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Vienna: Ideas, Sights & Itineraries

Austria’s capital offers a unique blend of imperial traditions and stunning architecture. Famous for its many cultural events, classical concerts, imperial architecture, coffee houses, cozy wine taverns, and the very special Viennese charm.

Vienna’s history dates back to the first post-Christian century when the Romans established the military camp Vindobona. Today’s cityscape is characterized by the abundance of baroque buildings created mostly under the rule of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Franz Joseph who was largely responsible for the monumental architecture along the Ringstrasse, Vienna’s magnificent grand boulevard.

Schloss Schönbrunn, the former imperial summer residence, is one of the most popular sights. The imposing palace with the beautifully tended formal gardens, the Gloriette monument, the Palm House, and the zoo attract a great number of visitors each year. The vast Hofburg (Imperial Palace) was once the home of the Habsburg family for over six centuries, and is an impressive repository of culture and heritage.

Today the splendid baroque Belvedere Palace houses the Österreichische Galerie (Austrian Gallery) displaying the largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt, e.g. the magnificent "The Kiss", as well as famous paintings by Egon Schiele. Vienna’s prime landmarks are the gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Giant Ferris Wheel in the Prater, Vienna’s old recreational park, and the Spanish Riding School with their world-famous Lipizzaner horses.

Vienna has a great number of museums and galleries of international reputation: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien with the world’s largest collection of Bruegel paintings. The MuseumsQuartier with the Leopold Museum (Schiele), the MUMOK - Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (Museum of Modern Art), the Architekturzentrum (Architectural Center) and Kunsthalle rank among the city's most important cultural venues. The Albertina is home to the world’s largest collection of graphic arts and prints (60,000 drawings, 1 million prints).

Vienna owes much of its international fame to the many celebrated composers who lived and worked here including Strauß, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is rated one of the world’s best orchestras, the Vienna State Opera one of the world’s leading opera houses, and the Vienna Boys’ Choir one of the world’s most famous choirs.

In Vienna, centuries-old coffee houses and rustic wine taverns stand alongside celebrated restaurants and specialty shops. Time-honored events, especially during the ball season, enjoy a unique and very special ambiance. Another special feature of Vienna is its many greenspaces and recreational areas such as the Vienna Woods, the Prater and the Danube Island.

Vienna: 3-Day Discovery

Vienna, the city of music, art, culture and fine food is the beating heart of Europe. Vienna is old, Vienna is new. It is proud of its imperial heritage and, at the same time, at the forefront of the world's arts and creative industries once again. Nowhere else can you find such a dense concentration of so many significant buildings, palaces and parks. Take the time to explore this amazing city. Vienna is always worth it.

Day 1
Morning

Start your exploration in the center of the old city and visit the Hofburg, the former Imperial Palace. From the 13th century until 1918, this enormous complex sat at the center of the Habsburg Empire. In the private apartments and state rooms, you can admire the splendor and magnificence of the daily life of the Habsburg family. Or visit the Sisi Museum, dedicated to the celebrated and deeply memorable Empress Elisabeth who has long since become a cult figure. The Imperial Treasury showcases the insignia and jewels of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburgs.

Renowned for their high horsemanship, the Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School perform at the baroque ambiance of the Imperial Palace. Admire riding skills of the highest order, from pirouettes to caprioles. At 10 a.m. almost every day, you can attend a morning exercise of the famed stallions. Afterwards, walk towards St. Stephen’s cathedral and stop for a quick snack at Trzesniewski, famous for its open-faced little sandwiches.

Afternoon
Visit St. Stephen's Cathedral, the very symbol of Vienna. Construction commenced in the 12th century and it remains one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria. Guided tours are available at both the Cathedral and the catacombs below. You can also climb the 343 steps of the South Tower for a rooftop view of Vienna’s first district.

Head over to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. Built in 1891 to house the extensive collections of the imperial family, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien is among the West's preeminent museums -- its trove of Bruegels alone is the largest in the world. Be sure to visit the Kunstkammer, the most important collection of its kind, a universe all of its own of beauty and wit, curiosities and wonder.

Evening
Visit a Viennese Heuriger, the uniquely Viennese style wine tavern. As Vienna is the world’s only major city producing its own wines within city limits – fantastic wines, to be precise -- an evening at a Heuriger shouldn't be missed.

Here, in a comfortable and low-key atmosphere, join the Viennese as they savor the local wines and fine culinary accompaniments. At a true Heuriger only Viennese wines are served, many world class.

