Part 3 of our walking tour of Vienna leaves the Hofburg and wanders along a section of the giant Ringstrassen boulevard with its parks, museums, and important civic buildings.
Continue reading for route info, special tips, details on the main locations you walk past, plus some information on guided options.
- If you keep moving, the 4-part route takes around 1½ hours
- See also:
- Book a guided walking tour* of Vienna
The Ring route
We ended Part 2 of the tour by leaving the Hofburg complex through the monumental Burgtor entrance. Ahead of us is the Ring boulevard that encircles the heart of Vienna.
But before we get to the Ring itself and all the wonders it holds…
Instead of going through the Burgtor, consider first walking around the right side of the Neue Burg wing of the Hofburg that’s been on your left as you crossed Heldenplatz square.
The rear of the Neue Burg has the rather nice Burggarten park, created on land made unexpectedly available for development after Napoleonic troops used the fortifications that stood there for ballistics practice in the early 1800s.
The corner of the Burggarten you emerge into has the popular Mozart monument with (in the right season) its treble clef flower bed.
(The other side of the Burgarten is the Albertina art museum from an earlier part of our tour.)
After saying hello to Wolfgang Amadeus, retrace your steps and walk under the Burgtor and toward the large road that crosses in front of you.
On to the ring
(Looking along The Ring)
That road is a section of the mighty Ring: an unmistakable continuous series of roads built after the city fortifications came down in the mid-1800s.
The Ring follows a similar path to the old city walls. They sold some of the real estate flanking the open boulevard and used the rest for some colossal urban development projects.
As a result, many stylish 19th century townhouses and monumental public buildings line the route. We shall walk part of the Ring clockwise to take in some of the best sights.
If you walk in the other direction, you eventually find yourself back at the Staatsoper where our tour began.
Museums & Maria Theresa
Turn right onto the Ring’s pedestrian paths. These sometimes merge with cycle routes so keep an eye out for two-wheeled traffic.
Which side of the Ring you walk along depends on how close you want to get to different attractions, and you may find yourself swapping sides as required. But start off by crossing the road to reach our first Ring stop.
Maria-Theresien-Platz is a landscaped square immediately opposite the Burgtor with two large museums either side and a giant monument in the centre.
The museum on your left as you face the square from the road is the 1891 Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) building, full of art treasures from the past. The interior decoration is an artwork in its own right.
Tip: most people visit the KHM for the paintings by a who's who of European art history, but the Kunstkammer chamber of wonders collection is equally breathtaking with some quite unique pieces.
The museum on your right is the 1889 Naturhistorisches Museum (NHM) building: Vienna’s Natural History Museum and equally magnificent inside as its twin opposite. A top location for entertaining kids.
The 1888 monument is to Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780), whose accession to the various Habsburg thrones ruffled a few male feathers and led European competitors to try and muscle in on her territories.
Unfortunately for our affronted masculine nobility, the Empress proved a remarkably successful leader. The statues and reliefs around the monument represent key personalities from her reign. See if you can spot Haydn and Mozart.
Monument of the Republic
Stay on this side of the Ring and walk past the Natural History Museum to discover the Monument of the Republic.
This commemorates the proclamation of the first republic on November 12th, 1918, immediately after the end of WWI. The busts are of three key politicians behind that protest:
- Jakob Reumann (a future mayor who also played a key role in Vienna’s legendary social housing initiative)
- Ferdinand Hanusch (a prime mover behind the development of worker-friendly social policies)
- Viktor Adler (the acknowledged founder of the Austrian social democracy movement)
Rather appropriately, walking past the monument brings you to Austria’s Hellenic-style parliament building from the early 1880s.
Parliament is reaching the end of a huge renovation programme, so what you see my depend on whether the construction paraphernalia has all come down.
By now, you’ll have noticed a lot of ancient-looking buildings along the Ring that actually “only” date back to the second half of the 1800s.
Architects of the time and the people who financed their projects favoured the historicism approach, where you design new buildings to match old architectural styles. Then along came Vienna Modernism.
Opposite parliament on the other side of the Ring is the 1823 Volksgarten, another park that owes its existence to the destructive departure of Napoleon’s troops from Vienna.
The long stretch of the park that lines the Ring has more roses than a bumper pack of Valentine’s Day cards. The blooms from hundreds of varieties create a blaze of colour in late spring and early summer.
Tip: pop into the Volksgarten for two bonus treats: the small Theseus Temple (looks lovely at night) and the quiet memorial to Empress Elisabeth (which even many Viennese have forgotten about)
Continue past Parliament to reach another more conventional park (the Rathauspark) and city hall: the neogothic 1883 Rathaus, whose tower peeks through the trees as you approach.
Always keep on eye on the square (the Rathausplatz) in front of the Rathaus. This location often hosts big events, such as an open-air film festival through summer, the huge Christkindlmarkt Christmas market (no prizes for guessing when this takes place), and an ice skating extravaganza in late winter.
Tip: if you walk across to the Rathaus and go around to the left you find a lovely little Konditorei that counted Empress Elisabeth among its customers (her name pops up a lot in Vienna)
And our final stop on this Ring part of the walking tour is the 1888 Burgtheater opposite the Rathausplatz.
This is essentially Austria’s national theatre, though the institution dates back further than the relatively new Ring-side premises.
Despite the theatrical tradition, the Burgtheater has its own special place in art history, since its staircase frescoes feature early works by none other than Gustav Klimt. You can see his efforts on one of their guided tours.
The Burgtheater marks the point where we veer away from the Ring to return into the old town in Part 4 of our walking tour: old Vienna and the cathedral.