Vienna is Austria’s capital city, resting on the banks of the Danube River. Vienna is full of art, architecture and history, claiming Mozart, Beethoven and Freud as one-time residents. While Vienna is an excellent jumping off point for adventures in the Austrian Alps, the vibrant city of Vienna also offers many things to do!
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St Stephen’s Cathedral
This 12th century cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna which has 13 bells inside, the largest of which is the second largest of its kind in Europe. The tower is visible throughout Vienna, and the cathedral remains as one of the most important Gothic buildings in all of Austria. Below the church are the catacombs, which contain mausoleums and tombs of many important historical figures. Guided tours are available for both the cathedral and the catacombs.
This 13th century palace is Vienna’s Imperial Palace and today is the official seat of the Austrian President. For centuries, this was the home of the Habsburgs, the family ruling Austria until World War II. While the palace is still used for government purposes, some areas are open to the public, including several Imperial apartments, and various displays such as the silver collection of over 7,000 items of silverware.
This complex of two Baroque palaces was once the summer home of Prince Eugene of Savoy in the late 1600’s. Today, the Belevedere Museum is and art gallery and world heritage site, which contains the largest collection of paintings by Klimt, including The Kiss. The Lower Belvedere Palace now houses special exhibits while the Upper Belvedere is open to the public for tours of the state rooms. Visitors can stroll the impressive lawn stretching between the two palaces. The “D” line tram comes directly to Belvedere, while train and bus lines will get you within 10-15 minutes walking distance.
This is the former Imperial summer residence of the Habsburgs and has been a major tourist destination for years. UNESCO added Schonbrunn Palace to the World Heritage list in 1996, and the gardens at the palace are equally impressive. Visitors can choose from a variety of ticket options, depending on how much of the palace you want to see, and if you want to also visit the gardens and children’s museum within. It is easy to take public transportation to Schonbrunn Palace as the underground, bus and trams all have a Schonbrunn stop.
Within the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace you can visit the oldest zoo in the world, the Tiergarten. The zoo started as a private imperial collection in 1752, and grew to be quite large before WWII and the downfall of the Habsburgs. After several years of decline, the zoo was modernized in the early 1990’s, thankfully to much higher standards of animal welfare. To access the zoo, you can purchase a ticket that includes other Schonbrunn attractions and make a day of it.
Museum of Fine Arts
Housed in another impressive palatial building, the Kunsthistorisches houses the art collection of the Habsburg family, and the largest Bruegel collection in the world. You can also see several works here by Gustav Klimt, Rubens and Rembrandt, in addition to Egyptian and Near Eastern collections of art.
Vienna’s largest outdoor market is a must for any foodie visiting Austria’s capital. Part flea market, part artisan food market, part food court, Naschmarkt has evolved since it’s 16th century origins as a milk stand. Today, you can sample Viennese cuisine, or food from all over the world. There is a Saturday flea market as well. The market is very close to the city centre and is easily accessed using the Metro.
As the name implies, this area is the Museums Quarter, a Baroque district containing many of Vienna’s museums. There is the Leopold Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, Kunsthalle Wien (contemporary art,) the Architecture Center, Children’s Museum and Designforum Wien. In the outdoor space surrounding these museums you’ll find a rotating array of street art, modern outdoor lounge furniture, cafes seating, and many special events in the summer months.
House of Music
The House of Music is the first museum of sound and music in Austria. There are five floors of exhibits pertaining to music and sound. Through a variety of multimedia presentations and interactive exhibits, visitors can conduct an orchestra or compose a waltz. There is an entire floor dedicated to some of the great Austrian composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. The museum is open until 10pm daily, and often hosts special events, so it’s a great evening activity after dinner when most Vienna attractions have closed for the day.
State Opera House
In a city with such a rich musical history, it would be a shame to miss a performance at the Vienna State Opera House. The Renaissance Revival building was built in 1869 and today has the largest repertoire of any opera house in the world. There is the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Opera, Children’s Opera, the Ballet and various live musical performances. There is a performance at the State Opera House nearly every day of the year.
This niche museum has over 1,000 clocks and timepieces on display, dating back to the 15th century to today. There is an astronomical clock, and a clock that fits in a thimble, among many others. As many of the pieces are still in working condition, you’ll have a clock performance at the top of each hour.
Not to be outdone by clocks, Vienna also has a Globe Museum, the only one of its kind, with 240 different terrestrial and celestial globes on display. When globes were first made, they were always in created in pairs – one terrestrial globe and one celestial globe showing the heavens. You can see samples of these globes every day except Monday at the Globe Museum.
Sigmund Freud Museum
Of course, one of Vienna’s most famous residents has a museum dedicated in his honor. The museum opened in 1971 in the space of Freud’s former office and apartment in the Alsergrund district of Vienna. Here you can see a great deal of Freud’s papers, along with his antique collection and personal items from his office waiting room.
The Mozarthaus, also sometimes called Figarohaus, as this is where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed the comic opera The Marriage of Figaro. While Mozart only lived in this Old Town home for three years, it is his only surviving residence in Vienna and therefore the logical location for a museum in his honor. The museum educates visitors about Mozart through the use of audio-visual presentations and historical exhibits. The basement serves as an events hall for special events.
Imperial Butterfly House
Not far from the opera house in central Vienna is the Imperial Butterfly House, a small but exotic palm house filled with butterflies. This small greenhouse makes for a nice escape from the city streets and winter visitor might enjoy the warm, humid air. The ticket office also has a gift shop selling butterfly themed merchandise.
This giant ferris wheel sits at the entrance to an amusement park in Leopoldstadt. It was built in 1897 and remained the world’s tallest ferris wheel for many decades. The wheel has wagons that carry passengers, which look like small red barns. There are private and luxury cars available for hire for events such as dinner parties, romantic dinners or even a wedding! Tickets can be purchased in conjunction with the nearby Prater amusement park or Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum if you plan to visit multiple attractions in the area.
The Stadtpark is a city park covering 65,000 square meters and straddling both sides of the Vienna River. At the center of the park is a golden statue of musician Johann Strauss. Visitors can stroll amongst the gardens and ponds, and enjoy a picnic surrounded by nature in the heart of the city. There are also cafes in the park, and many hotels are situated around the outskirts of the park, making this a great place to take a break.
Of course a visit to Vienna is not complete without sampling some authentic Austrian cuisine. Wiener Schnitzel, which is veal coated in breadcrumbs, and Tafelspitz, a boiled beef are among the most typical Viennese offerings. On the sweeter side, there is Apfelstrudel or Apple Strudel, often served with ice cream or whipped cream. Sausage, or Wiener Wurstel, is a popular street food, and you’ll see sausage stands, or Wurstelstands, throughout the city. Often served with mustard and beer, Wurstel is a classic Vienna snack.
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