18 Places You Must Visit When In Vienna
#1-St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the symbol of Vienna. Construction commenced in the 12th century. Today, it is one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria.
Cathedral is 107.2 meters long and 34.2 meters wide. It has four towers. The tallest of these is the south tower at 136.44 meters. The tower room, from which there is a gigantic view across Vienna, is reached via 343 steps. A total of 13 bells hang here. However, the best-known bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Pummerin, is located in the 68.3 meter-tall north tower. It is the second-biggest free-swinging chimed church bell in Europe. On the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, colorful roof tiles were laid to create the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna. The interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral was changed again and again over the centuries, right through to the Baroque period.
In addition to valuable altars and side chapels, the impressive cathedral treasure can also be seen, including relics decorated with gold and precious stones, monstrances, liturgical texts and books as well as vestments. Numerous important people were also given their final resting place in St. Stephen’s Cathedral: Emperor Friedrich III. was buried in an impressive marble sarcophagus. The tomb’s cover slab alone weighs eight tonnes. Prince Eugene of Savoy has his final resting place in a private chapel. And famous names buried in the catacombs of St. Stephen’s Cathedral include the Habsburg duke Rudolph IV. “the founder”, who laid the foundation stone for the Gothic reconstruction of the cathedral in 1359. In addition, the graves of Vienna’s cardinals and archbishops can be found in the catacombs.
Guided tours of the cathedral and the catacombs are offered on a regular basis, including for children. For information, go to: www.stephanskirche.at
Vienna’s Ringstrasse is 5.3 kilometers long. Long enough to provide space for numerous monumental buildings, which were built during the period of Historicism in the 1860s to 1890s. Today, the buildings that stand there – from the Vienna State Opera to the Museum of Fine Arts – are among the most important sights in the city of Vienna.
“It is my will…” – with these words, Emperor Franz Joseph ordered the building of the Ringstrasse in 1857. Nobles and rich citizens hurried to build pompous palaces along this magnificent boulevard. Many of these former private homes can still be admired today (mostly, however, only from the outside). The style in which the buildings were built went down in history as the Ringstrasse style (a type of Historicism). It is marked by a pluralism of styles: numerous architectural forms of previous epochs were imitated.
The most noteworthy buildings are not the palaces, but rather the large buildings such as the State Opera (built in the style of the Neo-Renaissance), the Parliament, City Hall (Flemish Gothic), the Burgtheater (New Baroque), the university (Neo-Renaissance), the Museum for Applied Art, the Vienna Stock Exchange, and the Votive Church (New Gothic), which were all constructed in the second half of the 19th century. Especially worth seeing are also the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum, both of which were built in the Neo-Renaissance style. They not only hold awesome art and natural treasures, but are also architectural masterpieces.
Master builders such as Theophil von Hansen, Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer, Gottfried Semper, Heinrich von Ferstel, and Friedrich von Schmidt shaped the image of the Ringstrasse. At the end of the 19th century, following the time of the Ringstrasse architecture, came Viennese Art Nouveau, which turned away from the ostentatious pomp and splendor.
#3-Hofburg – Imperial Palace
For more than seven centuries, the great empire of the Habsburgs was ruled from the Imperial Palace. Today, the Gothic Imperial Chapel, where the Vienna Boys’ Choir performs during High Mass on Sunday, is a remnant of the Imperial Palace during the Middle Ages.
In the center of the old city, you can admire the splendor and magnificence of the daily life of the noblest family of the Habsburg monarchy when you visit the private apartments and state rooms. Numerous museums and collections represent the imperial family’s passion for art.
The Imperial Palace, which until 1918 was inhabited by the imperial family, was originally a castle built in the thirteenth century, which was extended to a splendid residence in accordance with the increasing power of the Habsburgs and the expansion of their realm.
Today, the Imperial Palace houses the office of the President of Austria as well as an important congress center and numerous art collections. For more information, go to: www.hofburg.com
#4-Vienna State Opera
The Vienna State Opera is one of the top opera addresses in the world – where you can enjoy the very best in first-class productions. This famous stage offers a different program every day, with over 60 operas and ballet works on around 300 days per season.
With 58 different operas an 21 ballet productions, the State Opera offers an incredibly extensive program in the 2019/20 season, ranging from Handel’s Ariodante and Eötvös’ Tri Sestri to the premieres of Albin Fries’ Persinette and Olga Neuwirth’s Orlando. There are also children’s programs as well as numerous concerts, matinées, and special events.
