A visit to Vienna can take you on a rollercoaster ride through centuries of history. But sometimes you just want a rollercoaster ride.
Which is where the Prater comes in.
But this huge recreational area has more to offer than just high-thrills entertainment.
- Giant amusement park
- Includes attractions like Madame Tussauds and the Riesenrad giant Ferris wheel
- Popular venue for walkers, joggers, and cyclists, thanks to the (flat) meadows, woodland and water features
- Has a few architectural surprises, including some Instagram favourites
- See also:
The Wiener Prater
(View down the long 4.5km Prater Hauptallee popular with joggers and cyclists)
Look at a map of Vienna, and a huge stretch of green cuts its way from just northeast of the centre all the way across to the commercial ports on the Danube and the edge of the city.
This is the Prater, which looks back on a long history that began around 500 years ago.
The park area once served as a place for the Imperial family to enjoy the country and the hunt. The location meant they could do so within a short distance of their central residence (and without having to mix with the great unwashed).
The one-time playground of emperors is now, however, full of playgrounds for the descendants of those unlucky few who did not live in palaces. And the adrenalin rush of funfair rides has long replaced the terror of spear-wielding invaders marching across from the east.
Joggers, cyclists, and those seeking some escape from the urban hubbub can run, ride and wander where aristocrats once tittered at an archduke’s peculiar choice of wig.
The Prater has also become ingrained in the Viennese soul: “them and us” just becomes “us” as we lift a glass of beer, down a sausage, marvel at the entertainments, and stroll among the trees…just like many before us.
Anyway, that’s all well and good, but what does this recreational area have to offer the visitor to Vienna?
We begin with the amusements…
Food and fun
(The Praterturm ride)
So, yes, a giant fun park occupies the end of the Prater nearest the city centre. Think dodgems, carousels, water rides, rollercoasters and the kind of pleasures where you need to be strapped in very securely.
But that’s by no means all.
The entrance area has Madame Tussauds and other indoor entertainments, including a planetarium. Not forgetting perhaps the pride of the Prater: the movie icon and city landmark that is the Riesenrad Giant Ferris Wheel.
All of which can make you hungry and thirsty, so the numerous snack bars and restaurants come in rather handy. One or two enjoy considerable local fame, like the Schweizerhaus and Luftburg.
For more details, see the article: The Wurstelprater amusement park.
Nature and recreation
(Tranquil nature in the middle of Vienna)
Despite its size, the entertainment complex actually only occupies a small part of the Prater. Most of the rest is a huge park and recreational area, with numerous footpaths, cycling paths and even a miniature railway.
Locals gravitate here to use the skate park, sports meadows and other facilities, for example, or simply to take in the air on the 11km official hiking path that loops around almost the entire area.
For more details, see the article: The Prater: park & hiking trail 9.
Architecture and history
(The national football stadium)
Although dominated by greenery and ghost trains, the Prater has a few surprises for those interested in history and architecture.
The Lusthaus, for example, is an 18th-century summer house where Emperor Franz I once celebrated victory over Napoleon with the crème de la crème of European monarchy.
More recent buildings adjoining the Prater park include the national football stadium and the quite astonishing new campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business (very popular as a photo motif).
For more details, see the article: The Prater: buildings and architecture.
How to get to the Prater
The more urban parts of the Prater are well-served by Vienna’s public transport system.
Subway: the main access point, especially for the entertainments, is just outside the Praterstern station (on the U1 and U2 lines), while later stops on the U2 all drop you within walking distance of the park:
- Messe-Prater (on the other side of the amusement park)
- Krieau (good for viewing the modern architecture)
- Stadion (the national stadium)
- Donaumarina (on the Danube)
Tram: lines 5 and O also go to Praterstern.
Tram line 1 makes an interesting option, since it leaves from the centre (e.g. Schwedenplatz or Schottentor) and drops you off in the middle of the Hauptallee boulevard that runs through much of the Prater (at the sensibly-named Prater, Hauptallee stop).
Address: Since the Prater covers some 6km2, no one address is possible. But the main entrance to the amusement park and also the square where you find the Ferris wheel, Madame Tussauds etc. is Riesenradplatz, 1020 Vienna.