Vienna, a city rich in tradition, history, beautiful music and home to geniuses such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Strauss. Vienna is magical and without a doubt deserves to be crowned as the most liveable city in the world.
The city moves at its own slow pace beckoning visitors with its ornate imperial palaces, relaxed coffeehouses, cobbled alleyways but on the other hand it’s also bohemian, trendy, and a place to party late into the night.
Vienna is the capital of Austria and home to 23 districts which go back in history and were first documented as a city in 1137. In 1155, Residence to the House of Babenberg, followed by the House of Habsburg ruling for over 600 years. The city is well known for is rulers Maria Theresa’s, Emperor Franz Joseph I and his beloved wife, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (aka Sissi). The official language of Austria is German, although most people speak English but always nice to learn a few words in local language.
You can get some great information about this city from travel ,accommodation and sightseeing through a very trusted and informative site Austria Info.
Best time to go.
There is never a best time to visit Vienna. From the enchanting Christmas markets in the winter months with the city illuminated and festive to the long sunny days of the summer when there are people everywhere. Vienna is an all year city so take your pick and visit this magical city when you fancy.
However the best time to visit Austria in general is during spring, between April – May, and in fall, between September – October. The weather is excellent for outdoor activities, and less crowded. The high tourist season is between June – August with great weather and long sunny days. We chose the end of August and its was perfect for a long summer weekend.
Being in the heart of Europe Vienna’s Flughafen International airport is is well connected to most parts of the world. It is located in Schwechat, 18 km away from the main city and 57 km west of Bratislava. It is also accessible by train from cities such as Budapest, Bratislava, Prague and Munich.
The airport is small but very efficient. Once you’ve touched down there is a choice of transportation including the CAT (City Airport Train) a direct train service that takes just 15 minutes to reach the city centre.
If you prefer a taxi then walk out of the airport and there is a taxi stand. Rough cost €40 for a ride to the city centre.
Skyscanner is a good place to start your search and gives you a good comparison searching millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline.
Level Airline – We went with a brand new airline Level owned by the British Airways owner IAG and abrand new European budget airline. Flying directly from London Gatwick to Vienna International and a very impressive service.
Visiting Vienna for the first time, it’s not cheap so be prepared. The city is very safe and has a fantastic infrastructure of buses, trams, trains and subways which are run on time and can take you virtually everywhere. A day pass will cost you €8 and you can access any mode of transport within the city. The public transport system is amazing and we spent a to of time on the trams which is a great way to see the city.
If you prefer the more touristy way the then the Hop on Hop off Bus company is at your service. Most of the sightseeing is quite close together and within walking distance so a good way to enjoy the city is to walk. If you are tired of walking around, you can always hop on to a tram or use the underground or the buses. For only 24EUR you get unlimited travel for 3 days in Vienna. Make sure to order yours online.
Where to Stay
When it comes to accommodation and where to stay there is a vast choice depending on your budget and priorities. I would suggest living centrally in and around the main Cathedral where it all happens and is a walking distance from most tourist sites. Apart from 2 main tourist attractions ( The Schonbrunn Palace and The Prater ) everything is within the so called 1st District and walking distance so try and book your accommodation around this area.
We opted for the Vienna Marriott Hotel . Located in the very heart of the city and a short walk away from Saint Stephen’s Cathedral the hotel has the perfect location for a holiday or visiting the city on business. The hotel is opposite the Stadtpark, Vienna’s so called green lung and welcomes its guests with a mixture of Viennese charm and American spirit. You can read my hotel review for the Marriott Vienna on the my reviews.
Things To Do
Vienna is not a cheap city so be prepared. Most of the attractions have entry fee so buying a Vienna Pass is a good way to save some money. For details check their website @ Vienna Pass.
Start your tour of Vienna with the Inner City which contains most of the popular sites of Vienna. Adorning the city is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral which is in the heart of the city and a must visit. If you can make sure to visit the viewing gallery at the top of the cathedral for some great views of the city and the ornate tile work of the cathedral.
St Stephens cathedral has stood here for more than 700 years now, the magnificent cathedral watches over the city, and seen by the Austrians as one of the most important and most beloved landmarks of the country. You could climb the 343 steps up to the tower and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of the city.
Walk along the the 1st district and envy the historical buildings along the Ring or around the St. Stephens Square.
Next stop the famous Hofburg Imperial Palace. Built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards the palace lies at the centre of Vienna with its great copper dome called the Michaelerkuppel. The palace is the former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers but currently serves as the official residence and workplace of the Austrian President. It also served as the imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence.
This is one of Vienna’s most magnificent baroque palaces and is located within the listed historic centre. Visitors to the Hofburg can explore the Imperial Apartments, visit the Sisi Museum and the Silver collections which are unique and a great pice of art.
