If you are into Ferris wheels, or Big Wheels as we used to call them in the UK when I was growing up, you may want to head to Vienna, Austria to ride the world’s oldest Ferris wheel.
That wheel is called the Wiener Riesenrad in German, and is located in the famous Vienna amusement park called Prater, which is in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna.
The Wiener Riesenrad was built in 1897 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I, and stands 212 feet high (approximately 64.75 meters tall).
It was also the world’s tallest Ferris wheel until 1985, just 12 years shy of its 100th birthday, when the Technostar, a temporary Ferris wheel built for the Expo ’85 World Fair in Ibaraki, Japan was erected.
That Ferris wheel only stood until 2009 before it was taken down but, by that time, other Ferris wheels had been built that were taller than the Wiener Riesenrad, including the London Eye.
Nowadays, of course, the Ain Dubai in the UAE is the world’s tallest Ferris wheel but, unless the Wiener Riesenrad is suddenly taken down and the Ain Dubai lasts another 124 years, the Riesenrad will still hold the record as the world’s oldest Ferris wheel.
The survival of the Riesenrad
Vienna’s Riesenrad has shown incredible resilience in its 126-year history.
Not only did it survive the intense bombing Allied forces perpetrated on Vienna during the Second World War, although it did catch on fire in 1944 with only its iron structure surviving the blaze, the Riesenrad has also survived another near-catastrophe.
That was back in 1916, when the issuance of a demolition permit occurred but, due to lack of money and workers the demolition did not go ahead.
Riding the Wiener Riesenrad
If you come to Vienna, and love a good amusement park and an even better Ferris wheel, you really should ride the Riesenrad.
Especially if you have seen the movies The Third Man, Before Sunrise, Woman in Gold, or the James Bond filmThe Living Daylights as the Ferris wheel features prominently in all of them.
After all, not only is it a Ferris wheel with 15 large gondolas that hold a large group of people all at once, and with a ride high above Vienna that lasts 12-15 minutes and shows you amazing city views, the gondolas themselves are so lovely and old-fashioned in look, it really takes you back to what it must have been like when the Ferris wheel first opened.
Tickets are currently 13.50 euros for adults, and 6.50 for children, with various cheaper family and group tickets also available.
For more about the Riesenrad’s technical details, which are very interesting, head to the official website for the world’s oldest Ferris wheel.
You will find the Riesenrad close to the entrance to the Prater amusement park, although you cannot miss it as you can see it far into the distance as you walk towards Prater.
Check out the video about Prater below for more information. Oh and, yes, entrance to the amusement park is free. You just pay for each ride.
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