Palais Ferstel
Heinrich von Ferstel

When the National Bank, at Herrengasse 17, became too small, Palais Abensberg-Traun, a baroque structure, was simply purchased and torn down. In addition to spac­es for the bank and stock exchange, the new building was to offer a ‘bazaar’ with shops and a café.

Heinrich von Ferstel, only 27 years old, won the competition. He combined Florentine and Venetian influences with iron beams and a glazed dome above the Danube Waternymph by Anton Fernkorn. A large stair leads to the double-­height trading room. The fa­cade was clad in limestone.
A sumptuous detail: the cor­ner above the entrance to the café – where the literary figures Peter Altenberg, Franz Werfel and Karl Kraus debated with exiles such as Leon Trotsky – is embellished with allegories of Austria’s peoples.

While the café blossomed, the stock exchange relocated to a building of its own, and the bazaar lost its function. From 1914, Café Central had competition from the neighboring Herrenhof, and the National Bank’s printing plant occupied the unused passage. In 1925 the National Bank moved to a new building. After 1945, the war-ravaged palace deteriorated further. The café closed in 1947. Three decades later, Palais Ferstel was about to be demolished when renovation work finally began. Today, there are several restaurants in the passage.