Vienna is Austria’s capital and lies along the Danube River. It can be called the cultural capital of Austria. It is full of architectural highlights. Its artistic and intellectual legacy was shaped by its famous residents including Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. Best way to explore the city is by walking through the Innere Stadt that also means Inner Circle. You may also take a biking tour and for the enthusiasts, you may take a Segway tour.
1. When you’re in Vienna, you must visit a cafe!
In Vienna, which is repeatedly ranked the city with the highest quality of life, coffee is a way of life and a distinct and essential part of local culture.
In fact, UNESCO added Viennese coffee house culture to their list of intangible cultural heritage, saying that the coffee houses have a “very specific atmosphere” and place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
A trip to a Viennese café was, and still is, a special event. Waiters wore tailcoats, and cafés featured marble tables, plush velvet couches, and elegant chandeliers.
Today very little has changed: interiors are old-fashioned, and waiters are still immaculately dressed in jackets and bow ties. Swift and efficient, they’re more butler than server.
The first tip-off that coffee here is special is the way it is served. Coffee in Viennese coffee houses will, without fail, come on a small silver tray, with a spoon, sugar, and a small glass of tap water, sometimes even a chocolate.
There are also dozens of local coffee varieties that go beyond the cappuccinos and espressos most people are used to – Kleiner Schwarzer, Kleiner Brauner, Kapuziner, Einspänner, and Mélange, to name a few.
Tip- Special mention to Cafe Sacher and Demel for their delicious pastries and bakery. Must visit!
2. Schönbrunn Palace and its magnificence
A few kilometres west of the centre of Vienna, the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) was built in the early 18th century in a beautiful park-like setting and remains one of Austria's leading attractions. The palace's history goes back further, to 1569, when Emperor Maximilian II acquired a small summer palace in a converted mill on this site.
While only 40 of the Schönbrunn Palace's 1,441 rooms are open to the public, they are enough to provide visitors with a sense of its magnificence. Only accessible as part of a tour, the rooms on display include a number in the palace's West Wing, home to the sumptuous Apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth (or Sisi).
Tip- If you would like to know about the palace and the history of the rooms, I would highly recommend getting the audio guide that is at the palace entrance.
3. Eat at the Naschmarkt
The Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most popular market and a real hot spot. Whether you want to go out for lunch or cocktails, one of the many bars/restaurants will suit you for sure. You can also buy yummy fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world, exotic herbs, cheese, baked goods and some delicious baklava.
Tip- if you’re craving some Asian food like we were in Vienna this is where you should go. We went there for lunch on a nice sunny day!
4. Visit a Heuriger
As per history, Viennese wine is drunk at the Heuriger. Today’s wine tavern law goes back to an ordinance issued by Emperor Josef II in the year 1784. It allowed wine growers to serve wine produced in their own vineyards. A place where the Viennese Heurige wine is offered can be recognized by the “Ausg’steckt” sign and the fir branch which also indicates that the tavern is open. When in Vienna visit a real “heurige” or wine tavern.
We visited the Heuriger Wolff located on a hill. The place comes with a fantastic view over Vienna, the wine and the surroundings are well worth the drive.
Rathstraße 46, 1190 Wien, Austria
Tip-Some of the Heurigers are shut at odd hours of the day so plan in advance. If you go to Heuriger Wolff get the potato salad that they’re famous for!
5. Watch the Opera
Seeing an Opera in Vienna is on many people’s bucket list! It is said that Mozart and Beethoven met in Vienna and Beethoven was a teacher to Mozart. Vienna is synonymous with opera and you can't imagine the city without its iconic opera house. The building is worthy of the performances inside. You don’t need to be told but ill say it, plan way ahead to get tickets at the Wiener Staatsoper. Sometimes they issue standing tickets that are much cheaper than the siting tickets.
Tip- There are a lot of smaller shows that happen around the city. If you missed on buying tickets to the opera and still would like to have a similar experience, that's your closest bet.