Waltz to the tunes of the royal Opera, sample chocolate cake at an Old World café, and marvel at the indomitable Gothic Cathedrals in the heart of town. Tiptoe through Palaces and Residences of the Habsburgs, be dazzled by the crown jewels at the Imperial Treasury, catch a snack at the underground coffee shops, or walk the high street in your Sunday Best. Vienna has something for everyone.
- The State Opera House
Located in the heart of the city, the Neo-Renaissance styled Opera House symbolizes the love Viennese have for music. Take some time out for a guided tour of the Opera House and witness the opulence of its interiors. Take special note of the chandelier, special viewing galleries, and if you are lucky, you can also see the mammoth foldable stage being set for the show.
One of the busiest Opera Houses in the world, the Opera House plays a different opera each day of a week. While some visitors find viewing a performance here is worth the fee, you can enjoy the performance for free: in summer months, live performances are screened on the front of the building.
Do not forget to visit the Opera Toilet located just outside the Opera House in the Karlsplatz underground station. The powder rooms are famous for their rich interiors and Opera House music that plays in a loop.
- Coffee and Torte at Café Sacher
The Viennese take pride in their coffee and Cafés. Spend some time soaking the Viennese air while sipping on Viennese coffee and sampling the famous torte. The best place to do that? Café Sacher.
Café Sacher is famous world over for its Torte – a rich, apricot filled iced chocolate cake. Their torte said to be favored by none other than emperor Franz Josef himself, and that makes it the most coveted cafe in town. Located just across the street from the Opera House, Sacher makes for a perfect pit stop after the tour. The open-air section is warm and inviting and best suited for people watching on a balmy summer evening. The interior, rich and opulent with ornate chandeliers, regal tapestry, and red carpets, is perfect for long winter nights. Whatever the season be, Coffee and Sacher Torte are a must in your itinerary.
- Churches and Cathedrals
Stephen’s Dome, Karlskirche, Peterskirche, churches and cathedrals in Vienna are both omnipresent and breathtaking.
The Gothic Stephen’s Dome is oldest and most prominent cathedral and city’s most vivid symbol. Its 137-metre-high intricately carved spire is visible from every part of the city. The vibrant roof, made up of colourful tiles, carries Vienna’s coat of arms. The church was severely damaged in WWII and a part of this colourful roof was rebuilt by the contribution of the locals. Today it is the seat of the archbishop, and a popular venue for classical concerts and choirs throughout the year. Do not forget climb to the top of the South Tower to reach the lookout terrace for a spectacular view of the city.
Unlike Stephen’s dome, Karlskirche stands inconspicuously among thick foliage and old buildings off the main streets and squares. But once you notice it, it is hard to take your eyes off the baroque beauty. If you happen to be in the vicinity, spend some quiet time inside and outside the church. Or attend one of the many concerts in the evening.
The smallest and most ornate of the three, Peterskirche is sandwiched between neo-renaissance and gothic buildings in the Old Town and tourists usually stumble upon it accidentally. But looking for it is worth the effort for its gilded interiors, intricate paintings, and rich sculptures. Spend some time attending a service, or quietly admire it from a distance, but do not miss Peterskirche.
- Palaces & Residences
Vienna is home to luxurious palaces and imperial residences. Bu the two most iconic palaces are: the Schonbrunn Palace, or the summer residence of the Habsburg, and the Hofburg Palace, their main palace that dominates the town centre.
Take a guided tour of the royal apartments at the Schonbrunn Palace to witness the regal lifestyle of the Habsburgs, especially Maria Theresa, Franz Joseph, and empress Elizabeth. Stroll along the pebbled path of its sprawling complex, or spend some time in the world’s oldest zoo. Or spend an afternoon in the lawns of Hofburg Complex appreciating the splendour of a mélange of architectural styles – baroque, gothic and nouveau – imposing copper statues, and the crown jewels in the Schatzkammer, the Imperial Treasury.
- Museumsquartier & Kunsthistorisches (Appreciate Art in the Museum Dustrict)
Too much royal history can take a toll. Take some time off history and walk across the Hofburg Palace to the museum district of Vienna. Modernism and contemporary art come together in this sprawling complex of museums, comprising exhibitions, bars, fashion events and even a museum for children. Enjoy paintings by Schiele and Klimt at the Leopold Museum, or more contemporary work at the Mumok museum. If you enjoy natural history, and art, Kunsthistorisches und Naturhistorisches
is the place for you. The two identical buildings stand facing each other with an imposing Maria Theresa sitting in the center. The art museum, Kunsthistorisches, houses famous creations of Titian, Veronese, Rubens and Caravaggio. The Natural History museum meanwhile will teach you a thing or two about geology and excavations.
- The Ringstrasse
The grand circular Ringstrassa corrals Vienna’s town centre. In the 1860s Franz Joseph had the old city wall razed and built a boulevard in its place. Today the three-mile-long avenue is lined with Vienna’s top sights and gives you a lesson in history and architecture: the Neo Classical Parliament Building with Athena standing guard, the Neo-Gothic City Hall, the imposing Neo-Renaissance museums, and the Court Theatre, with a Neo-Baroque architectural style. Hop on the special tourist tram or, for a budget tour, take tram no. 1 from the Parliament and make the loop around the city to witness the grandeur of Vienna.
- Savour the Street Food
Gelato, Sandwiches, Pizza Slices, Kebab Rolls, Noodles, Rice, Sausages, Hot Dogs, Ice creams – street food is sprinkled in Vienna like colourful confetti on a sundae. From underground stations to tram stops, from street corners to the town square you will find something that fits your palate and budget everywhere. Indulge in a pizza slice or kebab roll at Karlsplatz tram stop or dig in to a box of spicy noodles in the old town; bite into a scrumptious football shaped burger at Stephensplatz underground station or dig into a deep bowl of gelato at the high street. When in Vienna never go hungry.
- Roam The Cobbled Streets of Old Town
Vienna’s historic centre is a dream come true. It boasts of everything from Gothic church spires to Habsburg-era homes. Most of the buildings are now used for commercial purposes and house high street brands and heritage hotels. Rich in nightlife, casinos, exclusive boutiques, and fancy restaurants, the old town has been vehicle free since the 70s. You can, however cycle around the area.
Dress up in your Sunday Best and rub shoulders with the who’s who of the town. Or gaze at the gilded balconies and ornate fountains; spot heritage hotels, stock souvenirs, music and books, and do not miss the special Habsburg era loos located in the basement (Yeah! The Viennese are obsessed with loos).
- Witness the Beauty of the Dead in Kaisergruft
The Habsburgs ruled Vienna for over six centuries but even in their death, they did not entirely leave the city alone: they left their hearts under a church in the palace, their entrails under the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the rest of their bodies in a crypt adjacent to the Hofburg Palace, in Kaisergruft.
Over 150 members of the royal family are buried in ornate crypts under a seemingly ordinary church. Like everywhere else, Maria Theresa occupies the best spot here also, and also the most elaborate tomb. Festooned with royal regalia, her tomb occupies the central place in the underground crypt. She is surrounded by her many children. The richly ornate tombs, which are a mixture of art and symbolism, are said to be designed by their occupants themselves and often depict the personality of the occupant.