Few cities can boast of the imperial grandeur of Vienna, once the heart of the mighty Habsburg monarchy. In addition to the different postmodern and contemporary architectural designs that contrast and merge with historic buildings, you can experience the splendor of the city wherever you go. Notably through the sumptuous palaces such as the Belvedere Palace, Schönbrunn Palace, and the monumental complex of the Hofburg. Few cities can boast of the cultural aspect of the Austrian capital, Vienna being one of the most musical cities in the world. Visiting it means experimenting with the works of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, Johann Strauss … What more can we say when we know that the city is lively both in the evening and during the day and that we eat like royalty? If you’re looking for the best things to do in Vienna, here are enough ideas for a weekend, 3-4 days or more.
Formerly serving as Imperial stables, the Museumsquartier is now a beautiful place to relax and observe people, but especially to appreciate art. This fertile ground of Viennese cultural life covers more than 60,000 square meters of exhibition space, the complex being one of the most ambitious cultural spaces in the world. There is a remarkable collection of museums, cafés, restaurants and bars. Three museums stand out immediately: the Leopold Museum, the Kunsthalle Vienna, and the Mumok (Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig Vienna). If you do not have the time or the courage to do it all, bet on the Leopold Museum with its remarkable group of great Austrian names and its glass-walled café.
– Kunsthistorisches Museum
Vienna’s Museum of Art History is considered one of the world’s first ancient art museums. The gallery of paintings hosts many major works of Western art, such as Raphael’s “Madonna in the Green”, Vermeer’s “Ars pictoria”, and masterpieces by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Titian and Tintoretto.
– The Belvedere Palace
If you are unsure of having your dose of Art during your stay with the MuseumsQuartier and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, you are sure to find satisfaction at the Belvedere. There are actually two palaces here, separated by a 17th century French-style flower garden, some of which claim to be among the best examples of Baroque architecture in the world. Once the home of key figures in Austrian history, such as Eugène de Savoie-Carignan and François-Ferdinand, the buildings today house an impressive range of Austrian art with renowned artists such as Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka.
– The Hofburg Palace
Nothing symbolizes Austria’s culture and heritage more than its imperial Hofburg Palace. The Habsburgs lived here for more than six centuries, from the first emperor (Rodolphe I in 1273) to the last (Charles I in 1918). The Hofburg owes its size and architectural diversity to the bidding of each of its new emperors: new sections have been added over the centuries such as the Baroque Leopold wing, the 18th century Chancery wing, the wing of Amalia and Burgkapelle (Royal Chapel).
The oldest part of the palace is the 13th century Schweizerhof courtyard, so named after the Swiss guards who served to protect its enclosure. The door of the Swiss Renaissance style dates from 1553. This courtyard adjoins another larger courtyard, In der Burg, with a monument to the Emperor Francis I adorning its center. The palace now houses the offices of the Austrian president and a series of museums.
– The Hundertwasserhaus
Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, inspired in particular by the works of Antoni Gaudi, this building located at 34-38 Kegelgasse is a real explosion of colors and artistic details. The Hundertwasserhaus is simply one of the most visited buildings in Austria and you will find in Vienna other works by Friedensreich Hundertwasser in the same style.
– The Naschmarkt
One of Vienna’s most eclectic markets, the Naschmarkt is open from Monday to Saturday. Admire generosity on the stalls, buckets of tulips with pickles, wines with plump purple figs, and stop for lunch in one of the trendy or pioneering establishments like Do-An, Tewa, or Naschmarkt Deli. If you come on a Saturday, be sure to arrive early in the morning to get the best deals. On weekends, the place is very lively. All around the market, there are beautiful buildings.
– Stephansdom, Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral
The Gothic masterpiece of Vienna Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), or Steffl (“Little St Stephen”) as it is called locally, symbolizes Vienna like no other building. A church has existed here since the 12th century and the Riesentor Gate and the two Heidentürme towers are here to remind you. From 1359, Stephansdom Cathedral began to be renovated in its magnificent Gothic style that is still found today. From the outside of the cathedral, the first thing that will strike you is its splendid tile roof, with its dazzling array of rafters on one end and the Austrian eagle on the other. To best admire it, head to the north-east side of Stephansplatz. Inside the cathedral, the magnificent Gothic stone pulpit is honored in the main nave, shaped in 1515 by an unknown craftsman.
– Riesenrad, Vienna’s Ferris Wheel
Vienna’s Ferris wheel, locally known as Riesenrad, is 64.75 meters high and dates back to the end of the 19th century. This is the same wheel that appears in the British film The Third Man released in 1949. This is the only work still standing Walter Basset who also built wheels for Blackpool, London and Paris. It was completed in 1897 to commemorate Franz Josef’s Golden Jubilee. A full circle in one of the 15 wooden cabins takes about 20 minutes, enough to enjoy the panoramic view of the entire city.
– Schönbrunn Castle
Schönbrunn Palace was for a long time the summer residence of the Habsburg royal family. This castle whose name means “beautiful spring” is surely the biggest rival of our castle of Versailles. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can visit it on a guided tour. The castle gardens are equally worth a visit.
– Karlskirche, Church of St. Charles Borromeo
The Saint-Charles-Borromée church, Karlskirche in German, is one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture of the 18th century in Central Europe. This building, built between 1713 and 1737 at the request of the Emperor Charles VI, symbolizes the extinction of the plague. You will find it on Karlsplatz.
– The Spanish Riding School
It is in the Spanische Hofreitschule that one can discover his famous ballet of lipizzans, in flesh and bone in the baroque decor of the Imperial Palace. Recognized center of equestrian dressage, the Spanish riding school is also one of the main tourist attractions to visit in Vienna. It is the only institution in the world that conserves and cultivates the classical equestrian art of Haute-Ecole, from the Renaissance to the present day. The school can be visited from Michaelerplatz.