These unique taverns can be found in the wine-growing regions of the city -- places like Neustift and Grinzing, or Stammersdorf and Jedlersdorf. When you see a bunch of pine branches and the word “Ausg'steckt” written on a board, you'll know you've found one of these special taverns.

If you are looking for more late-night entertainment, the Gürtel ring road is fast becoming the nerve center of Vienna’s nightlife. Beloved old music venues and mainstays like the Chelsea, B72 and Q [kju:] are being joined by new venues in the arches beneath the elevated subway -- itself an architectural marvel, courtesy of Otto Wagner.

Day 2
Morning

Hop on the U4 subway line and head out to Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburgs' former summer residence. Plan to spend a good half day at the Palace, a World Heritage site and a marvel of Baroque architecture and garden design.

Explore the palace’s many imposing rooms on a Grand Tour using an Audio Guide. Stroll the enchanting park and fastidiously maintained gardens, and walk up to the Gloriette for a magnificent view of Vienna (and some delicious pastries). Schönbrunn is also home to the world’s oldest zoo, originally founded as the Habsburgs' private zoo in 1752.

Enjoy lunch at a typical Viennese bistro, or Beisl -- a cozy local restaurant serving traditional Viennese cuisine. A classic can be found within Schönbrunn’s walls: the Gasthaus Tirolergarten.

Afternoon
Look behind the scenes and visit the Vienna State Opera, one of the worlds’ top opera houses, and home to the very best in first-class productions. This famous stage offers a different program every day. Guided tours are available on many days, offering an intimate window onto the world of opera, not to mention the stunning architecture around it.

Evening
A visit to Vienna would be incomplete without a concert, opera or musical performance. Vienna is the world’s capital of music, after all, with thousands of music performances each year.

Day 3
Morning

Start the day with a stroll through the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s famous century-old open air market. Begin your exploration of the mile-long market at Karlsplatz and wander around the colorful stalls stacked with local and organic produce, spices and baked goods. Impress your friends back home with local artisanal vinegar from Gegenbauer at stall Nr. 111.

Head over to the MuseumsQuartier Wien, one of the ten largest museum complexes in the world. Located at the border of the old city in the former imperial stables, it houses dozens of art and cultural institutions, restaurants, cafés and shops – all in more than 640,000 square feet of contemporary ambiance, a combination of baroque buildings and modern architecture.

Don’t miss the Leopold Museum, home to one of the largest collections of modern Austrian art, featuring artists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Richard Gerstl.

Afternoon
Parks, Gardens and the Vienna Coffeehouse: Looking for a place to take a break in the center of Vienna? Visit one of the beautiful and serene inner-city parks. The Volksgarten (People’s Park), is one such oasis, with impeccably designed flower beds, countless picnic spots and photo ops galore.

Afterwards while away an hour at one of Vienna’s famed coffeehouses. Among the most prominent nearby are the Cafés Landtmann, Hawelka, Central, Mozart and Museum.

Evening
The Prater and the Giant Ferris Wheel: For pure entertainment and excitement, be sure to hit the Vienna Prater. From nostalgic merry-go-rounds to hair-raising roller coasters, the Prater amusement park is a Viennese institution.

Start off with a ride on the Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel), immortalized in the post-war Orson Welles classic, “The Third Man.” Enjoy the view of the city from nearly 200 feet up. Once you've ridden the Riesenrad you can claim to have truly experienced Vienna.

24 hours in Vienna

Vienna begs for a lengthy visit – but a short stay can make for a perfectly tantalizing introduction to the city's charms. Austria's capital has established itself as a true epicenter of art and culture, its imperial traditions mingling happily with a vibrant cultural scene. Vienna owes its universal appeal to that seamless blend of nostalgia and leading-edge innovation. Follow our lead and make your 24 hours there unforgettable.

Morning
Start the day at one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses, for a typical Viennese breakfast. Or head to Motto am Fluss, on the Danube Canal. Resembling a glassy yacht and featuring a spacious terrace, the second-floor Motto Cafe is one of Vienna’s hotspots and a perfect – and delectable – launchpad for your explorations.

Next, head across the street to Schwedenplatz for a 30-minute sightseeing tour on the Vienna Ring Tram. The tram ride introduces you to some of the city’s most glorious sights such as the Opera, the Parliament building, the Imperial Palace and the City Hall.

Back at Schwedenplatz, walk up Rotenturmstrasse toward Vienna's beloved St. Stephen's Cathedral. Construction of the cathedral commenced in the 12th century; it was the site of both Mozart's wedding and his funeral. Today, it remains one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria. Guided tours are available for both the cathedral and the catacombs below. You can also walk 343 steps up the South Tower (or take the elevator up the North Tower) for a rooftop view of Vienna’s first district.

