From the very beginning the Ring has been open to public transportation, with a horse-drawn tram serving the section between Stubenring and Schottentor as early as 1868. Today the 1, 2, D and 71 tram lines travel along the Ring. Sightseeing tours aboard the Vienna Ring Tram take in a full circle of the Ringstrasse. During the 25 minute journey headphones and screens provide key information about all the main sights in a choice of seven languages.
Up to four lanes wide in places, the Ringstrasse is also open to road traffic, with vehicles restricted to clockwise travel along its entire length. The Ring cycle path is used by around 3,000 cyclists each day. Parts of the Ringstrasse were opened to bicycles as far back as 1887. The underpasses built to keep pace with ever increasing volumes of traffic in the 1960s, such as the Babenbergerpassage and the Albertinapassage, have been given a new lease on life as chic night clubs, and pedestrians are now able to cross the Ring using zebra crossings.
Despite being one of the capital’s busiest roads, the Ringstrasse still manages to be a refuge of peace and quiet. The boulevard was carefully landscaped when it was constructed, with the space between the road and the buildings on either side of the thoroughfare lined with up to three rows of trees. Rows of sycamores and trees of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) were planted, flanking a promenade and riding path. The trees of heaven proved susceptible to the local climate and had to be replanted a number of times. Today around 2,400 trees line the route, providing welcome shade in the summer. Maple, linden, celtis, sycamore and horse chestnut are among the most common species.
The carefully manicured historic parks along the length of the Ringstrasse also provide islands of tranquility. The Volksgarten, where hundreds of varieties of roses blossom each summer, is home to the Temple of Theseus. An exact replica of the Theseion in Athens, this monument is used by the Kunsthistorisches Museum to display contemporary art. A memorial to Empress Elisabeth can also be found in the park. Laid out in accordance with the traditions of English landscaping, the Rathauspark has an impressive selection of trees, including a number of rare species. The nearby Burggarten – home to the much-visited Mozart memorial – contains the Palm House. Divided into two, this giant greenhouse now houses a café restaurant as well as the capital’s Butterfly House. Stadtpark is Vienna’s oldest public park, opened in 1862. Its beautiful winding paths are lined with shrubs, lawns and ponds. The park is also full of statues, including Vienna’s most-photographed monument, a gilt likeness of the King of Waltz, Johann Strauss the Younger.