With opulent palaces, art galleries, and trendy cafés on just about every corner, it’s obvious why many consider Vienna to be one of the most culturally rich cities in all of Europe. Located in Central Europe, Vienna is a historic city that has come alive with its food, art, and cultural scene in the past few years.
Vienna is divided into 23 different districts, each with their own draws and charm. Though it is a major European city, Vienna is incredibly walkable and best experienced on foot. As you’ll come to realize the minute you arrive in Vienna, the city has a lot to offer. Our recommendation? Take it slow, do as the locals do, and enjoy all of what makes Vienna such a unique cultural destination.
A good way to see some of the city’s incredible architecture while becoming acquainted with the layout of the city is to explore the Ringstrasse, a ring-shaped boulevard that takes you through some of the most historic buildings in all of Vienna. Like most streets in Vienna, Ringstrasse also allows for ample opportunities to duck into a café while also offering amazing shopping venues.
You can explore Ringstrasse on foot, bike, or take a tram that services the area. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to visit—there is a lot to see. Notable sites include: The Rathaus (Vienna’s unbelievably grand city hall), The Austrian Parliament Building, and The Vienna State Opera. Regardless of your chosen mode of transportation, it’s certain that you’ll be transported back to the charm of old Europe.
Kunsthaus Wien Museum
Designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this museum is a sight to behold. Although it’s a bit outside the city center, it is a must-see for art and architecture lovers. With not a straight line in sight, the museum and architecture is chock full of bright colors, foliage, and non-traditional design. A departure from much of the art that Vienna and Europe is known for, Hundertwasser’s art provides a unique experience unlike anything else in Vienna. Close to the museum is The Hundertwasser House, one of the most quintessential sites of Vienna. The house is actually a residential building and is one of the best examples of Hundertwasser’s work.
Austria is a country with no shortage of palaces, many of which date back to the Hapsburg Monarchy; however, The Belvedere is a favorite. Located in the third district of the city, the complex is actually comprised of two separate buildings, each with its own history and background. The complex also contains a museum that is home to one of Austria’s most famous paintings, Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” Before entering the building, the expansive gardens are a showstopper, most especially in spring and summer. Spend an afternoon roaming the gardens, exploring the palaces, and taking in some of Austria’s most influential art.
Cafes and Coffeehouses
In a city defined by its café culture, it’s hard to pick a single destination. The city’s love for coffee and cafés dates back hundreds of years and continues to be a source of pride for residents of Vienna. To experience the city as locals do, we recommend finding a great café and enjoying a Viennese coffee and a bit of cake as often as you can. Though you may find yourself rushing to work while carrying your coffee in a to-go cup at home, you’ll find that in Vienna having coffee is a relaxed, social activity. Spend an afternoon in one of the city’s myriad of cafés, catch up with your travel companion (or a new local Viennese friend), and enjoy an experience that is truly part of the city’s cultural identity. Though there’s a great café on just about every other corner, Cafe Museum, Demel, and Coffee Pirates are wonderful options.
No trip to Vienna is complete without a jaunt around Naschmarkt, the city’s largest market. Nearly one mile long, the market has existed for centuries and is an integral part of Vienna’s culture. Go with an empty stomach and take in the myriad of food stalls and vendors. Locals visit the market for fresh produce and spices; there are a number of vendors selling prepared foods as well. Enjoy a glass of local wine, peruse the fresh produce, and enjoy a local experience. On Saturdays, get there early to take advantage of the flea market (after you’ve had your fill of Austrian pastries, of course!).
New Austrian Cuisine
Over the past few years, Vienna has emerged as one of the most popular foodie destinations in all of Europe. Home to Michelin star restaurants and a countless number of hidden culinary gems, the city has certainly proven itself to gastronomes. As a result, many restaurants have popped up serving traditional Austrian dishes with a new, modern twist (hence the name “new Austrian cuisine”). Several offer a lighter take on more classic, heavy dishes while others focus on consistent offerings of fresh, local ingredients. Though Austria is known for dishes like Wiener schnitzel and gulasch, delve further into the culture of the city by experiencing the food in a new light. Glacis Beisl and Walter Bauer are two of our favorites.
MuseumsQuartier (also known as the MQ) is an institution in Vienna for a reason, and it cannot be missed. It’s one of the largest cultural sites in the world, and it houses just about everything from century old art to modern pieces. Highlights include MUMOK, one of Vienna’s most famous modern and contemporary art museums, as well as the Leopold Museum, home to many renowned pieces of Austrian art.
But if all the art and architecture has you feeling a little drained, the complex also houses a number of restaurants and cafés. Don’t expect your run of the mill, uninspired museum cafeteria though. That would go against the Austrian way! In reality, MQ is home to some of the best restaurants in all of Vienna. When the weather is nice, enjoy MQ’s outdoor seating as many locals and travelers do.
Home to a countless number of famed musicians (Mozart, anyone?), music is a huge part of Austrian culture. A source of pride for locals, you’ll find many musical influences throughout the city. We suggest heading to Wiener Staatsoper to experience opera at a budget price. Believe it or not, standing room tickets can be purchased for just a few Euros (and tired feet make it more than worth it). If an opera isn’t your thing, take in one of the city’s many music festivals. Throughout the year, Vienna hosts a number of festivals that are sure to provide a little something for everyone. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the summer, take advantage of the free concerts across the city.
Parks and Gardens
The parks in Vienna will put just about every other public park to shame. Locals love enjoying leisurely afternoons in the outdoor green spaces in the city and luckily there is no shortage of great parks to enjoy. Vienna Woods is a great option if you want a break from the fast pace of the city. If you’re looking for a bit more activity head to The Prater, which houses The Riesenrad, a ferris wheel that is considered to be a symbol of the city. Volksgarten, part of the Hofburg Palace, and Augarten are both great if you’re looking for a bit of history. Pack a picnic and plan for a relaxed afternoon to experience at least one of the many lush parks of Vienna.
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