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One of the oldest public parks in central Vienna, the Stadtpark is a popular open space running along both banks of the Wien river. The park opened to the public in 1862 during a time when the city of Vienna was undergoing incredible growth and change. With a burgeoning population, municipal authorities decided to extend the borders of the city beyond the old ramparts, making the old city walls obsolete and a barrier to expansion. While most of the land formerly occupied by the city walls was turned into the Ringstrasse, one of Vienna's most impressive boulevards, a small portion was also given over to open space. Prominent landscape painter Josef Selleny was drafted in to design the park, giving the new space a natural feel akin to an English landscaped garden.

The Stadtpark is divided into two sections, one on either side of the river, connected by the Stadtparkbrücke bridge, an eclectic neo-gothic structure of sheer white stone dating from 1857. On the south side of the river is the ever popular Kinderpark, designed with children in mind. This section of parkland is grassed over, with wide open spaces that serve both as playgrounds and impromptu sporting venues.

The Stadtpark's most alluring feature has to be the amount of grand monuments and statues that line park's paths and open walkways. Visitors will doubtless see impressive monuments dedicated to the likes of Franz Schubert, Robert Stolz and Hans Makart whilst strolling the grounds, but the finest piece here is the Johan Strauss Monument. This towering structure, designed by sculptor Edmund Hellmer in 1921, boasts an ornate marble relief that frames a beautifully portrayed gilded bronze statue of Strauss playing the violin. For much of the 20th century the bronze gilding was absent, having been removed some time in the 1930s. Thankfully, restoration efforts in 1991 restored the monument to its former glory, and visitors can now admire one of the city's most beloved statues the way it was intended.

The Stadtpark also benefits from a number of interesting pavilions, such as the Kursalon, originally built as a private spa in which healthful mineral water was served to discriminating guests. Erected in 1867, the Italianate building now serves as a venue for some of Vienna's finest balls and concerts. During the day time, however, it serves as a modest cafe and restaurant, an ideal spot for people watching. The hall is also noteworthy as being the venue for many of Strauss's concerts and waltzes, so aficionados of classical music are well advised to pay the building a visit.

Also worth a look while wandering around the Stadtpark is the Meierei Milk Hall, built in 1902. The classical structure was heavily damaged during World War II, but continues to operate as a restaurant specialising in dairy products such as milk, cheese and desserts. The restaurant recently benefitted from a sleek, minimalist redesign, and a stylish covered terrace looks out over the river, though guests eating here will arguably be more enthralled by the well-dressed diners and socialites who frequent this upscale eatery.


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