The capital of Austria exudes glamour and elegance. From the white and gold baroque palaces to the wide lanes, Vienna is the best kind of kitsch. After living in Vienna for three months, I know how incredible this city is, and I encourage anyone to visit it, you will not be disappointed! This old European capital is brimming with culture and history, and you can easily spend days or even weeks exploring it all.
It’s hard to pick only a five, but if you have limited time, here are a few highlights you just cannot miss:
The crowning glory of Vienna is undoubtedly the Hofburg Palace. This former seat of the Hapsburg empire is a baroque stunner and exudes all that old glamour. A visit to the palace is an absolute must as it plays such a central role in Vienna history. The best parts are the Imperial Appartments and the Sisi museum, where the history truly comes to life. You can also see the silver collection, but unless you are a big fan of antique cutlery, I wouldn’t bother.
These days part of the palace is still in use as the offices of the President.
2. St. Stephens Cathedral
One of the most popular sights in Vienna is St. Stephens Cathedral. This Gothic giant rises up between the shops at Stadtplatz. The tallest of the towers stands at 136 meters, which offers a view over the city for those willing to pay (and climb the 343 steps). While the outside is gothic, the interior is baroque and contains impressive art and treasures.
Schönbrunn palace lies just outside of the city but is easily reached by tram or metro. It is a stunning baroque masterpiece and the perfect example of the wealth of the Hapsburg empire. The palace is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and entry tickets are pretty pricey. But it is possible to take a virtual tour of the palace as well. The gardens behind the Palace are equally impressive and free to visit during opening hours. You can spend your whole afternoon strolling through the vast royal gardens at Schönbrunn, but it is not a park where you can sit down in the grass for a picknick.
Schönbrunn is also home to a zoo which houses several endangered as well as domestic species.
Insider tip: Every summer the Vienna Philharmonic play a free concert in the Schönbrunn Gardens, the next one will be at June 20th 2019. Get there early for a good seat!
The whole city of Vienna feels like a work of art, but there are also a lot of actual museums. You can find most of them in the Museumquartier, which houses the beautiful Art History Museum, Natural History Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, Kunsthalle, Architectural Museum and my personal favourite: Leopold Museum.
Fans of impressionism and Klimt are especially served in Vienna by the collections of the Leopold, Albertina and Belvedere. Belvedere is both a museum and a palace, with a beautiful garden.
If you are planning to visit several museums, getting a Vienna Card can save you a lot of money on entrance fees. Some museums are also accessible free of charge on the first Sunday of every month.
An integral of Viennese culture are the coffee houses. A traditional Kaffee House is the perfect place to sit down for a Wiener melange (coffee with chocolate) and a piece of cake. Local delicacies to try are the Sachertorte and Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce. The oldest and most luxurious coffee houses are found in the inner city. Enjoy the treats and take in the history, knowing those seats were once inhabited by the créme de la créme of the Viennese art scene, such as Gustav Klimt and Otto Wagner.