Welcome back to our sightseeing fright fest in Vienna, Austria!
This is a continuation of the alternative walking tour of the city; where we will cover the rest of the walk into Viennese darkness & discuss some other spooky destinations within Vienna’s city-limits. The 1st part covers transportation to all of the sites & the 1st half of the walking tour, otherwise here is a brief summary of the sites covered in the first-half of the walking tour:
- Monument of Gerard van Swieten, the Austrian Vampire Hunter
- Haunted Hofburg Palace
- Manor of Elizabeth Bathory, murderous & bloodthirsty Hungarian countess
- Augustin Church, housed the monks that bore witness to Bathory’s heinous crimes
- Imperial Crypt for the Hofburg family
- Memorial Against War & Fascism in Albertinaplatz
Also included is a brief synopsis of the 18th century vampirism hysteria in Austria & the accused vampire within the royal family.
The Walking Tour [Continued]
We took a quick break at Albertinaplatz to eat lunch, satisfy a caffeine craving & maybe take in some culture at the renowned art museum. We will continue on foot towards a small, but significant street within Vienna. It is one of the oldest streets within this city, but it is hidden within the maze of Vienna’s midevil center so you might miss Blutgasse if you are not paying close attention to the street signs.
Blutgasse & Knights of Templar
The Knights of Templar were a controversial religious group in 14th century Europe as they fell out of favor with Catholic countries. The Templars were formerly Crusaders that enjoyed immense wealthy & tax havens because the Catholic Church was indebted to them for their service. The Crusades popularity began to wane & average citizens became disgruntled at the Templar’s preferential treatment, King Phillip IV of France sought to regain popularity with his countrymen by torturing Templars into confessing heresy within their order & held mass execution to save Catholicism.
Some of the Templars escaped to Vienna & this street was the secret refuge from France’s wrath. The Templars would not be safe for long within Austrian border, the “Blood Street” earned it’s namesake because the cobblestone alley would turn red with Templar blood once their hideout was discovered in 1312.
The street’s violent past has been replaced with peace in the 21st century, now containing the Peace Museum of Vienna & the alley walls are lined with modern peace activists. Blutgasse still contains some of the oldest houses in Vienna that data back from the 12th century & the observant bystanders will notice some hidden Templar symbols in grates & bolts along the street.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral & Catacombs
The 12th century Gothic cathedral stood as the mother church for Catholicism in Austria during this era, but it is better known today for the elaborate tiled roof & catacombs. Entrance into the cathedral is free, it is also open at night & the ancient church lit only by the soft glow of candles is a spectacular sight!
The catacombs entrance fee is $5.50 with a mandatory guided tour or there is in all-inclusive tour of the cathedral for $18 per person. The catacombs are split into two chambers, one is burial room that contains entrails from the Hofburg family members, it was ancient custom to harvest the organs of royalty. The other contains an ossuary of remains from Plague victims.
I do not particularly recommend the all-inclusive tour. It does include the Treasury room that I considered the most interesting part of the tour, but otherwise I consider this ticket quite expensive for only getting to see the small catacombs & mediocre city-scape views from the church tower if it is a clear day, but the surrounding Alps create sporadic rainfalls a regular & unpredictable occurrence.
I would not dissuade someone from viewing the catacombs, but I would recommend tailoring your expectations of them. I highly dislike guided tours so the mandatory guide was already a strike for me. The catacombs are very small & not as elegantly displayed like the catacombs in Paris, France or Brno, Czech Republic. The Vienna catacombs would take 10 minutes at most to view, but it is dragged out into a half-hour tour so consider yourself forewarned.
This plaza initially may be confusing, it takes you outside the classical windy alleys of the old town to traffic jammed streets lined with fast-food kebap shops. It is a short, straight-forward walk to the plaza though. Hoher’s art nouveau fountain built in 1732 towers over all the surrounding buildings will guide you in the right direction.
