Vienna, the capital city of Austria, is a place with a deep history that dates back thousands of years. In fact, archeological evidence suggests that humans have been continuously living in this spot along the Danube River since 500 BCE. Since then, Vienna has continued to be an important place within the European continent, serving as the central hub for both the Babenberg and Habsburg dynasties, and as the capital of the Astro-Hungarian Empire. Modern Vienna reflects this history in its stunning architecture and incredible culture, which includes world-class music, art, and food.
The deep history of Vienna makes it a truly magical place, but also makes it hard to experience everything that the city has to offer – there is simply too much! Here are some of the activities and places that are must-dos on a trip to Vienna.
Spend Some Time in World-Class Museums
The museums in Vienna are home to many incredible works of art, which are all the more impressive because many of them are housed in palaces built during the city’s imperial past. One of the most impressive is the Belvedere Museum, where the architecture rivals the art and you will find works by Gustav Klimt and Vincent van Gogh. Schönbrunn Palace is home to another impressive art collection, as is Hofburg Palace, which also remains the home of the Austrian President.
Vienna’s rich musical history can also be explored in its museums. At the Mozarthaus Vienna, you can explore the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who lived in Vienna for ten years, during which time he composed some of his most famous pieces. At the House of Music you can learn more about the science and history of music, and enjoy compositions by some of Vienna’s other great composers, which includes Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, and Strauss.
Enjoy a Unique Food Scene, Including the World-Famous Coffee Houses
Vienna has a unique food culture that reflects the character of the city. One of the most important features of this culture are the coffee houses, which were historically the meeting places of the luminaries of the past, including Freud, Trotsky, Klimt, and Wagner. These institutions have been well-preserved, so you can experience them much as they were a hundred years ago, and were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2011.
To experience authentic Austrian food, head to a Beisln, restaurants that have menus of hearty goulash and Wiener schnitzel along with extensive wine and beer offerings. If you would like to dine in a more elegant setting, you will also find plenty of fine dining experiences throughout the city.
Get Some Fresh Air While Staying on the Beaten Path
As a city of almost two million people, the suggestion of getting into nature while in Vienna may surprise you. However, Vienna includes lots of opportunities for experiencing the great outdoors within city limits.
One option is to take a hike up Hermannskogel Hill, a 6.2 mile round trip to the highest point in the city. Traditional restaurants are located along the route, so you can easily make a day of this by sampling food and beverage along the way. Another place to soak up some sun is Danube Island, a 26 mile long island in the heart of the city on the Danube River. This island is closed to vehicles and has beautiful views of Vienna and the surrounding hills, making it a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for an afternoon.
This is just a taste of the many different things that there are to do in this beautiful and historic city. If you are planning a visit to Vienna, perhaps as part of your Danube River Cruise, let me help you design your perfect day here!
Kira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!