If Vienna, the famous city of music, were a symphony, you’d feel as though you were constantly at the crescendo. So grand, opulent and saturated with culture and history is the picturesque Austrian capital that cymbals will crash, violins will vibrate and the swell of the harmony will carry you along in a bliss of perfect cadence. Then you’ll turn off your iPod, look around and be just as wowed by the visual stimulation.
There is a bundle of old and new things to explore even outside the City Centre. Get regal at the Hofburg or Imperial Palace, tour St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Analyse yourself at the Freud Museum and get seriously high (in culture terms) at the Vienna State Opera.
For the trendy Wendys out there, browse the Mariahilferstrasse, the hip and happening areas for posh rags, or take a coffee break at the famous Café Sacher.
Its prettiness, quaintness and almost fairytale skyline could be passed over as twee if not for the rich history and intellectual swagger Vienna holds. This city is no pop song (despite what 80s band Ultravox would have you believe) – it’s got the classical cred to cement its reputation as one of the premier tourist destinations in Europe, and with a population of sensitive, polite locals, Vienna will soon have you singing a different tune.
Vienna's Top 10
10. Schmetterlinghaus Be warned. This is a weird one. Strictly for those interested in butterflies – otherwise, give it a miss!
5. SchonbrunnBrowse the gardens of this baroque palace. Trip over and yell, ‘My leg! It is baroque!’ before running from the ambulance.
9. Spanish Riding School:Either see a performance from this uniquely Viennese institution or just peek in to watch the morning training sessions.
4. The Ring A series of streets encircling the old city. Take a tram to get a sense of the city and see some landmarks along the way.
8. Theatermuseum: ore baroque! More museums. Wear your glasses and try to look like you know what you’re looking at.
3. Kunsthistorisches Museum: ienna’s museum of fine arts.
7. Mariahilferstrasse:Allow yourself to shop till you drop. And by drop we mean have a drop of the world’s best coffee.
2. St. Stephen's CathedralGet a tour or explore by yourself. Amazing gothic architecture to make any Adams Family member go weak at the knees.
6. Neue Burg Museums Three museums in one. Take your time or tick them off the list so you can head the pub for one of those beers as big as your head!
1. Tiergarten The world’s oldest zoo. Thankfully they’ve updated the itsy bitsy cages since 1752. Pandas, Siberian tigers and a day’s worth of exploring to be had.
- Schonbrunn Palace – Originally the site of a large mansion owned by royalty.
- Hofburg Complex – Palace turned into multiple museums.
- Belvedere – Two majestic mansions with a garden in between erected by Prince Eugene of Savoy.
- Plague Column – Emperor Leopold I had this memorial built in 1679.
- Church of St Mary of the Angels – Capuchine monastery with crypt vaults as old as 1619.
Vienna Art & Culture
- Museum Quarter – With more culture than you can shake a stick at, this area is close to everything.
- Burggarten – The Mozart Monument is an attraction created in 1896.
- Schatzkammer – The treasury contains the crown jewels of Austria and many relics.
- Butterfly House – This 1901 structure now houses an unbelievable collection of several species of live butterflies.
- Kunsthistorisches Museum – Enjoy a stunning collection at this art museum.
- Hoher Markt – People-watch, eat from delicious food stalls or purchase a souvenir in this old-town area.
- Platz Am Hof – Though it used to be more of an open-air fish and bakery market, today the area is completely modern.
- Mariahilfferstrasse – A shopping street with lots of large, trendy stores.
- Kohlmarkt – For those looking for luxury shopping, Kohlmarkt is the place to be.
- Neubaugasse – Lots of popular styles can be purchased here, but keep looking for hidden treasures.
Gay & Lesbian Vienna
- Life Ball – An amazing party typically held in late May that brings the world to Vienna to raise funds for HIV or Aids.
- Bars and Clubs – Vienna offers at least a dozen recognized pubs, several clubs and meeting spots.
- Sauna – For those who need to unwind, there are three totally gay and several gay-friendly saunas, including Kaiserbrundl.
- Badeschiff – Party on a boat in either a mixed or queer crowd; just check the schedule.
- Gay Quarter – Between the forth and sixth districts near the Naschmarkt, enjoy the high energy.
- Sand in the City – Around 1,800 tons of sand was brought into Vienna for outdoor play and sculpture appreciation.
- Donauinsel – Rollerblade, cycle or simply people-watch at Danube Island.
- Cemetery of the Nameless – The Friedhof der Namenlosen is a destination both peaceful and haunting.
- Vienna City Park – Stadtpark by the River Wien and Ringstrasse has some incredible statues with an upbeat atmosphere.
- Spittelberg Quarter – Take a walk down old cobbled streets and admire the Biedermeier and baroque architecture.
- Horseback Riding – The Winter Riding School was originally established in the late 16th century.
- Golf Halle Budocenter – At this nine-hole, par-70 course, you can use the driving range at night or learn to golf with an electronic teacher.
- Skating – For figure skating and classic ice skating on an artificial ice rink, choose Eislaufverein.
- Squash – The Manhattan offers a free squash court and an optional spa experience.
