The Inner Stadt is a perfect place to begin your exploration of the city, particularly if you begin on Karntner Strasse, Vienna’s premiere shopping street. Take time to wonder along the maze-like streets around the famous Stephenplatz square, and gape at the commanding cathedral with its expertly-carved towers and multicoloured roof tiles. The Ringstrasse surrounds the inner part of the city and contains many famous buildings including the Votivkerche, the university which was designed by Heinrich Ferstel, the stunning Bergtheatre, Parliament and Volksgarten. Towards the east of the Ring is the Natural History museum, whose interior has changed very little since in the last 100 years, the Museum of Art History and the glorious Opera House.
Vienna Sightseeing Travel Guide
During the summer, the city becomes a musical celebration with open-air concerts, festivals and street performances taking place at all hours of the day and night. The Spittelburg area is especially worth visiting, being newly gentrified and boasting a number of excellent bars and restaurants.
Although sightseeing is usually conducted during the day, don’t forget to wonder around the major sites after dark when the city is at its most majestic and beautiful. Many of the buildings are lit up, their stunning features picked out by the lights, and there is a romance and mystery about the cobbled streets that is unrivalled any where else. Just close your eyes and you can almost hear the strains of Mozart over the clip-clopping of horses that was Vienna in bygone centuries.
1, Opernring 2 Telephone – 514 44 2250
Arguably Europe’s greatest opera house where musical genii such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms have played. Home to the world-famous Wiener Philarmoniker orchestra, the concert on New Year’s Day is internationally broadcast and you have to book a year in advance for tickets. If you don’t manage to get a seat then never fear; there are an astonishing 40 operas performed a season and tickets range from €10 to €250. Also, if you have not prebooked your tickets, check out the last minute standing room option – available from the Staatsoper on the day of the performance (though you may have to queue for several hours).
2. Spanish Riding School
Josefplatz Telephone – 533 9031 Performance times – Feb-Jun, Sep-Oct, Sunday at 10.45am.
Come and be astounded by the skills of the white Lipizzaner horses who have been taught the ancient practice of cavalry skills where the animals are trained to fight by leaping and kicking. Book in advance to see them dance quadrilles, gavottes and, of course, the Viennese Waltz.
Stephansplatz 3 Telephone – 515 523 767 Opening times – daily, 6am-10pm
This beautiful cathedral dominates the skyline and holds a special place in the hearts of the Viennese. Surviving bombs, grenades and the shrapnel of war, the best exterior feature is the ironically named ‘Steffl’ or ‘Little Stephen’ south tower. The colourful roof tiles are said to be modelled on a Saracen carpet and there are plenty of treasures to be seen inside. Entering the cathedral during services is frowned upon.
Schonbrunner, Schlosstrasse 47 Telephone – 81 113 239 Opening times – Apr-Oct; daily, 8.30am-5.00pm, Nov-Mar; daily, 8.30am-4.30pm
This imposing, yellow imperial palace was the summer residence of the Habsburgs in days gone by. There are over 1500 rooms with various exhibitions throughout the building. Make sure you take a stroll around the landscaped gardens and you may stumble upon the zoo and the glass and iron palace house. Entry is €15 and allows you into five of the attractions.
5. The Belvedere
Lower Belvedere & Orangery, Rennweg 6; Upper Belvedere, Prinz-Eugen-Strausse 27 Telephone – 216 4022 Opening times – Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm (6pm in summer). Closed 1 May, 1 Nov & 13 June.
Visually outperforming even the mighty Schonbrunn palace, the Belvedere comprises of two baroque mansions facing each other across sloping formal gardens. Built for Prince Eugene of Savoy, considered Austria’s greatest military leader, there are medieval, baroque, nineteenth and twentieth century paintings and a modern gallery to impress and educate you. Admission is €7,50.
6. The Ringstrasse
One of the most famous ring-roads on the continent is a curved boulevard built on the open ground that used to divide the inner walls and the suburbs. There are no less than 12 major buildings on the Ringstrasse including the Borse, Bergtheatre, Parliament, Natural History Museum and Staatsoper. Take the #1 tram to travel clockwise around the road or the #2 tram for anticlockwise travel and see how many famous buildings you can spot.
Karlsplatz Opening times – Mon-Sat, 9am-12.20pm & 1pm-6pm, Sun, 1pm-6pm.
A beautiful Baroque building by day, it is even more spectacular lit up by the light of the moon. Although the outside is a visual treat, be sure to see the intricately carved pulpit and Johann Michael Rottmar’s fresco inside. The entry fee includes an English audioguide. Admission is €4.
8. Secession Building
12, Friedrichstrausse Telephone – 587 5307 Opening times – Tues-Sun 10am-6pm; Thurs 10am-8pm
The gilded bronze Laurel leaves entwined into a circular globe are the most eye-catching feature of this impressive gallery. Built in 1898 as the headquarters of the breakaway Secession art movement, headed by Gustav Klimt, his spectacular Beethoven Frieze can be seen inside. Admission is €6.
14 Kohlmarkt Telephone – 512 82 30 Opening times – Mon, Wed-Sat 8am-2pm, Sun 4pm-2am. Closed Tuesdays.
The Viennese coffee house is synonymous with Austria and you used to see intellectuals mulling over various theorems and political ideas with coffee and a slice of cake for company in years done by. The Demel still calls itself an Imperial and Royal Confectioners and retains this atmosphere of old, so recharge your batteries here with a hot drink and something sugar-coated.
Opening times – daily, 7am-6pm, Mar, Apr, Sep & Oct; 7am-7pm May-Aug; 8am -5pm.
With a population greater than the city itself, this incredibly-large cemetery even has its own bus service to help you navigate the paths and headstones of the deceased. It’s well worth a visit if only to see the eternal homes of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and the entire Strauss family.