Vienna stands majestically next to the Danube River. It's also one of Europe's grandest imperial cities, a city full of classical music, style, wonderful architecture and celebrated art. Vienna was formed during 700 years of the Habsburg Empire and remains a city of elegance and grandeur that easily delights.
Vienna City Breaks & Tours: Vienna makes the perfect cultural city break. The city was once the capital of a vast European empire and is now the largest city and capital of Austria. Vienna is a city of culture, renowned for its fine Rococo and Baroque architecture, sweeping boulevards and the home to some of the worlds's greatest classical music. Vienna is also the birthplace of some of the world's most distinguished composers, including Mozart, Strauss and Schubert and famous artist Gustav Klimt.
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Vienna offers: An air of elegance, coffee-house culture, a classical music heritage, outstanding architecture, plus frothy coffee and chocolatey slabs, what more could you ask for!
Vienna Introduction: A Vienna city break provides a treasure trove of history, culture and entertainment. Central Vienna is largely pedestrianised and surprisingly compact, with the city's main tourist attractions located within the historical centre (Innere Stadt) or around the Ringstrasse, a wide ring road full of beautiful boulevards and Imperial palaces. Top Tip: Take a roundtrip tram ride around the beautiful Ringstrasse, the half hour journey passes theaters, state buildings, museums & the Vienna State Opera.
The city's historical centre is where you’ll simply want to walk around and soak up the atmosphere, or sample a traditional Viennese coffee and Sachertorte (a rich traditional chocolate torte with an apricot jam filling), available in many of Vienna's grand coffee houses for which the city is famous. There's plenty of fascinating adventures to be had, with a dizzying number of sights and museums to explore, so read on to find more top sightseeing tips that we think you'll enjoy.
(1). The Imperial Palace of Hofburg: The Palace of Hofburg was built in the 13th century and is located in Vienna's historic centre. The Palace was designed to be the residence and seat of Habsburg emperors, which it was up until 1918. For over 700 years the Palace was the heart of the Habsburg empire and is one of the most important centres of European history. Today the Palace houses the office of the Federal President, along with numerous art collections and impressive antiquities.
Large sections of the Palace are regularly open to the public, including the Sisi Museum which provides an authentic look into the life of the famous Austro-Hungarian monarch Empress Elisabeth. You can also explore the Imperial Apartments, the private and opulent chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth (a fashion icon and trendsetter of her time).
You can also visit the Imperial Silver Collection, which provides insights into the court dining culture, including displays of the impressive ceremonial silver and tableware. The tour also includes access to the secure silver chamber. A tour of the Palace is a great way to learn more about the fascinating history of the Habsburg's once one of the most prominent royal houses of Europe.
A must do is the guided tour of the iconic Spanish Riding School and the home of the world-famous Lipizzaner horses, known as 'the dancing white horses of Vienna'. Set within the Baroque ambience of the Imperial Palace, the tour gives an insight into how the art of classical dressage has been preserved and practiced unchanged from as far back as the Renaissance period. Dressage performances take place in the inner halls of the Winter Riding School at the Hofburg Palace.
(2). The Belvedere Palace art complex: The Belvedere is one of Vienna’s finest palace complexes, comprising of two enormous beautiful Baroque palaces that face each other across a formal sloping Baroque garden, which also offers spectacular views of Vienna. Belvedere is a must visit for art lovers, it's home to an incredible art collection, including the world's largest collection of works by Klimt, including The Kiss and Judith.
Belvedere was completed in the early 18th century and was the former residence of Prince Eugen von Savoyen, a successful general and art lover who had the Belvedere garden palace built as a summer residence.
From 1903 Belvedere has been the home of the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere art museum and contains masterpieces by Claude Monet, Helene Funke, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Elena Luksch-Makowsky and Vincent van Gogh, as well as other important art collections from the 19th and 20th centuries. The Belvedere Palace is noted for its spectacular marble hall and ceiling paintings, Belvedere is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entry tickets can be purchased direct from the palace and range in price from €16 to €30.
(3). Vienna State Opera: Vienna State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper): The Vienna Staatsoper is one of the most famous and most distinguished opera houses (and opera companies) in the world. The magnificent neo-renaissance building was constructed in 1869 and was the first major property to be built as part of the Ringstrasse project (an area of Vienna established for the city's most iconic buildings).