- Bicycling – Vienna offers special paths j ust for bikers, which is great to explore the city.
The city centre of Vienna, the Innere Stadt is the home of some of Vienna’s most famous landmarks and the oldest structures. It is known as the historic core of the city.
Framed by The Ring, this is the home of the famous St Stephen’s Cathedral, the Donnerbrunnen Fountain, the Spanish Riding School and the lesser known but equally interesting former University District. With so many grand buildings on display, it’s to imagine yourself as part of the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy that walked the same streets a century ago.
And if you want to go even further back in time, visit the Mozarthaus, where Wolfgang Amadeus lived, worked and composed from 1784 to 1787.
Vienna’s Leopoldstadt offers the rare opportunity of living on an island while still being close to the city. Located between the Danube and the Donaukanal, it allows easy access to the city, cheaper places to eat and stay and is a popular choice for students.
This is the home of the sweet baroque parks and theAugarten (which houses the Flak Towers built in WWII). In the north, check out the Carmelite Church, the Jewish Quarter and the Kirche St. Leopold.
Unquestionably, however, the highlight of Leopoldstadt is thePrater, Vienna’s own city amusement park. Ride the Wiener Riesenrad (the Ferris Wheel) and then, of course, make jokes for the rest of the day.
First and foremost, the home of the best shopping in Austria is the Mariahilferstrasse,so it would be criminal not to give the plastic a workout here. The area is known to be quite arty and edgy, so dress to impress when visiting the multitude of small galleries, shops, cafés and eateries.
Mariahilf is less sightseeing and more arts and exploring, but it is home to two very famous and beautiful buildings, the Wienzeilenhaus and Majolikahaus, and is the place to see some live music at the famous Raimund Theatre.
Vienna Eat & Drink
Amerlingbeisl Proper Austrian grub in a proper Austrian pub. Note – rhyming not essential.
Café der Provinz France vs. Austria! Sweet or savoury crepes filled with Nutella (!) or ham and cheese.
Kent Cheap, decent serves of Turkish food. In summer, take advantage of the beautiful garden and at night visit the 24-hour bakery next door.
Figlmüller A one-off experience with the biggest and best schnitzels you’ll find. Be warned – there’s no beer, but they do serve wine from the owner’s vineyard.
Halle Great for a cheap feed when you can’t decide what you feel like. Pasta, salad, antipasto or Austrian served till midnight.
Maschu Maschu Israel comes to Vienna. The best falafel in Europe as well as huge salads for a quick bite. Takeaway in Rabensteig or eat-in at Neubau.
Zu Den Zwei Liesln Six different schnitzels on the menu with a tree-covered inner courtyard. Great people-watching a bonus!
Sacher Hotel Restaurant Famous for its tafelspitz and other traditional fare, this is a great spot for a special occasion.
Würstelstand am Hohen Markt Wurst is the kebab of Vienna, so stumble along for the best of the late-night wurst.
Danube TowerEnjoy traditional Viennese delights at the amazing revolving restaurant inside this famous landmark. Amazing views, of course.
January to February hosts The Carnival in Vienna, with balls taking place at famous locations across the city.
Viennese Dream on Ice takes place from late January to early March with skating in the front of City Hall.
The Opera Ball occupies the ballroom at the Opera House each February.
Easter brings a music festival to Vienna known as the Vienna Sounds of Easter.
For a celebration of music, opera, film and art, May and June bring you the Wiener Festwochen.
Donauinselfest, Europe’s largest pop-music festival, comes around in June.
July brings on three music festivals: Jazz Festival Vienna, Klangbogen and the Rathausplatz Classical Music Film Festival.
October brings you the Viennale, the annual film festival.
From the famous Magic of Advent and Viennese Christkindlmarkt at the Rathausplatz to the romantic Christmas markets at the Spittelberg and Schönbrunn Castle, Vienna is a simply magical place to be in the lead up to Christmas.
St Stephen’s Cathedral is bursting at the seams for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Quite a spectacle, even for non-believers.
New Year’s Eve is different in every city. Vienna offers music and loads of entertainment in the Innere Stadt.
When To Go
- Winter (January to March) sees temperatures ranging from -3 to 8°C (27-46°F). It’s cold and snow is probable, making it fun for snow-angel fans!
- Spring (April to June) has pleasant temperatures ranging from 10 to 23°C (50-73°F). It also brings a lot more tourists.
- Summer (July to September) temperatures range from 15 to 24°C (59-75°F). It’s pleasantly warm and sunny, but thunderstorms are common so pack an umbrella.
- Autumn (October to December) temps range from 7 to 14°C (45-57°F). A jacket is required, but you won’t freeze.
What To Miss
Fiaker: A horse-drawn carriage sounds awesome, but it’s overpriced at €40 for 20 minutes.
Mexicoplatz, Karlsplatz: Although Vienna is a generally safe city, these areas can get a little dodgy at night. Unless you’re looking to buy some drugs or get in a fight, steer clear of these spots late at night.
Stephansplatz: A must-see, but beware of people trying to sell
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