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.
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.
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!
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.
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, 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 northwest edge of the Imperial Palace grounds includes City
Hall (Rathaus), the Austrian Parliament Buildings with the statue of Athena,
Church and the Burgtheater (Imperial Court Theater).
The Burgtheater was built 1748 and is well known for its performances in
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
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"
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.
Danube Tower (Donauturm) - for views over the city.
(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.
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.
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.
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.