Once a seat of the might Habsburg Empire, today one of the cultural metropolises of Europe. Vienna is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe. from little less than 200 000 inhabitants in the middle of the 18th century to over 2 million at the beginning of the 20th. Today if we count the wider Metropolitan area Vienna has around 2,5 million people. It is located on the Danube river, much loved by the locals, and sang in many songs throughout history.
The first subway line was opened in 1978, and today forms a backbone of public transportation in the city. A year later, the UN opened its headquarters here, one of only 3 such in the world. At that same period, Vienna got its first artificial island on the Danube “Donauinsela” – one of the favorite recreational zones in the city that offers sunbathing, swimming, and sports activities. It is also a home to Donauinselfestu, the largest European open-air festival that takes place every year at the end of June and attracts over 3 million visitors.
Attractions of Vienna
Most of Vienna’s attractions are concentrated around the so-called “Ring”. The ring is literally a ring around the old city center where once defensive medieval walls stood. Since they were of no use anymore they were torn down in the second half of the 19th century, and the emperor decided to erect stunning new buildings in the newly cleared area, from the famous Opera house to the City Hall.
The square in front of the City Hall is the most famous for the Christmas Fair that attracts millions of visitors every year. During this time you can try some of the most delicious sweets, mulled wine, traditional food, handmade Christmas decorations, and music. Nearby don’t miss the University of Vienna and the famous Burgtheater.
Two of the most recognizable buildings in the “Ring” are the Parliament, whose architecture resembles Greek temples and the imperial palace of Hofburg. The palace is beautifully decorated with many wings and gardens, but the most famous is probably the quarters of the Empress Sissi, the most famous resident of the palace.
The main symbol of the city is the beautiful gothic St. Stephan cathedral from the 12th century. On Stephansplatzu square you can take a ride in a carriage with a horse and visit some of the nearby attractions.
As a true imperial capital, Vienna still has many castles that are well preserved till today. Most famous is the Belvedere, with its gardens, and Schonbrunn with its Tiergarten – the oldest zoo in the world. The latter was the main summer residence for the Habsburg royalty. Perhaps the abundance of these architectural wonders is why Vienna is considered one of the best honeymoon destinations in Europe.
Art and history lovers will enjoy visiting the Museumsquartier, the 8th largest such quarter in the world with lots of various museums that hold priceless treasure.
If you want to venture a bit outside of the city, consider some of these amazing day trips from Vienna.
Everyone has probably heard of “Wiener Schnitzel”, the Sacher cake, and the apple strudel. These are some of the most famous meals in Austria, actually, the Sacher hotel can produce up to one thousand of these cakes daily in the hight of the season. Tourists that don’t spend a lot of time in the city will want to visit the most famous pastry shops like hotel Sacher or Demel. Vienna is famous for its coffee house culture, they are all over the city and they still carry the true spirit of old Vienna. You are likely to find them inside one of the palaces, they would be beautifully decorated in marble and wood, with all sorts of pastries available, and of course, there would be a pianist playing in some corner. Coffee Houses also traditionally serve breakfast as well.
The most famous restaurant in Vienna is probably the “Figlmüller”, a famous restaurant that is considered to be the creator of the Wienerschnitzel. There are two restaurants under that name today, both right next to the cathedral, and Fiegl – a pub with a beer garden. Another famous steak restaurant is the Centimeter. It is actually a chain of restaurants, famous in Austria, where you can grab a good meal for an affordable price (under €10). Wiennerschnitezs are actually quite large in most restaurants and one portion will be more than enough to fill your stomach.
Naschmarkt – the largest green market in the city, almost a kilometer long with fruits and veggies from all over the world. It’s a true tourist attraction located near the Karlsplatz. Even if you don’t need any groceries, head over there to experience the atmosphere, or treat yourself in one of the cafes or restaurants. Saturday is the busiest, and you will also find a flea market here on that day.
Mariahilferstraße is the largest shopping street in Vienna. It is divided into inside and outside parts. The busiest part is between Westbahnhof and Museumsquartier where you will find hundreds of shops. In the sea of brands, you will easily recognize the most famous like Benetton, H&M, Mango, Zara, etc. Peek&Cloppenburg has its own shopping center nearby, and Gerngross is probably the most famous shopping mall in all of Austria and the oldest dating back to 1879.
The luxury brands can be found in the very center, near the cathedral, even if you can’t afford anything it is very attractive to see the shiny stores of Cartier, Armani, Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.
Normal working hours for most of the stores in Vienna are from 9 am till 6:30 pm, Saturday even less while on Sunday most are closed.
Vienna is one of the busiest capitals in Europe so accommodation options are plentiful. Most hotels can be found inside the “ring”, with plenty of hostels, apartments, and b&b options available. There is no particular season in Vienna, the city is highly visited for most of the year. However, Christmas and New Year are particularly attractive periods.
Don’t expect to find cheap accommodation inside the “ring” this is reserved for luxury hotels, but outside of the ring, there are more affordable options.