The adventurous Viennese Prater Amusement Park
How to experience Vienna’s greatest amusement park
One of Vienna’s most famous sights is definitely the adventurous Viennese Prater amusement park. This famous theme park in Vienna’s second district Leopoldstadt is iconic for local residents, as it means excitement, full bellies and a fun time. Viennese people have childhood memories of marvelling at the Riesenrad, riding the Liliputbahn or eating cotton candy and langos in the Prater. Everything about our beloved Prater is a childhood dream come true. Of course, countless tourists also travel here to enjoy time in Austria’s capital and take a ride on the Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel), one of Austria’s most famous landmarks.
But there is more to the Viennese Prater than one would think – its history is surprising and extraordinary. The amusement park in the Prater is known as the Wurstelprater, while there are many other places in the park that we would recommend you explore.
Things to know about the Prater
The name Prater is derived from the Latin word partum, and means meadow. This is fitting, as it once was just a green area. Later it split into the Wurstelprater and the Green Prater (six square kilometres in size). Before this point, the Prater was open only to royals, used by the Habsburgers (one of the most influential royal houses in Europe’s history) as a hunting ground until Joseph II opened it for everyone to use. The surrounding area soon bloomed with pubs, cafes and entertainment venues. After time, this part of the Prater evolved into a real amusement park with roundabouts, swings and attractions for old and young alike, called the Wurstelprater.
Although the Wurstelprater is by far the most famous park of the park, thousands of inhabitants also enjoy other parts of this huge expanse, such as the 112.000 square meter long Jesuitenwiese. This charming meadow was once used for folk festivals, but now it is one of Vienna’s biggest (and most fun) playgrounds for children, and is also a great place for any kind of sport and outdoor activity. In winter, the Rodelhügel is packed with joyful children sledding down the hill and enjoying the snow. An interesting fact: during the Second World War, huge parts of the Prater were greatly damaged or destroyed by bomb attacks. While the Rodelhügel was ruins and rubble during the war, it is now a place full of laughter and joy.
The Prater Hauptallee
The Prater is well known for its impressive amount of trees. The Prater Hauptallee (Prater main avenue) is over four kilometres long, and starts at the famous hotspot Praterstern. It was once was the connection between the remarkable Augarten and the Habsburger’s hunting ground. It is visually striking with its countless chestnut trees, planted in four to six lines and offering a gorgeous view, especially in the flowering period. The dense undergrowth, lush meadows and poplar trees characterize this huge retreating area in the midst of the city, and is therefore known as the Green Prater.
There are few places as perfect for a walk, a run, a bicycle tour or a family excursion, and a ride in a Rischka (bicycle taxi) is also a fun experience.
The Prater’s landmarks
By far the most famous landmark of not only the Prater, but Vienna in general, is of course the Riesenrad. Built over 120 years ago, it burned down during the Second World War. Together with the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Burgtheater and the State Opera House, it was restored to its former glory in the late 20th century. From the 65 metre tall Giant Ferris Wheel visitors have the most striking view over Vienna. There are many annual special events, such as private Candle Light Dinners inside a wagon of the Riesenrad.
A typical landmark of the Prater is the Liliputbahn, a lovely miniature railway appropriate for both young and old. Its name origins from the island Lilliput from the famous children’s book Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is a great adventure for kids to ride the 3.9 kilometre circuit around the trees and to wave at the old-fashioned locomotive engineer. The pale pink Manner railway (designed after the Manner company, producer of Austria’s most famous cookies Mannerschnitten) is a highlight for the small ones. Adults simply enjoy the calming ride through nature and the fascinating historic charm of the 90 year old Liliputbahn.
It’s up to each person to decide what to see and experience in the Prater – the modern roller coasters, scary ghost trains and wild racetracks in the Wurstelprater, the culinary highlights in the Schweizerhaus, or the leisure activities in the Green Prater. One never gets bored exploring the entertainment options in the Prater, as there is also a planetarium, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and many other attractions.
For further information like opening hours, costs and events, visit the Prater’s website.