The Prater was once imperial hunting ground and only accessible for the aristocracy, until the Austrian Emperor Josef II donated the area to the Viennese in 1766 as a public leisure center. And since Emperor also allowed the establishment of restaurants and snack bars – small wonder that it didn’t take long until the precursors of today’s Wurstelprater appeared on the edge of the former aristocratic hunting grounds. Innkeepers, coffee brewers, and gingerbread bakers (Lebzelter) hung out their shingles; seesaws and merry-go-rounds as well as bowling alleys were not far behind.
World Exhibition 1873 in the Prater
The first and only World Exhibition in Vienna took place at the Prater in 1873. Around 53,000 exhibitors presented their achievements focusing on cultural issues in an area covering approximately 2.3 million square meters. The 84 meter high Rotunda with cupola diameter of 109 meters, around which the exhibition was centered, fell victim to fire in 1937. Today, the Wiener Messe ("Vienna Trade Fair") main building is erected on these grounds.
Carriages and Laundry Girls
In 1895, the amusement area "Venice in Vienna" was established, in whose midst one of the landmarks of the city, the Riesenrad, appeared in 1897 The Prater became a place where everyone finds enjoyment. The "better” class of people came here in their horse-drawn carriages, military cadets and laundry girls met on secret dates, one found barrel organs, Heurigen singers and ladies orchestras – and some of the great composers of their time, such as the Waltz King Johann Strauss or the composers Joseph Lanner and Carl Michael Ziehrer performed here. For children's entertainment, puppet theaters were established in simple wooden booths, where Hanswurst played the leading part. The name "Wurstelprater" derives from this figure.
Reconstruction after 1945
In 1938, the Prater became the property of the City of Vienna. During World War II, bombs and the construction of trenches destroyed large parts of the Prater area. A large part of the Wurstelprater fell victim to fire in April 1945. After 1945, the Wurstelprater rebuilt with the help of private initiatives, and the devastated Prater grounds afforested by the Vienna public park authorities.
Robert Stolz, Graham Greene & Helmut Qualtinger
Several writers and composers, among them Adalbert Stifter, Felix Salten, Peter Altenberg, Robert Stolz and last but not least Graham Greene and Helmut Qualtinger have immortalized their impressions of the Prater both in literature and in music. These records have helped to reproduce all the facets of development of this city space over the decades and over centurie
"Step Right Up, Ladies and Gentlemen!", to the Prater Museum
The Prater Museum is located in the distinctive building of the Planetarium. Several souvenirs tell the story of the development of the Wiener Prater.
A local Viennese historian, Hans Pemmer, amassed a huge collection of memorabilia and donated it to the City of Vienna. Today, they are exhibited in the Prater Museum and tell stories of the times when laundry girls, draymen and carriages formed the cityscape.
Besides paintings and photos, there are also historic merry-go-round figures, the old fortune teller machine; Maxi, the legendary ventriloquist or the huge lindworm in an old ghost train. Athletes and wrestlers, jumbos and midgets, artists sawed in half and other curiosities take the visitor on a charming journey in the past
Prater Museum2., Prater, Hauptallee, (Planetarium at the Giant Ferris Wheel)
Phone: 726 76 83
Opening hours: Tue-Thu 10-13, Fri-Sun and on holidays 2:00 p.m.to 6:00 p.m.
Closed: January 1, May 1, December 25, as well as on Easter Monday, Whit Monday and other bank holidays that fall on a Monday.
Sunday: free entrance to the permanent exhibition!