Giant Ferris Wheel: symbol of the city, visible from far away

Giant Ferris Wheel, or Riesenrad, is a 64.75-metre (212 ft) tall Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Austria's capital Vienna. It is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions, and symbolises the district as well as the city for many people.

Viennese giant wheel

Constructed in 1897, it was the world’s tallest extant Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985.

You may want to visit this landmark of Vienna in the footsteps of the immortal movie «The Third Man» or simply enjoy the view of the city from almost 200 feet up. One thing is certain — only when you have taken a ride on Riesenrad are you really in Vienna!
For more than a century the Giant Wheel has been turning above Vienna, offering a unique vista of the City on the Danube. For the Viennese and visitors alike, the Wheel has become an unmistakeable symbol of the city, visible from far away. Now another wheel turns at its foot: The «Wheel of History.»

In audio impressions, in eight cabins with ingenious artistic and technical installations using all the tricks of presentation and an enormous diorama, this Panorama brings an age-old Prater tradition back to life.

This is not a museum, but a stage, a stage of history. The tour takes in two thousand years of the history of Vienna and stories of the Prater.


The Wiener Riesenrad was constructed in 1897 by the English engineer Lieutenant Walter Bassett Bassett (1864−1907), Royal Navy, son of Charles Bassett (1834−1908), MP, of Watermouth Castle, Devon. Its purpose was to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I, and it was one of the earliest Ferris wheels ever built. Bassett’s Ferris wheel manufacturing business was not a commercial success, and he died in 1907 almost bankrupt.

A permit for its demolition was issued in 1916, but due to a lack of funds with which to carry out the destruction, it survived. The Ferris wheel and cafe on the Prater were owned by a Jew, Eduard Steiner, who was murdered at Auschwitz.

It originally had 30 gondolas, but was severely damaged in World War II and when subsequently rebuilt only 15 gondolas were replaced.

Giant Ferris Wheel

The wheel is driven by a circumferential cable which leaves the wheel and passes through the drive mechanism under the base, and its spokes are steel cables, in tension.

1897The Giant Ferris Wheel was erected to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I.
1898To draw attention to the poverty of herself, her husband and others in the city, Viennese woman Marie Kindl hangs herself outside a cabin during a ride on a rope she held between her teeth.
1914As part of a film, Madame Solange d`Atalide, a successful circus director and horsewoman completes a revolution of the Giant Ferris Wheel sitting on a horse on the roof of one of the cabins.
1916A demolition permit was issued, but the Ferris Wheel was saved from destruction by a lack of money.
Ab 1920More and more U.S. film producers discover the Ferris Wheel as a film motif.
1944The Giant Ferris Wheel is burned down.
1945The Wheel is rebuilt, at the same time as the reconstruction of St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the State Opera House, and the Burgtheater.
1947The Giant Ferris Wheel is taken back into operation.
2002The Giant Ferris Wheel enters a new epoch. On 1 May 2002 the eight lost cabins were returned. They form a Wheel of History in the Panorama and take visitors back on a journey through the history of Vienna and stories of the Prater. Since 1 May 2002 the Giant Ferris Wheel has illuminated the night skies of Vienna bathed in gold and silver light. On 1 May 2002 the Prater and Vienna gained a new attraction which harmoniously brings together the old and the new, the past and the very present, tradition and high-tech.
2008Stroll on in and experience the diversity of Vienna’s new gateway to enjoyment. Here, the traditional and the modern meld into a unique mélange -- of new and old, of business and entertainment, of high hospitality and the incomparable atmosphere of the Prater. Vienna charm, delights for the senses, the spectacle, business, magic… All at once — at the Riesenradplatz in Vienna! You have to have seen it!

Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) — quick facts

Riesenradplatz 1, 1020 Wien
  • +43 1 729 54 30

Technical descrription

Total height64,75 m über dem Boden
Diameter of the Wheel60,96 m (= 200 engl. Fuß)
Outer diameter of the Wheel55,78 m
Inner diameter of the Wheel49,68 m
Axle of the Giant Ferris Wheel10,78 m lang, 0,5 m stark, 16,3 t schwer
Weight of the Wheel244,85 t
Total weight of all iron structures430,05 t
Turning speed0,75 m/sec = 2,7 km/h

Even those visitors who are not particularly interested in technical details often ask what would happen in the event of a power cut. We can reassure Giant Ferris Wheel passengers. We have an emergency generator which is permanently monitored and which is able to guarantee standby operations at any time.

It also lights up the area in front of the Giant Wheel. However, if — as is only theoretically possible, that too should fail, the Giant Wheel can still be turned manually.

Giant Ferris Wheel

The Giant Ferris Wheel is open year round and is one of the most frequented attractions in the Danube metropolis. Ferris Wheel Square was redesigned in 2008. Now this entrance to the Prater amusement park is a nostalgic theme world reminiscent of the Prater in the year 1900.

The traditional city inn «Eisvogel» has returned to the Prater and offers award-winning Viennese cuisine. After its inaugural opening in 1805, the inn and its tasteful, sophisticated offering gradually rose to become a Viennese institution.

Even today, the kitchen chefs hold fast to the qualities of yesteryear. Thus the menu is missing neither the classic Vienna schnitzel nor the imaginatively served yeast dumpling. The local foods are creatively dished up with a decent portion of «Viennese charm».

At Madame Tussauds, visitors can encounter celebrities from around the world up close: from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Falco, Empress Elisabeth and Gustav Klimt to Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman.

An Attractive Adventure World

Today, the Giant Ferris Wheel offers an attractive adventure world: at the entrance area, a «Panorama» tells the history of this monumental ferris wheel and the City of Vienna — with nostalgic installations that drift past you in giant ferris wheel cars.

At the Riesenrad Shop, you can buy exquisite Viennese porcelain and crystal, models of the Riesenrad and high-quality textiles in the Riesenrad-Look. A café-restaurant provides culinary delights and pampers you in a cozy ambiance with Viennese specialties.

The Giant Ferris Wheel was built in 1896/97 by the British engineer Walter Basset and wasn’t the only one of its kind back then: Basset built similar panorama wheels — extremely popular at the end of the 19th century — in Chicago, London, Blackpool and Paris as well.

Visitors ' comments

  1. Ferris wheel in the Prater is of course one of Vienna’s tourist business cards. In such a carriage is possible and dine in romantic atmosphere (reservation is needed). Beautiful views, lots of history.
  2. Were on a weekday afternoon in February, almost all of the rides were not working. Managed to ride only on the Vienna Ferris wheel, which runs up to the year 1897. The outside wheel looks just fabulous, top review too curious, true trailers closed andlights on, so enjoy the evening Vienna had to through the Windows, covering lighthands. In front of the wheel itself is a small exhibition in miniature illustrating the history of the Wiener Prater, pretty cute and interesting. Price much-9.5 € but notsorry-left sense of touch to the story.
  3. Wheel 100 years already, but it is in great shape. Cabins are decorated differently — some like conventional sheds, some like restaurants. It is unclear how they distributesomeone where to plant. We have posted in the barn. In General, nothing is normal. Roofs of Vienna, beautiful views.
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