Vienna: tour the set of The Third Man

The Third Man is firmly placed in many respected lists of the greatest films of all time. The film revolves around two main characters, Harry Lime and Holly Martins.

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In a repeat of their great acting partnership in Citizen Kane, Lime is played by Orson Welles and Martins by Joseph Cotton. Their cat-and-mouse chase across the post-WWII, rubble-filled Vienna is both haunting and moody, with superb dialogue, a scintillating confrontation on the Riesenrad and glimpses of the city's most recognised landmarks. Step onto the set with our do-it-yourself ramble.

1. Riesenrad

Ride the Riesenrad, the same giant Ferris wheel on which Lime berates Martins about his concern for the 'ants' below – from the top, the creatures below do indeed appear insect-sized. It was built in 1897 to designs by Englishman Walter B Basset. The wheel rises to 65m and takes about 20 minutes to rotate its 430-tonne weight one complete circle – giving you ample time to snap some fantastic shots of the city spread out at your feet.

It survived bombing in 1945 and has had dramatic lighting and a cafe at its base added. The icon is also featured in the James Bond flick The Living Daylights, and Before Sunrise, directed by Richard Linklater. The latter is an intriguing film featuring a lot of Vienna. A ticket for the Riesenrad includes entry into the Panorama, a collection of disused wheel-cabins filled with models depicting scenes from the city’s history, including Roman Vienna and the Turkish invasions.

2. Schreyvogelgasse 8

From Praterstern, take the U1 metro line to Schottentor, head towards the Rathaus and turn left onto Schreyvogelgasse. In the electrifying scene with the cat, Martins sees a 'dead man walking' when he glimpses a flash of Lime’s face in the shadow of this doorway.

3. Hotel Sacher

The iconic Sacher Hotel, Martins’ hotel in the film and the home of Vienna’s most famous pastry, was screenwriter Graham Greene’s inspiration: at lunch here the author chatted with British intelligence about penicillin smuggling in the city’s sewers.

Walking into the Sacher is like turning back the clocks 100 years. The reception, with its dark-wood panelling, deep red shades and heavy gold chandelier, is reminiscent of an expensive fin de siècle bordello. The smallest rooms are surprisingly large, with beds the size of small ships; suites are truly palatial and everything has received a recent upgrade. All boast baroque furnishings and genuine 19th-century oil paintings (the hotel has the largest private oil painting collection in Austria) and your arrival is sweet: a tiny cube of the hotel’s famous Sacher Torte in each room greets you upon arrival.

4. Café Mozart

Though the cafe scenes in the film were filmed elsewhere due to wartime damage, this one right across from the Sacher (at Albertinaplatz 2; it’s open from 8am to midnight) was Greene’s favourite; he worked on drafts of his screenplay here.

For centuries coffee houses have graced Vienna’s alleyways. Legend has it that coffee beans were left behind by the fleeing Turks in 1683, and by 1685 the first house had opened – at 01, Rotenturmstrasse 14. However, their popularity didn’t take hold until the end of the 19th century; by this time there were a reputed 600 cafes in business.

No matter the decor, the environment is the same – paused. Nothing moves fast in a coffee house, not even the clouds of smoke hanging in the air. Patrons are encouraged to devour newspapers and magazines, including international titles, at their leisure, and pressure to order a second cup is non-existent. Waiters command their territory; arrogant and scolding one minute (especially if your mobile phone goes off), courteous the next, they are annoyingly charming in their peculiar way of going about their business. Coffee is king here, but most coffee houses offer a full food menu and a decent wine and beer list, making them excellent options for a bite, a meal or an alcoholic beverage.

5. Beethovenplatz

Head down Krugerstrasse, turn left on Seilerstätte, then right onto Fichtegasse. The pensive Beethoven-in-bronze, sculpted by German Caspar Clemens, flashes across the screen at the start of the film. Beethoven (1770–1827) studied briefly with Mozart in Vienna in 1787; he returned in late 1792. Beethoven produced a lot of chamber music up to the age of 32, when he became almost totally deaf and – ironically – began writing some of his best works, including the Symphony No 9 in D Minor, Symphony No 5 and his late string quartets.

This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's guide to Vienna.