This plaza was once surround by ritzy hotels & elite mansions, but were destroyed during WWII air raids. The modernization of this area is nearly desolate except for the Christian bronzed fountain, an unusual clock & a wurstel stand. This plaza was once the playground for the Burgeouis & nobility during the Middle Ages, serving as a luxury textile & food market. It held public executions of famed public figures as well. The plaza’s history even pre-dates 180 AD when it was the of a Celtic settlement, later becoming a Roman military base.
You can view the Roman ruins when this city was known as Vindobona for $7 or it is free if you happen to be there on the 1st Sunday of the month. You can grab a sausage or beer from the wurstel stand while walking around the plaza as well. Make sure not to miss the Ankeruhr Clock, it is nearly hidden just beyond a dead-end, u-turn street! It is a large, Art Nouveau clock built in 1914. The clock changes every hour to a new historical figure displayed on the face, a full rotation of figures occurs every day at noon.
Austria has a complicated history with it’s Jewish population, the Hofburgs have historically been one of the most anti-semitic royals through the Middle Ages to even more recent issues, like Austria did not begin offer compensation to Austrian Holocaust survivors until 2005.
The Jewish Plaza in Vienna reflects the long history to struggle. The most notable installation is the WWII Holocaust memorial, a concrete block in the middle of the plaza known as The Nameless Library. It is a library of 65,000 blank books, representing each Austrian Jew killed during Nazism.
This square has hosted more than a few Jewish mass killings before 1938. The Austrian Jews have been persecuted & expelled a number of times between the 12th & 17th centuries. The most notable mass killing is memorialized by a plaque overlooking the Holocaust Memorial. It is a strange plaque, a devil stands over a Jewish man receiving a Christian baptism & the inscription reads: As the waters of the River Jordan cleansed the souls of the baptized, so did the flames which rose up in the year 1421 rid the city of all injustice.
Duke Albrecht II in 1420 ordered the mass conversion & expulsion of all Austrian Jews, but it did not reach the full bloody climax until 1421 when the Duke ordered only tainted food be provided to Jews & Jewish people were to be sold into slavery. There was a 3-day siege on this square to capture all Viennese Jews, the Jews that managed to survive sought refuge in the synagogue once located here. The Duke ordered the synagogue & the 200-300 Jews trapped inside to be burned. There were no survivors, allegedly the Rabbi killed as many of his congregation as he could so they would not have to suffer in the fire.
The excavation of the synagogue ruins began in 1995 & you can visit them at the Judenplatz Museum, $10 will gain you access to both of Vienna’s Jewish museums & tickets are good for 4 days after purchase.
Our last site on the walking tour is another seemingly empty & ignorable square that is packed with history. This plaza was also part of the 180AD Roman military base along with Hoher Markt discussed earlier in this section. One of the most notable sites to visit in this square is the Kirche am Hof, where the fall of Napoleon & dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire was first announced.
This square was a market place & duke residences during the Middle Ages, it also became a site for public executions during the 15th century. The Hofburg royals ordered 4 Austrian mayors be executed in this square, including the highly controversial quartering of Viennese Mayor Wolfgang Holzner for supporting a cause that ultimately failed.
Other Alternative Vienna Sites
If you have not gotten your fill of gore & horror from the walking tour, Vienna has many more haunted destinations still within city limits. All these sites are marked on the shared Google map above so you can check the best public transit routes from your location. Some of these sites are off the beaten path, but they are worth the visit if you can get there!
The Fool’s Tower
Emperor Joseph II built continental Europe’s 1st mental institution in 1794, allegedly inspired by the Vienna monks that had an underground dungeon for mentally ill brethren. This is the first time that the mentally ill were distinguished as a separate class from the poor in Austria, the stigma against the mentally ill would soon follow. The original structure had a lightning rod where one of the clergymen was studying electric currents as this was still a new energy source at the time, it is rumored that electricity from the lightning rod was used as experimental treated on the patients.
