One of Vienna’s trademark sights is the Riesenrad or giant Ferris wheel located at the start of the Prater amusement park. A star of a thousand postcards and fridge magnets.
- Famous 19th-century landmark over 60m high
- Offers views over the city
- Opens late for nighttime views
- Seen in numerous movies and TV shows
- Book your Riesenrad ticket* online
- See also:
The Giant Ferris wheel
(Blue skies mean clear views)
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 Riesenrad acquired from its many movie appearances.
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 trip, and newspaper reports spoke warmly of the excellent views and comfortable ride. Though one journalist did mention the pain of queueing. Plus ça change.
(The Riesenrad on a postcard from 1899, printed and published by Regel & Krug Verlag. Note the higher density of wagons; Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 196559/4; excerpt reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
Designer Walter Basset (an Englishman) had already honed his engineering skills building a Ferris wheel in London before working on the Viennese version.
Unfortunately, Basset’s remarkable 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).
(Go late for nighttime views of Vienna; press photo © www.wienerriesenrad.com)
Vienna has taller places to get a view over the city, and the adjacent Wurstelprater entertainment complex offers more thrilling rides. 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.
As mentioned, the wheel also has a special place in Viennese and visitor hearts thanks to its star turn in various much-loved movies and TV series.
Tickets & visitor tips
If you want to know what to expect from a trip on the Riesenrad, check my review of a ride.
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
- The exact opening hours depend on the season but the wheel stays open into the evening (and even later in warmer months). A twilight view of Vienna feels like a fine way to end a day of sightseeing
For those willing to pay more, the Riesenrad has some upgrade opportunities. For example:
- A candlelit dinner for two in your own wagon offers a decidedly romantic option, which is why it appears on this list.
- Platform 9: stand on top of an open-air glass floor, rather than inside a wagon, as it does a turn of the wheel. Harnesses keep you from falling.
Check the eligibility requirements for the Platform 9 experience if this sounds interesting. Since I get nervous standing on a ladder to change a light bulb, you won’t find me up there, sadly.
The Ferris wheel entrance marks one side of the main square leading into the Wurstelprater’s entertainments.
That 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.
How to get to the Riesenrad
All of the above is a mere five minute (if that) hop, skip and jump from the Praterstern subway and train station that sits close to 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