Audience members can individually switch on subtitles – in German, English, Italian, French, Russian and Japanese. The 2,021 displays at the seats also offer information about the cast and contents of the performance (German or English).
At the Vienna Opera Ball, the Vienna State Opera is transformed into the world’s most famous ballroom. The committee, consisting of approximately 150 pairs of young men and women in white ball gowns and tails, ensures a glamorous opening of the Opera Ball.
In April, May, June, September and December, more than 80 opera and ballet performances will be screened live on Herbert-von-Karajan-Platz in front of the opera building on a 50 m² screen – it’s classical enjoyment for free! For more information, go to: www.wiener-staatsoper.at
#5-Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus)
Friedrich von Schmidt, who had been the architect of the Cathedral of Cologne, designed and built Vienna’s City Hall, the most important secular building in the neo-Gothic style in the city, between 1872 and 1883.
The height of the tower is 97.9 m, plus the so-called “Iron Rathausmann”, who measures 3.4 m (6 m including the standard) and has become a symbol of Vienna. Shoe size: 63. Vienna City Hall is the official seat of the Mayor and the meeting place of the city senate/provincial government and the Municipal Council/Landtag.
City Hall was built between 1872 and 1883 and is a building of superlatives: Around 30 million bricks and more than 40,000 cubic meters of natural stone were used. The Arkadenhof of City Hall is one of the biggest inner courtyards in Europe with an area of 2,804 m². The Festival Hall is 71 meters long, 20 meters wide and 18.5 meters high. If the fire authorities were to allow it, 1,500 couples could dance the waltz here at the same time.
Numerous events are held inside and in front of City Hall. One of the most important and best known is without doubt the Life Ball, which is held every year in May. Numerous other balls are also organized in this wonderful building each year. Starting in November, the Christmas Market in front of City Hall creates the right atmosphere in the run-up to Christmas. And from January to March, City Hall Square and City Hall Park transform into the most beautiful skating rink in the world.
City Hall is also home to the Vienna City and Regional Library (with its extensive collection of Viennensia) and the Vienna City and Regional Archive. For more information, go to: www.wien.gv.at
The theater was built from 1874 to 1888 according to designs by Gottfried Semper and Karl von Hasenauer.
Ever since 1776, when Emperor Joseph II founded the Court and National Theater, the institution preceding the present-day Burgtheater, this theater, with its distinguished company, has held a leading position in the dramatic arts of the German-speaking countries. For the season 2014/15, the Burgtheater was awarded “Theater of the Year” by the German-language journal “Theater heute”. For more information, go to: www.burgtheater.at
#7-Spanish Riding School
The Spanish Riding School and its world-famous Lipizzaners offers the highest standard of horse-riding art in the Baroque ambience of the Imperial Palace.
he Spanish Riding School in Vienna is the only institution in the world where the classic equestrian skills (haute école) has been preserved and is still practiced in its original form. Many years of training fuse horse and rider into an inseparable unit. The audience is treated to an unforgettable experience by the precision of movement of the Lipizzan horses in perfect harmony with the music.
In the course of gala performances, visitors experience unique presentations of the Lipizzans in the most beautiful riding hall in the world, which was impressively outfitted by baroque architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach between 1729 and 1735. It was originally built to provide aristocratic youths with the opportunity to take riding instruction. Since December 2015, the horsemanship of the Spanish Riding School has been classified as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. For more information, go to: www.srs.at
#8-St. Charles Church
A magnificent religious building with a large cupola: St. Charles’ Church, the last work of the eminent baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.
The church, finished in 1739 by his son Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, was built as the result of a vow taken by Emperor Charles VI during a plague epidemic. The church is consecrated to the patron saint of the Habsburg emperor, Saint Charles Borromeo: The exhibits in the small Museo Borromeo include the traveling clothes of the Bishop of Milan.
The renovation of the High Altar, designed by Fischer von Erlach, has been completed and it has regained its original splendor. The opulent frescoes in the cupola by Johannes Michael Rottmayr contain 1250 square meters of incredible splendor and beautiful colors; they show the glory of Saint Charles Borromeo. A panoramic elevator carries visitors to a platform at a height of 32.5 meters, where they can look at the frescoes from close up. The view into the nave from above is breathtaking. For more information, go to: www.karlskirche.at
Tips for music fans: In the Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles), church concerts (Mozart’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) are performed on a regular basis. During Advent, atmospheric gospel singing fills the sacred building.
The Belvedere is not only a magnificent Baroque palace but also houses one of Austria’s most valuable art collections – with key works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.
Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), successful general and art connoisseur, had Belvedere garden palace built by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt as his summer residence – at the time it was still outside the gates of the city. This baroque architectural jewel consists of two palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere), which today house Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present day.
The heart of the Belvedere collection is formed by the 24 paintings of Gustav Klimt with his golden images “The Kiss” and “Judith”. Klimt’s “The Kiss” in particular is world-famous. The 180 x 180 cm painting was created in 1908/09 and shows Klimt and his friend Emilie Flöge as a couple in love. “The Kiss” is probably Austria’s most famous work of art. Klimt’s portraits of women also impress and be marveled at in the Upper Belvedere.
The permanent exhibition at the Upper Belvedere was completely redesigned at the beginning of 2018: a total of 420 works can be seen in seven themed rooms spread over three floors. Thematically, the tour starts with the history of the Belvedere. In the other rooms, works of art from the Middle Ages, Baroque, Classicism and Biedermeier periods are shown. A separate, large area on the first floor is naturally dedicated to Vienna Modernism and the art of 1900, where Klimt’s “Kiss” has found its new home. Finally, the art of the inter-war and post-war periods is shown on the second floor.
While the Upper Belvedere was all about representation, the Lower Belvedere acted as the residential palace of Prince Eugene. The lavish splendor of the owner is reflected in the Groteskensaal (Hall of the Grotesque), the Marble Gallery and the Golden Room. Special exhibitions are held in the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery. Nowadays, medieval art can be marveled at in the sables where the prince’s horses once stood.
The gardens of the Belvedere are a highlight of Baroque landscape architecture. A reflecting pool was created in front of the place, in which the building’s façade is reflected. The large terraces with ponds connect the Upper to the Lower Belvedere. The Kammergarten was originally reserved only for the man of the house and his closest associates. The Alpine Garden in the palace park is the oldest in Europe. For more information, go to: www.belvedere.at
#10-Imperial Burial Vault (Imperial Crypt)
The Imperial Crypt is located beneath the Capuchin Church and is intended for members of Austria’s former Habsburg dynasty, who have been laid to rest in the crypt since 1633.
149 Habsburgs, including 12 emperors as well as 19 empresses and queens, have their final resting place here. The magnificent double sarcophagus of Maria Theresia and her husband, Emperor Franz I. Stephan von Lothringen, is a work by Balthasar Ferdinand Moll.
In strong contrast to this is the plain sarcophagus of her son Joseph II. The last emperor to be buried here was Franz Joseph I. (1916). The sarcophaguses of Empress Elisabeth and Crown Prince Rudolf are situated in the crypt, which is looked after by Capuchin monks. The hearts of the Habsburgs were buried in the Heart Crypt of the Church of the Augustinian Friars from 1654 to 1878.
Burials take place in the Imperial Crypt to this day: the last Austrian empress, Zita, was buried here in 1989. And on 16 July 2011, her eldest son, the former Crown Prince and European politician, Otto Habsburg, was laid to rest here alongside his wife, Regina. For more information, go to: www.kapuzinergruft.com
The former summer residence of the Habsburgs impresses with imperial ceremonial rooms and magnificent gardens. Maria Theresa, Emperor Franz Joseph, Empress Elisabeth and others once resided here.
Schönbrunn Palace is one of Europe’s most beautiful Baroque complexes and has been in the possession of the Habsburgs since 1569. The wife of Emperor Ferdinand II, Eleonore von Gonzaga, had a pleasure palace built on the site in 1642 and called the property “Schönbrunn” for the first time. The palace and garden complex created from 1696 onwards following the siege of Vienna was complete redesigned under Maria Theresa after 1743. Today, due to its historical significance, its unique layout and magnificent furnishings, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Emperor Franz Joseph was born in Schönbrunn Palace in 1830. The monarch spent the last years of his life here in their entirety. Schönbrunn Palace has a total of 1,441 rooms, 45 of which can be visited. The interiors are in the Rococo style. Mozart made music in the mirrored hall of Schönbrunn Palace as a six year-old prodigy. In the Round Chinese Cabinet, Maria Theresa held her secret conferences with State Chancellor Prince Kaunitz. Napoleon held conferences in the Vieux Lacque Room. And in the Blue Chinese Salon, Emperor Charles I signed his renunciation of government (end of the monarchy). The Millions Room, paneled with rosewood and decorated with valuable miniatures from India and Persia, ranks amongst the most beautiful Rococo rooms in existence. The Congress of Vienna convened in the Grand Gallery in 1814/15.
