Must-see spots for history buffs in Vienna
Vienna is a notoriously history-rich place. With its central location in Europe, its history as a capital of the Habsburg Monarchy and major role as a strategic point of interest during the Second World War, Vienna has quite literally always been in the middle of things. Because of that, there is an abundance of historic sights to visits, dating back to the era of the Roman Empire all the way until recent history. You won’t be able to absorb the rich historic depth Vienna has to offer in a mere few days, as it is almost impossible to do so, even for people who live there all their life. This list will guide you to the most important and impressive sights from different eras in time.
Vienna’s Heldenplatz (German for “Heroes’ square”) was one of the most iconic sights in the annexing of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938. Hitler chose this place to have a rally announcing the ceremonial “Anschluss” of Austria, marking one of the milestones in the formation of the horrors of the Third Reich. The Heldenplatz is situated in front of the Hofburg – Vienna’s imperial palace – and is host to two massive equestrian statues portraying Archduke Charles of Austria and Prince Eugene of Savoy, representing the military legacy of the Habsburg dynasty.
Perhaps the most iconic reminders of wartime Austria, the flak towers, which were posted around the city as above-ground bunkers and anti-air defensive structures, still remain largely intact as opposed to many other flak towers in German cities. Of course since then the towers have been repurposed, the most prominent one being the tower in the Esterházypark in the 6th district, which now hosts Vienna’s aquarium, the Haus des Meeres, as well as a climbing wall with an impressive view over the city. Other towers are located in the Augarten (2nd district), Arenbergpark (3rd district) and at the Stiftskaserne (historic barracks, 7th district). Not all of them are publicly accessible, but even just from the outside, they are an impressive sight and a strong reminder of the time when Europe was at war.
Römermuseum – Roman Museum
A part of the Wienmuseum, the Roman Museum has a variety of relicts on display dating back to the days of the Roman settlement named Vindobona, which once was situated at the area which today is known as Hoher Markt in Vienna’s first district. Like many places in central Europe, which later went on to become thriving capitals, Vienna and the area surrounding it provided a fertile ground for archaeological excavations and many exciting discoveries were unveiled over the years. The exhibitions keep evolving as recent excavations keep providing new findings and deeper insights into the history of Vienna.
Heeresgeschichtliches Museum – Museum of Military History
For anyone interested in exploring the history of Vienna before, during and after the two World Wars which impacted on world history like no other event before, the Museum of Military History is quite possibly the single most extensive place to do so. The vast collection of military artefacts, weaponry, badges, armor and even military machinery allows visitors to gain first hand insight into a time when the Habsburg Monarchy was a militarily potent empire and, as is easily forgotten, a major naval power in the world. Documents from the time between the wars remind us of how Austria transitioned from a time of economic depression into the eventual annexing by Nazi Germany.
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