VIENNA — Graben & Kohlmarkt

This is the centre of the Innere Stadt and is a good place to start exploring the city from. It contains the main thoroughfares of Kärntner Strasse, Graben and Rotenturmstrasse which in turn connect to some of the other sights to be found in Vienna.

The sights found here are:
Graben
Kohlmarkt
Michaelerplatz
Judisches Museum
Peterskirche
Bawag Foundation
Michaelerkirche

Graben

Graben
Graben runs northwest from the junction of Stock-im-Eisen-Platz and Kärntner Strasse and is filled with expensive shops and historical buildings. The buildings found here are very impressive and include the Equitable Palais found at no 3 with its ornately tiled inner courtyard as well as the Erste Österrichisches Sparkasse which is found at the corner of Tuchlauben with its golden bee symbolising thrift and industriousness. Also found on Graben is the Pestälee or Plague Column near the junction of Graben and Habsburgergasse which commemorates the end of the plague in the late 17th century.

Traveller's Tip

Make sure you look at the glass enclosure at the eastern corner of the Equitable Palais. It contains an old black stump which apprentice journeymen in the Middle Ages used to hammer nails into to ensure a safe return journey.
Kohlmarkt

Kohlmarkt
The name Kohlmarkt comes from the charcoal market that was once found here but now it is home to some very expensive shops and upmarket cafes and restaurants and is considered Vienna’s most elegant shopping street. All the big brand names are represented here including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Chanel and Armani. The composers Haydn and Chopin lived in houses here. The classic view on this street is of the domed entryway to the imperial palace complex of the Hofburg.

Traveller's Tip

The upmarket Cafe Demel situated on Kohlmarkt is well worth a visit for cake and coffee as it is considered one of Vienna’s finest coffee houses. Just be aware that it might be very busy because of its popularity with tourists.
Michaelerplatz

Michaelerplatz
This historical square separates Kohlmarkt from the Hofburg palace complex and is ringed by magnificent architecture. It is often full of tourists and horse carriages especially during the summer months. An unusual sight found on this square are the Roman Ruins which were found after archaeological digs were carried out by the city authorities in 1990 and 1991 when the square was being redesigned. They are the foundations of a Roman settlement and are protected by a stone wall. To the west of the square is the Michaelertrakt which is the southern gateway into the Hofburg and has an imposing Neo-Baroque green cupola and an arch with statues representing Austria’s power over land and sea. The Michaelertor is also found on the square and it is the huge north-east entrance into the Hofburg. Another noted building found opposite the Hofburg is the Loos Haus which was designed by Adolf Loos and caused a lot of controversy when it was built in the early 20th century. It has a very simple facade which has been nicknamed the ‘house without eyebrows’ because of Loos’ refusal to use window decorations. The building was considered as an absolute monstrosity by the Emperor Franz Josef when it was built and he ordered curtains to be pulled on all the palace windows that overlooked it so he wouldn’t see it. Today it houses a bank on the ground floor as well as temporary exhibition halls on the upper floors.

Judisches Museum
This museum opened in 1895 and was the first of its kind in the world. It was closed in 1938 by the Nazis but reopened in 1993 in Palais Eskeles, a small town palace near Stephansplatz. Today the museum celebrates the history of the Jewish community in Vienna including the Holocaust. It hosts special exhibitions as well as permanent displays and there is an audio guide to take you around.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.jmw.at/en.html

Peterskirche

Peterskirche
St Peter’s Church opened in 1733 and is one of the finest baroque churches in Vienna, second only to Karlskirche found in Resselpark near Karlsplatz. This church is thought to occupy the oldest Christian sacred site in Vienna because there has been a church here since the second half of the 4th century. The church you see today was finished by the famous architect of the Belvedere Palace on Hildebrandt, Johann Lukas. This magnificently decorated church has a yellow-and-white facade with towers that turn slightly inward and turkish inspired turrets. A relief plaque on the right side of the church tells of the legend of Charlemagne who was rumoured to have found the first church that stood on this site. Inside there are frescoes, gilded carved wood and altarpieces. A highlight of the interior is the fresco in the dome by JM Rottmayr of the Coronation of the Virgin. The colours may have dimmed but the dome is still an impressive sight.
For information about Peterskirche visit the website at: http://www.peterskirche.at/ (in German only)

Bawag Foundation
This art gallery focuses on contemporary artists, both local and international and is supported by the Bawag Bank. Admission to the gallery is free and there are regular exhibitions that change. On display are sculpture, photo exhibitions and film.
For information about the Foundation visit the website at: http://www.bawag-foundation.at/aktuell.asp?setLanguage=2

Michaelerkirche

Michaelerkirche
This is one of the oldest churches in Vienna and dates back to the 13th century. It is a conglomeration of various architectural styles and as such it is not very interesting. Most people visit this church for its catacombs where you can take a tour. There are several coffins on display with the bodies in their clothing still inside. There are also piles of bones of those who couldn’t afford coffins.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.michaelerkirche.at/ (in German only)