The historic city
The itinerary that retraces the steps of the Habsburg dynasty begins at the Hofburg, once the principal imperial palace and now the residence of the President of Austria. Here, the Royal Apartments, the Silver Collection Museum, the Sisi Museum and the Spanish Riding School are all well worth a look.
Not far away is the Gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral with its elegant bell tower and a large bell that weighs over 20 tonnes. Heading south-west, to the Hietzing district, you come to Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
Originally the summer residence of the Habsburgs, it is surrounded by a vast French-style garden and is home to the Royal Apartments, the Palace Theatre, the Imperial Carriage Museum and the Tiergarten, the oldest zoo in the world and regarded as the best in Europe.
Finally, also to the south of the historic centre in the Landstrasse district, is the 18th-century Belvedere which, built as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy and used for parties and receptions, houses the world’s largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt.
A world of art
The Museumsquartier, an area packed with museums that attract over 3 million visitors every year, is another must-see: from the Mumok, focused on XX and XXI century art (Warhol, Picasso, Picasso, Klee and Mondrian) to the Leopold Museum, which exhibits hundreds of masterpieces of Austrian modern art, and from the Museum of Contemporary Art (Kunsthalle Wien) to the Museum of Architecture (Architekturzentrum Wien) and through to the children’s museum (Zoom Kindermuseum).
It is also worth dedicating some time to the Art History Museum, which houses the vast collections of the House of Habsburg, and the Albertina Museum, which has one of the most important collections of graphic art in the world with works going right back to the XIV century (Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Dürer, Rubens, Klimt, Picasso, Goya, Chagall, Monet, Cézanne, Mirò, Warhol).
On the trail of the great composers
For centuries Vienna was a haven both for aristocrats that gravitated around the Imperial court and for many musicians and artists. Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Haydn made Vienna the city of music par excellence and traces of this glorious past are still evident today in the house-museum of these great composers.
A short way from the Cathedral is the Mozarthaus (5 Domgasse), where the musician lived from 1784 to 1787 and composed the famous opera the Marriage of Figaro.
Schubert’s Birthplace (54 Nußdorfer Straße) has a display of documents, personal effects and manuscripts belonging to the musician.
You can also visit the house where Beethoven lived between 1804 and 1814 and wrote his Fourth Symphony (8 Mölker Bastei) and, in Heiligenstadt, the museum dedicated to him with its fascinating exhibition.
In one of the city’s more elegant streets, you can also find Johann Strauss Jr’s apartment (54 Praterstraße), which houses instruments, furniture and paintings by the Viennese Waltz King.
Finally, also of particular interest is the house of Franz Joseph Haydn (19 Haydngasse), in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, where the Father of the Symphony composed his most famous works and also gave lessons to his young pupil Beethoven.
Vienna has always managed to move with the times, reinventing itself constantly, and is today a dynamic and vibrant city whose landscape has been modernised with innovative new buildings and skyscrapers in recent years. These include DC Tower 1 by French architect Dominique Perrault, the tallest building in Austria, the University faculty of economics campus, the luxurious hotel designed by architect Jean Nouvel, a splendid example of the integration of contemporary and traditional Viennese architecture, the ambitious Central Station project and the Haas-Haus by architect Hans Hollein with its facade that reflects the Cathedral.
Places of interest
The Landstrasse district is home to an intriguing complex of buildings known as Hundertwasserhaus, which represents a break from the tenets of contemporary architecture. Designed by architect and painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser, it was constructed between 1983 and 1986. Conceived as a homage to nature, it immediately stands out for the vibrant colours of its facades, the asymmetric forms of the buildings and the many trees on its roofs which make the complex a wonderful green space in the heart of the capital.
The same artist is also behind Spittelau incineration plant, Hundertwasser Village shopping mall and the KunstHausWien, the original modern art museum dedicated mainly to the works of Hundertwasser.
