I wanted to experience Vienna without a guide or sightseeing bus. Armed with a day pass for public transport, Google Maps and lots of time, I boarded the tram line D – embarking on an educational streetcar sightseeing tour of Vienna.
Vienna is perfect for streetcar sightseeing. I discovered that I could experience many of the city’s different facets within 2-3 hours, with the D-line. You can experience the imperial Vienna, busy shopping streets, workers housing estates, and the Nussberg wine district just to name a few. Taking you from the city’s main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) and right through the heart of the city and to the last stop in the vineyards on the banks of the Danube. I’ve kept the local names on the stops to make it easer to follow my route.
Self-guided sightseeing trip
There is something different to sit in the streetcar, with retirees who have been visiting friends in another neighborhood, a group of girlfriends that have been shopping, mothers who have picked up the kids in the kindergarten or schoolchildren on their way home. Sure, a few tourists also find their way into the D-line streetcar at Vienna’s main railway station, but most have disembarked before leaving Ringstrasse. I start my getting-known-Vienna journey at the Hauptbahnhof but did not get far before I found something that simply had to be seen. Two stops later I disembarked to explore the first sight along the D-line.
The summer residence of the Prinz Eugen, one of the Habsburg’s most important heroes, consists of a magnificent palace and extensive gardens. Today the palace functions as an art museum, while the garden is a public park with free access. Although you will find various exhibitions at Schloss Belvedere, it is primarily known for its Gustav Klimt collection. Moreover, it’s said that you should not leave Vienna without having seen the painting Der Kuss (The Kiss). I board the streetcar again and continue my sightseeing in Vienna. Four stops further along the line and I arrive at the Ringstrasse, which encircles Vienna’s historic city center. Here, I find important Vienna landmarks, left and right for the next five stops.
Oper (Kärntner Ring)
Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), is a great photo stop with its majestic building. There are always play’s in the poster, and the opera season lasts ten months. Treat yourself to a show here one evening. Furthermore, you can of course hop off and get into the myriad of Kärntner Strasse, one of Vienna’s main shopping streets, which also leads you to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Nonetheless, no shopping for me on this trip and I climb onboard again, heading for my next stop in the D-line.
Burgring & Volksteater
I would call these stops the “main stops” on our journey through Vienna. From these stops, it’s a short distance to Hofburg, the entire MuseumsQuarter, Volksgarten and many other small and large sights. If you are not going to visit any of the sights, but only to take a few quick selfies, it is not worth getting off at these stops. However, if you have plenty of time and a plan for what you like to see, then you could spend an entire day in this area. I therefore save these sights for separate articles, which they certainly deserve.
As the name of the stop says, I have arrived at the Austrian parliament building. Presently, it is surrounded by scaffolding and construction cranes for a major renovation, and not as photogenic as usually. Instead, I walked 150 meters along the Ringstrasse and took a look at Vienna’s City Hall (Rathaus), across the street from the Burgteater, where there is also a stop for line D. After having shot some pics of the city hall from the square in front, where various events often take place, I continued my streetcar sightseeing in Vienna for another five stops. Leaving the Ringstrasse behind and moving away from the historic center, my next stop was at Bauernfeld.
I got off at the square named after the local playwright author Eduard von Bauernfeld from the 19th century. From there I crossed the Porzellangasse and continued 60 meters until arriving at Fürstengasse and the Liechtenstein Palace. The palace itself is a fabulous building, but it’s what you find inside that is really worth the visit. You find the private art collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein (tiny country in central Europe), which includes masterpieces from the early Renaissance to the Baroque era. The collection shows work of art from, among others, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Anthonis van Dyck, Lucas Cranach the eldest and Frans Hals. Hence, this stop should not be missed if you are even slightly interested in art.
I get off the nest stop at a junction, continue to the right and immediately notice the special chimney. After the refurbishment in 1989, the waste incineration plant (Müllverbrennungsanlage) Spittelau, with its new exterior design by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, has been an integral part of the Vienna cityscape and a popular tourist attraction. Nonetheless, the style of Hundertwasser is in any case unmistakable. After snapping some pictures, I trod back to the stop and jump on the next D-tram in the direction of Nussberg. I can lean back and enjoy the view of the Austrian capital through the windows, with some time to relax while letting the streetcar passes anonther six stops, before getting off again at Halteraugasse.
Heiligenstadt & Halteraugasse
At first glance, I’m not so impressed with its size. However, when I start walking along, around and through the massive building, I realize the immense dimensions this apartment block actually has. Karl-Marx-Hof estate was built between 1926 and 1930 according to plans by architect Karl Ehn. The huge residential complex has an unbroken front which is nearly 1.2 kilometers (13123 yds) long and is a striking symbol of Vienna’s social housing construction during the interwar period. The complex, which contains over 1300 apartments and countless commercial premises, was extensively renovated in the 1990s. On-site you also find the museum Das rote Wien, which covers the period 1918 to 1934. From the collapse of the Austria-Hungary empire until the fascist takeover, Vienna was ruled by socialists and the city got a completely new look with, among other things, municipal buildings that for example Karl-Marx-Hof. I will save the museum next time as it is far past lunchtime and head to the last stop on the D-line and get some lunch.
Once small village, it became part of Vienna’s 19th district Döbling in 1892. We are right on the outskirts of the city, and from here is not far to the state border to Lower Austria. Nussdorf is situated on the banks of the Danube and extends out and up into the hills north of Vienna. The district’s hallmark is the vineyards and the so-called heurigen, where you can taste local wine accompanied by culinary delights from the Viennese kitchen. In the middle of the D-line’s reverse loop, there is a traditional restaurant with a nice outdoor terrace in the back garden. The “Einkehr zur Zahnradbahn” is perfect to reflect on today’s streetcar sightseeing and of course, to get some real Viennese food. The choice was easy with a large and juicy Wienerschnitzel. Mahlzeit! I hope you enjoyed accompanying me on this interesting streetcar sightseeing in Vienna with D- line and use the next visit to try this alternative to explore Austria’s capital on you own.
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