There are few film series that make travel seem quite so appealing as Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. Prior to Before Sunrise, the European city had served only as a backdrop to glamorous romances. In Linklater’s hands, places like Vienna and Paris became characters in themselves; their urban idiosyncrasies sparking conversations as labyrinthine as the streets of Montemarte
1995’s Before Sunrise takes place in the Austrian capital of Vienna. With its rich musical history, stunning architecture, and warm light, it’s easy to see why Linklater was drawn to it. But, according to the director, Before Sunrise was originally supposed to take place in Germany, where he originally conceived of the idea of two people who are thrown together by chance. So why did he settle on Vienna?
Speaking to Variety, Linklater revealed that he’d visited Vienna following the release of Dazed and Confused in 1993, at which time he was scouting locations for what would become Before Sunrise. “I go to Vienna and have a great time with all these people, and I said, ‘I think I’m gonna do ‘Before Sunrise’ here,’” he said. “That was 100% because I went to the film festival in Vienna and met these great people … it just seemed like more of a natural fit.”
In Before Sunrise we meet Jesse and Celine, who, having met on a train somewhere outside Budapest, decide to seize the few hours they have together and wander around Vienna. During these stolen hours, we see the city unfold as the pair explore its every inch. From dingey rock clubs to the aristocratic climes of The gardens of Palais Schwarzenberg, every side of this multifaceted city is laid bare. So, if you’re hoping to meet a stranger on a Vienesse train platform or simply learn more about the sites featured in Linklater’s film, look no further. Because here, we’ve put together a pocket guide to the ten key locations from Before Sunrise.
The ‘Before Sunrise’ location travel guide:
Location: 1030 Vienna.
After Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) decide to jump off the train, they find themselves on one of the many platforms in Hauptbahnhof station. From there, they begin aimlessly walking through Vienna and eventually find themselves on Zollamssteg.
Crossing this boundary, Jesse and Celine seem to suddenly recognise that they know nothing about each other. “This is kinda weird, isn’t it? I mean I feel a little awkward. But it’s alright, right?” Thankfully, the arrival of two amateur actors and the prospect of watching their play about “a cow” and the various “Indians searching for it” gives them something to talk about.
Teuchtler Schallplattenhandlung und Antiquarität
Location: Windmühlgasse 10, 1060 Vienna.
Celine and Jesse then find themselves on a tram trundling towards Schottentor along the western side of Vienna’s famous Ring boulevard. During the long ride, they begin to relax in one another’s company. After passing the neo-gothic Votivkirche church, Jesse struggles not to run his fingers through Celine’s hair.
After presumably changing trains, (the route would be impossible otherwise), the pair disembark at the old stock exchange on Schottenring 16, from where they make their way to the record store Teuchtler Schallplattenhandlung und Antiquarität, where they listen to Kath Bloom’s ‘Come Here’ in a cosy booth.
Cemetery of the Nameless
Location: Alberner Hafenzufahrtsstraße, 1110 Vienna.
Having walked through one of Vienna’s most famous squares, Maria-Theresien-Platz, Jesse and Celine walk down some stone steps into the Friedhof der Namenlosen or ‘Cemetary Of the Dead’, which was established in the 19th century to bury the unknown dead who had washed up on the banks of the Danube.
The last nameless body to be buried here was in 1940. Since then all unknown bodies and suicide victims refused burial by the Catholic church have been buried in Vienna’s Central Cemetery. Today, the tides of the Danube aren’t as tempestuous as they were, so it’s much less common for bodies to wash up on its pebbled shores.
The Wurstelprater amusement park
Location: Prater, 1020 Vienna.
Following their melancholic walk through the Cemetery of the Nameless, Jesse and Celine head to the Wurstelprater amusement park in a bid to raise their spirits.
