Located on the banks of the Danube River, the UNESCO World Heritage City of Vienna is the capital of Austria and with over 1.7 million inhabitants it is by far the largest and most populated city in the country.
Once the nucleus of the expansive Habsburg Empire, right from the 16th century up till the early 20th century, Vienna continues to serve as Austria’s political, cultural, and commercial hub. This historic European city’s cosmopolitan charm and cultural heritage make it one of the most visited cities in Europe and, indeed, the world.
Owing to its musical legacy Vienna has been dubbed the “City of Music,” and being home to Sigmund Freud, it is also referred to as the “City of Dreams” by many.
Up there at the top, among the most liveable countries in the world, Vienna boasts a very high standard of living and has more often than not enjoyed the top or runners-up position in “Quality of Living” surveys by reputable entities such as the “Economist Intelligence Unit,” “Mercer’ and “Monocle.”
Vienna also has the distinction of being one of the most preferred destinations for international conventions and conferences. In fact, it was the number one destination for such purposes between 2005 and 2010.
The city has much on offer for tourists what with its architectural richness, its stately horse-drawn cabs or “Fiakers” – as the locals like to call them – famous museums and cosy street-side cafés offering a number of coffee variants such as Kleiner Brauner and Großer Brauner meaning “little brown one” or “large brown one,” Mazagran, Verlängerter, Kurzer or Espresso, and Eiskaffee (cold coffee with vanilla ice cream) to name a few.
Here’s a brief look at eight of the top-rated tourist attractions in Vienna.
The Hofburg Imperial Palace
Located in central Vienna, the 13th-century Hofburg Imperial Palace was the seat of power and the official residence of the Habsburg dynasty monarchs for over six centuries. Even today, it serves as the official seat of the President of the Republic of Austria (Republik Österreich).
Covering an area of 59 acres, the Hofburg comprises 18 groups of buildings with 19 courtyards and 2600 rooms. This ornate palace complex with its baroque interiors, imperial apartments, the Sisi Museum (Silver Museum), the Burgkapelle (Imperial Chapel), the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum), the Austrian National Library and the Hofburg Treasury with its sizeable collection of Imperial regalia and relics of the Holy Roman Empire draw huge numbers of tourists day after day, year after year.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
Built in the 12th century, the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, also known by its German name Stephansdom, is a medieval Roman Catholic Church with an elaborate spire, catacombs and a treasury museum.
This beautiful Gothic edifice with its multi-colored-tile roof is over 107 meters long and 34 meters wide with four towers. The tallest south tower stands at an imposing height of 136.44 meters with its tower room offering a panoramic view of the great city in all its glory. While the south tower houses 13 bells, the most famous Pummerin bell hangs from the 68.3 meter-tall north tower.
The interior of this magnificent church has witnessed many a transformation over the centuries up until the Baroque period. The catacombs of the church is the final resting place of some very important personalities including Prince Eugene of Savoy, Joseph Othmar Rauscher ( Austrian Prince-Archbishop of Vienna and Cardinal), Frederick the Fair, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, Albert III (Duke of Austria), Joanna Sophia of Bavaria and many other eminent personalities.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Vienna, the St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a must-see attraction and should not be missed at any cost.
Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens
One of Europe’s most impressive Baroque structures, the Schönbrunn Palace is a magnificent architectural specimen in a picturesque, sprawling park-like setting. The palace boasts 1441 rooms out of which only 45 are accessible to visitors.
The Round Chinese Cabinet is famous for being the venue of Maria Theresa’s secret conferences with State Chancellor Prince Kaunitz.
The Vieux Lacque Room is where Napoleon held important conferences.
Emperor Charles I signed the end of monarchy in the Blue Chinese Salon while the Congress of Vienna convened in the Grand Gallery in 1814/15.
The rosewood-paneled Millions Room with its priceless miniatures from Persia and India is considered one of the most beautiful Rococo rooms in history.
The Schönbrunn Palace Park boasts impressive statues, fountains, and monuments with an abundance of trees and flowers all around. It is home to the splendid Café Gloriette famous for its delicious pastries and for the magnificent view of Vienna it offers its patrons.
The palace park is also home to the Imperial Carriage Museum, Crown Prince Garden, Orangery Garden, Maze & Labyrinth, Zoo, Palm House and Desert Experience and can be visited for an admission fee.