The Wiener Staatsoper holds around 1700 seats and offers over 290 first-class opera and ballet performances each year. Ticket prices for performances can be pricey however if you're travelling on a budget it's possible to buy 'standing room only' tickets for just a few euros, (approximately 567 standing room spaces are made available most evenings), these tickets can usually be bought a few hours before the performance. Alternatively during the summer months the Opera House 'Live Screens' a series of opera and ballet performances outside the building, it's a fun and relaxing way to enjoy a picnic and free classical entertainment as the sun sets over Vienna.
Top Tip: For a reasonable price, you can join the 40 minute guided tour of the Wiener Staatsoper. You start in the magnificent foyer, ascend the Grand Staircase and visit the ceremonial and state rooms. Learn what happens 'behind the scenes' and gain interesting insights and facts about the building’s history, its architecture and how an opera house works.
(4). Schönbrunn Palace: Schönbrunn Palace is simply stunning and remains Vienna's key historic landmark and top tourist attraction, it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace origins can be traced back to 1569, but it was the Emperor Ferdinand II who had the palace built in 1642. The palace was originally built as a summer residence for the Habsburg rulers and the imperial family of Austria, with Maria Theresa, Emperor Franz Joseph, Empress Elisabeth and others once residing at Schönbrunn.
The Palace has undergone many expansions and redesigns over the decades, most noteably under Maria Theresa (rulerand monarch of the Habsburg Dynasty for 40 years). The Palace has become an exceptional example of European Baroque architecture and is known for its elaborate Neoclassical interior, magnificent furnishings, imperial ceremonial rooms and magnificent French-themed gardens and sculptures.
Schönbrunn Palace: Entry Tickets and Tours. Their are several tours you can join, starting with the 22 room 'Imperial Tour' which includes visits to the lavish state rooms and private apartments of Franz Joseph and Sisi. The more expensive 'Grand Tour' includes access to additional (18th-century) rooms and interiors dating from the time of Maria Theresia.
There are several other tours and ticket entry options available, including the all-day, 'Classic Pass Plus'. The Classic Pass Plus includes entry into 8 attractions, including Schönbrunn Palace, Schönbrunn Zoo, the Privy & Orangery Garden, the Maze & Gloriette, plus the Desert Experience & Palm House. Please refer to the Schönbrunn Palace website for amendments, updates and ticket prices.
Top Tip: Schönbrunn Palace is huge, so there are several different ticket entry and tour options available. This helps to tailor-make your visit experience to suit your interests and the time you have available. To help plan your visit further, the ticket information sections at the Schönbrunn website advises the recommended time it takes to complete each tour.
(5). Austrian Parliament Building: The imposing Austrian Parliament Building is located on the prestigious Ringstraße close to the Hofburg Imperial Palace in central Vienna. The building was constructed in 1883 using white Italian marble and is one of the world's finest examples of Greek-revival style architecture. The building is also one of the largest and most stately looking structures on the Ringstraße and covers an area of 13,500 square meters.
The buildingis worthy of a closer inspection both inside and out, on the outside you have the stunning Athena Fountain (Pallas-Athene-Brunnen), with the goddess Athena positioned on a richly decorated base, surrounded by numerous smaller figures forming representations of the four important rivers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Once inside you're met by the grand Hall of Pillars (Säulenhalle), containing 24 stunning Corinthian pillars made of Adnet marble.
The building contains over 100 rooms, including committee rooms, libraries, dining rooms as well as a general working government building. Top Tip: Guided tours of the Parliament building are available, the tours give an interesting insight into Austrian history and its government, plus many opportunities to view the building rich and beautiful architecture.
(6). The Prater Amusement Park: The Prater is one of Europe's most famous amusement parks. Located in green parkland 2 miles from Vienna's city centre, the Prater is often seen as a welcomed break from visiting Vienna's many historical sights.
The park is home to 'The Wiener Riesenrad' a Giant Ferris Wheel made world famous by Orson Welles in the film 'The Third Man', constructed in 1897 it was one of the first ferris wheels ever built and has become one of the city's main trademark sights. Top Tip: The Ferris Wheel is located near the park entrance and can be a very popular ride during peak summer times, so ride the wheel as soon as you can to avoid queuing later. A ride on the Ferris Wheel is recommended, it rotates at a leisurely pace giving you plenty of time to admire the impressive views over Vienna and to take-in the wheels unique age and design.
The Pratter Amusement Park offers a wide range of family entertainment, including bowling, karting and a 5D Cinema, plus rows of vintage attractions and traditional fast food stalls.
