Vienna is a city that has given the rest of the world some very precious things: the graceful Viennese waltz, delicate and deliciously sinful pastries, and a few great classical composers. But Austria’s capital and largest city has also provided the world with its fair share of historical personalities and moments.
It is a city that represents refinement and culture to visitors, who will not lack for things to do. An overview of the top tourist attractions in Vienna:
The Wiener Rathaus isn’t a place where visitors can eat wieners, though a notable restaurant serving Vietnamese delicacies is located on the premises. Rather, it serves as Vienna’s town hall, as well as the seat of government for the State of Vienna. The Gothic-style building, constructed in the 1880s, features the Rathausmann that sits on top of the tower and is a symbol of Vienna. The Wiener Rathaus is currently undergoing an extensive renovation that is expected to be completed in 2023.
The Spanish Riding School is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses that offers public performances in the Winter Riding School in the Hofburg. The Riding School calls these performances classical dressage, but most viewers would call it magic. The school has been training horses like this for more than four centuries. The 68 stallions – their ancestors came from Spain – have trained and performed at the Winter Riding School since about 1735. Horses and riders both undergo special training that lasts for many years.
Graben is one of the most famous streets in central Vienna. The word Graben means “trench” in German, and dates back to an old Roman encampment in the Austrian capital. Back in those days, Vienna was surrounded by a city wall, with a trench alongside of it. The trench was later filled in and became one of the first residential streets in Vienna. Craftsmen originally lived in wooden houses on the Graben, but it gradually evolved into a market place and later residences for the city’s elite. Today it is an up-scale shopping promenade, with many local specialties such as Wien Porzellan.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, also known as Stephansdom, had humble beginnings as a parish church in the 12th century. Today, it is the home church for the Catholic archbishop in Vienna. The church was destroyed in World War II but was rebuilt in seven years, with worship services still held daily. The cathedral, one of the city’s most important landmarks, reaches high into the Viennese skyline. Its impressive roof is covered by 230,000 glazed tiles. The cathedral has more than 18 altars, all built at different times, and contains precious works of art as well.
The Burggarten is a once-royal garden that is a bit of England in Vienna, as it is patterned after English gardens. The Burggarten was the court garden for the Hapsburg rulers. One Austrian ruler, Kaiser Franz II used to work in the garden, which is now a place where people can enjoy outdoor lunches on pleasant days. A memorial to that great Austrian composer, Mozart, can be found in one corner of the garden, while the Palmenhaus, a magnificent glass palm house, is located in the northern part. The left part of the Palmenhaus houses the Schmettlerlinghaus where visitors can see tropical butterflies and even bats.
The Ringstrasse is a road, slightly more than 5 km (3 miles) long, that circles Vienna’s inner city. Ordered built by Emperor Franz Joseph in the mid-19th century, many of the most important buildings in Vienna line both sides of the street: palaces, museums and stately homes. Buildings along the road include the State Opera, the Natural History Museum, City Hall and the Vienna Stock Exchange. The buildings represent various architectural styles, and are all considered architectural masterpieces. Construction of the Ringstrasse started in 1857, with the street opening in 1865.
The Belvedere is an integral part of Vienna’s historic scene, consisting of several palaces and an orangery that dates back to the late 17th century. It consists of the Baroque palaces, the Lower and Upper Belvedere; palace stables and the Orangery, all set in a Baroque-style park. Prince Eugene of Savoy had the complex built for this summer home. During the French Revolution, the palaces served as home to French royalty fleeing their country. The Belvedere is stunning to look at during the night when it is all lit up, and well as provides great views of Vienna.
The Hundertwasserhaus is a colorful apartment building near Vienna’s center in the Landstraße district. It is named after Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who developed the concept in the 20th century, with noted architect Krawina doing the building’s design. Each of the 52 apartments is a different color; some just out from the building proper, with several trees covering the roofs, while more trees grow inside other units, their limbs sticking out windows. Construction on the innovative apartment building ended in 1985; today, it is an intrinsic part of Vienna’s cultural heritage.
The Hofburg Imperial Palace has played an integral part of the Austrian government scene since it was built in the 13th century. It has been home to some of Europe’s most powerful royalty over the centuries, including the Hapsburgs and rulers of the Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Today it is a museum and home to the president of Austria. The palace has numerous wings and halls built by various royalty over the centuries, but only three parts are open to the public today: the Imperial Apartments; the Sisi Museum, dedicated to Elizabeth, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, and the Silver Collection, a collection of Imperial household objects.
The 1,441 room Schönbrunn Palace, comparable in grandeur to Versailles, is one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The palace was built between 1696 and 1712 at the request of Emperor Leopold I and turned into the imperial summer palace by Maria Theresa. The Palace Park offers a lot of attractions, such as the Privy Garden, the oldest zoo in the world, a maze and labyrinth, and the Gloriette, a marble summerhouse, situated on top of a 60 meter (200 feet) high hill.