City Planning | Architecture of Vienna

Tucked under the foothills of the Alps and the Carpathians with the river Danube cutting across this beautifully landscaped region, Vienna is the raw footprint of one of Europe’s well-sculpted cities. City is divided into 23 Bezirke (districts) that cater to its urban planning, architecture of Vienna and designing, with the famous Ringstrasse (ring road) circling district 1, where most of the heritage buildings are placed. Districts 2-9 fall into the suburbs. Leopoldstadt (district II) was once occupied by the Jews till 1938.

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Architecture of Vienna-Top view_©Imagekind

Many palaces, churches and embassies, although not as imposing as district 1, are a reflection of the buildings once occupied by the aristocracy. Huge hunting grounds and public parks that have amenities such as stadiums, racetracks, and restaurants act as a lung space between the city and residences, and also as a buffer between two different economic classes, and at the same time, as a common ground for people to congregate and socialize. Masked by another ring road, lies the Gürtel (Central Cemetery) beyond which (districts 10-20) lie residences.

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Architecture of ViennaDistrict map_©Gifex
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Architecture of Vienna-Ringstrasse_©sapphire travels

The city’s architectural styles range from Baroque to 20th-century modernism, with the most iconic structure being the St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which started as a Romanesque structure that was destroyed by fire, only to adapt the Gothic style later in the 14th century. One of the most striking features of the cathedral is the mosaic-tiled roof in a white, yellow, green and brown diamond pattern. The cathedral’s tallest spire goes up to 136m, blending to become the skyline of the city. The Northern tower houses one of Europe’s largest free-swinging bells, with etchings of the Virgin Mary. During the second world war, a fire destroyed the timbered Gothic roof. The internal structure is supported by Gothic columns. With 18 altars, the central focus lies with the High Altar which is made of marble. Interesting artifacts such as the Maria Pötsch and an organ near the stained glass stands proudly in the cathedral. University Church, Church of the Capuchins (where the members of the Habsburg Imperial family are buried), and The Church of the Scots, were once built in the Italian Renaissance style with monasteries for Scottish and Irish monks, and are among the few famous churches of Vienna.

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Architecture of Vienna-St Stephan’s_©ViennaDiary
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Architecture of Vienna-St Stephan’s_©MollyCarr
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St Stephan’s_©Reddit

Few other buildings surrounding the ring are ones from the 19th century that include Börse (Stock exchange), built in the Neoclassical Renaissance style, pseudo-Gothic Votive Church, and the University of Vienna. The city hall (Neo-Flemish Gothic-Renaissance) faces the Burg Theater (Neo-Italian High Renaissance with Baroque touches), and the neoclassical Parliament building with the Palace of Justice (German Renaissance style) adjacent to it. These government buildings stand bold and imposing, showing the world how well it has adapted and modified across different eras.

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Palace of Justice_©Justizpalast Wien

A Sneak-Peek at its History

The City’s origins date back to the Roman Empire, where the settlement of Vindobona was established along the river Danube. This was an important hub of trade and commerce for over 400 years until the Roman Empire declined. The establishment was then called Wein and was fortified by the Babenbergs. Habsburgs overruled the territory in the 13th century and were responsible for constructing the city’s grand buildings and palaces.

Although Vienna grew as a powerful empire under Empress Maria Theresa as she spread her 16 children across Europe in matrimony from Austria to Spain to strengthen her ties, the second half of the 19th century saw much darker days for Vienna, which included the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered WW1. Also joining hands with the Axis powers in WW2 eventually saw the anticipated downfall of the Austrian Empire. It later re-established a neutral status by housing the headquarters of the United Nations.

In the 20th century AD, Architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918) combined traditional styles with Art Nouveau that paved the way for the minimalist style as seen in the Goldman and Salatsch building. Buildings like Majolika Haus and Karlsplatz Stadtbahn rail station ushered Vienna into the modern world.

Sounds and Culture of Vienna | Architecture of Vienna

Many great artists, like Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Strauss, and Beethoven hail from this city. Cultural participation is highly encouraged in the city and it is made accessible to all its residents. Ranked as the most liveable city in 2018 by The Economist, the city’s historical palaces, theaters, and robust cafe culture located in pockets amongst large green spaces add value to the liveability index. With almost 1000 state parks, there are designated cycle paths that run for over 1300km across the city. Struggling to make an impact in the 21st century with a rapid increase in globalization, this city has many progressive policies and ideas that help the city to remain relevant in recent times. Their shared goal to improve physical, mental and overall well being is of top priority. 

Vienna is one of the few cities in Europe with over 50 museums, 26,000 theater seats and 167 ground sports facilities emerging. Being one of the cities that still value and respect their culture while opening their doors to innovation is truly remarkable. 

Medieval Vienna_©DomenicoCetto
CIty map_©gC’Obs


  1. Culture Trip (2017). A Brief History of Vienna’s St Stephen’s Cathedral. [online] Culture Trip. Available at:
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Vienna – Layout and architecture. [online] Available at:
  3. (2019). Celebrating Vienna’s Architecture. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at:
  4. Vacation Book. (2019). A Brief History of Vienna. [online] Available at: 
  5. (n.d.). Vienna. [online] Available at:

An architect and innovator, Tanisha sees Architecture not as a single entity, rather as a confluence of people, in their time and its lasting imprint left for future explorers to further delve into. In her words, 'Expression is an act of acceptance, either to thyself or the world.