Vienna is a travel destination packed with cultural and historic attractions, and breathtaking baroque architecture.
The city attracts about four million visitors a year and is the gateway between Western and Eastern Europe.
Vienna’s old city centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in 2001. The Ringstrasse – the ring of wide boulevards that surround the old centre – is one of the city’s greatest assets. It’s lined with museums, magnificent buildings, parks and gardens. The Ringstrasse replaced the old city wall, which was demolished in the mid-1800s by order of Emperor Franz Josef l. That decision is largely what led to the open and airy city residents and visitors enjoy today.
Enjoy this Vienna travel guide.
The kaffeehauses (coffee houses) of Vienna are an absolute institution, and an important part of Viennese history.
Traditionally a breeding ground for innovation and social change, the who’s who of Viennese society would gather at coffee houses across the city in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to debate the issues of the day.
Today the coffee hours are a must-visit for caffeine-crazy Aussies, but be warned, the Viennese take their coffee drinking very seriously. There are no takeaways. You sit, relax and enjoy every sip of your coffee in the undoubtedly opulent surrounds. Cafe Sacher in the old city centre is an excellent option. While you’re there, try a slice of their famous Sacher Torte.
Top rated Vestibül restaurant in the foyer of the gorgeously historical Burgtheatre (or Burg as it’s known to locals) is a must for connoisseurs of fine food.
The Burg is located right on the Ringstrasse. Vestibül features a fine dining menu with an emphasis on local produce and a fusion of Austrian and French styles. Try their signature dish of the unlikely combination of lobster and cabbage in paprika sauce.
Listen to a podcast of our tips for top things to see and do in Vienna:
You can’t come all the way to Austria without trying a traditional Wiener Schnitzel: paper-thin veal, deep-fried and served with fresh lemon. The place to do it is the Griechenbeisl – a traditional Viennese restaurant established in the late 1400s (parts of the building date back to the 1300s!). Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert all dined here.
There’s no shortage of ways to step back in time in Vienna.
Make your first stop the imposing Hofburg (imperial buildings of state). This was the seat of power of the mighty Hapsburg dynasty that ruled Austria for six centuries.
There are three areas of the Hofburg that are open to the public, but if you have limited time, don’t miss the Kaiserappartements – the former home of Emperor Franz Josef l. Franz Josef ruled Austria from the mid 1800s until his death in 1916 during World War l, and was the longest-serving of the Hapsburg emperors. The apartments – which Franz Josef shared with his wife Elizabeth (also known as Sisi) and their family, are largely undisturbed and provide a fascinating insight into imperial life.
Albertina museum is home to an incredible collection of works by the great masters – including Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Cezanne and many more.
You might remember the Vienna Art and Design exhibition at the NGV in Victoria a few years ago, which focused on the Vienna Secession led by Gustav Klimt. You can visit the Secession building in Vienna with its famous Beethoven Frieze.
No visit to Vienna would be complete without attending a Mozart recital. Mozart was born in Salzburg but spent much of his life in Vienna composing around 600 musical works. Purchase a ticket to the chamber concert of your choice in the main square around St Stephen’s Cathedral. The Vienna Residence Orchestra is one option, which performs at the wonderful Palais Auersperg.
The shopping in Vienna is fabulous, as you would expect.
The pedestrian Kohlmarkt is the spot to head for if you’re looking for big name brands. It’s home to Vienna’s most celebrated jewelers, including Wagner. All the big international names are also present: Tiffany and Co, Cartier and others. The holiday for your credit card is definitely over!
Watch our guide for Sky News Business Class to top places to eat and stay in Vienna:
Adam Ford, editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and host of Tour the World, regularly joins the team at Sky News Business Class to discuss top destinations around the world. Looking for ideas for things to do in Vienna?
For relaxing things to see and do in Vienna, the city has an amazing number of municipal parks and gardens.
The Stadtpark is one of the most beautiful and offers an absolute wealth of historic monuments to enjoy. It was also the city’s first public park.
The Burggarten is another option. Once the private garden of Franz Josef l, it contains the only public monument to the emperor.
Sigmund Freud Park – located just outside the Ringstrasse on the northern side of the old city – offers free use of sun lounges.
Hotel Sacher Vienna
The Hotel Sacher Vienna is one of the city’s finest accommodation options. In fact, it’s one of Europe’s top luxury hotels and famous guests have included John F Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II.
The hotel features classic styling throughout, sumptuous furnishings and exquisite attention to detail, and is located in the heart of the old city. The executive suites offer up to 70sqm of internal space.
The Guesthouse Vienna
For a boutique accommodation option, The Guesthouse Vienna will fit the bill. It’s also located in the centre of the old city. British designer Sir Terence Conran inspired the contemporary finishes and every room features a stocked wine fridge and mini bar which is complimentary (apart from spirits), and Molton Brown toiletries.
There are only four room types and they’re all amazing.
Five tours we love
Situated in the centre of Vienna’s Old City, the Albertina Museum is a must-see during your visit and holds one of the world’s greatest art collections. Skip to the front of the queue.
Discover Vienna’s most amazing sights on a guided two-hour small-group walking tour of the city centre.
Enjoy a superb evening at Schönbrunn Palace – considered to be one of the most stunning Baroque palaces anywhere in Europe. Enjoy a delicious three-course dinner, followed by a classical concert of works by Mozart and Strauss.
Cruise the mighty Danube River through Vienna and enjoy the stunning architecture.
Enjoy a day trip from Vienna to Salzburg – the city immortalised in the film The Sound of Music.
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Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. Adam has travelled extensively through Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, parts of South America, Africa and the Middle East. He worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the Tour the World travel TV series on Network Ten. Adam also appears regularly as a travel commentator on Sky News Business Class and Talking Lifestyle. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hoi An.
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