Here, they decide to take a ride on one of cinema’s most famous Ferris wheels, Riesenrad, which appears in movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Third Man, The James Bond film Living Daylights with Timothy Dalton, and the 2019 thriller Vienna Blood. It is here, in a cabin floating high above Vienna, that our pair kiss for the first time, just as the last of the day’s light begins to fade.
Location: Franziskanerpl. 3, 1010 Vienna.
Wurstelprater amusement park is a little out of the way, but Celine and Jesse quickly find themselves in Vienna’s ornate old town. In Franziskanerplatz, a small square close to Stephansdom cathedral. The square is flanked by the Franciscan monastery, hence the monks that we see passing through.
It is here, outside Kleines Café, that Celine and Jesse stop to drink coffee and watch the world go by. They’re soon spotted by the local fortune teller, who attempts to convince them they are both made of “stardust”. While Celine appreciates the romantic sentiment, Jesse isn’t so sure – foreshadowing the rift that will open up between the couple in Before Sunset.
Location: Obere Donaustraße 26, 1020, Vienna.
It is on the bank of the Donaukanal that Celine and Jesse meet their poet-for-hire. This canal is an offshoot of the Danube, splitting off when it enters Vienna and cutting through the heart of the city, only to rejoin the main river close to the Cemetary of the Nameless.
The strip of the canal where we meet the poet stands alongside Schützenhaus at Obere Donaustraße 26, designed by the architect Otto Wagner. Today, it is a restaurant, and I imagine if Celine and Jesse hadn’t been penniless students, they might have decided to go for a candlelit meal overlooking the river.
Location: Baumgasse 80, 1030 Vienna.
Taking another leap now, this time over to Baumgasse 80, our pair find themselves in a grungey venue known as Arena Wien, which still serves as one of the best hangouts for members of Vienna’s alternative music scene.
Here, Celine and Jesse play pinball, drink beer, and eventually get on to the topic of exes – at which point Jesse’s cynical worldview really comes into play: I kind of see love as an escape for people who don’t know how to be alone”, he confesses. Yikes.
Mölker Steig and Spittelberg
Location: 1010 – 1070 Vienna.
Celine and Jese’s walk from Mölker Steig down to Spittelberg takes them away from the urinals and moshpits of Arena Wien towards something infinitely more elegant. Strolling through the various historical streets, they pass Beethovan’s former home, Schreyvogelgasse, and wind up in Spittelberg, one of Vienna’s more Bohemian districts.
It is here, near to the site of Spittelberg’s famous Christmas market, that Celine and Jesse stumble across the street-side dancer, prompting Jesse’s story about the old man who sees young people dancing and observes: “How beautiful, they’re trying to shake off their genitals and become angels.”
The gardens of Palais Schwarzenberg
Location: Prinz Eugen-Straße 5, 1030 Vienna.
After managing to convince a bartender at The Roxy at Faulmanngasse 2 to give them a bottle of wine free of charge, Jesse and Celine bust into the gardens of Palais Schwarzenberg. Unfortunately, the fact that these are private garden’s means that you’re unlikely to be able to replicate the couple’s romantic evening sleeping (and perhaps more) in the grass.
Constructed in the final years of the 17th century, Palais Schwarzenberg is the baroque palace of (surprise surprise) the Schwarzenberg family. The hereditary prince of the family still lives on the estate, which adjoins Belvedere Palace and galleries. Currently open to the public, Belvedere Palace is home to Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, making the gallery the perfect addition to your Before Sunrise-themed itinerary.
Location: Albertinapl. 1, 1010 Vienna.
Arguably one of the most recognisable spots in Vienna, the Albertina is usually packed with tourists. However, Celine and Jesse somehow manage to find themselves completely alone – lying on the steps below the statue of Archduke Albrecht just before they return to the trains station to say their goodbyes.
The Albertina is the small square in front of the Albertina Palais and art museum. Standing opposite the majestic Staatsoper opera house, the Albertina is at its most beautiful when the sun goes down, at which time the lights of the opera house come on, highlighting the building’s Renaissance Revival architecture.