Visiting Vienna - What to See and Do
(Vienna International Airport VIE, Austria)
Thanks to the Viennese devotion to Gemütlichkeit, or relaxation as they envision it, Vienna is one Austrian city where you can expect to chill out at attractions and have plenty of company doing it. Visitors can linger in a coffee-infused sidewalk café, indulge in chocolate shops and wander in parks that seem better suited for royalty than mere mortal tourists.
Spread along the mighty Danube River, Vienna is a genuine charmer. It helps that the uber-powerful Habsburg Empire called Vienna home for more than six centuries. No emperor wants to live surrounded by squalor, yet thankfully the regal ambience of this city has survived well past this legendary European dynasty.
You may well like to savor the stunning art works preserved in the trendy Museum Quarter, dream a Baroque fantasy in the grounds of the Belvedere Palace or the Hofburg Imperial Palace, and wake up early to grab wafting baked treasures in the Naschmarkt. The Austrian capital even parties when it wants to, although not surprisingly even the waltz is still considered a cool way to spend a night out.
Ten things you must do in Vienna
- Imagine the splendour of the Habsburg reign at the Hofburg Winter Palace, right in the heart of the city. From their imperial court in Vienna, this epic European power family left behind its magnificent Winter Palace (built in 1279), as well as the equally opulent Schonbrunn Summer Palace just outside of the city.
- Take a rest in a true Viennese coffee house, where two dozen varieties of java coffee accompany a parade of unbelievably tasty pastries, no matter where you drop in. Coffee culture is an institution in Vienna, so feel free to linger while catching on some reading or socialising with some locals over delightful coffee.
- Stroll along the Karntnerstrasse, the premier pedestrian strip right in the heart of the city. This is easily the best spot in town for people-watching, preferably from a sidewalk table at one of the many cafés. Day or night, street performers entertain, while shoppers browse along this iconic stretch of urbanity.
- Cruise along the Danube River for a special perspective of Vienna's cityscape, as well as the lovely Austrian countryside in the area. Every cruise will pass by quaint historic Austrian villages like Melk and Krems, while passengers lounge on the deck and soak in the views. This is a superb way to spend an afternoon on the water.
- Witness a taste of imperial Viennese life from the golden era at the Spanish Riding School, where the beautiful white Lipizzaner stallions perform a choreographed display of their grace and speed every day for a select few visitors. You'll need to plan ahead for this exclusive performance and reserve your tickets at least a month in advance.
- Vienna is legendary for its refined culture, so there's no better place to watch a performance of one of Mozart's symphonies or hear the famous Vienna Boys' Choir, which has been performing in the city since 1498. They sing every Sunday from September to June at the Hofburgkapelle.
- Vienna's Opera House, the Staatsoper, is one of the world's great venues. Treat yourself to a classy night out in your best dress and enjoy an opera at this magical theatre from the 1860s. Backed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the music and performers are always top-flight.
- Play for the day at the Prater Amusement Park, the city's top fun spot for kids and adults alike. Since the 18th century, the general public have been strolling its sunny paths and lingering in the outdoor cafés scattered around this amazing city park. Its Ferris wheel, featured in the famous movie The Third Man, is more than a century old and is another classic highlight, and if you're really active you can play golf, tennis and other sports onsite.
- The 18th-century University Botanical Gardens is another great attraction when you need some time immersed in nature. Over 20 acres / 8 hectares at the University of Vienna are home to some 10,000 species of plants and herbs, an ideal and aromatic spot to unwind from the cityscape without even leaving town.
- Get inspired by St. Stephen's Cathedral, an absolute masterpiece of Gothic architecture that rivals anything in Europe. Its proportions are simply magical, being enhanced by its intricate interior sculptures and altars. The South Tower is even open to the public, rewarding those who can climb the steep spiral stairs with arguably the best views of Vienna.