Vienna has not always been considered such a romantic destination. The city found itself just a few miles from the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Hence, trade ceased with the East, and foreigners found little reason to visit a war-torn city. However, with the sudden popularity and growth of the Eastern Jewels (Budapest, Prague, and Kraków), Vienna rediscovered its role as a gateway. In-transit tourists, as well, have rediscovered Vienna’s old-world charm, often making an unexpected extended stay. There is no better time than now to visit this magnificent city.
People traveling to Vienna looking for fin-de-siècle architecture and a relaxed atmosphere will not be disappointed. Imagine a city shaped by artists and composers 150 years ago. Huge palaces seem to appear on every major street corner, and the sky is pierced with towering church steeples. The buildings along the Ringstrasse seem to offer a bit of every European building style, from the Medieval Rathaus, Gothic Stephensdom, to the Greco-Roman parliament building.
Visitors quickly embrace the old-world style of Vienna. The streets are lined with quaint shops, cafés, and bakeries. Men are still gentlemen, while women still dress themselves up before strolling around town. The locals are generally conservative, well educated, and well mannered. They will notice you looking at a map or deciphering a sign, but are too polite to bother you. However, if you ask them, then you will find that most Viennese speak a bit of English and are happy to help a traveller.
Things to do
Schönbrunner Schloss-strasse, A-1130 Vienna www.schoenbrunn.at
Tel: +43 1 811 13
The biggest attraction in the Western part of Vienna is the summer palace. Sometimes called the “Versailles of Vienna”, this huge Baroque residence has more then 1400 rooms and grand formal gardens.
Two tours that guide visitors through 100+ rooms are available. However, the palace itself is a minor attraction compared to the entire property. The palace grounds also include a terrific zoo, marvelous tree-covered paths, and Roman ruin Follies. Open from Nov – Mar, daily 08:30 – 16:30 and from Apr – Oct, daily 08:30 – 17:00.
St Stephen’s Cathedral
(Building, view map)
Stephanspl., A-1010 Vienna
Tel: +43 1 515 52526
St. Stephan’s gothic structure seems a little out of place among the modern glass and steel buildings lining the Stephansplatz. However, it’s the things that stand out that make it such an attraction. For one, the 390-foot tower can see seen from all over the city. Climb to the top of the spire to see the tiled roof. The colorful tiles are laid out in such a way as to create pictures. Take the tour through the catacombs and see neat stacks of skulls and bones, open Monday through Saturday, 9-11:30a.m., and 12:30-4:30p.m. Sunday 1-4:30p.m. Tours begin every 30 minutes and cost 40 ATS.
A-1015 Vienna, Austria
The impressive museum contains the Royal treasury, which includes the 10th centuryn crown of the Holy Roman Emperor and a lance, which legend says is the one that pierced Jesus’ side (actually only 1000 years old).
This 8 mile long island is located in the middle of the Danube. Originally built for flood control, it is currently dedicated to leisure activities. Nom motor traffic is allowed on the island, but it is easy to reach on foot or bicycle. The U1 subway also serves the island. From here, you can see the third headquarters of the United Nations. During the summer, Viennese escape the city and head to the island for some sun and fresh air.
3 Prinz-Eugen-Strasse 27, A-1037 Vienna
Tel: +43 1 795 570
Lukas von Hildebrandt built this palace for Prince Eugene of Savoy between 1714 and 1723. The structure is actually two baroque buildings separated by 500 meters of gardens. It now stands as a museum displaying the royal apartments, gardens, and art galleries. Many people flock to these buildings, since Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka all had a room here. Open Tuesday through Sunday 10a.m. through 5p.m. Admission to the buildings are 60 ATS.
Tram N to Hetzgasse from Schwedenplatz U-Bahn
This building is by far Vienna’s most unusual apartment building, and a popular tourist destination. Architect Friendensreich Hundertwasser built this childlike house, keeping in mind that “the straight line is godless.” Hundertwasser also designed the garbage-burning tower in the ninth district. Look for the golden onion pierced on the blue tower.
Maria-Theresien Pl., Vienna
Tel: +43 1 525 240
With impressive exhibits of Egyptian, Greek, Roman collections, German renaissance, and paintings by Rubens, Velázquez, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio, this museum stands as one of the best in the world. The real crowds, however, come of the collection of Bruegel the Elder. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10a.m. to 6p.m., and Thursday 10a.m. to 9p.m. Admission is 100 ATS.
This large segment of parkland offers a glince at a slightly seedly but nevertheless interesting side of Vienna. There you can visit the Riesenrad and ride one of the oldest Ferris Wheels in the world. Operating hours vary throughout the year, but the park generally opens at 9a.m. and closes between 10 p.m. and midnight.