If your looking for fun you've found it, Prater offers a host of thrilling rides both traditional and new, such as the adrenaline pumping 'Flying Coaster', the super scary 'Super Roller Coaster' and the 'Olympia Looping Coaster', plus the white knuckle rides of the 'Free Fall Tower' and stomach churning 'Ejection seat', there's also the slightly less scary ghost train and carousel ride.
The park is open to all ages and operates daily from 11am to midnight, entrance to the park is free of charge, you pay separately for each attraction you enter or ride you take. Metro Station: Praterstern, lines U1 and U2. See the Prater website for up-to-date ride details plus park opening times and days of operation.
(7). St Stephen's Cathedral (known by its German name Stephansdom): Built in the 12th century and towering over Stephansplatz in the heart of the city, St Stephen's is the most important religious building in Vienna and is one of the world's most beautiful cathedrals. St Stephen's is also the most recognisable feature on Vienna's skyline, with it's tall south tower standing proud to a height of 136 meters.
The South Tower is affectionately called 'Steffl' by the Viennese, the tower contains an observation look-out area named 'Turmerstube' which is located approximately half way up the tower and is reached by climbing the tower's 343 steps, at the top you can enjoy wonderful views out over the city. (Quick Facts: the tower's construction lasted for 65 years, from 1368 to 1433).
The Cathedral is regarded as one of the greatest Gothic structures in Europe, it's built of limestone and has a distinctive multi-coloured glazed tiled roof made up of 240,000 chevron patterned tiles. The Cathedral sees over 4 million visitors passing through it each year to admire it's beautiful Romanesque and Gothic form, and its enriched interior of renowned artworks, including religious relics decorated with gold and precious stones. The Cathedral's most precious artworks are housed and displayed in their own exhibitionin the cathedral's west gallery.
Top Tips: (1) Take a guided tour of the Cathedral's interior and catacombs, a tour is the best way to fully appreciatethe Cathedral's history and importance. (2) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was married and his funeral held in St Stephen's. There's no better way to experience the Cathedral (and its spiritual atmosphere) than to attend one of the Cathedral's many classical concerts. Classical concerts include the great works of European composers like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi, concert ticket information and bookings can be made direct at St Stephen's website.
(8). Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier: Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier (MQ) is a sensational 90,000 square metre art, cultural and entertainment district. Located near the old city close to the Imperial Palace, the Museum Quartier is an oasis of learning, peace and relaxation. The Museum Quarter hosts around 60 cultural institutions and attracts both Viennese and tourists from all over the world, with prominent museums, coffeehouses, shops and a great selection of restaurants.
MuseumsQuartier houses many fascinating museums including: (1) The Leopold Museum, exhibiting Austrian modern art including works by Gustav Klimt. (2) The Mumok - Museum of Modern Art, contains the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Central Europe and includes major works of classical modernism, minimal and conceptual art, pop art and art of the present day. (3) The Kunsthalle, has displays of international contemporary art that invites audience participation. (4) The Tanzquartier Wien (Dance Quarter Vienna), Austria's first production and event venue dedicated to contemporary dance and performance.
Vienna - Public Transport: Vienna's public transport system is operated by Wiener Linien. Vienna's public transport is well developed and very efficient, consisting of Buses (Autobus), Trams (Straßenbahn), a fast U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn or Schnellbahn (railway). The city's tram network is a popular mode of transport and Vienna has one of the largest tram networks in Europe, making tram hopping a great way to explore the city.
Taxis are readily available but expensive. Horse-drawn carriage or 'Fiaker' is the most romantic and expensive way to view the city's central historic sights, carriages are usually available from the Hofburg Palace and from other tourist hotspots. Expect to pay around €100 for a 40 minute carriage ride.
Vienna U-Bahn (Subway): The subway transport system consists of five lines, with trains serving approximately 109 stations on 90km of track. The subway operates daily from around 5am till 12.30am with the subway network covering the vast majority of tourist hot spots. Trains usually depart every 5 minutes during the day and more frequently during commuter and other or busy times, most platforms have electronic information displays that show either the wait time remaining or the next departure time for your destination.
Vienna Trams or Straßenbahn: The Vienna Tram network first started in 1865 and is now one of the largest and most efficient networks in the world. Travelling around Vienna by tram can be great fun, the key tourist tram routes include Lines 1 and 2, these routes operate the Ringstrasse and to other main tourist areas, including the Opera, Parliament building, Hofburg Palace and the Pratter Amusement Park. You can plan your journey and route by using the route planner at the Wiener Linien website.
