A walk through the main streets of Vienna, Austria, feels like a trip back in time. Magnificent buildings from the 19th century line boulevards, horse-drawn carriages with drivers in tailcoats and hats pass by, and locals decked in baroque dresses and wigs congregate around Stephansplatz. This love of history means Vienna has retained its old-world allure with many baroque and Art Nouveau masterpieces waiting to be explored. From Schönbrunn Palace to the Vienna State Opera to The Belvedere Palace, Vienna is an infinitely regal city with charm aplenty.
Austria has plenty of great food to offer if you don’t count calories. The cuisine may be hearty, but the food is high quality. Vienna is the perfect city for a short or long city break, especially if you love eating decadent cakes with a palace as a backdrop.
You can’t start a trip to Vienna without a Wienerschnitzel. Although the dish can be found everywhere in Vienna, in-the-know locals head to Schweizer Haus, a beer garden in the middle of the Prater, a recreational area where a brisk walk after a filling lunch is a must.
Austria is very diverse in its desserts, especially cakes. The most famous is probably the sachertorte, a four-layer chocolate cake created for Prince Metternich in 1832. While most tourists flock to Café Sacher, the birthplace of it all to try the treat, more intrepid travelers go to K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäckerei Demel where they make the confection by hand. Savor the sinfully delicious dessert as you admire the chandeliers and fine porcelain inside. The biggest plus? The cafe serves some of the best coffee in the city.
Vienna has a distinct coffee culture, which is why you can get good coffee just about anywhere. Traditional coffee houses boast high ceilings, wooden chairs and gruff waiters in suits. Try Café Landtmann directly on the ring. This historic house, built in 1873, has served the likes of writer Thomas Mann, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and actress Romy Schneider.
There is so much to see and do in Vienna one doesn’t know where to begin. To get a proper overview of the city, start with tram line D, which goes around the ring and thus, reveals quite a few sights. You’ll pass by the Parliament building, the State Opera, Natural and Art History Museums and several gorgeous structures along the way. The Natural History Museum is worth a side trip if you have time to spare. Spanning 39 exhibit halls, the baroque masterpiece features dinosaur bones as well as the Venus of Willendorf, a limestone figurine found in Austria in 1908 that dates back nearly 30,000 years.
Head to the Schmetterlingshaus, an Art Nouveau building near the State Opera housing hundreds of butterflies, flying freely past waterfalls and imported flora.
Art lovers have a cornucopia of choices in Vienna. The Albertina houses temporary and permanent works by the likes of everyone from Picasso to Monet to Lassnig. The Belvedere Palace boasts Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” and contemporary art aficionados will delight in the Museumsquartier’s collection.
Vienna boasts a lavish mishmash of architecture styles, from classic to baroque to Art Nouveau. It makes for a heady experience, especially if you love imperial-style buildings. Even the subway stations are works of art as evidenced by the Stadtpark stop.
If you prefer modern architecture, you will find it in the newly built Seestadt or in UNO-City. The latter is one of four United Nations headquarters and offers a plethora of viewing platforms for postcard-worthy views of Vienna and the Danube. Head to the Justizcafé, on the rooftop of the Palace of Justice, for an even more breathtaking view of the city.
As far as palaces, Vienna is arguably one of the most regal cities in all of Europe with a wealth of royal edifices. Schönbrunn Palace, one of the most beautiful baroque castles on the continent, is a site to behold. Journey through the elegant staterooms and the magical garden and if you are particularly flush with cash, stay overnight in a suite.
Vienna’s opera and theater scene is beyond compare. The city boasts nearly 50 theaters and a visit to the State Opera, which produces some of the most renowned versions of famous operas in the world, is a souvenir you’ll treasure for the rest of your life. Tradition dictates that you must visit the Spanish Riding School to watch a performance of the famous Lipizzaner horses who trot in sync with classical etudes.
Vienna offers a wonderful experience anytime of year, but spring is when the city comes alive thanks to its myriad gardens and bountiful blossoms. In April, expect the cherry trees in front of the gray and dreary city hall to unfurl their blooms. The variety of parks and green spaces mean there are plenty of spots to relax and recharge. The Viennese can often be seen congregating in their parks, whether winter, spring, summer or fall. In winter, the Christmas markets spring up throughout the city. Our favorite is the market on Spittelberg, which showcases homemade regional products.
Vienna has some of the most elegant and refined hotels in all of Europe. But to live like a local, opt for one of the chicest hotels in town. The bright and cheerful Hotel Babula am Augarten on Heinestrasse features stylish rooms with funky decor throughout. Sustainability is at the heart of everything they do, from the furnishings to the food. Sink back into one of the seaweed- and coconut-fiber beds or send those important emails at one of their natural wood desks. The hotel’s bountiful breakfast features organic and locally sourced goods.
Situated near the train station, the Hotel Schani is close to most of the city’s most iconic sites. Another hotel built around sustainability, the Schani boasts traditional Viennese charm with a technological twist. Rooms can be opened via the hotel’s app and you might even enjoy catching up on projects at the hotel’s co-working space. Breakfast features regional organic delights such as muesli, apricot jam and organic tea by Sonnentor.