Vienna is the capital city of Austria, located on the border of Eastern Europe on the Danube River. The spoken language is German (with a different accent than Germany), but English is a strong second language. It is the home of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven, so the musical influence on the city is not something to be taken lightly. It’s best known for its Opera and Sachertorte, but to me the city’s greatest appeal is it’s charming architecture.
Top Sites to Visit
- St. Stephens Cathedral – One of the most astounding Cathedrals in Europe that represents Gothic architecture. Built in the 12th century, the original cathedral lasted until it was bombed during WWII. Some restoration work has been done, but damage is still evident from the blackened color on the outside. The inside is truly breathtaking, just be careful not to take photos during a service.
- Belvedere Palace- Beautiful palace but the real beauty is in the artwork inside the Palace. There is incredible artwork on the ceilings and from the original palace inside, as well as some of thee greatest works of Arts in Europe. My personal favorite is the Gustav Klimt collection, including “The Kiss”. The palace gardens can be very beautiful IF you are in Vienna the right time of year.
- Opera House – Vienna is world known for their Opera, and the Theater is a direct reflection of such. There are tours offered, as well as many Opera performances that can fit a variety of budgets.
- Musuem Quarter- Great museums of Art and natural History that one can explore.
- Hofburg Estate- Located downtown, this estate has remained preserved and another architectural symbol of Austria. Very easy to walk around the entire perimeter and appreciate the architecture. can also go on a tour and see the interior.
- Spanish Riding School – A beautiful building from the outside that is very close to the Hofburg estate, and offers tours as well as equestrian shows.
- Walk along the Danube River – beautiful at night and allows amazing views of the city.
What to Eat and Drink
Go to a Würstelstand – These are outdoor sausage stands throughout the city and are definitely one of the best options for food. The sausages are usually made locally and the stands have a wide variety of options. I’d recommend the Käsekrainer, sausage filled with cheese that melts when the sausage is heated.
Check out the Cafes and Bakeries around the city – Sachertorte, a chocolate cake with apricot jam, is the most well known dessert. It can be found in pretty much any cafe throughout the city, along with a large variety of cakes and sweets. Vienna has extensive bakeries offering many options to fulfill your sweet tooth!
Seek out a pig roast – I was lucky enough to stubble into a restaurant, Neubauschenke, that happened to be having a pig roast. The meat was supplemented with cabbage salad and potatoes, and represented a very traditional meal.
Naschmarkt – This small market place located in the city is worth a visit for coffee or lunch. Most of the vendors serve seafood or fish, but there is a little bit of everything available.
Goulash – A meat stew with potatoes or pasta. Typically this is a Hungarian dish, but it can be found throughout Vienna. It is very heavy and heart meal so be hungry when you order it!
Apricot Schnapps – Often served as a post meal drink at dinner restaurants or offered in bars throughout the city. Usually produced within the country, and as an alternative there’s plenty of apple and apricot soda for kids!
Wine- To my surprise there is an extensive amount of wine produced near Vienna. It is possible to take day trips to visit the wineries, but if you don’t have this opportunity at least pick out the local wines when dining.
Logistics and Things to Know Before Traveling
The official language is German, but English is spoken by almost everyone. Austrian German has a slightly different accent than the German many are familiar with. The metro system is much easier, faster, and cheaper than cabs. The city is smaller than it looks and it is very easy to walk and see almost all of the big sites in a short amount of time. The people are very easy to communicate and the city has a population from Austria as well as a large number of people from Eastern European Countries. The city has an interesting energy as it is not quite western Europe, not quite Eastern Europe.
Metro: One of the best metro systems in the world. Clear track markings and signs to help you determine your destination. Very clean and safe, and also much cheaper than taking a cab. Sometime hotels will give you a metro pass as part of your room.
Airport: Excellent, staff communicates well, and operations move quickly. It is easy to determine where taxis and the metro are accessible
Train: The Eurorail is incredible and allows you to travel into Vienna, as well as across Austria to many other cities in Europe. However, the ride from Vienna to the west is incredibly special as the train runs straight through the Austrian Alps. It is an incredible experience to ride through the Alps.
History of the City