World capital of music from the imperial past
It is impossible not to associate Vienna, the elegant capital of Austria situated on the banks of the River Danube, with concerts, balls, evenings at the Opera or music festivals. The city is steeped in the history of eternal music created by composers who were born or lived here, such as Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Beethoven and Mahler. The city’s era of greatest splendour was in the eighteenth century when it was under the rule of Maria Theresa of Habsburg, the enlightened empress, but this splendour still continues today with numerous festivals and musical performances, and especially the famous New Year's Eve Concert performed by the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. This concert is broadcast worldwide on the morning of every 1st January and tickets for the event are in such high demand that they must be booked a year in advance.
Vienna will again appear in the many guises that make a wonderful city to explore. Whether by bus, tram or sailing on the Danube, and above all on foot, a visit to the city involves a never-ending series of beautiful sights.
Imperial House of the Habsburgs
Long dominated by the Imperial House of the Habsburgs, everything in Vienna is on grand scale, including the sumptuous palaces – a shining example being the immense complex of the Hofburg which is made up of some ten buildings and was the official Imperial residence and seat of government for over six centuries –, the City Hall, the monumental churches (including St. Stephen’s Cathedral, one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Europe) and the vast and welcoming Opera Theatre.
Due to its fortunate geographical position, close to central Europe as well as the countries of the East, Vienna can be considered one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the continent. Catching the eye of visitors is its architecture, which combines German Gothic elements with Middle Eastern influences, Italian grace with French classicism and Baroque style. Vienna, like few other cities in the world, is still steeped in a magnificent, almost dream-like atmosphere of bygone times, with streets of great elegance and numerous cosy coffee bars where you can enjoy truly delicious local treats and where the nineteenth-century custom of reading newspapers 'on the cane' still continues today.
The historic centre of Vienna is a world heritage site. Also the world capital of music, it offers both history and imperial splendour.
The palaces and castles
The exquisite Baroque castles of Schönbrunn and Belvedere, and the Imperial Hofburg Palace with their rooms and furnishigs they repesent a dive into the imperial past of the city.
Are not-to-be-missed stops in a tour tracing the history of the old Hapsburg monarchy it's the Princess Sissi Museum as is a walk along the splendid Ringstrasse and a visit to St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
A walk on the Ringstrasse
A ring road of more than five kilometres long that surrounds the city centre (a scenic avenue built by Emperor Franz Joseph, which was inaugurated in 1865 after the ancient walls were demolished) reveals the city’s great Habsburg past. Today Ringstrasse is considered one of the world’s most beautiful avenues; it is lined with many representative buildings such as the new neo-gothic City Hall, the Renaissance-style University, the Vienna Stock Exchange and other sumptuous mansions of past celebrities.
The avenue, in some areas, 'opens' out into vast green spaces. The city has many parks and gardens: Prater, for example, is a park of enormous proportions. It has been the city’s most popular place for recreation and entertainment since Joseph II donated it to the people in 1766, having previously been a hunting ground of the Habsburgs. One of the city’s most famous symbols, the Ferris wheel, is found in the park and offers a breathtaking view of Vienna and the River Danube.
From the imperial palaces to the artistic masterpieces of the Albertina, from the atmosphere of the typical Viennese Schwarzenberg Café to the Prater Ferris Wheel, Vienna charms with its extraordinary variety of attractions.
You can’t take a trip to Vienna without visiting Schönbrunn Palace (which means beautiful spring) on the outskirts of the city, which was built as the summer residence of the imperial family by Maria Theresa so that her sixteen children could enjoy a place away from the strict regime of the Court of Vienna and be closer to nature.
The Prater, a large expanse of green in the heart of the city, is a great place to take a walk or a ride of 4 km on the Liliputbahn train. From a height of 65 metres the famous Ferris wheel offers an extraordinary panoramic view.
Music enthusiasts can enjoy itineraries that explore the life and works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss.
Don’t miss also a trip on the Danube on board the boat Vindobona.
And art lovers can experiences tours of Viennese Art Nouveau or a tour of the Albertina Museum with its famous collection of graphic art (more than a million prints and 60,000 drawings).
And if in Vienna you want to try a unique experience, book a horse-drawn carriage, known as a ‘Fiaker’, to visit the sights, stopping at some of the famous coffee houses, which almost always offer music and excellent coffee (because coffee drinking, it should be remembered, started in Vienna), including many kinds of specialty coffee, as well as some of the most famous sweets in the world, such as Sacher torte. But, don’t forget the fine local wines produced by the large wine estates around the city, including the notable 'Gemischter Satz', which roughly translated means ‘mixed blend’, which is produced with grapes from different vineyards.
But in Vienna there is also the possibility of entering into the secrets of production of the chocolate, wine, beer, apple strudel or a famous Sacher cake.
To delight in the visit of the city you just have to stop in the many bars, restaurants, taverns or pastry shops to taste delicious sweets.
Where to sleep in Vienna
Vienna is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.
To find the ideal hotel and the best offers you can do a search for the stars but also for districts or landmarks.
Hotels for stars, differentiated by type of services:
Hotels in the districts
Hotels in tourist areas
Text by Anna Glik
Photo: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
Video: www.wien.info; www.slash.co.at
Published on Avion Tourism N69
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