One of Vienna’s trademark sights is the Riesenrad or giant Ferris wheel located at the start of the Prater amusement park.
This location comes near the top of the “iconic experience” category for Vienna. Partly because of the impressive giant metal construction and history, but also 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
- Star of The Third Man and other screen delights
- €12 for adults* or one-time free ride with the Vienna Pass
- See also: Review of a ride | Best views of Vienna
Ferris wheel history
The original Ferris wheel opened to the public on July 3rd, 1897, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph. A crowd of thousands watched the official guests take a ride, and newspaper reports spoke warmly of the excellent views and comfortable ride. Though one journalist did mention the pain of queueing. Plus ça change.
Designer Walter Basset (an Englishman) had already honed his engineering skills building a Ferris wheel for London. Unfortunately, his remarkable Viennese construction failed to escape WWII intact. The Riesenrad 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 Wurstelprater 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 wheel has a special place in Viennese and visitor hearts thanks to its star turn in various much-loved movies and TV series, most notably The Third Man with Orson Welles.
Tickets & visitor tips
The Riesenrad usually 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.
How to get to the Riesenrad
The Ferris wheel entrance marks one side of the main square leading into the entertainments. The same square also includes Madame Tussauds and other fun locations, while the rest of the area features rides, rollercoasters, restaurants, and all the other entertainments you’d expect in a giant funfair.
All of the above is a mere five 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, just look up to spot the Riesenrad.
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