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It is one of the iconic cities of Europe. Steeped in history, culture and some incredibly photogenic locations. Vienna is an easy city to get to and get around. Vienna airport serves flights from all over the world, whilst the sparkling new Central Train Station (Hauptbahnhof) receives trains from all over Europe. I recently visited as part of a longer tour around Central Europe to shoot 4K stock video and images. We were sadly let down by the weather, electing to stay an extra two days and bypass Bratislava in order to get some shots. This is our brief photographer’s guide to the city.
Getting Around Vienna
Fortunately for us photographers, Vienna is a relatively compact city with very good public transport. The U-Bahn system will get you to most of the iconic locations within the city many of which are situated on an inner ring road, the Opernring. For those who like a walk, it is perfectly easy to stroll around all the offerings of the Opernring in a few hours, however for those who like to ponder longer over shots it's better to visit them during the blue and golden hours. At most times of years, all these locations get very busy during the day with tourists and tour groups. Fortunately, the U-Bahn starts very early for those that like to shoot at dawn or even before.
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What to Shoot in Vienna
The Catholic Church of St. Peter is at the very heart of the city St Sptephenplatz. Its location in the centre of the city makes it quite difficult to shoot although there is a cafe in a building opposite that has high-level terrace that allows you to get a better perspective of the church.
A short walk from St Peter is the Hofburg Palace. This monumental building features ornate fountains and many courtyards both large and small. The outdoor areas are all publicly accessible for free but as with many places in Vienna the palace throngs with crowds anytime after 8.30am.
Not far from the Hofburg is the very pretty Volksgarten. This public park is full of ornate fountains and beautiful flowers as well as photogenic glimpses of the delights of the Opernring. Less crowded than some parts of Vienna the park makes an ideal place to relax and take photos.
Northwest of the Volksgarten are the dual delight of Rathhaus and Burgtheater, connected by a large square. Both buildings are impressively lit up at night, the Rathhaus (City Hall) looking like something out of a Harry Potter book with the Burgtheater looking more traditional. In front of the theatre run trams both old and new. Shooting these in the blue hour with slow shutter speeds can make an interesting contrast to the static architecture.
Next to Rathhaus is the impressive looking Parliament building. At the time of our visit it was undergoing renovations and surrounded by barriers but when completed will also make a great shot for city and architectural photographers.
The next block around from the Parliament is the Museum Quarter. The centerpiece of this area are two monumental buildings, the Natural History Museum and the Fine Arts Museum. These face each other across a beautiful square, Maria-Theresien-Platz. The square has a number of small ornate trees and pretty water features that are ideal as compositional contrasts to the main buildings.
The Southwest corner of the Opernring is dominated by one of Vienna’s most iconic structures, the Vienna Opera House. Unfortunately, the formerly wide open spaces of the ring road have closed down with buildings all around the theatre on both sides of the road. Combined with being a busy road junction it can make getting good angles to shoot the Opera House quite difficult. I found the corner of Kartner Strasse and Opernring to be the best angles. Shooting at dawn you will have less traffic and people to deal with. In the evening the theatre is beautifully lit and the light trails from traffic rushing past helps create a sense of the frenetic activity in the city at that time of night.
These are just a few of the locations that we managed to visit during our rain-soaked visit to Vienna. There are many many more delights to the architecturally incredible city. All are easily accessible by public transport but nearly all will be inundated with tourists during the daylight hours. For me, it is a city best shot during the blue and golden hours.