Vienna′s Premier Shopping Mall
The Mariahilferstraße is the most famous shopping street of Vienna and connects the Inner City (the first district of Vienna) from the MuseumsQuartier with the district of Penzing in the outskirts. The Mariahilferstraße is divided into two sections: The Innere (Inner) Mariahilferstraße and the Äußere (Outer) Mariahilferstraße; the divide is the Gürtel Street. The Mariahilferstraße is named after the sixth district of Vienna, Mariahilf, and vernacularly often called „Mahü".
The reputation as a shopping area is mostly constrained to the inner section, which is well-connected with the U3 subway line. The outer section can be explored by tram, but lacks the high density of shopping centres with international brands that the inner section is famous for. On the other hand, the outer section is well-known for illegal street prostitution. The inner section is the border between the districts Mariahilf and Neubau.
Since the Middle Ages, a road on the site of today′s Mariahilferstraße was an important passage for the city of Vienna that connected the city with the West. With the Danube on one side, the suburbs of Vienna developed into the opposite direction and the villages along Mariahilferstraße gained both population and importance. After 1663, the postal carriages started to run through Mariahilferstraße, which resulted in many inns being built in the area. The prospering neighbourhoods along Mariahilferstraße were completely devastated in the course of the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683. Especially the outer parts took long to recover from these events.
Mariahilferstraße before Shopping was Invented
In the 18th century, the area around today′s Schottenfeldgasse became famous as the "Brilliantengrund", referring to the wealth of the neighbourhood due to the many silk manufactories there. The actual rise of the Mariahilferstraße to a lane of traders, craftsmen and shops came with the 19th century. The suburb of Mariahilf became a part and a district of Vienna, and in 1826, the street was cobbled (although it got its current name Mariahilferstraße only in 1862).
During the Gründerzeit period (the era between approximately 1850 and 1900), several big shops were opened, often by Jewish businessmen. The most legendary department stores of the 19th century were Herzmansky, Gerngross and Stafa. Today, they are modern shopping malls or - such as Herzmansky - run my a single major brand of apparel items. Getting further towards the Gürtel, many of the side-lanes of Mariahilferstraße are used by "creative" companies - fashion boutiques, graphics design, IT, advertising and PR.
Mariahilferstraße as a Shopping Paradise (or Hell)
On the Mariahilferstraße itself, this is hard to notice - here mainstream consumerism dominates the general impression. The most recent refurbishments of the 1990ies led not only to good access to modern means of transportation (most importantly the U3 subway line that runs along the street), but also 10 metre wide sidewalks on both sides as well as lines of trees. As the Green party of Vienna has criticised quite rightfully, cyclist paths are severely dissatisfactory.
During the four weekends before Christmas (Advent), the Mariahilferstraße is made a pedestrian zone to accommodate the millions of shopping-mad crowds. I lived just behind Mariahilferkirche Church for about a year and learned to hate Mariahilferstraße dearly - it is congested with disgusting consumerists even on ordinary days, but a nightmare on Saturdays. On the "car" bit, congestions can occur all day round during, just before and just after business hours.
In terms of sightseeing attractions, there are several buildings on Mariahilferstraße worth a closer look: Obviously the MuseumsQuartier at the onset of the street; the Rahlstiege, a famous staircase from 1886; the Stiftskaserne and Stiftskirche; the malls of Herzmansky and Gerngross; the Raimundhof, birthplace of Ferdinand Raimund; the Mariahilferkirche; the Hofmobiliendepot or Museum of Furniture; the Europaplatz and Westbahnhof - here you cross the Gürtel and enter the outer section of the street; the Schwendermarkt, an open market; and finally the Technisches Museum.
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Vienna by District
District Overview - 1st (Innere Stadt) - 2nd (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd (Landstraße) - 4th (Wieden) - 5th (Margareten) - 6th (Mariahilf) - 7th (Neubau) - 8th (Josefstadt) - 9th (Alsergrund) - 10th (Favoriten) - 11th (Simmering) - 12th (Meidling) - 13th (Hietzing) - 14th (Penzing) - 15th (Fünfhaus) - 16th (Ottakring) - 17th (Hernals) - 18th (Währing) - 19th (Döbling) - 20th (Brigittenau) - 21st (Floridsdorf) - 22nd (Donaustadt) - 23rd (Liesing) - Ringstraße - Surroundings
Official website of the Vienna Tourist Information
Official Website of the Mariahilferstraße Shopping Lane
German Wikipedia on the Mariahilferstraße - with pics