Vienna is one of Europe’s most intriguingcultural capitals. The city has a lot to offer for lovers of history and culture, foodies or those after a vibrant nightlife. Here we will show you the top things to do and see to make sure you have a fun and exciting time.
Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an expressionist artist and architect who worked in the 1950s, building many colourful and eye-catching buildings around Europe. The Hundertwasserhaus, which he created alongside architect Joseph Krawina, is one of Vienna’s most eccentric landmarks. Although the apartment buildings remain as private residences, there is a neighbouring museum where you can explore his life and work.
First constructed in 1869, the original Vienna State Opera House was almost totally destroyed – save for its Tea Salon, the Schwind Foyer, its main façade, and the grand staircase – by Allied bombing during World War II. But it was thankfully rebuilt under the instruction of Austrian architects Erich Boltenstern and Otto Prossinger, and reopened in 1955 with a performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Today, Vienna Staatsoper boasts some of the world’s widest repertoire with over 300 performances of more than 60 operas and ballets during its September to June season. Each year it hosts the grand and glamorous Vienna Opera Ball, one of the Austrian capital’s most prestigious high-society events. Furthermore, free screenings of the performances are done outdoors in the summer and reduced tickets (for as little as 3 euros) are available if you go to the rear door three hours before the performance begins.
The grassy banks of the Neue Donau are perfectly picturesque and a great place for an afternoon picnic. There are a few rough areas, however, so use the various the bridges along the way for pit stops, run along the promenade or consider taking a refreshing dip when it’s scorching during the summer months.
The Vienna Prater was originally used as a hunting ground by the Emperor before being turned into the amusement park that still stands today, where you’ll find one of the city’s most iconic monuments, the red Riesenrad ferris wheel. As well as the gaudy funfair, the Prater is also one of Vienna’s largest greenest spaces and is the perfect location for a picnic in warmer weather.
Perhaps Hietzing’s most notable and visited landmark, the palace of Schönbrunn, is the epitome of Austrian lavishness. Strolling through the garden’s seemingly never-ending gravel pathways, dressed with meticulously pruned trees on either side, it is easy to imagine life back in imperial times when the palace housed the infamous Austro-Hungarian empire’s now-defunct monarchs. Standing at the obelisk gates, you can see the grandeur of the grounds extending all the way up to the arch of the Gloriette – a monument perched proudly atop a 60-metre hill, adorned with an imposing golden eagle representing the Labours of Hercules.
The gallery in the Belvedere Museum houses the most important collection of art in the whole of Austria. The focal point is the world’s largest collection of work by Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, with the highlight being his decorative masterpiece called The Kiss, which is a universally recognisable painting. There are many other works that make the Belvedere worthy of a trip as various exhibitions featuring art from around the world are open all year round.
For over 100 years, the iconic Café Prückel has been a pillar of the Viennese coffee house movement. Embodying all the characteristics synonymous with the culture of Viennese coffee drinking, including the imperative tuxedo-clad waiters, the beautifully decorated 1950s-style café was added to the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list in 2011. Decorated in light pastels with soft furnishings, the café’s interior wouldn’t look out of place in a Wes Anderson film. Their cake fridge has almost every Austrian variety available, including the strudel. Café Prückel use a very traditional recipe, and, unless requested, will not serve it with cream or custard.
Kahlenberg, in the 19th district of Vienna, is where many of the city’s vineyards are located. As well as traditional taverns serving local wine and cuisine, there are some picturesque hilly walks that offer beautiful views of the skyline. If visiting in the autumn, be sure to sign up for the Vienna wine walk, which takes you on a tour of some of the best winegrowers in the Kahlenberg area and beyond.
Neubau, the 7th district, has long been a gentrified neighbourhood of Vienna with a lively art and culture area and many independent galleries The area around St.Ulrich has some interesting shops and cosy cafés, and there are plenty of spots along Burggasse that are worth exploring.
The Naschmarkt has a rich history dating back to the 16th century when it was a humble trading ground that sold mainly fruit and vegetables on a modest stretch. Today, it is a metropolis of a market between Kettenbrückengasse and Karlsplatz, with vendors selling food and drink from around the world and a sprawling flea market taking place every Saturday that sees around 400 stalls open up, offering a variety of rarities and gems. The Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most famous food and flea market and is a huge hit with tourists and locals. Note that the early bird catches the worm, so try and arrive before sunrise for the best pickings.