Charisma, culture, charm and cakes
When I reminisce about Vienna, my immediate thoughts drift to palatial palaces, exquisite fountains and squares and elegant cafés. Austria’s capital city just exudes style and has a classy culture to match.
Vienna is nestled along the shores of the River Danube, and if you are after a city-break with that little something special, then Vienna is the one.
Austria’s parliament building in Vienna
Horse-drawn Carriage tour
When you stroll around the historic streets, the architecture is so striking. It is such a pleasure that there is an absence of towering buildings, distracting from what is truly a beautiful city.
Visiting any city, there is always a degree of compromise on what you can fit in. With Vienna, you’ll definitely want to try one of their delicious Viennese cakes. I’ve put together a list of the things Gary and I enjoyed during our visit to Vienna. As usual, there is always a good helping of history and culture.
A night at the Opera
The Vienna State Opera is a beautiful building, erected in the Renaissance Revival style in 1869. It was the first building to be constructed on Vienna’s grand circular boulevard. This incredible opera stages around 300 performances a year, so, you should be lucky in catching a show.
The Vienna State Opera
The programme is continually changing as they have 58 different operas and 21 ballet productions to choose from. The opera house can seat just over 1,700 people.
You may also recognise it from the Tom Cruise movie, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
The magnificent Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens of are slightly out the city centre of Vienna; however, they are most definitely worth a visit. The palace and gardens were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996.
The Schönbrunn Palace
The stunning 1,441 room Rococo palace was built for the House of Habsburg as a summer residence, and it really does have an impact. Once you’ve taken a tour of the palace, step outside to the beautiful Baroque gardens.
The gardens are amazing, colourful and immaculately kept. Dotted around the grounds are life-size sculptures of Greek gods and mythological figures.
Prior to heading up Gloriette Hill, you come to Neptune’s Fountain, which was built around 1780. Take a stroll around the back, and you’ll get a wonderful view of the palace.
As you gently wind your way up through the gardens, the Gloriette emerges more and more into view. Sitting high on the hill you’ll get incredible views of Schönbrunn Palace and the rooftops of Vienna in the distance.
If you fancy heading into to Schönbrunn Palace and like the idea of skipping the line grab your ticket here.
A Palace & Garden Tour
I must admit I wasn’t going to embark on a horse-drawn carriage tour, somehow it just didn’t appeal.
However, after a couple of days of watching them trot at a graceful pace passing the historical monuments, I was won over.
We headed off on fiaker tour as the sun was setting and it was a beautiful way to see the city in all its glory.
I would highly recommend it.
Out on our evening horse-drawn carriage
A helpful guide
If you've yet to discover the beautiful architecture and the delicious cakes in Vienna, you're in for a treat. I found this DK Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide invaluable, they're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our Vienna adventure, now you can grab the revised copy.
The Hofburg was once the Imperial Palace of the House of Habsburg and similar to Schönbrunn. It was used as their winter residence.
Neue Burg, the crescent-shaped building overlooks Heldenplatz
The Hofburg has been extended over the centuries with several elegant wings being added. The eye-catching crescent-shaped Neue Burg overlooks the Heldenplatz (Heroes Square).
Passing under arches continuing through the charming complex is the Spanish Riding School. Also here is one of my favourite squares in Vienna which was St. Michael's Square. Especially when the sunset and the arch were illuminated.
St. Michael's Square
The Burg Theatre, which is one of the most important theatres in Austria, was initially adjoined to the Hofburg when it was built in 1741. It was then moved in 1888 to its current location and is a truly stunning building.
Did you know?
The historic centre of Vienna was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Vienna is currently on the ‘in danger’ list, due to the planning of a high-rise development which contravenes the height restriction in place by UNESCO.
Visit a museum
The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
The two museums looked identical both have a 60-meter-high dome and were both opened in 1891. They look across at each other in the gardens of Maria-Theresien-Platz and form part of the Imperial Palace.
Keep a lookout for the ever-changing exhibitions.
Something a little different architecturally is Hundertwasserhaus. It is a residential building which was designed by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and wow it’s so striking. Constructed between 1983 and 1985 and has become a popular attraction with visitors.
Hundertwasser encouraged the garishness of the house and also the planting of trees and shrubs around the courtyards, balconies and roof terraces.
Something to make your travels easier?
Places of worship
There so many beautiful churches and chapels around Vienna, some snuggled alongside streets. In contrast, others stand so grand in their own squares. Karlskirche is one to visit, this ornate Baroque church is located in Karlsplatz. Unfortunately for us is was undergoing a little TLC.
Karlskirche - Well. the roof!
The architectural styles in one city alone are incredible, from the vibrant Baroque to the Gothic and then to the modest lines of Romanesque.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
The place of worship that stands out like no other in Vienna is St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Constructed on the ruins of two previous churches, one of which was consecrated in 1147.
The cathedral that stands today in St. Stephansplatz is so striking, particularly its ornately coloured tiled roof.
There are 230,000 glazed tiles that cover the roof and are displayed as the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle, the coat of arms of the city of Vienna.
Doubled headed eagle on the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Ahh, now if you’re heading to Vienna, then you really should find the time to visit one of the elegant Viennese Cafés. These stylish cafés have a history dating back centuries, there’s always time to enjoy a coffee.
Of course, while you are there you need to sample the delicious cakes, it would be rude, not too. Over the last few years, I’ve become a bit of a chocolate fiend, so when I spotted the Sachertorte, there was no other choice.
Inside the elegant Café Central
The hop-on hop-off bus tours are not always everyone’s cup of tea, and I understand that. However, in a city like Vienna when there are quite a few places out of town, then these tours make it so easy to reach them.
Also, you see a lot of other locations along the way that you may not have otherwise seen.
So, don’t dismiss it out of hand, take a peek at what is on offer on the multi-lingual Big Bus tour.
The big bus tour
Once you’ve visited the Schönbrunn Palace, jump off at Naschmarkt and visit Vienna’s vibrant food market. A market has existed here since the 16th Century.
Have you seen?
Viennese wine, Grinzing
A friend of mine that lived in Vienna for several years told me about Grinzing and its wine-growing region. I never realised that they had vineyards in Vienna and so close to the city centre.
Wine growing region Grinzing
The local wine is served in small Viennese taverns known as Heuriger. They have great beer gardens too, so if wine isn’t your tipple enjoy a local ale.
In the courtyard of a Heuriger in Grinzing
Inspired to visit Vienna?
Pack your bag and make a weekend of it, there is so much to see in this stylish city.
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