If a competition were announced in Vienna for the most beautiful public outdoor staircase, I am sure that Strudlhofstiege would take one of the first places. Many even consider it to be the most beautiful in Vienna.
The iconic Art Nouveau staircase is located in Vienna’s 9th district between Liechtensteinstrasse and Währinger Strasse. It is named after the sculptor and painter Peter Strudel (also called Strudl). If you have ever visited the state hall of the Austrian National Library – the Prunksaal – then you must have noticed the statues of the Habsburg monarchs in its central part. These sculptures are the work of Peter Strudel and his brother Paul. This Austrian Baroque artist lived in this part of the city and opened a private painting school here in 1690 (predecessor of today’s Academy of Fine Arts).
In 1907, the building was named Strudlhof and the street Strudlhofgasse in his honour. However, the street ended at a steep slope behind which there used to be wet meadows on the Liechtensteinstrasse, along which one side arm of the Danube flowed. The city administration decided to connect this section, the plan was drawn up by architect Theodor Johann Jäger. In November 1910, the Strudlhofstiege staircase, built in Art Nouveau style from Mannersdorf marble, was ceremonially opened.
When I walked along the Strudlhofgasse for the first time, I kept looking for stairs. Well, you have to come to house no. 19 where the columns with hanging lamps on the street will tell you that you are at the top of the stairs. Then you descend the stairs past iron and stone railings. They are – like the lamps – painted green (reminiscent of Otto Wagner’s architecture in other parts of the city) but were originally blue. Around every turn, a new perspective opens up before you.
In the central part is a fountain with a copper fish head (original), lined all around with a mosaic of Danube gravel (added during the last renovation in 2008-2009).
There are also a couple of benches and at the bottom, there is a second fountain with a facial mask as a waterspout.
If you are counting the stairs going down, you should count to 58. Walk a few more steps, turn around and see the staircase in all its glory. I came here on purpose at the time when the trees and bushes were leafless so that the shape would stand out better. The staircase reaches a height of 11 meters and is symmetrical only in the lower part.
However, in my opinion, this staircase is even more beautiful when the day begins to turn into the evening and the 16 hanging lamps on the seven iron columns light up. The warm diffused light gives an exceptional atmosphere to the scenery.
However, the staircase is not only architecturally significant but Austrian writer Heimito von Doderer (nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature five times) also made it famous with his novel The Strudlhof Steps or Melzer and the Depth of the Years, which was published in 1951. The plot of the novel takes the reader back to Vienna around 1900. Some central plot points take place right around this staircase. When you go up the stairs again, notice a plaque containing Doderer’s poem next to the fountain with the fish. The verses accurately describe the atmosphere of this place at the time I was there: “When the leaves lie on the steps, autumn breathes from the old stairs… much has sunk into our grief and the beauty lasts so very short…”
Address: Strudlhofgasse 19, 1090 Vienna
How to get here: trams 5, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42 – stop Spitalgasse, Währinger Strasse. Near the Liechtenstein Palace (the building with the red roof in the photo)
To find a connection, use the site: www.vor.at
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri