Sight Seeing in Vienna
As a European epicentre of empires and cultural revolutions, Vienna has a simply staggering array of sights to see. Yet thanks to a compact historical centre, easily traversed by the circular road, the Ringstrasse, you can take in all manner of awe-inspiring attractions.
For instance, on this very same route you’ll see the wondrous statues and elaborate Neo-Renaissance detailing of the Vienna State Opera, as well as the Neo-Classical columns of the Austrian Parliament Building and the intricate, soaring spires of the Votive Church. Incredibly, all three buildings were built within the same time frame in the 19th century.
An enduring sense of magnificence continues at Vienna’s many imperial palaces. These include the elegant amber-toned Schönbrunn Palace on the city’s outskirts. This huge Rococo-styled residence has almost 1,500 rooms and boasts expansive landscaped gardens that date back to the times of the Holy Roman Empire.
This imposing, imperial building would be impressive enough on its own, yet Vienna can also lay claim to the huge Hofburg Palace, with its Neue Berg facade embellished with mint green statues and towering columns. Its interior is also resplendent with golf leaf detailing and artistic murals.
Vienna’s many religious buildings reveal a spiritual side to the city too. The Church of St. Leopold stands proud with a glistening golden dome, whilst the Church of St. Peter is iconic for its luxuriant Baroque detailing both inside and out. A visit to St. Stephen’s Cathedral has a memorable multi-coloured roof that mixes with its Gothic stonework, while even touring the Central Cemetery is fascinating, due to the sheer number of classical composers that lie here.
Activities in Vienna
Vienna’s nicknames of both the ‘City of Music’ and the ‘City of Light’ highlight its cultural and intellectual inspirations. Indeed, the city was the proud home of many prestigious names, including no less than Mozart, Freud, Straus, Schubert and Wittgenstein. Today, the city’s illuminating attitude continues in the form of many museums.
One of the greatest is the Kunsthistorisches Museum, a site focused on fine arts and ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman artefacts in which the lavish interiors of the building almost upstage the exhibits themselves.
In fact, Vienna can boast an entire Museum Quarter dedicated to cultural pursuits in its Seventh District. Here, museums and galleries combine to create the eighth largest cultural area in the world. Local favourites include the so-called MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art), which features more than 7,000 works by notable artists like Picasso, Warhol and Lichtenstein. On the very same site, you’ll also find the Leopold Museum that has a distinct focus on modern Austrian artists such as Klimt and Schiele.
Meanwhile, Vienna’s musical legacy rings out the truest at the grand Vienna Philharmonic (where you could even enjoy a classic orchestral performance), and the House of Music, an interactive museum where you can learn more about the mighty composers, Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss.
As a final, shimmering suggestion for gaining an understanding of Vienna’s regal past, you should also pay a visit to the Imperial Treasury. It’s here where the bejewelled crowns and robes of the Holy Roman Empire reside, as well as the world’s largest cut emerald.
Family Fun in Vienna
As the ultimate Christmas destination, Vienna is the perfect place to bring your whole family. Little ones will be wide-eyed with wonder at the sparkling showing of the more than 20 Christmas markets in the city. Brilliantly, there’s much for the adults to enjoy too, thanks to lashings of mulled wine, known locally as Glüwhein. Many of the markets also present themselves as sightseeing opportunities, as they are placed directly in front of the city’s most iconic attractions.
Take the Rathaus Christkindlplatz for instance. It lies directly in the shadows of the 19th century City Hall, which even takes pride of place in the celebrations as a giant advent calendar! As the largest and most popular market, you’ll have hundreds of stalls to choose from, featuring everything from woollen hats and tin trinkets to freshly baked gingerbread and spiced cookies. It’s also one of the best markets for children, as the local landscaped gardens transform into a winter wonderland of colourful illuminations and even toy workshops.
For further festivities, the Schönbrunnmarkt and Belvedere market also share the limelight with their landmarks. Both markets have a rather more Austrian influence, so children can enjoy a sweet treat with a slice of Apfelstrudel (apple pastry), while you enjoy a cup of vanilla punch. For added magic, sparkling illuminations are draped between stalls and over twinkling Nordic firs.
If you ever fancy a break from the festive scenes with your family, you can also head to the city’s brilliant Natural History Museum, which features an exciting asteroid impact simulator and an animated dinosaur model that children are sure to love.
Romantic Breaks in Vienna
Vienna is a naturally beautiful city, making it the perfect match for a Christmas break as a couple. Soak up the serene atmosphere of the Innere Stadt, the city’s historical centre where Baroque architecture and curving sculptures adorn every corner. It’s here that you can also wander hand-in-hand on the Ringstrasse, a circular road that will lead you both to many of the city’s most famous attractions.
The idyllic StadtPark also lies within the heart of the city. It’s a place where rainbow-coloured rows of flowers flow into green fields punctuated by shimmering golden statues. Visit the park at night and see the pale moonlight reflected on its mirror-like lakes for an utterly romantic scene.
Similarly, love will also be in the air at the Vienna woods, which is a belt of greenery that encircles the south and west of the city. Indeed, the fact that Vienna has so many open green spaces, from the People’s Park to the Hofburg Gardens (directly outside the palace), may contribute to the city continually being voted as one of the best places to live in the world.
While in Vienna, you should also take some time out to enjoy the city’s renowned café culture. Treat your loved one to an einspaenner coffee, a rich espresso topped with thick cream that is a Viennese speciality. Share a table under the chandelier-lit halls of the grandest coffee houses to make the experience even more special.
Top Tips for Vienna
Expect a light dusting of snow over November and December, as the temperatures plummet to below freezing. It’s best to wrap up warm with plenty of layers, as well as wearing a thick jacket, woolly scarves and hats. After all, a snow-swept scene will certainly add to the festive atmosphere for your Christmas trip to Vienna!
Whilst the historic centre is very easily explored on foot, Vienna offers excellent public transport. The city is supported by a startlingly clean underground system, alongside bus, rail and tram services. You can also pick up an excellent value 24 or 48 hour ticket, valid for travel in all forms of transport.
- Please – Bitte
- Thank you - Danke schön
- Good morning - Guten Morgen
- Good evening - Guten Abend
- Good night - Schönen Abend noch
- Excuse me - Entschuldigen Sie
- I don't understand - Ich verstehe das nicht
- Do you speak English? - Sprechen Sie Englisch?
- I can't speak German - Ich kann nicht Deutsch sprechen
- Do you know where ... is? - Wissen Sie, wo ... ist?