To those who live there, Vienna, Austria is known as Europe’s Main Street. Indeed, the city is a bustling, lively centre of culture, entertainment and life. Vienna’s long and illustrious imperial history provides plenty of architecture, culture and tradition; its modern European feel ensures shopping, recreation and excitement. In Vienna, there is something for everyone.
One of the first things to acquire in Vienna is a Vienna Card. For a reasonable price, the holder receives discounts on entrances to various attractions and sights, as well as passage on the city’s excellent public transportation: underground, tram or bus.
Things To Do In Vienna
Numerous walking tours of different Viennese areas are available. One of the most popular, as well as among the best places to see excellent architectural works, is the Ringstrasse. This boulevard is the home of the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural History, State Opera House, Parliament, National Theatre, New Palace, City Hall and the University. A tram ride along the Ringstrasse is also available.
Not far from the Ringstrasse is the house designed by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The house is well worth seeing, as it is designed to look rather surreal and built around more than one tree. Trees grow out of its many-coloured walls and windows, evoking a sense of the forest in the middle of the city. Not far from the house is Hundertwasser’s exhibition centre, KunstHausWein. The centre features travelling exhibits, including works by many famous artists.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Another diverting architectural foray is to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, one of Vienna’s main landmarks. Parts of this mostly gothic structure date to the 13th Century. The highlight of a tour through the cathedral is the view of the Pummerin, Austria’s largest bell, after a 343-step climb up a spiral staircase. Directly opposite St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the Post-Modern building Haas Haus, a permanent reminder that the old and new thrive side-by-side in Vienna.
There are a large number of museums and art galleries throughout Vienna. A trip to the Ringstrasse can provide hours of cultural amusement. Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Austro-Hungarian imperial family, can rightly claim the titles of museum and gallery. Striking examples of period decor, furniture and historical pieces, as well as the palace park and the imperial coach collection, provide insights into lost royal traditions.
On any given evening, various concerts, some arranged for tourists, can be seen. These concerts are themed, reflecting musical periods. They are also often small and intimate. Chamber music concerts especially follow this formula, allowing seating for only 20-50 people. Performers are costumed in period garb, and some concerts allow dancing.
Spanish Riding School
Another Viennese tradition can be found at the Spanish Riding School. The school is the home of the world-famous Lippizaner Stallions. The school is open to the public during certain hours, and anyone is welcome to watch the training exercises, as well as purchase tickets for performances. Demonstrations are also given at the Winter Riding School in the Hofburg imperial palace. (The Vienna Boys’ Choir often sings Sunday mass in the palace’s chapel.)
Vienna isn’t all culture and arts. There’s plenty of shopping as well. There are some very large and modern malls and superstores, like Ikea. However, for a more authentic and unique experience, a visit to one of the must-see shopping meccas, Mariahilfer Strasse, is a necessity. This is the longest, and busiest shopping street in Europe.
The Graben and Carinthian Street are elegant, less crammed, shopping areas. While much of the merchandise reflects the high style and high price, a pleasant afternoon can be spent window-shopping. There are also plenty of import shops and antique galleries throughout the city, as well as flea markets.
For a different spin on things, the Prater provides an excellent playground. The Prater is Vienna’s amusement park. It boasts all the fun rides you expect at an amusement park, including a giant Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel is a Viennese landmark, not only for its size but also for its unique compartments: Riders sit suspended in train boxcars.
Festival On Danube Island
For a party atmosphere, the festival on Danube Island can’t be beaten. Modern music, including pop and rock, mingles with folk music. Food, games and a general atmosphere of good times permeate the festival. As night approaches, a colourful fireworks display illuminates the sky above the Danube River.
Sightseeing, shopping and playing are all well and good, but what do you eat? While there are many fine restaurants for evening dining, a cafe is a not-to-miss slice of Viennese life. Cafes located in the large part outside are common. They are good places to relax and get your bearings while deciding what to do next. A delicious cafe experience involves Gugelhupf, one of Vienna’s speciality cakes, and a cup of Melange (half coffee, half milk).
Austria has some major wine-producing regions; one of these, the Wachau, is just under an hour from Vienna. Consequently, Vienna offers the latest wines from harvest. These new wines are known as Heurigen. The wine taverns that serve these wines are also called Heurigen. Music, singing and laughing are staples in the Heurigen, which are set up to be as intimate and friendly as possible.
Vienna’s nightlife is vibrant as well. Swanky hotspots like Spittelberg and the Bermuda Triangle provide late-night entertainment. Additionally, a number of pubs dot the city. Irish pubs are especially popular in Vienna and can be found nearly everywhere.
Vienna holds its place among Europe’s capitals with grace and style. No matter what type of vacation suits you best, you’ll find plenty to do on Europe’s Main Street.