Through the treasures of the Palais Quarter

A neighbourhood with lots of history, dynamic development, intriguing people and special shops.

Is the Palais Quarter really a Grätzel?

What you have here in front of you is a new Neighbourhood Report and it raises one question: Can a small inner-city quarter, such as the one between Michaelerplatz and Teinfaltstraße, between Volksgarten und Freyung, truly be called a “Grätzel”? Usually, the term Grätzel refers to a former village which has been incorporated into a city district and which has a long tradition. Its residents feel at home there and are linked by a shared culture.

But yes, that’s precisely what we find here – in the Palais Quarter. Its long history stands pars pro toto for the many good but also turbulent times which Vienna has been through. Despite the upheavals of the past, the architecturally consistent impression with beautiful palais that is preserved here is coupled with the quiet, relaxed and elegant lifestyle of the residents and business people of the quarter. If you stroll through the streets with your eyes wide open, you can easily imagine the Vienna of the last five hundred years. Even so, you are at the same time in an urban area in dynamic development, with intriguing people and very special shops.

New attractive shops, food stores, restaurants, fashion shops and cafés have settled in the Palais Quarter. The past ten years have seen 80 percent more visitors arrive here – and numbers are sharply rising. A pioneering property project is creating new, elegant apartments in the central Batthyány and Trauttmannsdorff palais. The residents in the “Palais, Palais” development shall be able to enjoy all the benefits that distinguish the neighbourhood: lavish residential quality with modern infrastructure, zeitgeist shopping, an elegant atmosphere and the spirit of Vienna's historic centre. What many people don’t know is that the Palais Quarter was an insider’s tip for many years in the otherwise not so secret centre of Vienna. Now it’s picking up more and more speed and presents itself in all its beauty and diversity. That’s why we’ve decided to dedicate a special neighbourhood report to this little but luxurious quarter.

At some point, any story about the throbbing aorta of the Palais Quarter, the Herrengasse, contains the regret that roads cannot speak. For the history they would speak of reaches back to Roman times and continues right through to the present day. Initially located outside the former city, the Roman Vindobona, it moved within the walls of Vienna in the 13th century. Thanks to its Roman substructure it towered above the surrounding area, which is probably why it was called “Hochstraße” (High Road) for such a long time. Some five hundred years ago, the estates (“Herren”) erected their government building at this place due to its proximity to the Imperial Court. As a result, it received its new name, which has survived right up to the present day, even though today’s Lower Austrian parliament together with its ladies and gentlemen has long since moved to St. Pölten. In any case, this is our starting point for an exploration of the Palais Quarter. And it’s worth setting time aside for this, be-cause the wonderful architecture of the many palais can only be truly appreciated by taking a closer look. Pedestrians in a hurry will not be able to discover the aesthetics of the façades, the spaciousness of the courtyards and the details of the impressive stairways, ballrooms and hidden chapels. This is best done at a leisurely pace and requires good footwear. Then you can also discover such delights as Café Central, one of the pièces de résistance of the Herrengasse, where a sculpture of Peter Altenberg, an Austrian writer who resided and wrote there, sits right at the entrance. His affection for modern architecture was less than lukewarm. “The badger’s sett, the beehive, the anthill are all comfortable homes. Modern apartments are not” is one of his more famous aphorisms, but it cannot be said to apply to the Palais Quarter, simply because residential life here is so good. In addition to the magnificent buildings of former princes and counts, this is also the site of Vienna’s first high-rise building which we’ll be presenting to you. Also definitely worth visiting are Café Griensteidl and Café Central, an array of shops and restaurants, and of course there are lots of interesting people. We met some of them to find out about the little secrets and delights of the neighbourhood.

Bottom line: In recent years private property investors, business owners and residents have set their sights on upgrading the Palais Quarter and its central axis, the Herrengasse. A shared commitment will help to make this inner-city gem even more beautiful and more alive. Cooperation is one of the features of a lively neighbour-hood, one which benefits both its residents and the entire population of Vienna as well as all visitors to the city.

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