Second district – second to none

Second district - second to none

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The second district, or Leopoldstadt, and Vienna's twentieth district sit side by side on an island sandwiched between the Danube Canal (an arm of the river) and the Danube proper. Until completion of work to regulate the flow of the Danube (1870-75) Leopoldstadt was regularly hit by floods. Over one third of the district is accounted for by green space including the Prater - a former imperial hunting ground - and the Augarten.

For the past 300 years Leopoldstadt has been home to Vienna's largest Jewish population. Also known as the Matzoh Island, the area traditionally accommodated large numbers of predominantly poor Jewish families who ended up living virtually on top of each other in extremely cramped conditions. In the late seventeenth century the Jewish ghetto of Unterer Werd - the site of today's Karmeliterviertel neighborhood - was destroyed and cleared under Emperor Leopold in the second major expulsion of the Jews. Despite a history blighted by repression, Vienna's second district continued to flourish as the center of Jewish life in the city up until the holocaust. Although the once thriving community was virtually wiped out by the crimes of National Socialism, today the second district is home to a small but increasingly active Jewish community, ten synagogues and a wide variety of Jewish businesses.

In recent years the extension of the subway network has brought with it an upturn in the district's fortunes. The offices developments and residential new builds at Viertel Zwei near the Praterstern and Messe-Prater U2 subway stations will be joined by the new Vienna University of Economics and Business campus. The site of the former Nordbahnhof station is one of Vienna's largest inner-city urban regeneration projects. With its lively bars, shops and booming cultural scene, the area around the Karmelitermarkt, Danube Canal and Augarten is undeniably Leopoldstadt's biggest hotspot.

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