Whilst most international visitors of Vienna will go to the Wurstelprater to take a ride on the Riesenrad (Ferris wheel), some might have an astronomical interest and go for the geeky alternative instead: The Wiener Planetarium or Vienna Planetarium. The planetarium can be found on the premises of the amusement park, alongside with spook rides, roller coasters, shooting galleries and other tacky and noisy attractions. Why of all places is it here? For historical reasons.
The Wurstelprater used to be an amusement area constantly in quest for new, innovative and technically advanced attractions. What looks shabby and run-down today used to be the Las Vegas of Vienna in the late 19th and early 20th century. When the first Wiener Planetarium was built in 1927, Vienna was the first city outside of Germany that had one of these things.
Wartime Destruction & New Planetarium
This first planetarium was built in a humble wooden building that was demolished only one year later. A more lasting second planetarium was built in a solid and permanent construction at the Praterstern in 1931. Towards the end of World War Two, the precious projector was removed from the building – fortunately so, as the vicinity to the station attracted intense bombing. The building was hit and burnt down completely.
The new Wiener Planetarium that you can still visit today was built between 1962 and 1964. It was built in the Kaisergarten right next to the Riesenrad (Ferris wheel). It was operated in association with the Urania observatory by Max Fabiani.
In 2002, the last major renovation to date (2011, that is) took place. At that point, the Wiener Planetarium was equipped with a new projector (in case you are not fully geeked out yet: a UNIVERARIUM IX and a ZULIP-laser projector for digital image data). For Austrian school kids, a trip to the planetarium is a must for the "Wienwoche", one week that is traditionally spent in the capital to explore all of its capital attractions (annoying people, sausage stands, dog shit and ashtrays).
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