If you, like the majority of people, think that Paris is the most beautiful city in Europe, you probably haven’t been to Vienna. This is where the sublime meets neatness, and, most importantly, safety.
Vienna is quite small, which makes the visit very comfortable and pleasant. Three days would be enough to see everything without rush, to stop and enjoy along the way.
Vienna is the 7th biggest city in the European Union with population of 1.9 million. It is known as the City of Music for its enormous musical legacy and the amount of concerts held every day. The city center was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Besides its magnificent Baroque architecture and cozy coffee houses, Vienna is constantly ranked the world’s 1st or 2nd best city for the quality of life, prosperity and culture of innovation according to various studies and survey results. More than enough reasons to pay its Highness a visit!
What to see
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited destinations in Austria, the Schönbrunn Palace is a must-see. Built in the 18th century, it used to serve as a royal summer residence. The palace is known for its Baroque architecture, glamorous rooms and furniture, impressive gardens, and (evidently) fountains. It takes about three hours to visit, unless you wish to stop by the adjoining zoo or Children’s museum.
The Prater recreation and amusement park is most famous for the giant Ferris Wheel – an Austrian landmark since 1896; there is no better view over the city then the one offered by this 65-meter-high attraction. You will also find a ghost train, go-karts, roller coasters and a Planetarium among other entertainment options. It is worth mentioning that the park is open 24/7 which makes it a great place to end your day of touring. In addition, there are several great restaurants at the Prater, but later about food.
The Hofburg is arguably the most important palace in the country, serving as the residence of every Austrian ruler since 1275, including current president. The palace complex consists of 18 groups of buildings (2600 rooms in total) and 19 courtyards. It represents Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo architectural styles. Hofburg’s main attractions are the Imperial Apartments, the Silver Collection and the Sisi Museum. The tour with audio guide costs 15 Euro and takes about 1,5 hours.
Located in the very center of the city, Stephansdom cathedral is Vienna’s most important Gothic structure. It is famous for the heaviest bell in the country (Plumerin), 137m high south tower and 14th-century catacombs. You will have to climb 343 steps if you wish to reach the top of the tower for an amazing view of the city. The entrance to the main area of the cathedral is free, however there is a fee for visiting the towers and catacombs starting at 5 Euro.
This is the main art lovers’ spot in Vienna. If names like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele mean anything to you, the Belvedere Palace is a must-visit. It consists of two buildings: the Upper and the Lower Belvedere with a big garden and fountain area in between. Both buildings are stunning Baroque style landmarks filled with sculptures and paintings from various time periods. You may purchase the entry ticket for each palace individually or a combined ticket for 22 Euro.
Vienna Opera House
Vienna State Opera House is one of the most famous and recognized theaters in the world. Built in 1869 in French Renaissance style, the Opera House impresses as much with its interior as with the exterior. Over 300 opera and ballet shows, as well as philharmonic concerts are held here each year. If you don’t get a chance to attend one of the high-end performances, consider a guided tour of the theater that costs 9 Euro and lasts approximately 40 minutes.
Vienna Museum of Natural History
The Kunsthistorisches Museum boasts the outstanding art collection of the Hapsburgs, featuring works by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Velazquez and Bruegel, to name a few. Considered one of the world’s leading museums, it displays pieces of Italian, Greek, Roman and Egyptian art.
The museum is situated across the Maria Theresien Platz – another important site, and definitely worth visiting. It is most famous for the grand monument of Maria Theresa – Austria’s most honored empress. And if you are lucky enough to be here in December, you will witness the traditional Austrian Christmas village.
Rathaus (Vienna City Hall)
Vienna’s City Hall is a true Neo-Gothic architectural masterpiece. Completed in 1883, it serves as the city administrative center. If you are interested in seeing the inside of the building, there are free guided tours offered three times a week. The Rathaus courtyard hosts various special events like concerts, festivals and markets almost all year round. It is also a great place to stop for a bite or rest in the park.
Founded in 1752, Vienna Zoo is the oldest and one of the best in the world. It houses more than 700 species at animal enclosures, aquarium, interactive rain forest and bird houses. The highlight of the zoo’s inhabitants are definitely giant pandas and cubs. The zoo is located on the premises of Schönbrunn Palace, and can be visited in combination with palace’s many attractions.
What to buy
Mozartkugeln Chocolate Balls
Austrian White Wine
Gustav Klimt Art
Where to eat
If you wish to enjoy the most traditional Austrian dish and plunge into a classical atmosphere at the same time, Schnitzelwirt is just the right place. Make sure to order a wiener schnitzel, you’ll be amazed by the size for the price. Located on Neubaugasse 52.
This must be the fanciest place in town and the one favored by many historic figures in the past. If you don’t mind higher price and a possible line outside, stop by for a cup of classic Viennese coffee, apple strudel, and unique cultural experience. Located in the very center on Herrengasse 14.
This is a great place for breakfast of lunch. Famous for its salads and other healthy options, Ulrich is a lovely reasonably priced cafe. Located close to Maria-Theresien-Platz on Sankt-Ulrichs-Platz 1.
When visiting Vienna one must try Sachertorte – the legendary rich chocolate cake. And the only place that claims to have the original recipe is Café Sacher. It is located on Philharmoniker Strasse 4 – in the very heart of the city, right next to the Opera House.
Naschmarkt is a popular street market with food stalls and restaurants offering every type of local and international dishes. Whether you are in the mood for a Middle Eastern plate or one of Viennese fine deserts, you will find it here at a very reasonable price. Located between Karlplatz and Kettenbrückengasse metro stations.
Relatively close to Maria-Theresien-Platz, Erich restaurant and bar is a rare find for vegans and selective eaters. The menu is quite sophisticated and full of things you’ve never heard of. Try one of their famous bowls or vegan ice cream. Also a great place to have a drink. Located at Neustiftgasse 27.
Plachutta is a chain of traditional local cuisine restaurants. It’s a perfect place for a schnitzel or Tafelspitz – second most popular Austrian dish. I would recommend visiting Plachutta Hietzing on Auhofstrasse 1, as the ones in the city center tend to get overcrowded.