There is a city that constantly tops the world rankings as the most livable, with the highest quality of life and as the most innovative. It also stands out amongst other important cities due to the number of famous people who lived there. That perfectly organized place is called Vienna, the capital of Central Europe. For decades it was the entering point of many eastern Europeans to the Western world, and historically many of those nations formed part of it. Vienna was the capital of various large empires and the place where all of those different cultures mixed. Probably that’s why its cultural production continues to flourish.
Vienna is a compact city located on the both sides of the Danube River, where the Alps end and the large plain begin, near the border with Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The Old Vienna or Inner city was built inside today’s Ring Boulevard, next to a Danube meander. The Neoclassical Vienna surrounded the Old Town, still on one side of the river. It was only after Second World War that the city crossed the Danube and expanded on the north bank. Most of the curvy streets in the Old town radiate from the Stephansplatz Square and transform into an orthogonal grid once across the Ring. The main boulevards form either additional ring roads or go perpendicular to them. Between them, the city’s 23 districts.
Most of the landmarks are located within the Old town and its neighboring districts. The medieval heritage concentrates around the Stephansplatz Square with the St. Stephen’s Cathedral as its main sight. Built in the 14th century, the monumental Romanesque – Gothic Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. From the Royal period, the biggest attraction is the majestic Hofburg Palace, former seat of Habsburg and Austro Hungarian monarchs, and currently the seat of the President. Several important neoclassical edifices line the Ring road, starting from the neo-renaissance University of Vienna, neo-gothic Rathaus (Town hall), neo-attic Austrian Parliament, and the neo-renaissance Vienna State Opera. A few steps away the famous Secession building was a place for secessionist artists to display their work. Be sure to check out the baroque Karlskirche church just across, the Schönbrunn Palace in Hietzing and the Belvedere Palace in Landstraße. A few blocks away from Belvedere, two unique architectural masterpieces from late 20th century confirm Vienna’s position as a cultural mecca: KunstHaus Wien and HundertwasserHaus. Check out this guide for free things to do in Vienna.
Vienna’s world class accommodation offer includes all classes and price ranges. Without any doubt the best place to stay is the Innere Stadt or the District 1, even for those who prefer a quiet neighborhood. Most sights are just a foot away and it’s conveniently connected with the rest of the city. Other good locations include the neighboring districts: No.2 Leopoldstadt if you prefer being next to the river and Vienna’s largest park, No.6 & 7 Mariahilf and Neubau if you like good shopping and No.3 & 4 if you want to be near the palaces and Secessionist architecture. For those looking for cheaper options areas around Hauptbahnhof and Westbahnhof house several hostels and guesthouses.
Vienna is a pretty flat city so walking and biking are great options. Walking is a rewarding experience, especially in the Old Town, where many beautiful locations are only accessible by foot. Biking is amazingly pleasant, especially since the introduction of public bikes, which tourists can use too. Vienna has a wonderfully developed public transport grid. It consists of 5 metro (U-bahn) lines, and numerous tram, bus and suburban rail (S-bahn) lines. The metro covering almost the entire city is the fastest and most convenient way to travel. Taxis are reliable but pricey.
Vienna is a must see on your European itinerary. Its large urban center has many different historical layers with the neoclassical being its style ‘for excellence’. However, Vienna is much more than that, it is a center for art, architecture, music and science. While the Secessionist movement and great minds such as Sigmund Freud marked the city in the beginning of the 20th century, the turn of the 21st brought more knowledge, research and innovations. A number of fantastic architectural projects aimed at rehabilitating Vienna’s neglected neighborhoods and areas were executed in the last decade. The Museums Quartier, Danube City and Gasometer are a couple of outstanding examples. It seems Vienna doesn’t stop surprising. Let’s wait and see what’s next; it will surely be something amazing!
Vienna Travel Guide
- Stay in the Innere Stadt (District 1) or near. Happy Frog recommends Das Capri Hotel
- Stephen’s Cathedral;
- Belvedere and Schönbrunn Palaces;
- A museum or two in the MuseumsQuartier;
- Hofburg Palace;
- HundertwasserHaus and KunstHaus.
- Have coffee and try SacherTorte in one of the historic coffeehouses.
- On foot, by bike, metro, tram or bus.
- Go on an excursion to Bratislava.
DO NOT MISS:
- Discover secessionist architecture and see an exhibition in Secession building;
- Spend a day getting lost within the Old Town;
- Listen to a concert in Wiener Musikverein or watch an opera in the Opera House;
- Bike around the city, and cross the Danube;
- Walk along the Ring Avenue.