The Great Ferris Wheel: Hope at every turn

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Vienna Great Ferris Wheel

The Giant Ferris Wheel – symbolic of Vienna and tourism – which had been turning without interruption since the end of World War II was switched off for the first time in 75 years in mid-March due to the Corona crisis.

At midday last Friday,  Nora Lamac, whose family has operated the Giant Ferris Wheel for generations, and the Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig pressed the Giant Ferris Wheel’s on switch, setting the Viennese landmark in motion once again.

Vienna Mayor“The city is slowly coming back to life and hotels are reopening. We are showing what global rankings like the Mercer and the Economist have for many years: that Vienna is a safe, mindful and livable city, with excellent infrastructure, adept at overcoming challenging situations. We hope this symbol serves to inspire all those who have been touched by Vienna.”
Michael Ludwig, Mayor of Vienna

Vienna Norma Lac“Before Corona, the Giant Ferris Wheel was in continuous service for over 70 years. When the wheel stopped, life seemed to stand still. Today is a very emotional moment for me and my family. It gives us grounds for hope – not just for me, but for everyone who has had a difficult time over the past few months.”
Nora Lamac, Ferris Wheel Owner

Vienna Norbert Kettner Dir Tourism“Like virtually no other landmark, the Wheel is now a symbol of the city’s restart. We are very much looking forward to welcoming guests – and can promise that Vienna has a lot to offer this year, too – in spite of distancing and the no- or low-touch economy.”
Norbert Kettner, Director of Tourism

Celebrations saw a gathering of artists and performers sending a musical message of optimism and hope into the virtual world as part of an event streamed online. Participants used a stage set up on a purpose-built platform to share their online musical greetings from dizzying heights. 

Vienna Now Open Concert

Shops, bars, restaurants and museums in Vienna have been open for a few days or weeks now, and today the city’s hotels, amusement parks and public pools open their doors. 

Vienna5 Fun Facts about the Great Ferris Wheel:

1. Operated by hand – no joke!

The two English engineers Walter Basset and Harry Hitchins designed Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel so that it can be operated by hand in the event of a power outage.   The Prater and in particular the Giant Ferris Wheel were and still are popular film backdrops. From classics like “The Third Man” (1949) to “James Bond 007 – The Living Daylights” (1987) and the coming-of-age story “Before Sunrise” (1995), there has hardly been a film that hasn’t used the Giant Ferris Wheel as a secret leading actor. A restaurant was built in an instant at the base of the Giant Ferris Wheel for a scene in “James Bond 007 – The Living Daylights”. This so impressed Vienna’s residents that just a short while later, a restaurant really was built right on that spot!

Vienna Great Ferris Wheel Carriage

2. Reaching for the sky at 64.75 metres

Giant ferris wheels were all the rate throughout the world at the end of the 19th century. The Giant Ferris Wheel was built to mark the 50th jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph. At the time of its opening (21 June 1897), Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel was the tallest of its kind at 64.75 metres.

3. The “gap-toothed” Giant Ferris Wheel

The Giant Ferris Wheel originally made its rounds with 30 cars. After the Second World War, however, only 15 were hung in place for safety reasons. This gave the people of Vienna the impression that the wheel had gaps in its teeth, in other words “gap-toothed”.

4. The 430-tonne beauty

Vienna Great Ferris Wheel2

The Giant Ferris Wheel’s metal components weigh around 430 tons altogether. So the old lady has some pretty good covering on her ribs.  Gemütlichkeit is law in Vienna. Which is why the Giant Ferris Wheel also makes its rounds at a leisurely pace. With a top speed of 2.7 km/h, it takes about 4 minutes to complete one round, but only when it does so in one go, of course. On average, a ride takes about 12-15 minutes.

5. Need to find your way?

The Giant Ferris Wheel is perfectly arranged in line with the four points of the compass and turns precisely in the north-south direction. When it turns, it serves as a very good aid for orienting yourself.

