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From Freud to Orson Wells, Vienna has been the setting of the European cultural movements of the last century. Here's where to go to feel part of its history.
Beethoven, Mozart, Freud and Wittgenstein have one thing in common: they all lived in Vienna at some point. It comes as no surprise that, over the centuries, the Habsburg city has been the professional setting and home to many famous artists, politicians and scientists. Furthermore, a good number of movie directors have drawn inspiration from the grandeur of the city and, while London or Paris have been featured in countless blockbuster movies, Vienna is a somewhat well-kept secret among international producers. Let’s look at some of the personalities and movies for which the old Habsburg city has provided the setting over the last two centuries.
The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, is one of the most prominent figures of 20th-century Vienna. He spent most of his life in a house in the ninth district, where he also wrote the majority of his books and treated his patients. In 1971, the place was turned into the Sigmund Freud Museum, which is dedicated to his work and life in Vienna. Visitors can see some of the original furnishings as well as the waiting room where patients used to sit and wait for their sessions with the renowned doctor.
In the 1995 cult film Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawk meets Julie Delpy on a train from Budapest to Vienna. They spend a night discovering the Austrian capital, doing little more than just walking around the city and losing themselves in endless dialogues about love and the beauty around them. Their journey starts and ends at Westbahnhof, which at that time used to be the city’s main train station. Today, it is still a busy place, bustling with more shoppers than travellers after the whole area underwent a massive renovation project, and a shopping centre was added in 2011.
The same movie also features the fin-de-siècle Café Sperl, a local favourite as well as a popular tourist attraction. Visitors enjoy the fancy atmosphere featuring uniformed waiters serving coffee to businessmen and artists in the trendy sixth district. Before the First World War, famous writers, painters, architects and military officials, including the Habsburg archduke Josef Ferdinand, regularly attended this café. Having opened in 1880, it is one of the oldest buildings in town and remains a protected historical site.
The most famous movie ever shot in Vienna is, without a doubt, The Third Man. Produced in 1949, the film delivers spectacular images of post-war Vienna. The selection of sceneries – like the dark sewer system – give the movie a distinctly Viennese vibe. One of the most accessible locations featured in the film is Maria am Gestade, a gothic roman-catholic cathedral in the first district. Back in the day, it used to border the Danube and was therefore mainly frequented by fishermen and sailors. Today it is a popular attraction, also since it’s the second oldest church in Vienna.