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Parks, Vienna

Austria's insider take:

Formerly the hunting grounds of Emperor Franz Joseph, the Prater's 3,000 acres encompass gardens, meadows, playgrounds, riding stables, tennis courts, swimming pools, and a nine-hole golf course. There's also an amusement park that's pure kitsch, but the Ferris wheel (locals call it Riesenrad) is a perennial favorite. Originally built in 1897 for Franz Joseph's Golden Jubilee, this is not your average Ferris wheel. Its luxury cabins each hold a dozen people for drinks or dinner as they orbit (90 Prater; 43-1729-5430). Guarded on one side by the rear of the Hofburg, the Burggarten is a good place for reading, sunning, or taking a stroll, and there are refreshments at the Palmenhaus, in the wrought iron Imperial-era greenhouse (43-1533-1033). Heldenplatz, the square around the Burggarten's southern corner, was the platform for Hitler's Anschluss in 1938, then a victory garden for starving postwar Vienna. These days, it's often the site of parades. On the other side of Heldenplatz is the Volksgarten, setting for the Theseus Temple, a rotating gallery and theater space; the Volksgarten Club Disco, a throbbing nightspot for the see-and-be-seen set (Burgring; 43-1532-4241); and a daytime café, Volksgarten Pavillion (Burgring; 431-532-0907).

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