Unesco puts Vienna’s historic centre on ‘in danger’ list

The historic centre of Vienna has been added to Unesco's list of sites in danger due to a high-rise project that the body says will undermine the area's value.

Unesco puts Vienna's historic centre on 'in danger' list
View of Vienna. Photo: Matthias Ripp/Flickr

The project, still in its developmental phase, is set to extend over an area of 6,500 square metres just south of the famous 19th century Stadtpark with bisects the Wien river.

The plans include a huge hotel, luxury apartments in a high-rise tower, fitness and sports facilities, a new conference venue and a 1,000 square-metre indoor skating rink.

Open-air areas accessible to the public are also planned, which the city said will represent an architectural “improvement” in the area, giving it an “attractive” and “modern” feel.

The project, set to break ground in 2019, will also “enhance Vienna as capital of music”, the city's ruling Social Democratic and Green party coalition said.

But the World Heritage Committee (WHC) took issue with the tower's height of 66.3 metres – downsized from the original 75 metres following protests.

The Committee, which is meeting in Poland, said the project “fails to comply fully with previous Committee decisions, notably concerning the height of new constructions, which will impact adversely the outstanding universal value of the site”.

Unesco has capped the height limit for a building in the city centre at 43 metres.

The coalition argued that other post-war buildings in the area are either taller or of similar height to the proposed tower.

City officials reacted to the Committee's decision by saying they were determined to keep the city centre as a recognized World Heritage site, which Unesco designated in 2001.

The city has until next February to convince the Committee not to drop the label.

Local residents who oppose the project also worry about losing the Unesco World Heritage designation, which they say would act as an open invitation to more high-rises.

The city said there were no other such projects in the works.

“The historic centre of Vienna is rich in architectural ensembles, including Baroque castles and gardens, as well as the late-19th century Ringstrasse lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks,” Unesco said of the site, adding that it “played an essential role as a leading European music centre”.

But it has also warned that the city's “continuing development requires a very sensitive approach” that needs to keep in mind what makes the property so valuable, “including its visual qualities, particularly regarding new high-rise constructions”.

By listing sites on the UN cultural organization's World Heritage in Danger list, Unesco seeks to mobilize the international community to protect them.

It lists two categories of dangers: either “ascertained” – specific and proven imminent threats – or “potential”, when property faces threats which could negatively affect its world heritage value.

Adding a site to the list allows the allocation of immediate World Heritage Fund assistance to the endangered property and alerts the international community in the hope it will join efforts to save the endangered sites.

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What’s on: Five things to do in Vienna this weekend

Vienna is full of events, places to visit and great new restaurants to try out. If you are overwhelmed with the possibilities or just wondering where you can find a cafe with a fireplace, here are some ideas.

What's on: Five things to do in Vienna this weekend

Haus der Musik

Austria and its capital Vienna are known for their connection to the world of music, from classical names to more recent rock, pop and hip hop creations. 

In Vienna, one of the best museums for all ages is the house of music, with information and many interactive experiences will teach you how sound is created and show you pieces from the city’s philharmonic. 

One of the highlights is the staircase between floors that acts as a piano allowing visitors to compose their music. 

You can find more information here.

Long night in the museum

Definitely one of the coolest events in any city. This weekend is the time to visit Viennese museums way after hours – the event is actually Austria-wide and you can check all participating institutions here.

On Saturday, the 1st of October, the “ORF Long Night of Museums” takes place. From 6 pm to 1 am, numerous museums open their doors and offer a diverse program for young and old. The regular tickets cost 15 euros, discounted tickets 12 euros and regionally limited tickets six euros. Admission is free for children up to the age of twelve.

You can find more information here.

Café Jelinek

As the weather gets colder and the weekend promises some rain, of course staying indoors is a good idea. Vienna is full of beautiful cafes to visit and enjoy, but Jelinek has a charm of its own.

The traditional coffee house not only has delicious food in a great environment, but visitors can also enjoy some warmth straight from the fireplace (no extremely high gas bills here!).

You can find more information here.

Vienna Comic Con 

This weekend, Austria’s capital is hosting the Vienna Comic Con. Comic fans can meet up and enjoy the event with some great guests. Besides famous comic artists, fantasy authors, and voice actors, there are cosplay guests and entertainment guests. One of them is Jack Gleeson, the actor who played Joeffrey in Game of Thrones. 

The comic con also has thrilling esports tournaments, free-to-play areas, and more. 

You can find more information here.

Visit a heuriger

Not ready to say goodbye to heuriger season just yet? There are many unique places still open and worth a visit before it gets too old outside. 

The classic suggestion is Heuriger Wieninger, in the 21st district. Besides the house wine, there’s a buffet with warm and cold dishes, all in the traditional ambiance of a heuriger. 

You can find more information here.

Do you know any other cool events happening in Vienna during the weekends? You can email us at [email protected] to share your tips and suggestions.