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The long, majestic Schwarzenbergplatz is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful open spaces in the city and offers visitors a pleasant walk that, naturally enough, includes some important monuments worthy of admiration.
To begin with, in the centre is an 1867 equestrian statue of Prince Schwarzenberg: Karl Philipp, which lends the square its name. This military leader heroically led the Austrian and German troops against Napoleon's army at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, a hard battle over an extended territory in which the French were defeated.
Behind the statue is the Schwarzenberg Palace, commissioned by Prince Mansfeld-Fondi in 1697. The building, originally designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, was modified in 1720 by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach and stands as a fine example of Baroque architecture. Today it is one of Vienna's most luxurious hotels. It also houses the Swiss Embassy in one of its wings.
Visitors may also admire the majestic French Embassy, an Art Nouveau jewel that was begun in 1904 to demonstrate to the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire the power and splendour of France, where the Universal Exhibition had been held four years earlier. The embassy is the work of George Paul Chedanne, who is famous for other important buildings such as the Galeries Lafayette.
Near the end of the plaza there is a nice fountain, the Hochstrahlbrunnen, built in 1873 to celebrate the completion of the city's water works, which supplied water from the mountains.
Behind this you will see what is known as Russendenkmal, a monument erected by the Soviets at the end of World War II in 1945 to commemorate a turning point in the city's history, the liberation of Vienna from the Germans by the Red Army.
The war memorial depicts a Russian soldier with a flag encouraging his comrades to take action and is backed by a semi-circular white marble colonnade.
The Soviets, who controlled part of the city until 1955, renamed the square Stalinplatz. The liberators, however, did not generate fond memories among the population, especially those who had survived the hardship of those years. As a result, the monument was constantly monitored by the police in order to prevent vandalism. At the end of the occupation, however, Austria promised to conserve the memorial.
Nearby, visitors can find other interesting sites such as Karlsplatz and its famous pavilions, the Historical Museum, and the Musikverein. Also very close by, at number 17 Kärntner Ring, visitors will find one of Vienna's most iconic and beloved cafes, the Schwartzenberg Café, which is also one of the oldest (it opened in 1861) and one of the few that still retain the atmosphere of an authentic and traditional Viennese coffee house.
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