Visit Vienna and within a few minutes you’ll understand why the city constantly rates amongst the world’s most liveable. The grandeur of its Hapsburg-era architecture is obviously a major draw card but so are the dazzling hotels, the rich art and culture scene, the ubiquitous pub like coffee houses, and the world-famous local fare. Did we mention beer? Well Vienna has numerous places to drink one (or three) and it’s contemporary electronic music scene is fast becoming one of the best in the world. It’s that mix of old world charm and new world excitement that makes Vienna a must see destination.
Traditional Vienna is just one of the city’s many facades but still the major tourist attraction. The historic city centre is now a UNESCO world heritage site and is often compared to one big open-air museum. Make sure to catch a glimpse of the Museum of Fine Art, City Hall, Imperial Palace and the Opera House. The city’s Jewish Museum is one of the most contemporary of its kind and definitely worth a step inside too. The old world charm continues at Vienna’s Zoo. Although the oldest in the world, it’s been voted Europe’s greatest Zoo numerous times.
Make sure you work up an appetite before eating in Vienna, as restaurant portions are famously huge. Home to the famous Vienna Schnitzel, also sample Rindsuppe (beef soup), Liptauer (spicy cheese spread), Kaiserschmarrn (pancake bites with apple sauce) and of course Apple Strudel. For a quick snack, you’ll find sausages in all shapes and sizes at the many hot dog bars littered around town. Eitige (with melted cheese inside) and Bosna (with onions and curry) are popular sausage choices. These days, Vienna is home to a large migrant population so for something out of the ordinary make sure to visit the city’s Polish grocery stores, Russian restaurants and wacky Balkan nightclubs.
Where to Stay
There are many neighbourhoods to choose from when it’s comes to deciding where to stay in Vienna. If you want to gaze at the famous palaces from your bedroom window, though a little pricier, Innerstadt is still the most popular hotel location with a high density of hotels and traditional guesthouses. Close to Prater Park and the Danube River, Leopoldstadt and Donaustadt have a good range of options for travelers of all budgets, while Wieden is a fashionable area close to the night market. Slightly west of the city centre, Neubau and Schoenbrunn are great places for travellers wanting to be close to the nightlife and boutique shopping on offer in the area.
Markets are very much part of the shopping experience in Vienna. Home to more than 21 markets; typically Viennese hut-like stands are open daily and have a large variety of local products and gourmet food. One you must visit is the open-air market stretching between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrueckengasse U-bahn stations. Go on a Saturday and you’ll find hawkers selling antiques, collectibles and other bric-a-bracs for miles. Another great place to shop for unique wares is at the Seventh District, or Neubau, where many shops carry maps showing all the locally made and European sourced clothing stores in the area. Shoppers should also head to Old City to find international and leading Austrian designers.
Vienna Like a Local
You can’t come to Vienna without spending some time in a traditional Viennese kaffeehaus (coffee house). From the countless traditional baroque 19th century or retro 20th century coffee houses, Vienna’s café culture is world famous and still the place to read the newspaper, meet friends or perhaps even make some new ones. Some classic coffee houses are the rowdy Alt Wien, the Trotsky frequented Central, and slightly touristy Hawelka. Can you imagine visiting Ireland without going to a pub? Well just the same, skip spending some time in a Viennese coffee house and you’ll miss an essential part of Viennese culture.