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Vienna is a city that has a beautifully compact old town centre and lots to do and see in the outer regions a well. See a performance at the famous Opera or enjoy the Prater.
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Welcome to Wien, top things to do and see in Vienna!
We did minimal research on our first visit to Vienna as we wanted to just arrive and see where things would take us. Of course we knew about its
most famous attractions like the Schonbrunn Palace but nothing about the fabric of Viennese life or how it looked geographically.
We arrived at dusk into Westbahnhof and our hotel was an easy walk not far from the station. We opted to stay at the Hotel Altweinerhof and although it is not
central, we loved the large rooms and the delightful courtyard, breakfast room and excellent customer service.
Out here in the suburbs you can experience a real multicultural Vienna with Kebab takeaways and the Turkish influence, to Balkan restaurants and of
course traditional Viennese pubs and restaurants. After some fine take away, it was time to switch off the lights and drift off excited about the prospects
of a new day in Vienna.
Getting Around Vienna
After a fantastic champagne breakfast at the Altweinerhof, we followed their exellent directions and headed for the nearby U-Bahn station so we could
see the Inner Stadt or Inner Town. The U-Bahn system is fast, cheap and clean. You can buy daily, 48 and 72 hour tickets that cover all public transport in Vienna
(U-Bahn, trams abd buses) or you can also buy a Vienna Card that gives you daily travel use plus discounts around Vienna in more than 200 places.
Get Inside the Inner Stadt!
The Inner Stadt or Inner town is where all the action is. Vienna is a very compact city so it is easy to walk between all the major sights within
a 1 or 2km radius of the centre.
Arriving in the centre at Stephansplatz you are confronted with the massive sight that is Stephansdom or St Stephen's Cathedral. This colossal gothic centrepiece is jaw dropping from the outside and especially from the inside. The ceiling height, the detail, the sheer size! Take a trip up to the top of the north or south towers for spectacular views of the city. The catacombs underneath also await those who ae looking for something a little more macabre!
Heading south down the pedestrian only Kartner Strabe, you will pass by major stores and restaurants plus some of the finest hotels in Vienna. Near the end you come to State Opera House (Staatsoper) where there are concerts on almost every night of the year. The acoustics are amazing so it is worth buying a ticket just for the experience, even if opera is not your thing!
To the west you will almost certainly need a couple of days to fully explore and appeciate the myriad of sights in this small area. The Hofburg Imperial Palace (including the famous Spanish Riding School with the Lippanzers you may know from Lipica!), The Austrian National Library, The Art History Museum, The Natural History Museum, Parliament Building and the Rathaus or City Hall (amazing at night and also at Christmas).
Further south you will find the Academy of Fine Arts, University of Music and Performing Arts and the stunning Belvedere Palaces and Gardens. It is exhausting just listing all these magnificent locations. If you have one day then the area around the Stephansdom and Hofburg Palace will probably suffice. If you have more time, then definitely visit the Belvedere area!
Surrounding most of the stunning Baroque Palaces and buildings around Vienna, there are usually matching gardens beyond your wildest imaginations in both size and beauty.
The Belvedere comprising of the Palace Gardens, Alpine Garden and Botanic Gardens is an oasis of plants from around the world. The StadtPark, Burggarten, Rathauspark and the
Volksgarten are beautiful green spaces to be enjoyed within the centre.
Situated in the outer south-west of the city, the Schonbrunn Palace has to be one of Europe's finest jewels. This baroque masterpiece is a sight to behold. The inside is impressive,
and the history of its tenants even more so. Today you can spend a whole day here and many do just that. Take the grand tour of the rooms.
The complex also encompasses sweeping gardens and parkland plus a zoo and labyrinth.
From March to October (although the famous Wheel is open year round), the Prater amusement park opens its doors to the young and young at heart.
If the kids are tired of the museums and gardens, this will be a fantastic treat for them (and for Mum and Dad too!)
There are about 250 amusement rides and attractions at the Prater ranging from the latest space age rides to old favourites like the old Viennese grotto train.
The whole family will have a great time and of course you must take a ride on the famous Giant Ferris Wheel to get a breathtaking view of surrounding parklands and Vienna.
Madame Tassauds also makes for an interesting Diversion! What a great day.
Eating and Drinking in Vienna
Vienna is famous for a few things we've all heard about. Firstly, the coffee and the coffee houses are legendary in Vienna. The Turks imported it while on their travels a long time ago
and its been here ever since. But now the Viennese have turned coffee into an artform and taking coffee is now an experience that shouldn't be missed!
