On July 3, 1897, one of the landmarks of Vienna was opened – the Ferris wheel in the Vienna Prater.
Gabor Steiner always wanted to offer the Viennese new attractions on his “Venice in Vienna” site. So he leased the area to the English engineer Walter Basset. The latter had bought the patent from the inventor of the Ferris wheel, George George Ferris, and subsequently built four Ferris wheels in Europe. The only one of these first four Ferris wheels from the turn of the century that is still standing today is the Vienna Ferris wheel in the Prater, which he built there within 8 months. The ride cost the visitor 8 guilders – today 12 euros for adults.
The Ferris wheel is 64.75 meters high and had 30 gondolas.
The Giant Ferris Wheel caused a sensation in 1914, when the circus director Madame Solange d’Atalide, sitting on a horse, made a round on the roof of a wagon for a film.
During World War 1, Walter Basset was expropriated and the Ferris wheel was auctioned off to Eduard Steiner, who in turn was expropriated by the Nazis during World War 2 and murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
When the Ferris wheel was severely damaged in WW2, only half of the gondolas were restored. When the film “The 3rd Man” was shot in 1949, the Ferris wheel was already in operation again (since 1947) and can be seen in the film. This is not the only time the Ferris wheel has been used as a movie set: a scene also takes place there in the James Bond movie “The Touch of Death” (1987).
In 1953, the Ferris wheel was restituted to three Steiner heiresses.
Since 2002, the Ferris wheel has been home to an exhibition hall called the “Panorama Museum” with eight replica carriages depicting the history of the Vienna Prater.
The Ferris wheel is still privately owned today. In 2016, the 15 wagons were replaced by faithful replicas with modern technology. The total weight of the construction is over 430 tons.