The Ring Tower (Ringturm) packs a few surprises for passers by.
This was the first office tower of its kind in Vienna, joining the skyline in 1955 after a two-year building period. (The construction date explains the absence of pan pipe-wielding satyrs and similar motifs of Imperial Vienna.)
- Business HQ, exhibition space, weather indicator, and work of art in one
- Famous for its Advent lights display
- See also: Where to see Christmas lights | Ringturm exhibition
A building and symbol
At 73m high, with the light mast reaching up another 20m, the Ringturm is the second-highest building within Vienna’s Ring (the highest is Stephansdom cathedral). Indeed, the building marks one end of the long Ring boulevard.
The tower housed the new headquarters of the Wiener Städtische insurance company, but also played a symbolic role in the emergence of Vienna from the long shadow of WWII. After all, the 23-floor construction replaced one of the buildings that allied bombing destroyed.
Equally, US skyscrapers (with all their economic and political symbolism) inspired the architectural approach to the Ringturm – the then CEO of the company had spent time in US exile. And the year of construction was also the year Austria gained its independence from the allied occupation.
But the building offers more than just evidence of Austria’s post-war renaissance…
Art and architecture
The entrance to the tower, for example, provides a home for Architektur im Ringturm: free exhibitions typically showcasing architecture from Austria and nearby central and eastern Europe.
Every summer also sees the building’s façade covered with printed sheets to form a giant 4000m2 work of art (the project took a break in 2020 and 2021, though). Artists of international distinction have contributed designs, including Gottfried Helnwein, Arnulf Rainer, Xenia Hausner, and Christian Ludwig Attersee.
That same façade turns into a mammoth Christmas tree in December, with falling snowflakes completing the display. It’s a famous element in Vienna’s Christmas lights.
Oh, and there’s one more thing…
The light mast at the top of the Ringturm hooks up to Vienna’s main meteorological station. The display – featuring over 100 lights – changes colour and direction according to the prevailing weather forecast.
So, for example, descending red lights indicate it’s getting colder and blinking white lights are a snow/ice warning. If the lights blink red, then take cover – a storm is on its way.
How to get to the Ringturm
The tower sits opposite the Schottenring station, which is on the U2 and U4 subway lines, the 1 or 31 tram lines, and bus line 3A. A short walk from the very centre will also get you there.
An even shorter walk past the Ringturm away from the centre brings you to an arm of the Danube. The Donaukanal comes alive in summer with open-air bars and restaurants, and makes its own contribution to the Viennese art scene through the ever-changing street art along its banks.
Address: Schottenring 30, 1010 Vienna | Website
P.S. The name Ringturm is not a nickname or coincidence. There was a prize competition to name the building which attracted over 6,000 entries.