Elegant Coffeehouses and corner cafes serve many different blends and types of coffee and often it is accompanied by handmade cakes and pastries.
Some of these coffeehouses are works of art themselves so come along and check them out!
And speaking of pastries, the Sacher Torte is said to be the most famous cake in the world and it is a sweet concoction of chocolate with apricot. Make sure you try one! Vienna's ice cream parlours are also world famous and we cannot forget to mention one "Weiner Schnitzel". Its only done right in Vienna apparently so come and see what you think.
Vienna in Review
We've had a great time at Schonnbrun and the Prater and Aidan really enjoyed the Ferris Wheel. The U-Bahn is a breeze to use and back in town explored Stephensdom and wandered past the Opera and the Rathaus area. We challenge you not to fall in love with this city. Vienna is a treasure to behold and it is one of the most charming and graceful cities you will ever visit. Make a date to visit today!
Top 10 Sights and things to do in Vienna
1. Schonbrunn Palace
The most visited site in Vienna is also one of the most grandest palaces anywhere in the world. The size will blow you away as you tour some of the rooms open to the public.
Relive the days of the Hapsburg rulers and learn the history. But wait, there’s more! This sprawling complex has it own zoo, maze and the most amazing gardens.
You can virtually spend the whole day here and many do!
2. Stephansdom (St Stephens Cathedral)
This colossal cathedral is the central point in Vienna and is as impressive inside as it is outside. Wow at the Romanesque\Gothic architecture outside before viewing inside and taking a trip to the top of the north or south towers for amazing views of Vienna!
The kids will love the huge Prater Amusement Park as there are enough rides and sideshows to keep everyone happy. Top it off with a visit to Madame Tassauds and a ride on the famous Prater Ferris Wheel. A great day out.
4. Belvedere Palace and Gardens
This is yet another beautiful palace in the heart of Vienna. Tour the baroque palace which also contains the Austrian Gallery and restaurants for refreshments. It is complimented by stunning gardens that contain plant species from all over the world
plus numerous statues and fountains!
Wow, there are too many to mention and all of them are fantastic no matter what your tastes. The Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches), Kunsthaus, Natural History Museum, Belvedere Museum, Modern Art, Leopold and the Albertina to name just a few.
One that you may want to add to the list is the The Third Man Museum which takes you on a journey regarding the film from 1948 and highlights everything else that was going on around that time in Vienna. Quite brilliant.
6. Opera House
As well as art, Vienna could be regarded as the opera centre of the world. Take a guided tour or book yourself a ticket during the Opera Season which is September to June.
The Opera House itself is stunning and Vienna really is one of the best places to come for outstanding architecture and design. Another must see and must do!
If you don’t mind the crowds, Naschmarkt is Viennas biggest open air market and is a great place to spend a few hours browsing stall after stall of all types of food.
Plenty of places to grab a snack as well. Don’t forget to visit at Christmas for the famous and traditional Christmas markets around the city and out at Schonbrunn
8. Eating and Drinking in Vienna
If all that sightseeing has made you hungry, then Vienna won’t disappoint. Famous for the Weiner Schnitzel, it is also home to copious amounts of sauerkraut and sausage plus influences from right around the globe. Sweet tooths and caffeine lovers
will be in heaven as coffee and cake are national rituals here. Vienna has some of the best coffeehouses around, famous for their elegance, style and of course coffee and cake. The most famous cakes are the Strudel and the Sacher Torte
(whose recipe remanins a secret!). Enjoy!
9. Parks and the Danube River
As mentioned earlier, Vienna has some of the most magnificent gardens and parklands you can imagine. It is easy to find a quiet spot away from the madness in one of any parks surrouding the inner stadt and also further away.
The banks of the Danube are often missed by tourists but it is great to spend a day riding along the banks, visiting a riverside café or restaurant and sunbathing on the “Vienna Beach” if the weather is warm enough.
You can also hire a boat. The kiddies will love the Gänsehäufel area which has stretches of beach, cafes, playgrounds and pools to enjoy.
10. Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof)
Some people love to spend hours exploring cemeteries. If that’s you, then Vienna has Europe’s 2nd biggest one and of course it has to include some of history’s most famous names like Beethoven, Brahms and Strauss.
It also has sections arranged by religion. Bring a hat and water on hot days as this place is huge!