Prater (Latin: pratum = meadow), amusement park and extensive recreation ground (lost most of its wetland character after the regulation of the River Danube) in Vienna´s 2nd district (Leopoldstadt), between the River Danube and the Donaukanal (Danube Canal); first documented mention in 1403 (an earlier reference to "Prater" of 1162 is not to the area now known as the Prater). The Prater was originally owned by the Emperor (hunting ground from 1560 onwards, animal reserve, court festivities), but opened to the public by Emperor Joseph II in 1766.
North of the Hauptallee (main boulevard, almost 5 km long, built in 1537) from Praterstern traffic circus to the "Lusthaus" (summer house, built before 1566, current building by A. Canevale between 1781 and 1783) is the "Wurstelprater" entertainment area, named after the character Hanswurst (officially called "Volksprater" since 1786); has numerous amusement arcades, show booths, shooting galleries, gaming machines, carousels, ghost trains and roller coasters, the Giant Wheel and the Liliputbahn miniature train (to the Stadium) etc., as well as many restaurants. In earlier times even actors from the Burgtheater performed at the "Prater-Varieté", a small theatre run by the restaurant owner and songwriter, Ferdinand Leicht and his brother Wilhelm Leicht. The Wurstelprater was completely destroyed by bombs and fire in 1945 and later on reconstructed on a smaller area. The Planetarium, with the Prater Museum, was also reconstructed; the museum goes back to a collection started by H. Pemmer.
By the Hauptallee, where the Vienna floral parade ("Wiener Blumenkorso") was held around 1900 and which has been closed for road traffic since 1963, were the Vivarium and the "Prater-Etablissements", which went down in musical history (performances of J. Strauß the Elder and the Younger, J. Lanner, F. Léhar, etc.); monument of C. M. Ziehrer (1960).
The largest part of the Prater is made up of the "Green Prater", an extensive park. It also includes the exhibition grounds (replaced the Rotunde), the trotting course (in Krieau), the golf course, the Ernst-Happel Stadium, the Stadionbad public baths and a cycling track, sports grounds, recreation grounds and camping sites (Jesuitenwiese meadow etc.), the "Heustadlwasser" (old arm of the River Danube), "Constantinhügel" hill, which was built up for the 1873 World Exhibition, allotment gardens and the nuclear research reactor of the Austrian universities (since 1962). Behind the Lusthaus there are the Freudenau with racecourses, the wintering port on the River Danube, Maria Grün pilgrimage chapel (built in 1924) and Waldandacht pilgrimage church. The Prater is separated from the bank of the River Danube by a narrow strip of warehouses, freight transport installations and industrial facilities.
Literature: H. Pemmer and N. Lackner, Der Wiener Prater einst und jetzt, 1935; O. Wladika, Von J. Fürst zu J. Jarno. Geschichte des Wiener Prater, doctoral thesis, Vienna 1961; H. Pemmer and N. Lackner, Der Prater, revised by G. Düriegl and L. Sackmauer, 1974; F. Czeike, Leopoldstadt, Wiener Bezirkskulturführer, 1980; K. Lohrmann and F. Opll, Regesten zur Frühgeschichte von Wien, 1991; F. Czeike, Historisches Lexikon Wien, 5 vols., 1992-1997; N. Rubey and P. Schoenwald, Venedig in Wien, 1996; M. La Speranza, P.-Kaleidoskop, 1997
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