One of Vienna’s trademark sights is the Riesenrad or giant Ferris wheel located at the start of the Prater amusement park.
If you’re “doing” Vienna, this comes in the “iconic experience” category. Partly because of the impressive giant metal construction and history, but mostly because of the celebrity status the wheel acquired from its movie appearances.
- 19th-century landmark over 60m high
- Offers great views over the city
- Opens late for nighttime views
- €12 for adults* or free with the Vienna Pass
- See also: Review of a ride | Best views of Vienna
Ferris wheel history
The original Ferris wheel went up in 1897 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph. The designer, Walter Basset (an Englishman), had already honed his engineering skills building a Ferris wheel for London.
Like many other Viennese attractions, the wheel failed to escape WWII intact. It burnt down in 1944 but was soon rebuilt and returned to operation in 1947, albeit with fewer wagons.
The whole structure weighs over 430 tonnes and has a diameter of just under 61 meters or exactly 200 feet (a relic of the original English design!). It turns slowly, but surely, at a pace of 2.7 km/h (2 mph).
There are taller places to get a view over the city and there are more thrilling rides in the adjacent Prater entertainment complex. But it’s all about the experience with the Riesenrad, the stamp in your imaginary book of iconic moments, and the knowledge you’re following in the footsteps of history.
The word iconic really isn’t out of place here. The Riesenrad has a special place in Viennese and visitor hearts thanks to its star turn in various much-loved movies, most notably The Third Man with Orson Welles.
Tickets & visitor tips
The Riesenrad opens all year, excepting a few days in January. If you want to know what to expect, check my review of a ride. The exact opening hours depend on the season (it’s often open late so you get good nighttime views of Vienna).
You can buy single-ride tickets*, but there are also various combination tickets with other Prater attractions. A Vienna Pass (read my review) gets you one free ride. At the time of writing, a standard ticket was €12 for adults, €5 for kids.
For those looking for a touch of style, you can also arrange a dinner, coffee, or similar event while you enjoy ever-changing views of Vienna. They even have a special wedding cabin.
How to get to the Riesenrad
The Ferris wheel is a mere 5 minute (if that) hop, skip and jump from the Praterstern subway and train station that sits at the entrance to the Prater park. Once you exit the station, it’s obvious where the Riesenrad is (just look up).
Subway/trains: U1 and U2 subway lines. The city train lines, S1, S2, S3, S4 and S7 (the airport line), also stop at Praterstern
Tram/bus: Tram lines 5 and O, and bus lines 5B, 80A, and 82A, all stop at Praterstern
Address: Wiener Riesenrad, Prater 90, 1020 Vienna | Website