Half an hour from Vienna, near Mödling, is Seegrotte, one of Europe’s biggest underground lakes and a great excuse for a boat trip; from here you can visit the picturesque Liechtenstein Castle. Alternatively, you can head for the Benedictine abbey of Melk, a magical place that inspired Umberto Eco’s famous novel The Name of the Rose.
Seeking out the most authentic Sacher
Hordes of artists, intellectuals and politicians loved to spend their free time sitting at the tables of Vienna’s many historic cafes and it is worth visiting them today even if only for their late 19th century atmospheres and decor. They include Café Central, perhaps the most evocative due to its vaulted ceilings, wooden floors and sumptuous chandeliers and its regular clientele, who included Sigmund Freud and Lev Trotsky, the 18th century Café Mozart, the elegant Dommayer, the Demel, the preferred cafe of the Habsburgs, Café Imperial, opened in 1873 for the universal exhibition, Café Schwarzenberg on the Ringstrasse and, finally, Café Sacher, famous all over the world for its chocolate and apricot jam cake.
Looking for fun
If you fancy a bit of fun after all the sightseeing, the city has a number of attractions that are very dear to the Viennese. The most famous is, without doubt, the Prater, the modern amusement park located in the city centre dominated by the famous big wheel (Riesenrad) opened in 1897, and now a symbol of Vienna.
This big green lung in the city is also home to Madame Tussauds wax museum, filled with around 80 statues of famous people from both Austrian history and the world of showbiz.
Finally, as regards Vienna by night the majority of bars are to be found in the Museums Quartier, the hub of Viennese nightlife, and in the elevated subway area of Gürtel, packed with fashionable establishments whose evenings include DJ sets (electronic music in the main) and live music.
EU citizens can enter Austria without restrictions by showing a valid ID card or passport.
Non-EU citizens must request a Schengen visa that allows them to remain in Austria for a maximum of 90 days.
For other types of permits it is necessary to get in contact with the Austrian Embassy or Consulate in your country. For more information visit
Vienna has a continental climate with long cold winters (particularly in December and January) and warm summers (with average daily temperatures of around 25/26 °C). The ideal time of year for a trip to Vienna is, therefore, the spring when the temperatures are pleasant (the average temperature does not exceed 20 °C) and rain is less frequent than in the summer.
TipsThe cultural life of the city is so packed that it is impossible to list every event. However, for the winter, it is worth mentioning the New Year’s Concert, without doubt, Vienna’s most famous event, and the Vienna Carnival (February) with its masked balls and parades. In the summer, the Wiener Festwochentra (in May and June), the festival dedicated to all forms of artistic expression (opera, theatre, music, performance art and installations); Rock in Vienna (June), a rock and pop music festival held on Danube Island; Vienna Jazz Festival (June and July), KlangBogen Wien (July-August) which lights up the summer music scene with symphony and chamber music concerts. In October and November, meanwhile, there is Wien Modern, the contemporary music festival founded by Claudio Abbado in 1988; Viennale, the most important Austrian film festival.
Located on the banks of the Danube, Vienna is a melting pot in which the influences of its imperial Habsburg past coexist with the ferment of the new artistic and cultural scene, a continuously evolving metropolis which today takes the form of a modern and cosmopolitan city where the new and old architecture is broken up by wonderful green spaces. Intellectual capital of Mitteleuropa and home to great artists and thinkers, contemporary European culture wouldn’t be what it is today without some of the figures that lived and worked in the city: artists like Klimt and Schiele, the father of psychoanalysis Freud, composers Mahler, Strauss, Schubert, Beethoven and Mozart, philosopher Wittgenstein, to name just a few. “The streets of Vienna are paved with culture, the streets of other cities with asphalt”, wrote Karl Kraus, one of the most caustic intellectuals of the early 20th century. Vienna is still famous all over the world today for its vibrant musical scene (electronic, rock, pop, punk) and for its vast cultural heritage, beginning with the 150-plus museums that host important international collections