August 19, 2017

The Absolute Best things to see and do in Vienna, Austria



Vienna often gets listed in surveys as one of the most livable cities in the world. Take a look to see why.

Vienna during the day

Things to See and Do in Vienna


Wien! Sounds kind of weird to an English speaker, but that’s the actual name in German of Vienna, the capital of Austria. It’s hard to make a complete guide for any great city, but here goes.

Vienna Historical Attractions

Vienna at night
Below in my humble opinion of this author are some of the most important things to see when visiting Vienna.




Wiener Rathaus

Photo taken from www.wien.info
The Wiener Rathaus is Vienna’s town hall and the seat of the State Government of Vienna meets. But honestly, that’s not the reason why people come here. They come to this spectacularly-decorated 14,000 square meter Gothic-style complex for its historical significance and beauty. Built in the constructed in the 1880s, the Rathausmann is famous for its façade with four tall towers (two on each side) with a taller, 98-meter tall one in the middle.

While the exterior is a definitely a sight to be seen, the Rathaus’ interior is also worth exploring. You can actually take a tour to see the City Senate Chamber with its intricately-decorated gold-leaf ceiling, the Mayor’s reception room and the two famous Grand Staircases leading to the Rathaus’ Assembly Hall. In the building’s center are arcaded courtyards that are used in the summer for concerts and other festivals.

Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1
1010 Wien, Austria

Spanish Riding School


The Spanish Riding School is exactly what the name describes: a riding school for a special breed of horses (Lipizzan) from Spain. The school has been in existance for over 450 years and was once mainly used to train the royal Habsburg horses as well as those of military officiers. Today though the center is a tourist attraction and puts on remarkable shows for the public. Think of it as a sort of ballet, but for horses with skilled riders.

Spanish Riding School
Michaelerplatz 1
1010 Wien, Austria

Esperanto Museum


I first read the term “Esperanto” while reading a biography of George Soros. It turns out that he actually spoke this peculiar yet relatively modern European language. In case you’re wondering, Esperanto is hybrid of various Romance, Germanic and Slavic languages. It’s creator, Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, wanted to create a way that would ease communication among disparate groups of people. In order to both preserve Zamenhof’s legacy as well as the language itself, Vienna’s Esperanto Museum was created in 1927.

The museum has many exhibits displaying all sorts of Esperanto objects – books, posters, manuals, toothpaste tubes and soda bottles with labels written in Esperanto. The museum also has a collection of over 20,000 old photographs that are worth seeing.

Esperanto Museum
Herrengasse 9
1010 Wien, Austria

Karlskirche

Photo taken from www.wien.info
The Karlskirche, or Church of St. Charles Borromeo, is a Baroque church dedicated to the saint of curing people from plagues. Crowned on the outside by a 72-meter dome and flanked by two, twin 33-meter Triumphal Pillars (inspired by Trajan’s Column in Rome), the church is just as impressive on the outside as is its cool collection of artwork and frescoes with its interior.

Karlskirche
Kreuzherrengasse 1
1040 Wien, Austria

Graben

from Flickr use Abariltur
Meaning “trench” in German, Graben is one of the oldest and most popular streets in Vienna, dating back to Roman times. What is today a street used to be a trench that surrounded Vienna’s old city walls. Eventually though the trench was filled up and became a street where craftsmen would live and work in wooden houses. Today it is one of the most posh areas of the city and famous for its expensive shops and restaurants.

Hundertwasserhaus

Photo taken from www.wgsn.com
One of Vienna’s more eclectic structures, the Hundertwasserhaus is a colorful apartment complex near the city’s Landstraße district. It was named after Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian-born artist from New Zealand. Working with architect Joseph Krawina, the two came up with the building’s unique design. Each of the 52 apartments is painted a different color. Many of these have several trees growing on their roofs, inside some of them and along the sides of many of the other units. My guess is that Hundertwasser and Krawina were trying to send out some sort of ecological message when they decided to construct it.

