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13 high and mighty Ferris wheels

By: Matt Hickman on May 8, 2015, 2:58 p.m.
The Wiener Riesenrad in Vienna

Photo: John Menard/flickr

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Wiener Riesenrad (1897)

Four years after George Ferris Jr.'s attention-grabbing giant wheel debuted in Chicago, Austria's capital city cut the das band on its own. Towering 212 feet over the Wurstelprater amusement park, the Wiener Riesenrad ("Viennese Big Wheel") has been spinning strong since 1897 when it was built as a Golden Jubilee showstopper for Emperor Joseph I. In fact, the 19th century marvel, which was extensively damaged during World War II but reconstructed and reopened in 1947 minus many of its original cars, is the world's oldest surviving Ferris wheel. And from 1920 until 1985, the Riesenrad enjoyed an impressive run as the world's tallest extant Ferris wheel.

Joining Schoenbrunn Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Vienna State Opera as one of the most iconic structures in a rather buttoned-up city best known for its imposing – and non-rotating – edifices, the Riesenrad is a singular spot in which to indulge in a romantic, candlelit dinner...or channel your inner 007. And in addition to its Bond cameo, classic film buffs will recognize the landmark giant wheel from 1949's moody Orson Wells-starring masterpiece, "The Third Man."