A Brief History of The Fiaker, Vienna’s Horse-Drawn Carriage 

From the 15th century to the early 20th century, Vienna was a city of carriages. The Fiaker is a horse-drawn carriage that has been in Vienna since the 18th century. It is a symbol of Viennese culture and history.
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It’s difficult to imagine Vienna without the fascinating horse-drawn carriages known as Viennese fiakers or cabbies. Several fiakers and their drivers can be seen in Vienna, clad in pepita-check pants, velvet jackets, and derby hats.

In the past, carriage drivers were frequently celebrities in their own right, with their second jobs as singers making them well-known across the city. When it came to secrets, drivers had plenty to choose from. They had to be discreet, for example, when city gentlemen took the trips to entertain themselves and their paramours.

 

The Beginning

Between 1860 and 1900, when the carriage trade was at its peak, there were 1,000 Fiakers on the road in Vienna. The first Viennese fiaker license was awarded in 1693, under the reign of Leopold I. It prohibited cabbies from travelling more than four miles outside of the city.

Even after this strange prohibition was lifted in 1822, no traveller could get a cab without producing identification. It was also forbidden to go through a town or forest with a lit torch or lamp.

Interesting Facts

The carriages, which were formerly known as “Janschky” coaches in Vienna, were renamed “fiakers” in 1720 (and numbered). The word fiaker comes from the Auberge Saint Fiacre in Paris, an inn decorated with a painting of the Irish monk, St. Fiacrius. Fiaker license holders were required to have worked in the transportation industry for several years and had to be able to drive.

A Brief History of The Fiaker, Vienna’s Horse-Drawn Carriage  The Witty Poet
A Brief History of The Fiaker, Vienna’s Horse-Drawn Carriage  The Witty Poet
A Brief History of The Fiaker, Vienna’s Horse-Drawn Carriage  The Witty Poet

They also had to be of good character and own a decent quantity of property. They were not allowed to be associated with businesses and were not required to serve in the military.

Driving a fiaker was regarded as a position of tremendous importance and responsibility. If a cab driver refused to accept a fare, he faced a 48-hour jail sentence. During a trip, smoking was prohibited, and overcharging was punishable by forfeiture of the cost plus a fine.

 
A Brief History of The Fiaker, Vienna’s Horse-Drawn Carriage  The Witty Poet
Vienna horse drawn carriage

Where To Find Fiaker Stands

Today, fiakers are not the taxi transport system of Vienna as they once were. They are used for special ceremonies and as a tourist attraction. You can find Fiaker ranks near the Imperial Palace, the State Opera and beside St. Stephen’s Cathedral. 

The picturesque vehicles and their drivers are what the gondolas are to Venice. A fiaker ride is a coveted tourist experience of the city of Vienna. The drivers make the experience worthwhile, telling visitors local histories and curious stories of their revered city.

Useful Information

Fiaker stands are found on Stephansplatz, Michaelerplatz, Albertinaplatz, Petersplatz, and Burgtheater/Volksgarten in Vienna. The short trip (about 20 minutes through the Old City centre) costs € 55, while the lengthy tour (roughly 40 minutes through the Ringstrasse and the Old City) costs € 95. If you want to schedule a private sightseeing trip, you can do so directly with the fiaker firms (List of fiaker companies).

 

A Brief History of The Fiaker, Vienna’s Horse-Drawn Carriage  The Witty Poet

Horse-drawn carriage rides are also available at the Central Cemetery; the carriage rank at Gate 2 is open every day from 10 a.m. until around 5 p.m. The walk takes tourists closer to the cemetery’s natural charms and includes memorial graves of famous Viennese figures (Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Hans Moser, Falco, Adolf Loos, and many others). The short tour (30 minutes) costs €50.00 per carriage, while the long tour (60 minutes) costs €80.00 per carriage (for 4 people). From mid-March to November 1, rides are available. Reservations el. +43 (0)699-181 540 22.

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