Paris has temporary ferris wheels like the Roue de Paris and the Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde. The English capital has the London Eye, a fancy wheel that serves more as a moving observation tower than as a ride in an amusement park. But before either of these major cities had their ferris wheels, Vienna had theirs. The Austrian capital’s Wiener Riesenrad, or Viennese ferris wheel, stands as the star attraction of the Wurstelprater, a permanent amusement park that is a part of the Wiener Prater park. In fact, you will be very familiar with this particular ferris wheel if you’ve seen the 1949 film The Third Man with Orson Welles, as it serves as a particularly important location.
The ferris wheel is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. The Wurstelprater is a combination of history, whimsy and fun. The Wiener Riesenrad and the rest of the amusement attractions at Wurstelprater are this month’s addition to My Must See List.
The history of the Wurstelprater, or Prater for short, goes all the way back to the mid-18th century. It was founded when Kaiser Josef II opened royal hunting grounds to the public. Just over a century later, the park served as the location for the 1873 World Exhibition. Then in 1897, the Riesenrad debuted. Vienna’s wheel was the world’s tallest ferris wheel from 1920 until, amazingly, 1985. This was due to the demolition of several larger ferris wheels in the United States and Paris.
Since those early days amusements and restaurants have sprung up all over. World War II, in particular, was not kind to the park. But, like so many things, it was rebuilt.
A quick glance at the map of today’s Wurstelprater amusement park (the map for 2016 is available as a PDF) is sure to overwhelm. Today, there are roller coasters, water rides and pony rides among the many, many options for entertainment. Prater boasts 250 attractions, to be exact. Visitors pay no admission to enter the park, but instead pay entrance by the ride or attraction.
Those looking to get a little cozy during the winter holidays should also keep the Prater in mind. The site serves as the location for a winter market.
Looking for more Must Sees? Check out previously featured locations!
Photos from Wurstelprater Facebook page.