If you pass through Vienna on one of your next getaways, an attraction not to be missed is probably the Vienna Ferris wheel. It is located at the entrance to the Prater amusement park, and is known to be one of Vienna’s symbols
We have been in Vienna for a while now, and we won’t hide from you that we have already visited the Ferris wheel quite often when we had friends visiting us… But since we don’t get tired of it, we offer you a little insight…
Edit 2019: All our articles on Vienna were originally written while we were living there between 2011 and 2013. Since then, we come back almost every year to see our friends again and all our articles are regularly updated.
The Prater Park
Prater Park is a huge green space located only 10 minutes from the heart of Vienna. Nowadays, when we talk about the Prater, many people think only of the amusement park! But it is actually a whole green area dedicated to sport and relaxation. In all, the park covers nearly 6 km2 (600 hectares).
For the record… The first written traces of the park’s existence date back to 1162, but this is the Viennese point of view, according to most historians the beginning of its existence would be more around the 15th century.
During the 16th century the Prater was the Habsburg hunting ground, it was only in the 18th century that Joseph II opened the park to all Viennese people as the city’s first space for relaxation.
People of the time organized large family picnics on weekends, and came together to play sports in the evenings. Nowadays this has not changed much… The large driveway that crosses the park is the favorite meeting place of joggers. The Prater Park is easily accessible by Metro with the U2 and U1 line in less than 5 minutes from the city center.
Getting around Vienna
The metro network in Vienna is really excellent and it is very likely that you only have to use metros or possibly trams to get around. You will find network maps at all stations. The “wiener linien” application allows you to have the schedules live, even if we have always found that the Google Maps route function also works very well to determine the fastest route.
Ticket level we recommend that you look at how much you plan to use the transport (€2.4 per ride). For our part we often buy the passes for the week (17,1€ for the week) (attention they are only valid from Monday to Sunday evening, so if you arrive on a Friday for example do not buy this pass because it will only be valid for 2 days!)
The amusement park – a short history
Quite often when we talk about the Prater we only think of the amusement park, but in reality the real name given to all the rides is: Wurstelprater. This name comes from the Wursteltheater (meaning small puppet theatres) that were scattered in this part of the park in the 1890s. And strangely enough, this name has remained, at least in the expressions of the Viennese!
The first attraction to open in the park was in 1887: the pony merry-go-round! In 1895, the relaxation area called “The Venice of Vienne” was opened.
The Prater Park today
Well, we won’t hide the fact that the amusement park no longer looks like this… The canals have been replaced by large pedestrian walkways. The small puppet shacks by ice cream and kebab sellers… But well, the Prater’s park remains a place that, I find, has a very particular charm!
Forget about your memories of Disneyland, Europaparc and Co! The Vienna amusement park is old and you can see it! I must admit that the first time I went there I was very surprised… it was a weekday, the weather was not really nice and it was getting a little cold. At the exit of the subway it was full of people, I said to myself “well we’ll see, but if there are too many people I’ll go home”. Full of apprehension about the crowd strolling in the amusement parks, I headed towards the Ferris wheel that can be seen as soon as you exit the metro and that also marks the entrance to the park.
Arriving in the park we were very surprised… Not a single soul around! Most of the attractions are quite old and seem to date from the mid-1980s, music, cotton candy sellers, but not a single customer… All the attractions are lit, the colourful flashes and carnival music resonate from all sides.
The fairground workers were all in their ticket booths, most of them reading a newspaper, with a rather resigned look. I must admit that I was very impressed by this very special atmosphere, which frankly reminded me a little of that of those old horror films shot in the 90s…
So according to our friends here, this was a bit of a coincidence. Apparently the park is not running very well, but since it is partly supported by the city of Vienna it can still be profitable. We went back a few times. Sometimes there were more people, sometimes not so much… But for my part I must admit that I like it better when it’s a little retro and not too crowded. But not being a big adrenaline fan, for me it’s more about strolling in the aisles and tasting caramels than flying in the air! Except the Ferris wheel of course! But I’m not sure it can be called a thrill ride!
The Ferris Wheel in Vienna
The Ferris wheel was first built in 1897 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I. It still exists and is still in operation. I will not hide from you that this is due to a combination of circumstances and also to major works by the city of Vienna. Let me explain….
For the record, the Vienna Ferris wheel was the property of its builder, Walter Basset. But during the First World War he was expropriated from this property because he was English (and it was not so well seen…).
As a result, in 1916 the Ferris wheel received its demolition permit. But due to lack of financial resources, the disassembly of the wheel did not take place! And during the Second World War, in 1944, Prater Park was the target of bombardments. The Ferris wheel was completely burned. It was rebuilt between 1945 and 1947, but this time with only 15 cars instead of the original 30.
The Ferris wheel today
Now the Ferris wheel is one of the most visited attractions in Vienna! It was also one of the locations where a James Bond film was shot;)
The Ferris wheel experience begins with a small room where old cars are on display. In these wagons you can admire the story of the Prater over the years thanks to small animated characters.
Then comes the time to get on the Ferris wheel! In all, 15 cars are hung on this 61-metre diameter iron monster. But of these 15 cars, about 7 are equipped with tables and chairs. They are reserved for special events. (weddings, romantic dinner, club dinner, or on reservation).
Moreover, during one of our escapades at the Ferris wheel, we saw how one of these dinners in the air was being orchestrated… The guests settle in the cabin and receive a small aperitif. Then it’s time for a spin. When the wheel comes back down, the waiters are busy at work and come to serve the starters and fill the glasses. Then it’s off again for a ride, and so on until the end of the meal… On the other hand, I warn you, if you decide you need to go use the bathroom during the meal you will have to wait for the wheel to do a full circle!
Let’s get back to the ordinary people, who are satisfied with a simple ride… The entrance to the Ferris wheel costs 12€ and the ride lasts about 15 minutes. It offers a magnificent view of the Prater Park but also of the whole city!
You can buy your ticket on site. Depending on the season and the day of the week there may be some waiting time, but generally during the week it is fine. The adult ticket costs 12€ (5€ for children). If you don’t want to queue you can buy it in advance on Getyourguide for 12€ as well.
And you want to take a ride on the Prater’s Ferris wheel?
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