Schönbrunn Palace park is open to visitors free of charge all year round and is home to impressive fountains, statues, monuments, trees and flowers as well as the magnificent Gloriette. The Imperial Carriage Museum, Crown Prince Garden, Orangery Garden, Maze & Labyrinth, Zoo, Palm House and Desert Experience House are also part of the palace park and can be visited for an admission fee. For more information, go to: www.schoenbrunn.at
#12-The Vienna Naschmarkt
Vienna’s best-known market has around 120 market stands and restaurants for a colorful culinary offering ranging from Viennese to Indian, from Vietnamese to Italian. The Naschmarkt has developed into a meeting point for young and old. The Flea Market on Saturday is already a cult event.
On the Naschmarkt, a colorful crowd buys fruit, vegetables and various delicacies from every country from dawn till dusk. Increasing numbers of trendy “in” places are also finding somewhere to set up in the more than 120 market stands, and even offer free Wifi. For more information, go to: www.wienernaschmarkt.eu
The MuseumsQuartier (MQ) is one of the largest cultural quarters in the world. Located at the border of the old city in the former imperial stables, it combines institutions of different art fields, restaurants, cafés and shops in an area of over 640,000 square feet in a post-modern ambiance, a combination of baroque buildings and modern architecture.
The MQ offers an ambiance that fits the urban lifestyle of its visitors: retaining the old, experiencing the new – and enjoying both of them together. For more information, go to: www.mqw.at
#14-House of Music
Take yourself on a musical journey in Vienna’s singular Museum of Sound – in the historical palace of Archduke Karl in the old city center. Observe the great composers, look over their shoulders as they work, confront the greatest musicians of our time, and look at the musical future of computer music.
Five floors invite you into the world of the sound and noise phenomena – every day until 10:00 p.m. Music is not only for listening to: in the House of Music, you can also see, feel and even create the sounds and noises yourself. Computer installations are your tour guides.
The virtostage is a multimedia and interactive production. Anyone who moves in front of the screen intervenes in the running of the 15-minute opera “zeitperlen”. The music was recorded by members of the Vienna Philharmonic, the vocals are by opera star Natalia Ushakova. These sound environments blend with the image worlds into a new overall work of art on each occasion. The special virtostage for children presents the “zookonzert”, where the crocodile sings the blues, the frog dances the polka and the centipede tap-dances.
Another installation is NAMADEUS, which was created after Mozart’s musical game KV 516f. The names are changed into an original Mozart interpretation. Here you can also find the fascinating, interactive Waltz Dice Game.
The interactive application Facing Mozart lets visitors bring to live a Mozart portrait, with the use of an application called “facetracking”. Slip into his role and control his head movements and facial expressions …
The great composers Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven float as holograms through the air. In the case of the virtual conductor, the Vienna Philharmonic – or at least its video projection – obeys everyone who wants to try their hand at conducting. However, the professional musicians respond to an overly poor sense of rhythm with criticism. Among the music pieces to be chosen: The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss, which enchants its audience for 150 years.
Experience Music Step by Step: The fixed stairs at the beginning of the sound museum’s musical tour therefore act as a piano with 13 movement-sensitive steps as keys, each illuminating the activated note on the wall panel.
The House of Music was home to the founder and first Kapellmeister (conductor) of the Vienna Philharmonic: Otto Nicolai (1810-1849). Making it a good place for the museum and historical archive of the world-famous orchestra, which are located on the first floor.
On display in the Hall of Mirrors are testimonies to the rich history of the orchestra, such as documents of awards and the batons of famous conductors. The decree of establishment of the Vienna Philharmonic can be found in the Nicolairaum . As can the program of the first philharmonic concert of 1842, the first photo of the orchestra from 1864 and photographs of Otto Nicolai, Georg and Joseph Hellmesberger and other people who were important for the foundation of the orchestra and in the first decades of its existence. For more information, go to: www.hdm.at
#15-Kunst Haus Wien
Colorful areas, irregular forms, many grown over with lush green plants: this is how painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000) encouraged new impulses – and not only to Vienna’s architecture. He also created an exhibition center offering a permanent exhibition of Hundertwasser’s works as well as changing exhibitions of exciting contemporary art.
Master Hundertwasser has completely transformed the former Thonet bentwood furniture factory in his characteristic style. Today, irregular elements of glass, metal, bricks, wood and ceramic tiles in many colors give a unique character to the formerly inconspicuous building. Opened in 1991, Kunst Haus Wien houses a permanent Hundertwasser exhibition on two floors and two additional floors are devoted to changing exhibitions. On the ground floor, there is a café-restaurant and a shop.
