways to make it more attractive – hence the development of Ehrengräber (honorary graves) as a kind of tourist attraction.
(Salieri gets a grave, too)
Architecturally, the key elements are the often large and ornate gravestones, the gateposts at the main entrance, and the Jugendstil Church of St. Charles Borromeo at the centre (next to the area reserved for Austria’s presidents).
Equally, the Zentralfriedhof has become a kind of nature reserve. Films have been made on its animal population. For example, parts of the wild hamster section in the BBC Seven Worlds, One Planet documentary seem to come from the Zentralfriedhof.
Wandering through the cemetery aisles on a sunny day is certainly a remarkably tranquil experience, filled as the cemetery is with trees, shrubs, and flowers. The authorities keep it in remarkable condition.
Tickets & visitor information
There’s no charge to enter the Zentralfriedhof.
It’s always open between 8am and 5pm, with slightly longer opening hours at selected times of the year.
How to get to the Zentralfriedhof
The literal translation of Zentralfriedhof is “central cemetery,” but there’s nothing remotely central about it. Even today, it’s a 20-minute tram ride from the edge of the city centre.
Train: The S7 city train service (which goes out to the airport) stops at the Zentralfriedhof station.
Tram: take line 71 or 11 to Zentralfriedhof 2.Tor. The 71 leaves from several central stops, such as Schottentor, Ring/Volkstheater, Oper/Karlsplatz or Schwarzenbergplatz.
There’s plenty of parking space and you can even take your car inside (for a fee).
Address: Main entrance (Tor 2), Simmeringer Hauptstraße 234 , 1110 Vienna | Website