The Freyung is a medieval market place that is surrounded by fine palaces and churches.
The square's name which roughly translates as 'freeing' is a reference to the fact that it was originally outside the jurisdiction of the city's law enforcement - it was a place where fugitives could be granted asylum.
The northern part of the square is dominated by the buildings of the Schottenstift (Scottish Monastery), a complex of beautiful baroque structures. The monastery was founded by a group of Irish (not Scottish) monks in 1155. They remained in Vienna until 1418, when dwindling numbers forced them to leave, and the monastery was passed to the Benedictine order that remains in residence to this day.
The centrepiece of the complex is the Schottenkirche, baroque in design that dates from the mid-17th century.
The interior is lavish but not overwhelming.
The columns and arches are painted in pastel shades and capped with decorative stucco work, while the barrel-vaulted ceiling is covered by several large frescoes depicting biblical scenes.
We then walked through this archway and into
this small garden
which is surrounded by buildings, including this one, that used to be Franz Liszt's house.
The area around the market was once very popular with Vienna's aristocratic families, who built enormous palaces around the square.
The most impressive is the Palais Kinsky designed in the early 18th century by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. For this building he had to try to squeeze all his usual grandeur into a plot of land just 30 by 100 yards. He created an imposing façade that manages to be fabulously ornate while at the same time almost completely flat as he needed to make the rooms inside as large as he could.
The imposing entrance
that leads to this courtyard.
Between the entrance and the courtyard is a small forecourt full of statues, some of which are for sale, like the two pictured (the building is now an auction house)
while others are a permanent fixture.
Ferstel Palais shows a different method of fitting an aristocratic palace into an urban setting. Here the palace sits on top of an arcade of shops
the Ferstel Passage
This beautiful vaulted passageway,
is lit by a glass-roofed atrium in the centre,
it is full of cafes and lovely little shops
this one for instance, is a chocolate heaven
We could not get access to these interesting stairs
Ferstel passage leads on to another passage, much more modern looking
which is full of art galleries.
Just across Ferstel Palais is the old headquarters of the Austrian Bank of Trade and Commerce but houses the Kunstforum Wien, an exhibition space.
We then walked down Herengasse intending to have a break in Café Central, Vienna's grandest and most famous café, famous for its popularity with a range of fin-de-siècle intellectuals, people like Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud.
The queue outside was long however, so we moved on to the Griensteidl café in Michaelerplatz.