Hundertwasserhaus
Kegelgasse 36-38
1030 Wien, Austria

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Photo taken from wikimedia commons
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a.k.a. the Stephansdom, is the current seat of the Archbishop in Vienna. The cathedral was all but destroyed during World War II. However being one of Vienna’s most grand and famous landmarks, the cathedral was rebuilt in the seven years following the war. Though services are still held, the cathedral is today more of an art museum than a holy sanctuary. Highlights include the over 230,000 glazed tiles that cover the roof, the Maria Pötsch icon (a Byzantine icon specifically), the many ornate alters and of course, the cathedral’s towering spire that seems to scrap the heavens.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Stephansplatz 3
1010 Wien, Austria

Vienna State Opera House

Vienna Opera House; photo taken from wikiwand
Along with being the home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the State Opera House a.k.a. the Wiener Staatsoper is one of the most famous centers for the performing arts in the world. The with an average of over 300 performances a year, the Opera House has played host to some of the world’s most prominent composers and artists. Opened nearly 400 years ago in 1625, the opera has been be renovated and expanded over the centuries. Even if you’re not able to catch a show, you should still visit to check out the building’s interior such as the grand staircase, the Schwind Foyer and the famous Tea Room. For this, there are plenty of multi-language tours available.

Vienna State Opera House
Opernring 2
1010 Wien, Austria

Capuchin Church


More than anything, Vienna’s modest Capuchin Church is best known for the Kapuzinergruft , with is a collection of nine, huge vaults containing the remains of nearly every Habsburg emperor and members of their family (145 in all) since 1633 are buried here). However, the church is more museum than mausoleum. Among these, probably the most famous vault is that of the Empress Maria Theresa which contains a domed chamber with a double sarcophagus in the form of a bed of state with depictions of her and her husband with an angel and crown of stars. On the sides of the sarcophagus are several reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the great empress.

Tegetthoffstraße 2
1010 Wien, Austria

Burggarten

Photo taken from www.traveltipy.com/
Located near the Hofburg and patterned after English gardens, the Burggarten was the court garden for the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Hapsburg rulers. Today though it’s a popular place for the citizens of Vienna to frolic among the many tree-lined walkways and ponds. The park also contains a memorial to Mozart and another cool building called the Palmenhaus, which is a glass palm house, part of which houses tropical butterflies.

Josefsplatz 1
1010 Wien, Austria

Ringstrasse

Photo taken from www.wien.info
As the name implies, the Ringstrasse is a road about 5 km long that encircles the inner city of Vienna. Commissioned by Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph in the mid-19th century, the Ringstrasse contains many of the city’s most important buildings such as the Vienna’s City Hall, the Stock Exchange, the State Opera House, several museums, the occasional palace and some very, VERY expensive homes. People who are into architectural will marvel at this area’s buildings, most of which are made up of several different styles.

The Belvedere Complex

Photo taken from www.belvedere.at
Austria’s emperors really love building opulent palaces, and the Belvedere palatial complex is no exception. The complex was commissioned by Prince Eugen of Savoy, hero of the 1683 siege of Vienna against the Ottoman Turks in 1683. The majority of the complex is made up of several Baroque-style palaces, stables and gardens including the Orangery and also a moderately-sized lake/reflecting pool. One of the best times to visit the Belvedere is when it is lit up at night.

Belvedere Complex
Prinz Eugen-Straße 27
1030 Wien, Austria

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Hofburg Palace; photo taken from wikipedia.org
Built in the 13th century, the Hofburg Imperial Palace has been a fixture of Vienna ever since. It was once home of the Hapsburgs emperors and also previously of the Holy Roman Empire.
The palace is huge and contains several halls and wings that were built over the centuries by the various rulers who occupied the structure. Visitors are able to see the Imperial Apartments the Sisi Museum, and area with Imperial items known as the Silver Collection.

The Hofburg is also the current home of the President of Austria.

Hofburg Palace
Michaelerkuppel
1010 Wien, Austria

Schonbrunn Palace

Photo taken from www.schoenbrunn.at
I had mentioned earlier that Austrian rulers loved their palaces. Well, the 1,441 room Schönbrunn Palace proves this is not a simple exaggeration. I’d call it Austria’s answer to France’s Versailles. Built between 1696 – 1712 by Emperor Leopold I, the Schonbrunn is arguably one of Austria’s greatest architectural and historical wonders. Be warned: there is a lot to see here. Examples include the beautiful marble house known as the Gloriette, the Privy Garden, which is the world’s oldest zoo, the botanical gardens, old Roman ruins known as the Ruin of Carthage, the Great Parterre of Schönbrunn which contains 32 sculptures and of course, tours of the seemingly innumerable rooms of the palace itself. If you ever wanted to see the physical manisfestation of opulence, this area is it.

Schonbrunn Palace
Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47
1130 Wien, Austria

Additional Vienna Resources

For more on Vienna (and trust me, there is a lot more), check out some of the sites, books and other resources below.

Official City of Vienna City and Tourism Site

Things to Do in Vienna (Official Austria Tourism Info)


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