Also on the ground floor is the “Garage”, where artists and creative types deal critically with the theses formulated by Hundertwasser on the topics of sustainability, climate change, recycling and urbanity. And on the lower ground floor, the so-called “Galerie” hosts selected items of young photography. For more information, go to: www.kunsthauswien.com
Tipp : Not far from Kunst Haus, you will find the so-called “Hundertwasser-Haus,” Vienna’s most original public housing complex. In the directly affiliated Café “Kunst und Cafe” (ground floor), they are showing a movie for free about a guided tour with Hundertwasser himself presenting “his own house”.
And with the beautification of the district heating system Spittelau (which can be seen very well during a cruise on the Danube Canal), Hundertwasser has created a very special monument to himself.
#16-House of the Sea
The House of the Sea displays tropical freshwater and saltwater fish, as well as fish from the Mediterranean and domestic waters, and sharks, all at a lofty height.
Austria’s largest aquarium is located in the House of the Sea: A 300,000 liter tank holds black and white tip sharks, bamboo sharks, and Puppi, a sea turtle. Another highlight is the 150,000-liter tank for the hammerhead sharks on the tenth floor of the former anti-aircraft tower. On the ground floor, visitors can walk through the ten meter-long Atlantic Tunnel: A tunnel leads through a 500,000-liter tank, which is home to the fish of the Atlantic Ocean – ranging from damselfish to eagles rays and a nurse shark. And the café on the 11th floor grants visitors a breathtaking view of Vienna.
In the House of the Tropics and the Croc-Park you can see free-flying birds and free-roaming apes, crocodiles, and other animals categorized by habitat. In the terrarium section live poisonous as well as giant snakes, lizards, leaf-cutter ants, and tarantulas. And the Adventure Aquarium “Brandungsriff” lets children experience the tropical fish right up close through the “diver‟s helmets” built into the floor of the aquarium. In an artificial stalactite cave grotto, you can observe over 100 animals and cave-dwellers which are active by night: poisonous giant millipedes, amplypigids and armored ground crickets, cave fish without eyes and scorpions that glow like ghosts under UV light. For more information, go to: www.haus-des-meeres.at
An amusement park for many, place of nostalgic dreams for some, oasis of greenery for almost everyone – and the location of the Giant Ferris Wheel, one of Vienna’s most famous symbols. The Vienna Prater is in season from March to October. But the world-famous Giant Ferris Wheel and a few other attractions are open all year round.
Of course, the Prater is not just a pleasure park. The Prater also includes the adjacent Stadtpark, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Here, in the middle of nature in the heart of Vienna, visitors find themselves far from the hustle and bustle of the city. The landscape of water meadows was once a popular hunting ground of the Habsburgs. Today, visitors stroll along the Hauptallee, the main avenue that runs from the Praterstern to the Lusthaus beneath groups of poplars past meadows and dense undergrowth.
One of the biggest attractions in this part of the Prater is the chestnut blossom. While the trees flower in delicate shades of pink in May, the Hauptallee is filled with walkers and cyclists as well as joggers and riders, the children romp around on the playground and youngsters meet on the BMX and skating track or throw themselves into the sand on the beach volleyball courts.
252 meters high, two fast lifts, 35 seconds up: the observation terrace of the Danube Tower at a height of 155 meters offers the best view over Vienna.
The 360° panorama view of the city is breathtaking. Freshly renovated, the Danube Tower presents itself in a new splendor. Or rather, in its old glory. The restaurant and café at the top of the tower revolve around its own axis at a height of 170 meters. The interiors have been restored to the style of the 1960s but of course the technology has been brought completely up to date. The Danube Tower was built on the occasion of the Vienna Garden Show in 1964.
On the indoor and outdoor viewing platforms at 155 meters above sea level, interactive panoramic screens provide information on the surrounding sights in eight languages. In the newly adapted entrance area, more than 60 multimedia touch screens make the history of the tower and the city of Vienna tangible.
But the absolute highlight is the panoramic view. From nowhere in the city can you get a better view of Vienna and the Danube. For more information, go to: www.donauturm.at
In winter, the Jesuitenwiese meadow in Vienna’s Prater becomes a big playground. A snow-making machine provides enough of the white stuff for a proper snowball fight. In addition to cross-country trails, there is also a tobogganing hill, which was created from the ruins of houses bombed during the Second World War.