After our date with history it was time to sample some of the most popular cafes of Vienna. Vienna is the birthplace of the coffeehouse and one of the most famous and talked about is the The Sacher Café. Popular for its delicious Sachertorte you can’t visit Vienna and miss this prestigious establishment. Be prepared to wait as this is one of the most famous cafes in Vienna.
The best way to enjoy the sweet torte is with a strong cup of Viennese coffee.
After all that caffeine and sugar we walked around Vienna’s green lung the Stadtpark (City Park) which was right opposite out hotel. The park is home to the famous golden statue of Johann Strauss on his violin and another composers Franz Schubert is also featured here in the park . It is a popular tourist attraction and great place to have walk and enjoy the greenery of this city.
We finish our day with a schnitzel at Figmuller. The establishment is famous for Viennese food and celebrated for its fabulous schnitzel that symbolises Vienna’s incomparable lifestyle for over 110 years. It is as popular with the locals as the tourists so try and book in advance to avoid long waitings.
I would highly recommend a visit to Figmuller not just for the food but also a very good collection of Austrian wine. The perfect way to end our first day in Vienna.
Th two most popular and important sights of Vienna. We start with the Schönbrunn Palace. The Schönbrunn Palace is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site with a stunning 1,441 including the ones of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Sisi. The palace contains some of their personal items as the Empress left them.
Visit the famous Hall of Mirrors, where a star was born. At the age of six Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart practiced here and there is a rumour that he once kissed the Empress Maria Theresa. Another key part of the palace is the Million Room panelled with rosewood and decorated with miniatures from India and Persia.
After a tour of the palace you can spend your time walking around the beautiful gardens. The Schonbrunn palace is also home to the world’s oldest zoo and a great way to keep the little ones happy. Try and book tickets online to avoid the rush or make use of your Vienna Pass, it is best to arrive early to make most of this palace. The ticket have a specific time to enter the palace with an audio guide provided in a language of your choice.
After our rounds of the palace it was time to enjoy our lunch at the elegantly decorated Cafe Residenz situated within the Schönbrunn Palace grounds. They have a great selection of pastries and the best place to find out how to make the original Viennese Apple Strudel. You can attend the Apple Strudel Show located just outside the Cafe which runs by the hour and you will get to sample it at the end of the show. You also receive the original recipe all for a nominal fee of €6 or free with your Vienna Pass.
Next stop – Prater and the Giant Ferris Wheel, but on the way we stopped at the Hundertwasser Haus a popular attraction made up of colourful apartments in a quiet neighbourhood of Vienna. A residential building of the city of Vienna, Built under the mayors of Vienna Leopold Gratz and Helmut Zilk in the years 1983–1985. A house in harmony with nature. As there are people residing in these apartment you can’t enter them but all you can do is to admire them and take pictures from the outside.
Hundertwasser Haus is made up of 53 apartments, 4 offices, private and communal terraces and it is considered as a place of cultural heritage.
Prater and the Giant Ferris Wheel.
The Wurstelprater is an amusement park that dates back to the time of the Emperor Joseph II who used it as an Imperial hunting ground until it was opened to the public in 1766.
The best-known attraction is the Wiener Riesenrad, a Ferris wheel. The park also features various rides, shooting galleries, ghost trains and houses the famous Madame Tussauds wax works as well. Apart from the rides, the park features various famous traditional Viennese restaurants such as the Schweizerhaus and the Walfisch and is buzzing with both locals and tourists.
The park is open from 10:00 am to 1:00 am daily in its season, which runs from March 15 to October 31.The Giant Ferris Wheel has been turning since 1897 with some of the best views of Vienna from above. The wheel rotates quite slowly and was made popular by the epic film “The Third Man”.
Started our day with a visit to the popular Naschmarkt. It is by far one of the most famous food and produce market in Vienna with a wide range of things to shop, see, eat, drink and to enjoy. Visited by the Austrians since the 16th century the Naschmarkt had products brought here by vendors from overseas by boats and ships from different parts of the world.
There are several restaurants where you can enjoy cuisines from around the world and a fun place overall. On the weekend, the market extends with a bunch of vendors from surrounding farms and is a great place to visit. From fresh produce to quick bites featuring Austrian and ethnic cuisine in more than 120 stalls, it’s excellent for people-watching swell.
The Belvedere Palace.
The Belvedere gardens are a gem of Baroque landscape and design and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made up of 2 different layers known as the Lower and Upper Belvedere it features beautiful gardens which connect the palace.
The Upper Belvedere is home to the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s art. The Lower Belvedere features many temporary art exhibitions. The Palace is beautiful with fountains, statues and cascades. Entry to the garden is free of charge.
