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150 years of the Ringstrasse

Vienna's Ringstrasse is the most beautiful boulevard in the world. Nowhere else can you find such a dense concentration of so many representative buildings, palaces and parks. In 2015, the Ringstrasse is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Kaiser Franz Joseph inaugurated Vienna's Ringstrasse on May 1, 1865. The boulevard was built where gigantic city walls once protected Vienna’s imperial center from her enemies. Now the greatest municipal planning design of the time was going to be implemented: buildings of imperial and democratic significance alternated with the palaces of the aspiring bourgeoisie.

An imperial decree led to the construction of such buildings as the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Vienna State Opera, the Neue Burg, and the Burgtheater. The Parliament, City Hall and the university arose as “buildings for the people”.

The Jewish population, which had received full legal rights in the second half of the nineteenth century, had the opportunity to purchase property along the Ringstrasse and build grand palaces (such as Palais Ephrussi and Palais Epstein). Twenty-seven cafés were located on the Ringstrasse at its zenith. Around 1900 Vienna was one of Europe’s largest cities and had also become the world’s music capital: the waltzes and operettas of the Strauss dynasty achieved world fame.

The best architects of the time were responsible for the appearance of the Ringstrasse today: Theophil von Hansen, Heinrich von Ferstel, Gottfried Semper and Carl von Hasenauer. Their buildings were constructed in Historicism style.

All of these splendid buildings still have their full radiance today. The “Ring” has changed though in the course of the last 150 years. An elegant promenade for the wealthy and beautiful has become a modern boulevard for everyone. Numerous events take place here every year – from the Rainbow Parade to the Vienna City Marathon. And the section of the Ring along the Danube Canal has become a hotspot: an urban bar scene and modern architecture attract a primarily young audience.

The 150th anniversary of Vienna's Ringstrasse is being celebrated in 2015. Numerous institutions have planned a special program: The Secession devotes itself to the history of its own building (19 March – 11 October 2015). The Jewish Museum in Vienna broaches another set of issues in the Jewish Story of the Ring (25 March to 4 October 2015). The Waschsalon in the Karl-Marx-Hof presents the show “The Ringstrasse of the Proletariat. An alternative design” (21 May – 20 December 2015). The Vienna Architekturzentrum shows construction in Vienna under National Socialism, including changes to the Ringstrasse (19 March – 6 July 2015).

From 22 May to 1 November 2015, the National Library shows the transformation of Vienna into a metropolis in the exhibition “Vienna becomes a metropolis. The Ringstrasse and its time”. The show “The Ring. Pioneering years of a magnificent boulevard from 1857 to 1865”, which deals with the early days of the boulevard, starts at the Vienna Museum on 11 June 2015. Summer in the Lower Belvedere is all about “Klimt and the Ringstrasse” (3 July – 11 October 2015). The Vienna Library in City Hall reports on “The Making of the Vienna Ringstrasse” (30 April – 13 November 2015). There are special tours on offer in the MuseumsQuartier Vienna, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, in the Hofmobiliendepot (Imperial Furniture Collection) and in the Sigmund Freud Museum. The Museum of Natural History is expanding its roof tours (with a grand view of the Ringstrasse) from April to the end of 2015. The University of Vienna celebrates its 650th birthday in 2015. The Vienna Ring Tram circles the entire Ring in 25 minutes and offers exciting information in seven languages.

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