A Hollywood film about Mozart some years ago generated the now-famous line: “It’s nice to be the king.” Looking at the Burggarten in Vienna, the sentiment is easy to believe. This once-private garden of the Austrian monarch Franz Josef is, indeed, quite a bit more than nice. It’s stunning.
Located in central Vienna, it lies alongside Hofburg, the former Imperial Winter Palace. It isn’t hard to picture the avid gardener Franz I puttering around and some of his handiwork might still remain. His tools are on display here. It was first created in 1818 during his reign but opened to the public in 1919.
The garden encompasses over 38,000 square meters and offers lovely greenery, quiet trails, and numerous sculptures of famed Viennese of the day, including Mozart, the Emperor himself, and others.
Within the garden grounds is the famed Palmenhouse (Palm Tree House), recently converted to a delightful little cafe. It is also home to the exotic Schmetterlingshaus (Butterfly House), which holds hundreds of these little fluttering creatures from over 150 species. It is housed inside an architectural marvel of the period – one of the world’s most magnificent Jugendstil greenhouses.
For a very different park experience in Vienna, check out the Prater. Here, visitors will find over 3,000 acres of gardens, tennis courts, riding stables, and even a 9-hole golf course.
Then, too, there is the famed Ferris Wheel (locally called ‘The Riesenrad’) built near the turn of the 20th century. The amusement park of which is the main feature was created as part of the Golden Jubilee festival held in 1897 to celebrate the reign of Franz Josef.
The wheel is enormous, able to hold up to a dozen people in a single enclosed basket. Destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt after the war and reopened in 1947. The seat rises far above the park and turns at just over a mile and a half per hour, a very leisurely pace. Some of the wooden cabins, as they’re called, actually serve dinner and drinks. From the summit, one can sip champagne and get a great view of Vienna at night at the same time.
Also in the park are ghost houses for the kids, a Jack the Ripper House that offers a walk through a maze in the dark, and other fun things to do. Restaurants dot the area, so you’ll have a wide choice of things to eat.