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VIENNA (Wien)

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Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria
St Michael's Wing, Hofburg Palace, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / chaoss

Vienna is the capital of Austria and its largest city, with an urban population of more than 2 million.   In German, the name is Wien, pronounced "veen".  The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist and convention destinations in Europe.  Vienna has Celtic and Roman origins, but the Hapsburgs had the greatest impact on Austria, controlling Europe from this region in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Music flourished in Vienna at that time and today it is known as the City of Music.  Musicians born in Vienna include Strauss I & II and Schubert.  Those who worked in Vienna include Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn.  The musical tradition continues to this day.  The Vienna Boys Choir is world renowned.  The annual Opera Ball is famous, but hundreds of balls are held every year in the city.  On the non-musical front, the Lippizaner Stallions have also received international acclaim for their performances. Vienna has often received top ranking in surveys for the world's most livable city and its residents have one of the highest standards of living in the world.  The summer months of May to September are perfect for visiting and spending time enjoying this city and its music.

Weather:

Vienna's climate is influenced by the Alps.  June - August has average highs of 75 F (24 C) and lows of 60 F (15C).  Precipitation is light and spread evenly throughout the year.  Snow falls from November to March and average lows are a few degrees below freezing during the winter.

Transportation:

The Austrian Rail System (OBB) offers many ticket options for rail transport to Vienna and rail is an easy way to reach the city.  In addition to participating in Eurail passes, Austria also has an Einfach-Raus ticket that offers single day rates for small groups on regional trains, similar to the Bayern Ticket in Germany.  The Vienna International Airport provides easy access to the city.  There is inexpensive commuter rail between the airport and the old town or take a more expensive half hour cab ride. Vienna is also a standard stop on Danube River cruises.  The U1 Red Line subway stops within walking distance of the river cruise ships and takes you directly to the Old Town.

Attractions in Vienna:

Most of the things to see and do in Vienna are located within walking distance of each other in the old town and in fact most are located on the extensive grounds of the Imperial (Hofburg) Palace.  The downtown area is enclosed by the Ringstrasse, which is comprised of 9 boulevards that surround the city center of Vienna.  The boulevards or rings were made in the 19th century for defensive purposes and roughly mark the location of the original walls of the city.  The only sites that aren't nearby are the Schonbrunn Palace, the Danube Tower and Danube Island, all of which are within 10 minutes by car.  Even though venues are nicely centralized, don't expect to see this city quickly.  It has so much to offer! 

Gloriette, Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Gloriette, Schonbrunn Palace, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / ESchweitzer

  • Schonbrunn Palace (Schloss Schonbrunn) is located about 10 minutes by vehicle from the city center.  You can also easily take the U4 Green Line subway from downtown.  This was the Hapsburgs' summer residence in days gone by.  Visit the Blue Chinese Salon, the Room of the Millions and the Hall of Mirrors, where six-year-old Mozart gave a concert for Queen Maria Theresa.  The world's oldest zoo, Tiergarten Schonbrunn, is located here, as are the Palm House and Orangery (botanical gardens).  Have lunch at the Gloriette Cafe with views over the grounds.

Lippizaner Stallion, Vienna

Lippizaner Stallion

  • Imperial Palace of Vienna (Hofburg Palace)  - This was the winter palace of the Hapsburgs and is now the President's residence.  It includes the Imperial Silver Collection, the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments.  Also in the complex is the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule) with its famous Lipizzaner stallion performances.  The school was founded in 1752 with horses from Slovenia.  On the other side of the plaza is St. Michael's Church.  It was built in the early 1200s and is where Mozart's "Requiem" was first performed.  Also on the plaza is the Demel Bakery and Cafe, which was formerly the imperial bakery.

Maria Theresa Square, Vienna

Maria Theresa Square, Museums Quartier

  • On the grounds of the Imperial Palace at Maria-Theresa-Square are the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum), the structurally identical Museum of Fine Arts (Kunsthistorisches Museum) and the Museum Quarter (Museumsquartier).  The Museum Quarter (Museumsquartier) has 12 museums, including the Vienna Museum of Modern Art (Moderner Kunst) and the Leopold Museum, with paintings by Austrian artist Egon Schiele.  The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the leading museums in the world.  It has works from Ancient Egypt to the late 18th century, including well known artists such as Vermeer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.  The main building on Ringstrasse houses the Picture Gallery, the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, the Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection, the Coin Collection, and the Kunstkammer.  At the nearby Neue Burg exhibits include the Collection of Historical Musical Instruments, the Collection of Arms and Armour and the Ephesus Museum.  The Museum of Ethnology - MuseumVolkerkunde on Heldenplatz and the Austrian Theatre Museum on Lobkowitz Square are also part of the museum.  

