Ah yes, Vienna. Our stories have brought us here. Walking down the streets of Vienna with its marvellous architecture you could almost hear Johann Strauss conducting The Blue Danube as you pass by these majestic buildings.
Once a small Roman fort to guard the Empire from German incursions it later became the capital of the Habsburg Empire. Throughout the years its residents have been associated with a good quality and standard of life. A status few cities in this world are able to achieve.
In a 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the city first (in a tie with Vancouver and San Francisco) for the world’s most livable cities. Between 2011 and 2015, Vienna was ranked second, behind Melbourne.
- Travel and accommodation
- Top things to do in Vienna
- Food & drinks highlights
- Final thoughts
The English name Vienna is borrowed from the homonymous Italian name and is pronounced /viˈɛnə/. Vienna, the capital of Austria sits on the Danube river and hosts just under 2 million people as its residents.
The UN-Habitat classified Vienna as the most prosperous city in the world in 2012/2013. The city was ranked 1st globally for its culture of innovation in 2007 and 2008, and sixth globally (out of 256 cities) in the 2014 Innovation Cities Index, which analysed 162 indicators in covering three areas: culture, infrastructure, and markets. Vienna regularly hosts urban planning conferences and is often used as a case study by urban planners.
Vienna, being the capital of Austria is also part of the E.U. and
German Österreichisches Hochdeutsch (Austrian High-German🙄) is the main language. Euros are the main legal tender.
You will find that many Austrians and Bavarians do have a strong sense of belonging to the same ethnic and cultural space. Yes, although Bavarians are part of modern Germany, their hearts and minds are still with their Austrian brethren. This is mostly because of the many alliances and strong diplomacy between rulers of the two regions.
Travel and accommodation
For this city we would definitely recommend a city break style visit. A weekend from Friday night to Sunday evening should suffice. Flights from London to Vienna’s International Airport (IATA: VIE) can be very much budget friendly.
The airport is easily accessible and you can get taxis or coaches to get to and from. Also coaches can take you all the way to Bratislava which we also did as we combined the two.
Depending on where you come from you can travel by land or reach by the River if you are posh enough to own your own yacht on the Danube. I assume you are! However, if deals are your thing – be sure to check our deal finder for flights and how we make sure we book the best value fairs here.
In terms of accommodation, we would recommend booking your travel through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates.
During our visit we stood at a hotel not far from the city centre and with easy access to public transport routes. The hotel’s name is AZIMUT Hotel Vienna.
Top things to do in Vienna
Here are some of the places we visited and would recommend whilst in Vienna. You may also want to consider Vienna PASS which offers free admission to many attractions and unlimited hop-on hop-off bus rides.
If you don’t have enough time in the city, you might consider Hop-on Hop-off Vienna Bus Tour to cover the main attractions. For ease, we have also provided an interactive map below with all the main attractions listed in this article.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
A good POI to start with is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. One of the city’s largest cathedrals showcasing gothic style architecture but with a slight Romanesque twist to it. The arches and high ceiling really bring the viewer at a standstill making them admire their marvel.
Another great venue to visit is Karlskirche, a baroque style church that sets to impress anyone visiting it. We would recommend for sure going in and wonder at the amazing paintings insight depicting various biblical scenes.
You can even attend Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concert in Karlskirche or other concerts that might be happening at the time of your visit.
As you stroll through Vienna in-between your attractions, you’ll notice that there are many fountains and monuments. They truly bring a certain zing to the city and make it seem as if you are in an open air monuments’ museum. An example is the Mozart Monument, located in the Burggarten.
Some statues stand as celebrations, others stand as reminders. One such monument is the Plague Column on Graben street. It was erected after the Great Plague epidemic in 1679, the Baroque memorial is one of the most well-known and prominent sculptural pieces of art in the city.
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State Opera House
But for sure, the State Opera House is truly another architectural marvel. After all, this is Austria, the house of concerts, fine music and the birthplace of esteemed artists such as: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Strauss and Anton Diabelli just to name a few.
Another exciting place to visit would be one of the many fountains the city offers. One such fountain is Hochstrahlbrunnen. At night the fountain changes its colours and becomes quite spectacular.
Sure, perhaps not as exciting as the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in Barcelona but still worth the trip.
Museum of Natural History Vienna and The Arts Museum
When it comes to museums, Vienna is your friend. The expos are just as rich and lavish like the buildings hosting them.
Be sure to check out Museum of Natural History Vienna and The Arts Museum just to name a few. The Natural History features similar expositions like the London or Bucharest Natural History Museums.
The Town Hall (Rathaus) is yet another great example of Viennese architecture displaying the best the city has to offer in terms of grandeur.
By contrast a slightly quirky place to see would be the Hundertwasserhaus complex. A residential concept of flats built after the idea and concept of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser with architect Joseph Krawina as a co-creator.
The Hofburg is another place to add to your list of things to visit. The Hofburg is the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty.
Located in the centre of Vienna, it was built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards. It also served as the imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence.
However, the cherry on top of the cake must be Schönbrunn Palace. It was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, located in Hietzing, Vienna. The name Schönbrunn (meaning “beautiful spring”) has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court.
The interiors, the tapestries, the furniture, all exquisite and worth a visit to crown your city break. The estate reminded us of the Sanssouci Palace estate near Berlin.
Also don’t forget the gardens! Picturesque landscape combined with impressive fountains make it a sure rival of the Versailles gardens. We found that The Gloriette in the gardens offered a spectacular view of the estate and were impressed by the Crown Prince Garden and Palmenhaus.
Talking about palaces, don’t forget to check out Belvedere Palace, build in Baroque style. The grounds of the palace include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. From here you can also enjoy splendid views of the surrounding area.
The Prater (Wurstelprater)
Last but not least, the Prater. The Prater (full name Wurstelprater) is an amusement park, with its best-known attraction – the Wiener Riesenrad, a Ferris wheel. Constructed in 1897, it was the world’s tallest extant Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985.
The park also features various rides, bumper cars, carousels, roller coasters, shooting galleries and so on. Great place to go with the kids too.
This reminded us of London Eye, where we talk more in our London article here.
Food & drinks highlights
If after all this sight seeing you’re not hungry, then you either haven’t travelled enough or you came to the wrong blog. First let’s start with the eponymous sausage. The Wiener or better said Vienna Sausage.
Like the story of pasta, where the Chinese made it but the Italians popularised here the same is true for the Wiener sausage. Made by the Austrians but made famous by Americans with its current name – Hot Dog!
This famous sausage was actually made by the request of Austrian noblemen that required a finer sausage to account for the Court’s ever increasing search for finesse.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room. Schnitzel! Although this is a favourite in many countries around the world and presented slightly different, the concept remains the same.
Similar to the French escalope or German Schnitzel it usually is a meet of choice that’s been breaded and deep fat fried.
The Wiener Schnitzel is a popular Viennese dish made of veal and traditionally garnished with a slice of lemon and either potato salad or potatoes with parsley and butter. European comfort food at its finest. Take note KFC!
For desserts you can always choose the classic apple strudel or lesser known pancakes stuffed with cottage cheese. Equally good.
Whether you are planning a city break or a longer stay Vienna is a perfect destination for either. Feel free to consider doing a joint trip Vienna – Bratislava as this is perfectly doable and you’ll kill two birds with one stone. You can read more about our Bratislava trip here.
No matter your choice, Vienna is a very elegant and picturesque city leaving tourists astonished and talking about it for decades to come.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Flight compensation – Compensair or AirHelp for flight delays and cancellations.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.
- Internet abroad – with Airalo you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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