Walking through Vienna is a bit like walking into the pages of a fairy-tale, as horses and carriages trot past ornate palaces, baroque churches, and gilded concert halls, you are transported into a world you have only imagined so far. The city centre is bursting with Imperial history, museums showcase some of the world’s finest art, are architectural brilliance is everywhere: an this hand you have a Gothic Church, on that you have a Renaissance building; Operas, Exhibitions, Museums, Concerts there is never dearth of things to see here.
Here are some of Vienna’s top experiences to help you plan your trip to one of the World’s most beautiful cities.
Opera House & Café Sacher.
Viennese love their music, and nothing showcases it better than the Opera House. The Neo-Renaissance hall that has been a playground for legendary composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Johann Strauss, Gustav Mahler, and Herbert Von Karajan, is the best place to begin your Viennese journey from. A guided tour of the Opera House enables you to witness the grandeur of its gilded interiors, gigantic chandeliers, and life-size portraits. In summer months live performances are projected on a screen outside and has many tourists, travellers, and locals congregate on cemented benches. The performance is best followed by coffee and torte at Café Sacher, an iconic café synonymous with Vienna. Its open-air section is best suited for people watching; the ornate hall inside is perfect for cozy winter evenings.
Churches, Cathedrals, and Crypts.
Churches in Vienna are both omnipresent and breathtaking. The Gothic Stephen’s Dome, also known as St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the oldest and most prominent of all. The baroque Karlskirche meanwhile stands inconspicuously among old buildings away from the tourist circuit. The smallest and most ornate, Peterskirche, hidden among Neo-renaissance buildings in the old town, it is the most magnificent of all.
If cathedrals are not your thing, a crypt perhaps would be a good idea. Close to the old town, Kaizegruft, the royal crypt, presents an unusual mix of art and symbolism. The ornate tombs in a large underground hall are said to be designed by their occupants themselves and the nunnery next door ensures that the space is well taken care of. With over 150 crypts of the Habsburg, this place can be eerie or fascinating depending on your preference and taste.
Palaces, Residences, Museums.
Vienna is home to some of world’s most beautiful palaces and residences. The largest of them, Schonbrunn Palace, stands a little away from the city center. Popular for its museum showcasing the regal lifestyle of the Habsburgs, it is a great place to learn about Austrian history. The Palace’s garden, with sprawling lawns, grand fountains and a small zoo, is a destination in itself. The Hofburg Complex meanwhile showcases the splendour of Viennese architecture with prominent elements of Baroque, Gothic, and Art Nouveau styles reflecting in every nook and corner of the sprawling complex.
It is difficult to classify Belvedere Palace, another icon of the Austrian capital. A museum, a maze, an art gallery, a garden, a café, Belvedere Palace is all of this and some more. The complex is guaranteed to enchant you with its expansive gardens, green slopes, and sheer size. If you enjoy art, you can spend an entire day in the museums at the Upper Belvedere, if you enjoy nature, sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet in the lawns of Lower Belvedare.
Museumsquartier & Kunsthistorisches
Modernism and contemporary art come together in Museumsquartier, a sprawling complex comprising exhibitions, shows, fashion events, design stores and kids’ museum. Just across the street stand two magnificent palaces also converted into museums. Naturhistorisches and Kunsthistorisches are two identical buildings with an imposing statue of Maria Theresa in the center. The art museum, Kunsthistorisches, houses famous creations of Titian, Veronese, Rubens and Caravaggio while Naturhistoriches, teaches you a thing or two about geology and excavations. The square meanwhile acts as a great place to rest those aching feet and take in the beautiful views of the city.
Vienna’s historic center is a traveller’s delight. From Gothic spires to Renaissance buildings, from High Street stores to nifty stalls, the Old Town is the place to experience the famous Viennese life. Casinos, boutiques, hotels, and cafés dot the area, stylish locals cycle the streets in business suits, men and women glide in and out of chic restaurants, casinos and bars. Indulging in a sundowner at bar, gorging on scrumptious street food in a stall, or dining at one of the iconic restaurants at a premium hotel is the best way to end your day in the city. Do not miss the special Habsburg era loos though; located in the basement right opposite Peterskirche, they showcase the brilliance of the Viennese mind and come in handy when you have had a drink too many.
A version of this story first appeared in Provoke Lifestyle’s December 2018 issue.