Vienna Celebrates 150th Anniversary of World’s Fair

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the Vienna World’s Fair, an event that put Vienna on the world map as a global metropolis city. In May 1873, the Vienna World’s Fair opened and the foundations put in place for the event continue to benefit the city even now. 

A boom in new hotels, cafes and restaurants in 1873 started city tourism as we know it, and included some of Vienna’s most iconic hotels and coffee houses, including the Hotel Imperial, Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna and Café Landtmann. Developments at the time also included the construction of six new train stations and railways, making Vienna a central European railroad hub. There was also the inauguration of the first Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline which has been decisive for the high quality of life the city offers to this day. 


Vienna is once again going through a similar phase of fundamental change and growth today. Many new modern and luxury hotels are opening in Vienna, from the first Rosewood in German speaking countries, to The Leo Grand, The Almanac, The Amauris and the hip Hotel Indigo. An entire new subway line is being built to provide sustainable and carbon-neutral transportation throughout the city.

As Vienna continues to develop and grow, the 150th anniversary offers a chance to reflect on the city’s past while also celebrating its exciting future. Here are some of the new openings and exhibitions to look forward to this year:

Panorama ViennaAugust 2023

A new exhibition venue modeled on the original Rotunda building, Panorama Vienna will be opening late summer in the Prater, where the original Vienna World’s Fair took place. Standing at 34 metres tall, Panorama Vienna will display large analog 360 panoramic images, that can be best appreciated as panoramas. 


Women at Workuntil 2 July 2023

The ‘Women’s Pavilion’ was set up for the first time at the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair, a pioneering achievement in highlighting working women. The hybrid anniversary exhibition at the Vienna Museum of Technology is presenting a number of historical objects, photos and archive materials, providing insight into women’s daily work and life at that time and shining a light on the initiatives surrounding the Women’s Pavilion. The exhibition also includes a permanent multimedia online exhibition with over 1,000 digitised items.

Glitz and Glamour. 200 years of Lobmeyr7 June – 24 September 2023

This summer the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts Vienna) pays tribute to glassmaker J. & L. Lobmeyr with their anniversary exhibition ‘Glitz and Glamour. 200 years of Lobmeyr’. The Viennese glass manufacturer, J. & L. Lobmeyr, has been creating masterfully executed chandeliers, glasses and fine dining decorative objects for over six generations since 1823. The glassmaker, which exhibited at the World’s Fair, is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. The MAK’s exhibition looks at the long-standing connection with J. & L. Lobmeyr, with a focus on the deep understanding of the interplay of light and shadow.

The 1873 Vienna World’s Fair Revisited, Egypt and Japan as Europe’s “Orient” 28 June – 22 October 2023

The MAK (Museum of Applied Arts Vienna) will present an exhibition dedicated to the opening of the ‘Orient’ to Europe. It will highlight a critical aspect of this internationally prestigious show: the ‘Orient’ as a construct of 19th century Orientalism at the World’s Fair. There will be a focus on exhibition objects from Egypt and Japan, which were often assigned to the ‘Orient’ according to the understanding of cultural geography of the time.


150 years Vienna World’s Fair, 20 May to 22nd July 2023

From now until December, the Weltmuseum Wien is offering ‘The Vienna World’s Fair 1873 and Art Nouveau’ guided tours (available in German and English) every Saturday at 11.15 am. The tours explore the beginnings of Art Nouveau, the emergence of which came from Japan presenting themselves for the first time at the Vienna World’s Fair. European artists at the time were particularly impressed by Japanese woodblock prints and the large, monochrome coloured areas, the designs without perspective, and the floral motifs.


Fun facts about the Vienna World’s Fair: 

  • The 1873 Vienna World’s Fair was the first event to ever be fully documented in photographs
  • Japan introduced the soybean to the western world for the first time at the 1873 World’s Fair
  • For 150 years, 220,000,000 litres of water a day have flowed via the First Viennese Mountain Spring Pipeline from the Alps to the city
  • 53,000 exhibitors from 35 countries took part in the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair
  • The rotunda of the fair was the largest domed construction in the world – 1,000 metric tonnes of steel, sheet metal, plaster and wood
  • The Vienna World’s Fair was a financial disaster with only about 7 million people visiting instead of the expected 20 million (reasons for that were mainly a cholera outbreak and a stock exchange crash)

See also: A Hidden Gem in Switzerland

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