Zentralfriedhof walkway

An Autumn walk in Zentralfriedhof

In Vienna by Carly12 Comments

The Zentralfriedhof cemetery in Vienna seems a macabre place to go for a walk with your loved one. Do you really want to stare at the graves of dead classical music stars and rich Viennese on your day off? As it turns out, yes, I did, because in Autumn, Zentralfriedhof is absolutely stunning.

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Follow this path and I’ll show you why….

I’d tried to see this famous graveyard once before – in pelting rain, gale force winds, minus zero degree temperatures and a really stupidly light jacket. On that miserable day last January we entered the gates, walked up one lane, and exited within ten minutes. Total disaster and disappointment. Do NOT visit this place in January  folks, unless it is exceptionally sunny weather!

This time though, I was prepared – Autumn is my favourite season in Vienna and Zentralfriedhof was making itself beautiful in the lead up to Alle Heiling (All Saints Day). Conditions were perfect.

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We found out (because I am a history nerd and cannot help myself) that the making of this cemetery as a tourist attraction was hilariously done. Because it had only been around since the mid-1800’s, it was a relatively ‘young’ cemetery, compared to say, Pere Llachaise, the celebrity graveyard of Paris. So in the 1860’s, to attract more people to ‘use’ the graveyard (do you ‘use’ a graveyard? Or just visit, eternally?) the authorities thought up a way to lure people in.

They initiated ‘Ehrengräber’ or ‘honorary graves’ for celebrities like Beethoven, Strauss and Mozart, to build the myth that being buried here was prestigious. The craziest thing about it was – it worked. As soon as big name composers and politicians built their tombs here, Zentralfriedhof became the most famous cemetery in the city. It’s also one of the largest in Europe.

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Strauss has his fathers honorary grave directly opposite – bound together eternally.

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A dedicated area to all the ‘big name’ composers

Exploring the different areas of the cemetery – sections for Jews, Muslims, Russian Orthodox and War victims – felt like uncovering corners of Vienna’s history, with thousands of untold stories. Like the Italian couple, where the wife died 30 years before the husband, but they both decorated their graves with a picture of themselves beside their beat-up old car. Or the  family who lost 3 sons to World War II, all buried before their father.

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Dedication to Russian Soldiers

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Just reading the names from a different era was like peeking into an historical fictional world, filled with characters I could only imagine. Hans, Ludwig, Gerta, Leopoldina…names unusual to me as a foreigner, but you could see they were beloved by their families. We spotted many locals preparing for All Saints Day ceremonies by cleaning up tombs and adding their home-made bouquets. An everlasting kind of love . Quiet, but devoted to their memory.

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Which in a morbid way, was a beautifully sweet thing to witness with a loved one beside you.

Surrounded by love, death, falling leaves and sunshine, the terribly cliche autumn feeling of change was in the air. The bigger questions we’ve been brewing on as an expat couple came into sharper clarity – where should we live? Where will we grow old? Where will we end up? The answers felt out of reach. Our plans for the coming months are going to throw those questions back at us constantly, but this time I’m trying to brace for it, preparing for the challenge. I’ll be letting you guys know shortly what we have planned, but in the meantime you should get yourselves down to Zentralfriedhof while its still spectacular.

 

Zentralfriedhof Practical Info:

Getting There:

Take the U3 all the way to Simmering, then switch to the Number 18 tram in direction Schlachthausgasse.

The dedicated Bus route around the cemetery is the number 11 which runs every half hour between 9am – 3pm

You can drive into the cemetery for a fee of €2.80. No cars allowed in on November 1st.

Costs:

Free entry.

You can hire audio guides at gate 2 for €7 . There were also ads for a free app but we didn’t try this out.

Suitable For

Kids would probably be bored and a bit too rowdy.

Families visit together on religiously significant days.

If you are a history, architecture or classical music fan, there’s loads of exciting stuff to see. If you’re an adrenaline junkie or creeped out by graves and tombs, probably not ideal.

 

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Comments

  1. Hello Carly,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and join in.
    Thank you for this interesting article.
    Thinking to relocate to Vienna maybe toward 2016.
    Learning about history of a country or a place is so fascinating.
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful pictures of trees and statues.
    Cheers
    Laurence

  2. Love your writing Carly, always interesting and I can picture myself right there with you! You take me away to beautiful Austria 🙂 xo

  3. Hi!

    Great article about the famous “Zentralfriedhof” – I love winter days there, trying to see some deers in the snow, quiet white graves and trees without any green. This is some special atmosphere at a special place indeed.

    Just to clarify the public transport going to “Zentralfriedhof”. Usually U3 to Simmering is fine, but then take the tram “71” direction “Zentralfriedhof 4. Tor” or the “6” direction “Kaiserebersdorf” to go there. “Schlachthausgasse” is going back into the city.

    Cheers
    joe

    1. Author

      Ooohhh nice catch! My winter trip there was not quite so beautiful but it sounds like I should try when it’s snowy, might be more pleasant. Thanks for the tip Joe!

  4. Perhaps one of my favorite places I got to visit while in Wienn. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Carly,

    as mentioned, the closest underground stop is “Simmering” (line U3), about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the cemetery. Main gate (Gate 2) is accessible by tram lines 6 or 71 (3 Intermediate stops).

    The “Zentralfriedhof” stop on the Vienna S-Bahn (metro suburban railway, line S7) is close to the old Jewish part of the cemetery (Gate 11).

    The Cemetery Church of St. Charles Borromeo designed by Max Hegele is a remarkable example of sacral cemetery architecture. After approximately three years of construction work, the church was inaugurated in 1911. It underwent comprehensive renovation work between 1995 and 2000.

    The Funeral Museum at Vienna’s Central Cemetery gives insights into the funeral and cemetery culture of past centuries.

    http://www.friedhoefewien.at/eportal2/ep/channelView.do/pageTypeId/75473/channelId/-53514

  6. Pingback: Cosy Coffee in Vienna

  7. Ages ago, I couchsurfed in Vienna. We stayed in this beautiful, rambshackle old house right across from this very cemetery! I have a morbid/historical fascination with ceremonies, and loved wandering through this one. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Author

      That sounds kind of glorious in a strange way haha – you’re more than welcome!

  8. Hi
    Just discovered this article while following up my first visit to Zentralfriedhof. I loved it. This is a great article with excellent history. Highgate in London did the same thing as making it “the” place to be. Take the Highgate tour if you ever get the chance.

    1. Author

      Oooohhh that sounds interesting Jenn, will add to the must-do list! Thanks for the tip 🙂

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