Vienna’s Herrengasse traces the path of the ancient Limes Road, an old transport route dating back to Roman times. With Michalelerplatz and the former imperial Hofburg palace at one end, the street stretches away from the centre as far as Schottengasse and the border to the ninth district. Over the centuries of Habsburg rule, magnificent city palaces and mansion houses belonging to courtiers and aristocrats sprung up here. Herberstein, Mollard-Clary, Batthyány, Trauttmannsdorff, Kinsky: numerous impressive Herrengasse mansion houses, many of which date back to the Baroque era, still bear the names of the great families that once owned them to this day. They have long since been converted into apartment buildings, offices, hotels, shops, bars and restaurants.
In 1909 a commercial office building designed by Adolf Loos was constructed on Michaelerplatz, where Herrengasse begins. The Looshaus, as it came to be known, shocked the Viennese public with its unadorned facade and lack of ornamentation, and the Emperor – who lived directly opposite – is said to have found it an eyesore. Today it is prized as one of the prime examples of Viennese modernism.
The building at Herrengasse 6-8 is another piece of Viennese architectural history. Hochhaus Herrengasse was the city’s first ever “skyscraper”. Built in 1932 according to plans drawn up by Siegfried Theiss and Hans Jaksch, it had 16 floors and reached a height of 53 meters. Clever graduation means that the full height of the building cannot be seen from ground level from any part of Herrengasse. Thanks to its contemporary infrastructure, the building soon became a popular place to live for the movers and shakers on Vienna’s cultural scene. The ground floor is home to one of the smallest watering holes to be found anywhere in the city, Unger und Klein im Hochhaus, a hybrid wine bar and café. Coming in at just under 20m² this small space is enclosed by curved, floor-to-ceiling glass. As the day progresses, its role changes from coffee joint to lunch venue and finally wine bar. Another of the street-level units is home to Zuckerlwerkstatt where talented confectioners make old-fashioned sweets and lollipops in the open kitchen. One of its specialties is Wiener Seidenzuckerl, chocolate-filled candies in the shape of miniature pillows. The Viennastore next door is a strictly kitsch-free zone. Instead it sells tasteful souvenirs and design classics from Vienna and the rest of the world: glassware from Lobmeyr, fine porcelain from Augarten, coffee from Viennese roastery Naber, countless books about the city and much more besides.
Now restored to its former glory, Palais Mollard on Herrengasse 9 is home to the world’s only globe museum. The collection of 240 terrestrial and celestial globes showing the earth, planets and moon illustrates how advances in cartography and cosmography shaped the way that people saw the world, both figuratively and literally. There are also two hotels on Herrengasse, the Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof and the Radisson Blu Style Hotel. Built in 1856, the sprawling Palais Ferstel, which originally housed a bank and stock exchange, stretches from Herrengasse to the cobbled Freyung square. Its architect, Heinrich Ferstel, was inspired by the Venetian-Florentine Trecento style which is reflected in the palace’s beautiful arcade. Today it is populated with stores selling jewellery and antiques, upscale home decor boutiques, as well as various cafés, bars and restaurants. By far the most famous name at Palais Ferstel, parts of which are also used by the events industry, is Café Central. Arthur Schnitzler, Peter Altenberg and Adolf Loos were just some of the famous patrons to visit this legendary literature café at the turn of the century. Its charm endures to this day thanks to its arcaded hall, Viennese cuisine and excellent homemade cakes and pastries.
- Looshaus, Michaelerplatz 3, 1010 Vienna, www.adolfloos.at
- Hochhaus Herrengasse, Herrengasse 6-8, 1010 Vienna
- Unger und Klein im Hochhaus, Herrengasse 6-8, 1010 Vienna, www.imhochhaus.at
- Die Zuckerlwerkstatt, Herrengasse 6-8, 1010 Vienna, www.zuckerlwerkstatt.at
- The Viennastore, Herrengasse 5 + 6, 1010 Vienna, www.theviennastore.at
- Globenmuseum, Palais Mollard, Herrengasse 9, 1010 Vienna, www.onb.ac.at
- Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof, Herrengasse 10, 1010 Vienna, www.herrenhof-wien.steigenberger.at
- Radisson Blu Style Hotel, Herrengasse 12, 1010 Vienna, www.radissonblu.com/stylehotel-vienna
- Palais Ferstel, Strauchgasse 4/Freyung, 1010 Vienna, www.palaisevents.at
- Café Central, corner of Herrengasse and Strauchgasse, 1010 Vienna, www.cafecentral-wien.at
The Tour de Palais Wien contains information on the mansion houses and palaces on and around Herrengasse: Iris Meder, Judith Eiblmay: Tour de Palais Wien, ISBN 978-3-200-04141-7, German/English