To the ear of an English speaker, it might seem deeply ironic that the City Hall of Vienna is called the Rathaus. But accidental associations with the character of politicians aside, this neo-Gothic building and nearby park are among Vienna’s most delightful tourist offerings.
Deepening the irony, the City Hall building (erected in 1883) is often referred to as the ‘New City Hall’. It replaced the old one at that time and visitors to this wonderful city are the beneficiaries. The building is a splendid example of a style that had seen a sharp revival around the end of the 19th century mostly thanks to several World Fairs featuring it.
Its central spire soars 98m (300 feet) above the plaza ringed by the street that has the most appropriate name, Ringstrasse. By design, the delicately decorated facade is highly reminiscent of a cathedral from hundreds of years earlier.
Visitors who have enjoyed the style in Paris, London, or elsewhere will not be disappointed in this example. In the upper section are the structure’s well-regarded loggia, sporting highly ornate tracery next to its curved balconies.
The grounds are equally stunning, offering seven individual courtyards festooned with flowers and plants that offer an oasis in this bustling Austrian metropolis. Summer concerts are regularly scheduled in the Arkadenhof courtyard.
But the music festivities are only a small part of the activities that take place in the Rathaus grounds and associated park. There is a Christmas Market festival held at Rathausplatz that attracts huge numbers of both locals and tourists every year. An equally famous and well attended Film Festival takes place during the entire month of August every year in the nearby City Hall Park.
In the park gather thousands to enjoy the greenery, celebrate Vienna’s warm summers, or just people watch. Like any large, well-known city visitors will find all sorts here. But the entire area is safe and festive and everyone has a good time.
Not far away from the famed Burgtheater, the park and Rathaus frame two ends of a portion of Ringstrasse, one of the main thoroughfares encircling what is known as the First District, or Innere Stadt. This section would be known in other cities as Old Town, but in a city like Vienna the phrase takes on a whole new meaning.
Prior to 1850 the Innere Stadt simply was Vienna. Since then, the city has grown to encompass a larger area, while the population of this section has declined from 73,000 to about 17,000 over the hundred-year period.
Tourists are the beneficiaries since it allows them to enjoy the City Hall park free from the crowds one might see in, say, Central Park in New York. Though popular, the park isn’t wall-to-wall people. Instead, it’s possible to take a delightful stroll or ride a bicycle or even have a tennis match without having to worry too much about others. Open food stalls and a beer garden make for an equally delightful atmosphere in the evenings.