Public Health & Safety Restrictions in Vienna:

    • From June 15, 2020, the mouth and nose protector must only be worn in public transport, health care and services where the one-metre distance cannot be maintained.
    • Hotels are open again. This means that guests can once again spend the night in one of Vienna’s many hotels. A mouth and nose protector is only necessary in the entrance and reception area. Under certain conditions, training courses as well as education and further training in seminar rooms are also possible again (e.g. mouth-and-nose protection, maximum 100 persons, minimum distance: at least 1 metre).
    • The Prater and the swimming pools are open again.
    • Our Tourist Info in the city centre (Albertinaplatz) is open daily from 10am – 6pm. The Tourist-Info at the main railway station and at Vienna Airport remains closed for the time being.
    • Shops are open again. The obligation to wear masks remains in force and a safety distance of one metre must still be maintained. The number of people allowed in a shop at any one time depends on the size of the sales area.
    • Public transport in Vienna is NOT restricted. Masks are compulsory in all public transport, including taxis and transport service providers.
    • Restaurants, bars and coffee houses are open between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. under certain conditions. Per table 4 adults plus their children are allowed. More people at one table are allowed if they live in the same household. Service personnel must wear a mouth and nose protector, guests do not have to wear a mouth and nose protector at the table. Guests must sit at one table, serving at the bar is not allowed. Reservation is recommended.On June 15, 2020, the curfew will be extended until 1 a.m. The rule of a maximum of 4 adults per table also falls on this day.
    • Many sights and museums are already open again.
      Details of the open museums
      Details of the open sights
      Theatres, opera houses and concert halls will remain closed for the time being.
    • The Vienna parks, the Federal Gardens (Schönbrunn Palace Park, the Augarten, the Burggarten, the Volksgarten and the Belvedere Garden) and playgrounds are open. Please keep the prescribed distance of at least one metre.
    • Indoor leisure facilities, gyms and swimming pools opened with restrictions on May 29, 2020.  Cinemas may opened on 29 May, for up to 100 people and minimum distance or mouth and nose protection.
    • Since April 27, 2020 the short-term parking-zones are effective again.
    • Indoor and outdoor events are permitted for up to 100 people. From July 1, 2020, the upper limit will be raised to 250 people. From August 1, 2020, indoor events with up to 500 people will be possible, for events with up to 1,000 people a special prevention concept is required. For outdoor events, up to 750 visitors will be permitted from August 1, 2020 (up to 1,250 persons with a special prevention concept)

Information on arrival

  • Austrian Airlines will resume flight operations on June 15, 2020. For the time being, destinations in Europe and Tel Aviv will be served. Details of the flight schedule can be found at www.austrian.comWizz Air has been operating flights to and from Vienna again since May 1, 2020.
    All current information on flights to and from Vienna can be found on the Vienna Airport website.
  • Vienna International Airport offers the possibility of a molecular biological Corona/Covid 19 test (PCR test). The result is available within about 3 hours. Arriving passengers who do not have a health certificate can have themselves tested at the airport. If the result is negative, the prescribed 14-day quarantine can be suspended upon arrival in Austria. Passengers departing from Vienna can prove that they are free of Corona with the health certificate when entering another country. But please note: The validity depends on the entry regulations and is subject to the approval of the respective national authorities at the destination. Further details
  • The City Airport Train to and from the airport will cease operation on March 19, 2020. The airport buses have adjusted their timetables.
  • Some countries are currently warning against travelling to Austria. Please check with the relevant authorities in your country.
  • Current information can also be found on the website of the Ministry of European and International Affairs.
  • Further travel restrictions: Please check with the relevant authorities in your home country or with the website of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.
  • The borders with Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are to be reopened on June 15, 2020.
  • The ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) has resumed full operation.
  • Cancellation of holidays: Please contact your tour operator or insurance company direct.

Suspicion of infection

  • If you suspect that you are infected, please stay in your room and avoid gatherings of people and public transport.
  • Call the health hotline on 1450: You will be looked after by medical staff over the phone and given further information.

Video Credit: Vienna Tourist Board, AP
Photography: © WienTourismus / Peter Rigaud


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