Afterwards take a leisurely stroll along the Graben, a wide pedestrian street sprinkled with inner-city palaces, coffeehouses and typical Viennese stores. Stop briefly at the Pestsäule, a 17th century baroque column commemorating the Great Plague and its devastation of the city over three centuries ago.

For lunch, stop at one of Vienna’s premier culinary institutions, Zum Schwarzen Kameel. Opened as a spice shop in 1618, the restaurant serves authentic and typical Viennese cuisine. Mingle with the chic clientele in an Art Deco salon and enjoy a lavish meal of Eiernockerl – a local version of spätzle with eggs – with black truffles, and a glass of Viennese white wine.

Afternoon
After lunch, walk up Kohlmarkt, an elegant pedestrian promenade dotted with historic buildings and luxurious shops. Plan for a brief stop at the legendary Café Demel, renowned for its specialty coffee drinks, indulgent hot chocolate and fantastic desserts.

At the end of Kohlmarkt you will reach the Michaelertor, one of the major entrances to the Hofburg Palace, which was the seat of the powerful Habsburg Empire for centuries. This enormous complex houses numerous museums and attractions. Admire the day-to-day splendor and magnificence of the Habsburg family in their private apartments and state rooms. Or visit the Sisi Museum, dedicated to the celebrated Empress Elisabeth – who has long since joined the ranks of beloved cult figures. Or discover the Imperial Treasury, considered by many to be the world's greatest. With pieces like the Emperor's Crown of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Emperor's Crown, its collection of insignia and jewels is incomparable.

Evening
Make dinner a magical experience at Palais Coburg’s Silvio Nickol Gourmet Restaurant. Palais Coburg is a stunning bit of architecture, built on the former defense wall of the emperor's city. Its award-winning kitchen is matched only by its incredible wine cellar, one of Europe’s largest. The ambience and cuisine are extraordinary.

If you feel like staying out longer, the Babenberger Passage is the place to be. In this once-abandoned pedestrian underpass below the Ringstrasse, one of Vienna’s finest dance clubs and bars has blossomed. Chic, elegant and cool – and with a good dose of design -- the establishment is as stylish as the crowd that frequents it.

Still going? Reward your stamina with a late-night snack at a typical Viennese sausage stand. Just steps away is the Bitzinger sausage stand, widely held to be the city's best – and your shot at feeling like a true local.

Dining Experiences in Vienna

Looking for an upscale dining experience in Vienna? We have compiled a list of restaurants, that will enhance you travel experience.

Le Ciel
7th Floor, Grand Hotel Wien
Kaerntner Ring 9
1010 Vienna
With a spectacular view over the city of Vienna, the award-winning restaurant is known as one of Vienna's best gourmet restaurants.

Anna Sacher at the Hotel Sacher
Philharmonikerstraße 4
1010 Vienna
This restaurant is just as multifaceted as the character of its namesake, the legendary Grande Dame Anna Sacher. Executive Chef Dominik Stolzer pampers guests with his contemporary Austrian cuisine.

Restaurant Steirereck at Stadtpark
Am Heumarkt 2a
1030 Vienna
Still the best restaurant in Vienna: 2 Michelin stars, 4 Gault-Millau toques and in 17th place in the "World's 50 Best Restaurants". Heinz Reitbauer presents the very best in contemporary Austrian cuisine using local products.

Schwarzes Kameel
Bognergasse 5
1010 Vienna
A popular cafe during the day and a great dining option in the evening, this restaurant is an institution and is in existence since 1618.

Fabio's
Tuchlauben 6
1010 Vienna
One of the latest gourmet restaurants in Vienna with an amazing bar to have a glass of champagne after shopping.

Konstantin Filippou
Dominikanerbastei 17
1010 Vienna
The newest kid on the culinary block. Filippou's cooking reflects his multicultural background and allows for a unique approach to food.

Silvio Nickol Gourmet Restaurant at Palais Coburg
Coburgbastei 4
1010 Vienna
Silvio Nickol has cooked up two Michelin stars in no time at all. The ambience and cuisine are extraordinary and offer pleasure culture at luxury level. Treasures from the unique wine cellar are also served.

Tian Restaurant
Himmelpfortgasse 23
1010 Vienna
Vegetarian restaurant in a class of its own. Chef Paul Ivic has cooked his way to three toques and a Michelin star with his creative dishes in the meat-free gourmet temple.