Founded in 1365, Vienna’s venerable university was the first in the German-speaking countries. Today it enrols up to 95,000 students. Grand Duke Rudolph IV (1339–65) used Paris’ Sorbonne as his inspiration, and it was just as well he wasn’t around in 1520 during the Reformation, because in that year his ‘Sorbonne’ was shoe-horned into the Church.
In fact, occasional head-clinching between religious and secular institutions over the centuries is a feature of Vienna’s university history. When Maria Theresia squeezed the Church out of Austrian universities during the Enlightenment in the mid-18th century, she almost made the uni trim and fit for the modern age. (We say ‘almost’ because the first woman wasn't admitted until 1897.) During the Nazi era, about half the professors and tutors had to pack their bags due to either their politics or their ‘race’.
One-hour guided tours take you through the late-19th-century neo-Renaissance and neo-baroque arcades, reading room and, when possible, the decorative main ceremonial chamber. They leave from the porter’s office in the entrance hall.
Directly opposite the university is the Votivkirche, and also the Mölker Bastei, one of the couple of remaining sections of the old city walls.