We finish our day with a visit to the Golden Quarter located in the heart of the city between St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Stock Exchange. Here you can find luxurious shopping with some of the major European brands plus some local gems.
You can walk all the way to the famous Vienna Opera House and marvel at this beautiful building. If you get a chance try and watch a concert in this magnificent building. The Vienna State Opera is prized for its exceptional acoustics. There are performances almost 300 nights a year and a different billing virtually every day.
We finish our day with a visit to the Cafe Central one of the many cafes Vienna has to offer. It is said that the Ottoman soldiers left a few sacks of coffee beans as they retrieved after a failed siege, leaving behind the accidental gift of coffee.
My favourite Cafe’s
Café Sacher Wien – The quintessential Austrian café in the heart of Vienna which gives you the chance to sample a typical Viennese coffee-house atmosphere and the Original Sacher-Torte. The most famous cake in the world since 1832 and the original recipe remains a well-kept secret here. It tastes best with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream.
Aida Café. – A Viennese tradition since 1913, perfect for a coffee and cake, and people watching. This is a popular chain now and has a few outlets dotted around Vienna.
Café Diglas – With its rich interior, cozy red chairs, take a step back in time and listen to the live piano in the evening while you sip and savour their perfect treats. A great place for a quick lunch as well.
Cafe Central – Opened its doors in 1876 and visited by numerous notable historical figures such as Leo Trotsky, Arthur Schnitzler the café continues to profit from the reputation of its literary past.One of the most popular with tourists so be ready to wait.
Café Hawelka – One of the oldest and still manages to keep up with its authentic charm.Th legendary bohemian spot in Wien, Hawelka is a Viennese institution and a must visit.
Demel – The coffee house of the royal court confectionery is renowned for its exquisite sweets that are served in a unique originally preserved saloon, furnished in rococo style at the end of the 19th century. If you value traditional ambience you should not miss this confectionery which was founded more then 200 years ago.
You could end up spending a lot of your time in some of these finest cafes Vienna has to offer.
There are few other places that make up the tourist trail in Vienna which I am listing below so take your pick and make the most of this beautiful city.
Imperial Burial Vault – Also known as the Capuchin Crypt, the imperial burial vault is the resting place of the emperors and empresses of the House of Hapsburg. Leopold Museum
The Leopold Museum is located in the Museum Quarter and hosts some important Viennese Art Nouveau, Wiener Werkstätte, and expressionism. Although I enjoyed the art presented in the museum, I found the customer service to be a little abrupt.
Mumok Museum One of the largest museum of modern and contemporary art in Central Europe.
Natural History Museum Opened its doors in 1889 with an amazing collection, including the famed “Venus of Willendorf”, a very old and treasured artefacts the museum.
Mozart Conecrt – Another must if you can is to try and attend a Classical Music Concert in the capital of classical music. There are several concerts that happen in various locations in the city but the best is the Mozart Requiem at the St. Charles Church.
- Marvel at the centrepiece of Vienna the St. Stephen’s Cathedral standing tall in all its glory.
- Treat yourself to the Apfelstrudel a Viennese speciality.
- Stroll the palace grounds of the Schonbrunn palace on a sunney afternoon.
- Enjoy a meal at the open-air extravaganza of the Naschmarkt with its fresh produces from around the world.
- Spend an afternoon in the Museums Quarter an enormous cultural institution comprising of numerous top-notch museums.
- Visit the State Opera House the city’s premier venue for the performing arts and a major focal point of Viennese life.
- Enjoy the Belvedere palace and gardens the best examples of Baroque architecture in the world.
- Watch the Lipizzaners perform at the famous Spanish Riding School.
- Ride the Wiener Riesenrad the charmingly old-fashioned Ferris wheel
- Walk the streets of Judenplatz a neighbourhood that remained the epic-enter of Jewish life in Vienna.
- Spend time at the Hofburg Palace, a city within a city and reflecting the royal family’s wealth and grandeur.
- Sip a coffee and watch time fly at one the many cafes of Vienna.
- Cruise the Danube and enjoy a candle light dinner.
- Enjoy an evening at one of the many events held in front of the Town Hall located on Rathausplatz.
- Dine at the Figmuller flagship restaurant on Wollzeile often referred to as the “Home of the Schnitzel”
- Visit the Tiergarten Zoo, the oldest zoo in the world located within the grounds of the Sconbrunn Palace.
- Step back in time with a horse carriage ride from the Heldenplatz at the Hofburg Palace.
- Say goodbye with a piece of Vienna ,the most famous cake in the world since 1832 The Original Sacher-Torte.
What an amazing city and truly one that needs to be crowned one of the best city to live in.These 3 days have given me a true sense of what the Viennese life is all about. Whether it’s the grandeur of the palaces or the classic coffeehouse, there is something special about Vienna.