The foundation stone was laid in November 1928 in honor of the 10-year celebration of the Republic of Austria. The stadium was constructed in 23 months, from 1929 to 1931. It was built according to a design by the Tübingen architect Otto Ernst Schweizer and the second Workers' Olympiad. Schweizer also designed the adjacent Stadionbad. According to its location in Vienna's Prater, it was initially named Prater Stadium. It was a modern stadium at the time, particularly in Europe, because of its short discharge time of only 7 to 8 minutes. Initially the stadium had a capacity of approximately 60,000 people. During the National Socialist Era following Anschluss, the stadium was used as a military barracks and staging area and as a temporary prison for the deportation of Jewish citizens. Between September 11 and 13, 1939, after the attack on Poland, over a thousand Polish-born Viennese Jews were detained on the orders Reinhard Heydrich. They were imprisoned beneath the grandstands in the corridors of Section B. On September 30, 1,038 prisoners were deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The next day, the stadium was back to being used for a football match. 44 men were released in early 1940, 26 were freed in 1945, the rest were murdered in the camps. In 1988, one of the surviving victims, Fritz Klein, was awarded a compensation by the Austrian government equivalent to 62,50 euros for being detained in the stadium. In 2003 a memorial plaque, commemorating these events, was unveiled in the VIP area by a private initiative. In 1944, the stadium was severely damaged during a bomb attack on the Wehrmarcht Staff offices.
After the war and the reconstruction of the stadium, it was again sporting its original use. In 1956, the stadium's capacity was expanded to 92,708 people by Theodor Schull, but in 1965 the capacity was reduced. The attendance record was 91,000 spectators set on October 30, 1960 at the football match between Spain and Austria. In the mid-1980s, the stands were covered and fully equipped with seats. At its reopening a friendly match against archrivals Germany was organised. Austria won the match 4–1. After the death of former Austrian top player and coach Ernst Happel, the Prater Stadium was renamed after him in 1992. In 1964, 1987, 1990, and 1995, the Ernst Happel Stadium was the venue of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League final. In 1970, the stadium was the venue of the 1970 European Cup Winners' Cup Final which saw Manchester City F.C. beat Górnik Zabrze by 2 goals to 1 in an entertaining match. Neil Young and a Francis Lee penalty sealed the win for City. This final was played under torrential rain in what was then an uncovered stadium. This along with the fact no Polish supporters were allowed to travel to the match restricted the attendance, which is variously reported at between 7,900 and 15,000 spectators. Even so, City's travelling support numbered over 4,000 which was a then record for an English club playing on the continent.
During the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament, the Ernst Happel Stadium was the venue for the Final match. Previously, the three group matches of the Austrian National Team, two quarter finals and a semifinal match took place in the stadium. In preparation for the tournament, the first and second place additional rows of seats increased the stadium's capacity to 53,000 seats. Leading up to the tournament, it was fitted with a heated pitch in the summer of 2005. In May 2008, a connection to the Vienna U-Bahn was established, easing access from all over the city. The cost of the rebuilding was €39,600,000. between Austria and Croatia The following games were played at the stadium during the UEFA Euro 2008:
The Ernst Happel Stadium is the largest football stadium in Austria. It is the home of the Austrian national football team. Club football matches are generally limited to the domestic cup final and international competitions featuring one of Vienna's top clubs, FK Austria Wien and SK Rapid Wien, as their regular stadiums are too small to host UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup matches. Vienna derby matches between FK Austria and SK Rapid have also been played in the stadium. The stadium is rated one of UEFA's Five Star Stadiums permitting it to host the UEFA Champions League final. The seating capacity was temporarily expanded to 53,008 for the UEFA Euro 2008 championship, with the final played in the stadium. The stadium also hosted 3 group games, 2 quarter-final matches, a semi-final and final. The attendance record of 92,706 for the match against the Soviet Union was in 1960. The capacity has since been reduced.