Have a ball in the home of palaces, museums, music, art and coffee. Here are 10 things to do in Vienna Austria.
1-Explore Imperial Vienna
The legacy that the Hapsburg emperors – rulers of Europe’s most dominant 19th century empire – left behind provides Vienna with a regal pedigree.
At the Imperial Palace or Hofburg, you can view the private rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph I (who ruled from 1848-1916), those of Empress Elisabeth and the Treasuries where the crown jewels are kept.
Schonbrunn Palace, which was architecturally inspired by France’s Palace of Versailles, was the summer home to the emperors. This palace is associated with a who’s who of historic figures such as six-year-old Mozart who performed in the Hall of Mirrors, Empress Maria Theresa who threw lavish banquets and Napoleon Bonaparte who occupied the palace in 1805 and 1809.
The annual summer Mozart Festival is held at the Schonbrunn’s Schlosstheater (palace theatre), where Marie Antoinette once appeared on stage. This is one of Vienna’s best museums.
2-Investigate Vienna’s dark side
Follow the flight of Harry Lime from the classic film noir The Third Man. The tour starts with a descent into a dark tunnel deep beneath the streets of the old town and stops at shadowy locations in the film.
You pop up for fresh air and a whip around cobblestone lanes and alleyways, with a pit stop for a glass of beer, zither music and a huge frankfurter in a backstreet cafe. For more information see Vienna Walks.
3-Taste strudel and torte
Coffee first came to Vienna in the 17th century when the Turks tried, unsuccessfully, to invade the city.
In their hurry to retreat, the commanders left behind sacks of mysterious green beans, which the Viennese assumed was fodder for the Turkish camels. These turned out to be coffee beans and today, Vienna’s coffee houses are world famous.
The Viennese are extremely fussy about the type of coffee they drink. Coffee menus are extensive, with melange – half milk (usually steamed) and half coffee, with an optional dollop of whipped cream – at the top of the list.
Many of Vienna’s coffee houses retain a 19th century ambience complete with traditional décor and regular Strauss recitals. Treat yourself to a Sacher torte at Café Sacher, the café in which the original Sacher torte was created.
4-Conduct an orchestra at Haus der Musik
Conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra or compose your own music at Haus der Musik (House of Music).
The six-story complex is a high-tech house that makes music heard, seen and felt throughout experience zones.
There are halls dedicated to Vienna’s celebrated composers showcasing the talents of masters like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss and Mahler. You’ll be amazed.
5-Sonatas and waltzes
Music performances are everywhere in Vienna. Enjoy a free outdoor Mozart concert or watch an opera on a giant outdoor screen.
For a historic treat, attend a historic costumed orchestral performance by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra at the Musikverein Golden Hall. The musicians look like they are straight out of the pages of a history book.
Nearby, the State Opera House, one of the world’s top five opera venues, hosts a different performance every night. It’s also the venue for Vienna’s annual Opera Ball where the young debutantes, daughters of rich and titled Austrian families, make their entrance into Viennese society. It’s a tradition that Emperor Franz Josef I began in 1877.
6-Go on a tavern crawl
If you see a spray of pine branches hanging outside the door of a drinking establishment, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across a traditional Viennese heuriger, or tavern.
There are 700 hectares of vineyards around the city that provide wine to these heurigers.
Like everywhere else in Vienna, music and singing is all part of the package.
7-Visit the Spanish Riding School
The elegant high stepping, pirouetting performances of Vienna’s Lipizzaner Horse are famous worldwide.
Dashing riders dressed in jackets with sparkling gold buttons and black hats trimmed with gold braid ride their beautiful white horses in step to the flowing tunes of Strauss.
If you don’t have the time to attend a full performance, buy a ticket to watch the horses during their morning training routine.
Lose yourself in Vienna’s premier gallery, the Albertina. The gallery contains around 70,000 drawings and over one million graphic prints, displaying works from the masters such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Klimt and Warhol.
From mid-November onwards, Vienna is a magical wonderland of Christmas trees, Christmas lights, markets and street festivities.
The most popular Christmas market is the annual one held at City Hall located adjacent to a park filled with gaily decorated trees. It’s a good place to taste a traditional Viennese pancake filled with apricot jam, or a Kaiserschmarrn roll, rich with eggs and fruit.
The market at Spittelberg is packed with stalls selling ceramics, silver, enamel and brass ornaments. A great place for Viennese sweets is the market in front of the Karlskirche or at the Old Vienna Christmas Market at Freyung.
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