The Belvedere Palace
The Belvedere is essentially two magnificent palaces, the Upper (Oberes) and the Lower (Unteres) Belvedere. The two palaces house some of Austria’s most extensive and priceless art collections including great works of art from masters like Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele, to name a few.
Decorated general and art connoisseur Prince Eugene of Savoy had the palace constructed as his summer residence in the early 18th century. Baroque architect Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt was entrusted with the task of building the Palace and Gardens and from what we see today, it was a massive undertaking of the time built to perfection by the military engineer.
The Upper Belvedere houses a ground floor hall resplendent in its impressive statues and a Ceremonial Staircase. Another more than noteworthy feature of the Upper Palace is the stunning two-story Marble Hall with its beautiful ceiling fresco and great works of sculpture and paintings.
The Lower Palace also boasts a Marble Hall with an equally beautiful ceiling fresco in addition to a Marble Gallery, home to a rich collection of sculptures and paintings from the 12th century to the 16th century.
The Winter Palace, the Orangery, the Palace Stables, and the Belvedere Gardens and Fountains connecting the two palaces are some of the other prominent features of the Belvedere Palace and Gardens.
The Danube Tower (Donauturm)
Locally known as the Donauturm, the 826-foot tall Danube Tower was built as recently as 1964 to mark the occasion of the Vienna International Garden Show. The picturesque Danube Park with its jogging tracks, undulating meadows, beautiful flower beds and children’s playgrounds bears testimony to the grand event of the sixties.
The tower boasts a 564 feet high rotating restaurant with a great menu and mesmerizing views of Vienna and the Vienna Woods – a must-see attraction by any means.
Vienna State Opera House
The Vienna State Opera House is a 19th-century theater built by the celebrated architect Josef Hlávka. This world-renowned stage offers some of the world’s best productions and performances involving prominent composers, conductors, solo artists, and dancers with a different world-class program every single day of the 300-day season every year.
The high point of the ball season is undoubtedly the Vienna Opera Ball when the Vienna State Opera House is converted into a ballroom. The Opera Ball committee, involving some 150 couples in white ball gowns and tails, is responsible for a sensational opening worthy of the event’s international fame and standing.
Home to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, this French Early Renaissance style structure has an audience seating capacity of 2,211 in addition to accommodating at least 110 musicians at any given program.
*English Language guided tours are available on demand.
Located on the south side of the Karlsplatz in Vienna, the Karlskirche is a baroque church dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, a saint invoked during plagues. Karlskirche was built in 1737 by the father-son-baroque-architect-pair of Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach.
The structure is easily recognizable because of its breathtakingly beautiful 72-meter dome flanked by 33-meter-tall twin Triumphal Pillars somewhat resembling the minarets of a mosque. A 32.5-meter platform inside the domed cathedral offers up-close views of the intricately ornate frescoes.
The Prater Park Giant Ferris Wheel
Another symbolic Vienna landmark is the 65-meter-tall Giant Ferris Wheel situated inside the 3200-acre Prater Park– a natural park between the Danube and the Danube Canal which once served as the hunting grounds for Vienna’s royalty.
Built-in 1897 to mark the 50th anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph’s reign, the Giant Ferris Wheel provides breathtaking views of Vienna, the Prater itself and the Danube.
What makes the Giant Ferris Wheel even more famous is the fact that it has featured in several Hollywood blockbusters including the James Bond film “The Living Daylights” starring Timothy Dalton and Carol Reed’s “TheThird Man” with Orson Welles playing Harry Lime in this 1949 film.
It is for this reason that in June 2016 the European Film Academy placed the famous landmark on the list of Treasures of European Film Culture
The entrance area of the Giant Ferris Wheel boasts eight cabins offering insights into two millennia of Viennese history.
Individual cabins can be booked for wedding parties, exclusive dinners, and cocktail receptions.
Here’s a list of some of the other noteworthy and must-visit attractions of Vienna.
- Kärtner Strasse and the Donner Fountain
- The Demel: Vienna’s Ultimate Café
- The Imperial Crypt and the Capuchin Church
- Vienna Zoo (Tiergarten Schönbrunn)
- Maria-Theresien-Platz and Memorial
- Kunsthistorisches Museum
- Imperial Treasury
- Austrian National Library
- Imperial Crypt
- Collegial and Parish Church of St. Peter
Source: Wikipedia, Planetware, Wien