Top Tip: Take a round-trip ride on the 'Vienna Ring Sightseeing Tram' which circles around the Ringstrasse, the journey takes 25 minutes and provides excellent views and commentary on some of Vienna's most important landmarks. Ticket prices are around €10 for adults and €5 for children. Vienna's tramcars are slowly moving over to Easy Access Trams or ULF (ultra low floor) vehicles, making tram access easier and provides more space and comfort on longer journeys.
Tickets and Travel Pass: The one travel ticket is valid on most of the city's public transport systems, including all public trams, buses and subway services. Each single ticket is valid up to the point of destination, and includes multiple transfers and change of transport mode if needed, (provided there are no detours or long breaks in your journey).
So the one ticket covers trams, city trains, subway and bus services of the Vienna Transport Authority. Most of Vienna's transportation network works on a 'honesty system', in that you need to buy a valid ticket to use the services, however there are no ticket barriers or electronic ticket swipers at stations to pass through. However, regular random ticket inspections are carried out by Transport Authority officials, you must produce a valid ticket if asked to do so, if you cannot produce a valid ticket you will be issued with a hefty fine.
Tickets can be bought at multilingual ticket machines located at subway stations, tobacco 'TABAK' shops, newsagents or you can buy online. Single tickets are also available to buy on board trams (with a slight supplement added to the fare), you must use exact change. You can buy tickets online or as a Mobile phone ticket.
Validate your Travel Ticket: You must validate your ticket before use. Tickets must be validated using the blue validation machines located on platforms or on board buses and trams - the period of ticket validity starts at the time stamped on your ticket. Tickets bought online are valid from the date and time you specified at the time of purchase, so you don't need to validate online tickets.
The Vienna City Card: Discover the delights of the Austrian capital for less with the Vienna City Card. The Vienna City Card is great value and acts as a public transport travel pass for tourists, providing 24, 48 or 72 hours of free travel on the city's underground, tram and bus networks. The Vienna City Card also gives you discounts with many of the city's top museums, tourist attractions and participating restaurants.
Top Tips: (1) If you plan on buying a Vienna City Card you can purchase the card at the airport, this way you receive discounts on your train ride from the airport to the city centre. You will then have the following 24, 48 or 72 hours to use your free travel pass. (2) You can buy the Vienna City Card online, for further information visit the 'Vienna City Card' website.
Vienna Airport (VIE). Vienna International Airport (VIE) is located in Schwechat, 11 miles (18km) southeast of Vienna.
Airport & Transfers: Vienna airport (VIE) is the country's largest airport and serves as the hub for Austrian Airlines as well as a base for low-cost carriers Wizz Air and Ryanair. Public Transfer Services to and from the Airport and the city centre are fast and convenient.
City Airport Train (CAT): The City Airport Train (CAT) is a dedicated direct non-stop rail service that connects the airport with the city centre transport hub at Wien Mitte (central rail and U-Bahn station), in only 16 minutes. The City Air Terminal is located at Wien Mitte station and offers additional services such as city check-In with baggage drop.
CAT airport train services run every 30 minutes and tickets can be booked and purchased online, or from ticket machines and from the tourist information desk at the airport. Top Tip Don't forget you can purchase your CAT airport transfer ticket in conjunction with the 'Vienna City Card + Transfer' option. Wien Mitte is located close to St. Stephan’s Cathedral in central Vienna and can be reached easily by tram, underground, bus or taxi.
S-Bahn and RailJet Airport Trains: The S-Bahn is one of the cheapest ways to travel into Vienna's city centre. Line S7 departs Vienna airport every 30 minutes and arrives at Wien Mitte (city centre) and Wien Praterstern (north of the city) stations in around 25 minutes, with good connections to the subway network.
The Railjets of Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) run non-stop from Vienna Airport to Vienna's city centre main rail station and to Wien Meidling station, located just southwest of the central districts.
Bus & Taxi Services: Various Bus services operate to and from the airport, the Vienna Airport Lines company operates three services with drop-off and pick-up points throughout the city.
Taxis are the most convenient method of travelling to and from the airport, taxi services can be pre-booked (which usually works out cheaper) or you can hire one from outside the arrivals hall. Taxi journey time is 30 minutes from the airport to the city centre and they operate a fixed tariff charge system, with one way airport to city centre fares costing around €60.
Car Hire: All major car rental companies are represented at Vienna VIE airport, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.
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