The centre of Vienna contains countless magnificent buildings, grand boulevards and sumptuous palaces which bear witness to its status as an Imperial capital. The many desireable sights of this great city include the lovely St. Stephen’s cathedral, the mighty Hofburg Palace with its crown jewels and historic artifacts and the exquisite Spanish Riding School with its stunning white Lippizaner horses. A short walk away is the peaceful Stadtpark with its monument to Johann Strauss, just one of the famous composers who lived and worked in Vienna. Another large park is the Prater with its famous giant ferris wheel which dates back to 1897. A short tram ride away from the centre lie the magnificent Belvedere Palace and museum and no visit to Vienna would be complete without taking in the delights of the wonderful Schonbrunn Palace and its stunning gardens.
Vienna is also famed for it’s antique markets and shops. For a superb shopping experience, rummage through the Naschmarkt Flea Market. On Saturday’s the stalls are piled high with curios of all shapes and sizes a bargain hunters dream. Everybody knows however, that Vienna is most noted for it’s exquisite balls. The very second New Year chimes in, the balls and festivals begin and during Carnival season, there are over 300 to attend with mysterious masked processions and dances, the most famous being the Opernball. If all those balls generate a hunger, there is always the city’s most famous culinary export to try - sample the Wiener Schnitzel followed by some calorie-laden Sachertorte to top off a cultural if not sensual visit to beautiful Vienna.
Vienna drips with culture. It boasts over 50 museums, including the Kunsthistoriches Museum containing pieces by Dürer, Titian and Breughel. There are grand palaces, the Vienna Boys Choir and the Vienna Philharmonic alongside fine restaurants and traditional Austrian coffee-houses a big part of Austrian culture.
For anyone with an interest in classical music or opera, a visit to Vienna is almost like a pilgrimage. Great composers of the “Viennese School” include Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The Vienna Boys Choir is widely known for the boys’ angelic voices and sailor suits and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is considered to be one of the best in the world.
Vienna has a long tradition of Balls. The most famous, expensive and glamorous of these is the Viennese Opera Ball which has taken place annually at the State Opera House since 1877. One of the city’s highlights every summer is the Film Festival which is held in front of the Vienna City Hall. Each night a different opera-related film is shown on a huge screen.
Eat and Drink.
Vienna is famous for its cafes and coffee houses which entice customers in with their elegant decor, variety of coffees and sumptuous cakes and pastry creations. It’s difficult to leave the city without having tried a piece of Apfelstrudel, Linzertorte or the famous Viennese specialty cake, Sachertorte. If you’re looking for some tasty street food buy a Wiener (the local version of a frankfurter) at one of the sausage stands which can be found on sale throughout the city. Beer is the usual accompaniment to a Wiener.
For high end shopping the shops in Kaerntner Strasse and around St. Stephen’s Cathedral have all the top brands. Mariahilfer Strasse is the city’s longest and most lively shopping street which has something to offer every shopper. Head to the colourful Naschmarkt for everything from organic bread to Asian foods but also a spot of people-watching and a true Viennese experience.
There’s so much to see in Vienna that you’re almost spoilt for choice, but two of the city’s lesser known museums are well worth a visit. The Vienna Furniture Museum is home to the Imperial furniture collection and is housed in the building where the Hapsburgs stored their furniture. The museum’s displays and special exhibitions include current furniture developments and designs. The Museum of Technology is a fascinating place to visit for anyone who has an interest in how things work.
Take a tram to Grinzing on the outskirts of the city and go walking in the Vienna Woods. The Woods are Vienna’s “green lung” and provide an ideal contrast to the busy city centre. Grinzing is a charming wine village and it’s well worth spending time exploring the surrounding vineyards and visiting a few taverns.
The Hundertwasserhaus is a house without straight lines or surfaces. Designed by the late Friedensreich Hundertwasser in 1985, this complex of 50 apartments is painted in bright colours with motifs, loggias and statues. The lines are completely asymmetrical, with serpentine corridors, rounded corners, with Hundertwasser’s trademark plants and trees growing out of the building. It is an unconventional Art Nouveau one off and one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Hundertwasser designed the building to reflect the environment and it is an amazing place to visit. This isn't only a house; it has become a Viennese symbol for art and creativity.
Now a tram and underground railway junction, Karlsplatz was laid out above the river Wien between 1894 and 1900. Karlsplatz is quite a complicated wide-open square that is actually a small park. On it’s south side rises the baroque Karlskirche (1716-1737), an impressive building and the city’s most important sacral baroque structure. At the northern edge of the park are two stunning traditional Viennese buildings – the Kunstlerhaus and the Musikverein. There is a theatre/cinema inside and there are regular exhibitions of contemporary Austrian painters. Karlsplatz is a unique square in Vienna; completely different to anywhere else you’ll see in Vienna.
A colossal building itself, the Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the greatest European museums of fine art. It would be impossible to view the entire contents of this grand museum in one day but a well laid out floor plan allows you to pinpoint the exact collections you wish to visit. The great art collection of the imperial Habsburgs can be found donning the walls of this magnificent museum located in the heart of Vienna on the Ringstrasse, museum row. Some highlights to watch out for include the Egyptian collection, the huge Rubens display, and the coin collection.
Spanish Riding School.
The Spanish Riding School in the Hofburg is a Viennese institution. As one of the few remaining classical riding schools, the school is dedicated to the preservation of the last of the world's Baroque horses. It is renowned for it’s white Lipizzaner stallions which carry out complex dressage manoeuvres to the beautiful sounds of Mozart and Strauss. The audience can view this exquisite ‘equine ballet’ from decorative balconies whilst glittering chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Tickets aren’t cheap, but well worth the price as the stunning displays provided by the school are a once in a lifetime experience.
Wine Tasting in Grinzing.
You simply cannot go to Vienna and not visit a traditional Viennese Heurigen, a cozy wine tavern to experience not only the years finest grape varieties but also some true traditional music including the ever-popular Viennese waltz. Grinzing (the 19th District) is the best place to wet your whistle with a vast choice of Heurigen to choose from and an always lively atmosphere. Just look out for pine boughs hanging over the door, this is the marking of these types of taverns. Eat, drink and be merry - it is a guaranteed memorable experience.