Whether you’re walking in the footsteps of the Habsburgs, exploring Vienna’s many museums, admiring the baroque architecture or splashing out on a shopping spree, you’re in for a great time in Vienna, Austria. Effortlessly combining the past and the present, Vienna is both a dynamic European capital and a city rich in historical sights and attractions. Trendy clubs, galleries, modern architecture and stylish boutiques have shaped the city of Vienna as much as the state opera, concert halls and museums.
Welcome to your guide of what you absolutely have to do when in Vienna for a day…
Imperial Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace
The former summer residence of the imperial family, Schönbrunn Palace is one of Europe’s stand-out palace complexes. Having been in the Habsburg family since 1569, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a stunning historical reminder of the city’s past. Mostly decorated in the Rococo style, the rooms of the palace are open to the public. Don’t miss the Hall of Mirrors, where Mozart famously performed in 1772 at the age of 6.
Until 1918, the Hofburg was the centre of the Habsburg Empire, and today is the seat of the Austrian president. Featuring the Imperial Treasury, several museums, cafes, restaurants, public squares and parks, the Hofburg is another glimpse at Austria’s glorious past.
Follow in the footsteps of the Habsburgs
Explore the power centre of the Habsburgs: from St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of the old city, the Imperial Burial Vault and the Church of the Augustinian Friars, to the Imperial Palace, the Sisi Museum and the Spanish Riding School where world-renowned Lipizzaners inspire audiences from around the world. All these sites are within easy walking distance of each other – so take a stroll through Vienna and get a feel for its illustrious past.
Modern Art in Vienna
Vienna’s art is world famous. ‘The Secession’ is one of the city’s most famous art nouveau buildings dating from about 1900. In 1897 a group of modern-minded artists in Vienna decided to resign from the Austrian Artists Association due to conservatism. They started the Union of Austrian artists and wanted to build their own, free and modernised exhibition space and so they did! Inspired by the motto ‘To the Age, it’s Art – to Art, it’s Freedom’ – which is inscribed above the entrance – famous artists, architects and designers have called Vienna home; including famous names like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Take the ‘Klimt walk’ through Vienna and visit the Museum of Applied Arts, the Leopold Museum and the Church am Steinhof – all great places to soak up the atmosphere of Vienna’s more recent past. Have you seen the recent film Women in Gold with Helen Mirren? This fantastic film gives great insight to the world of Klimt and the history of Austrian art.
Taste Viennese Coffee
Coffee is an institution in Austria and Viennese coffeehouses are in a class of their own. The coffee culture in Austria dates back to when traders from Turkey invaded the country and reportedly left behind bags filled with coffee. Austria is one of the countries in the Western world that consumes the most coffee per capita, even more than France! Viennese cafes are century-old with wooden interior, warm, cosy atmosphere and fancy-dressed waiters.
Expect to see locals sitting for hours on end sipping a cup of coffee, reading the newspaper and discussing politics. If you ask for a simple cup of coffee you might get the death stare, so we suggest you start with a “Grroßer Brauner” (rich black coffee) or a “Melange” (steamed coffee with frothed milk, similar to the Italian’s cappuccino). Another famous Viennese coffee is the “Einspänner” – black and strong like the Austrians like it with a dollop of whipped cream. Your coffee will get served on a round plate accompanied with a glass of still water. Top it off with a slice of Sacher Torte, the famous Austrian chocolate cake on the side.
Top Tip! Visit the Twelve Apostles Cellar for dinner. Located on Sonnenfelsgasse, the Twelve Apostles Cellar is a restaurant showing evidence of being around in some capacity at least as far back as 1339. The cellars have been used as shelter in various wars, including Turkish sieges in 1529 and 1683. Rebuilt in 1561, the structure survives to this day as a restaurant serving traditional Austrian fare. It’s a brilliant place to visit! Check out their website here.
Whether you’re a history buff, and art fanatic, party animal or a foodie, Vienna’s got something to delight and inspire. Take a multi-country Europe tour with Expat Explore to get experience Vienna and all the sights described above.