The mental asylum closed in 1866 & the location has been home to the Pathological-Anatomical Museum since 1995. The basic entry fee is $4 or you can do a guided tour that includes private collections not on display to the public for $6, but these tours are in German only. I do consider this one of the more interesting museums in Vienna, but it contains potentially upsetting displays such as fetuses, embalmed bodies with deformities, etc. It also is not very English friendly & no photography is allowed, but may still be worth it if you are into dark tourism.
I initially stumbled upon these towers by accident. They loom like ghosts over the bright Augarten, a beautiful green space that holds regular youth football matches & city food festivals. The towers’ crumbling facades are chiseled with bullet holes & graffiti bearing the words “Never Forget”.
I naturally assumed it would was a reference to WWII & a Google search confirmed it for me. Augarten is home to 2 of the 6 remaining Flak Towers in the world. The towers were constructed by Nazis to protect their capitals. The towers served a dual purpose, each could fire 8,000 rounds of ammunition per minute & served as bomb shelters that could hold up to 10,000 people per tower. The towers were so indestructible, they were impossible to tear down after the fall of Nazism. There is no way to enter the towers, but these concrete giants are a must-see for any history buff.
Vienna is home to Europa Park, a theme park open all year long or otherwise known as the Disneyland of Europe. This theme park contains one of Europe’s oldest haunted house exhibits. I never personally went to this place, but it is rumored to be a haunted house themed as a haunted mansion based in the Italian Renaissance. Here is a clip of the Ghost House experience to see if it peaks your interest.
This cemetery was established in 1874 & the final resting place of many Austrian celebrities. The cemetery does span nearly 500 acres so it is wise to plan what you want to see in this cemetery unless you want to wander aimlessly all day. While the cemetery itself is massive, it is logically laid out. If you want to visit Beethoven or Hugo Wolf, you can find both graves along side a slew of other Austrian composers. There is another section of famous Jewish personalities if you are more interested in Arthur Schnitzler & Friedrich Torberg.
You may want to print off your own map before visiting the cemetery, otherwise maps at the gate cost $8. There are also options for an audio guide for $7 or you can do a guided half-hour tour on horse-drawn carriage for $50. If you are enthusiast of dark tourism, Vienna’s Funeral Museum is located within the cemetery for a $6 entrance fee.
Cemetery of the Nameless
There are a few things that surprised me when I moved to Vienna. The city has the same population as Chicago, USA; but Vienna is home to many farms & hiking paths within city limits. This cemetery is on the outskirts of Vienna, nearly hidden by a factory & farming grain bins. It requires a long bus ride & quite a bit of walking to get to the site. I was not aware that Austria is a highly conservative country & devoutly Catholic either when I moved here, which is why this cemetery exists.
Austria did not allow religious funerals or cemetery burials for suicides until the mid 20th century. This cemetery was created in 1840 by Fuchs family in Vienna. The grandfather was a police chief that frequently had to investigate suicide drowning along Vienna’s Danube River. Some of the drowning victims could not be identified & others were rejected by their family members if they committed the cardinal sin, Fuchs wanted a place to honor these unclaimed dead & the cemetery has been passed through the Fuchs family for several generations.
A total of 478 people have been buried here over the years, each grave marked with a crucifix bearing “Unknown” or “Unidentified”. There are a few graves that are routinely decorated with flowers or toys, most notably 4 children are buried at this cemetery & one is a murder victim. There are two parts of the cemetery, but little remains of the oldest part due to a destructive flood washed away many of the bodies. There is a small chapel on the grounds that is typically locked, but you can peak through the windows at the simple room where the Fuchs served as funeral officiants & grave diggers for these poor souls.
There are a few ways to get to this cemetery by public transit, but none of them are easy. The most highly recommended route is taking the irregular 76A bus to the very last stop & then it is about a 500 meter walk. I personally recommend taking either the u-bahn U3 line to the very last stop in the 11th district or the S7 suburban train to Schewat. Both of these routes will still require a bit of walking or bike riding, but they are more reliable & run more frequently. This site is definitely worth seeing, if you can get there!
This wraps up our macabre tour of Vienna, Austria! Hopefully these urban legends & bloody histories fulfill your guilty pleasure until Halloween!