  • The southeast edge of the Imperial Palace grounds includes the Butterfly house (Schmetterlinghaus), the Albertina and the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper).  The Albertina has more than a million prints and drawings, including works by Munch, Chagall, Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec.  After a visit to the Opera, try the famous sacher cake (sachertorte) at the Cafe Sacher across the street.

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

St. Stephen's Cathedral, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / sborisov

  • The northwest edge of the Imperial Palace grounds includes City Hall (Rathaus), the Austrian Parliament Buildings with the statue of Athena, the Votive Church and the Burgtheater (Imperial Court Theater).  The Burgtheater was built 1748 and is well known for its performances in German.

  • St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) was rebuilt after a fire in 1258 and was heavily damaged during World War II.  There are over 340 steps to climb in order to enjoy views over the city from the tower.  The catacombs underneath the church serve as the final resting place for a many of the Hapsburgs.  Nearby is St Peter's Church (Peterskirche).

  • Belvedere Palace was built in 1721 and includes the Upper Belvedere, the Lower Belvedere, the Palace Stables and the Orangery (botanical gardens). See Gustav Klimt's painting "The Kiss" here.

  • The Wiener Riesenrad is a Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater Amusement Park (Wiener Prater) and it has excellent views of the city.  Prater is a very popular destination for the residents of Vienna and it includes parks and woodlands in addition to over 250 attractions.

  • Hundertwasserhaus is an unusual apartment complex with brightly colored units and with grass and trees incorporated around, on top of and inside the building.

  • Monument of Johann Strauss II at Stadtpark.

Vienna State Opera, Vienna, Austria

Vienna State Opera, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Ionia

  • St. Charles's Church (Karlskirche) at the Karlsplatz, completed in 1737.

  • Vienna University of Technology

  • Academy of Fine Arts

  • The Secession Building (Sezession) - Union of Austrian Artists

  • Austrian Museum of Applied Arts

  • Sigmund Freud Museum

  • Danube Tower (Donauturm) - for views over the city.

  • Danube Island (Donauinsel) - a 13 mile long man-made island built in the 1970s in the Danube River for flood control.  This is a perfect place for biking, jogging, roller blading and sports.  Plus there are restaurants and bars too.  Each June the Donauinselfest is held here.

  • St Francis of Assisi Church (Franz-von-Assisi-Kirche)

  • Stroll the shops and department stores on the Mariahilferstrasse for more than a mile near the city center.

  • Attend an opera or a concert.  Choices include the State Opera House, the Volksoper Wien, the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus. 

  • Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna - free.

  • Take a tour outside of town to the Vienna woods with Local Vienna Tours or Viator

Austrian Parliament, Vienna, Austria

Austrian Parliament, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / vladacanon

Things to see and do Near Vienna:

Vienna Tours:

Church Heiliger Franz of Assisi, Vienna, Austria

St Francis of Assisi Church, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / sborisov

Savor the Tastes of Vienna:

  • Vienna is famous for the practice of spending major amounts of time each day at a coffee house.  Try Viennese coffee at a traditional coffeehouse.  Viennese coffee has two shots of espresso and uses whipped cream and a bit of chocolate in place of cream and sugar.  Popular coffee shops include Cafe Demel, Cafe Sacher, Cafe Landtmann, which Sigmund Freud used to frequent from the University of Vienna, Cafe Museum and Cafe Central at Palais Ferstl.  Palais Ferstel was the social center of Vienna in the early 1900s and it includes Cafe Central, ballrooms and salon areas.

  • Naschmarkt - this market is a colorful combination of fresh vegetables, fruits and spices combined with a flea market on Saturdays.  The market spans Wiener Strasse for more than a kilometre and has existed since the 16th century. 

  • Wiener Schnitzel (yes, Wiener means "from Vienna" and not a hotdog).

  • Sachertorte - apricot and chocolate cake invented by Franz Sacher in Vienna in the 1800s.  A legal dispute between the Demel Bakery and Cafe Sacher resulted in the Demel Bakery being given the right to use the trademark "The Original Sacher Torte", however there are no restrictions against any bakery selling their own version of sachertorte.  It's really only popular in Vienna.

  • Apple Strudel (pastry with nuts or cheese).

  • Beugel (croissant with nuts).

  • Rehrucken (chocolate cake).

  • Kasekrainer (pork sausage stuffed with cheese).

Karlskirche, Vienna, Austria

Karlskirche, © Can Stock Photo Inc. / tanjakrstevska

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