Billy Joel was so moved by his first visit to Vienna he wrote a classic love song to the city where he says “things finally started to make sense” for him. Vienna has long been a place to be for musicians and become “Viennese by choice” (in the words of Beethoven who moved here from Bonn for good at the age of 22) and music is still a driving force in the life blood of this city from neighbourhood church choirs to the stunning venues where opera and classical music comes alive and the city’s position as an essential stop on the European tours of music’s biggest acts.
Art certainly does not play second fiddle here with the opportunity to view so many iconic works and artists that forward planning is essential to fit it all in. The tourist board web site is a good starting point for a comprehensive breakdown of what’s on view from the old masters to contemporary Viennese art. It’s definitely worth checking out some of the smaller galleries in the old town for a look at up and coming local and international artists.
There are many different layers to the modern Vienna and to explore fully it’s unique position in the historical and cultural development of Europe would be impossible here. Our top ten is selected to give you as broad as possible understanding of the city over a short break.
Stephansdom cathedral dominates the city center landscape and it is seen by most Viennese as the symbol of the city. A visit here is essential and it is free to go inside the main dome with ticketed options for full access. Even before you visit St. Stephens will very quickly come to feel like a familiar landmark as you explore the rest of the city.
There is such a wealth of history to explore here going back to when construction began you could easily spend a whole day between towers and catacombs but if you have a pick one extra climb the south tower and get up close with those impressive roof tiles.
As the largest Habsburg residential palace, the Albertina dominates the southern tip of the Imperial Palace on one of the last remaining fortress walls in Vienna. The state rooms are an instant way to be transported back to the time of their inhabitants with much original furniture and decoration. In addition the Albertina has the largest and most valuable graphical collections in the world, with works such as Dürer’s “Hare” and Klimt’s studies of women and its latest exhibition collection features modern classics from Monet to Picasso.
The museum was built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the Habsburg dynasty. Today numerous major art works of European art history, among them Raphael’s “Madonna in the Meadow,” Vermeer’s “The Allegory of Painting,” the Infanta paintings by Velazquez, masterworks by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Titian and Tintoretto are housed in the paintings gallery.
Though Mozart lived at a dozen different addresses in Vienna, the only apartment that has survived to this day is at Domgasse number 5. The composer lived at this address from 1784 till 1787 and by all accounts these were some of the happiest years of his life here. He lived here with his wife and children for longer than in any other apartment and during this period Mozart was a celebrated composer, had an illustrious circle of friends, and was asked to give countless concerts at the houses of the nobility. It was also here at Domgasse that he penned some his best compositions, including what is perhaps his most popular opera The Marriage of Figaro. The interactive exhibition takes you right in to the heart of what Mozart’s life was like in a buzzing Vienna in the late 18th century.
Tucked away inside old town Vienna is the must visit Jewish Museum which pays testament to the role Jewish people played in the past and current development of their city while delivering an eye opening and thought provoking look at their struggle with anti semitism throughout.
This tiny little plaza in the midst of the cobbled old town streets offers the perfect place for respite from the often overwhelming sights and sounds of Vienna. After shuffling through the crowds in St. Stephens Cathedral or queueing for a table at the iconic coffee houses we recommend some quite contemplation in the Franciscan Church here followed by a nice cup of tea at Kleines Cafe, one of the most chilled out cafes in the city.
In the summer of 1913, Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Tito, Freud, Franz Ferdinand and Lenin were all regulars in Vienna’s Café Central. Once a gathering place for intellectuals, writers, and artists the cafe has occupied the same position on the ground floor of Palais Ferstel since it was built in 1876. Now a must see stop for most visitors expect a wait time of up to 30 minutes for a table. It is worth the wait though to enjoy traditional Vieneesse strudel and coffee amidst this rich history.
You can’t visit Vienna without sampling one of the specialities of Viennese cuisine, the wiener schnitzel. If you’re lucky enough to secure a table in one of the six rooms at Zum weißen Rauchfangkehrer, one of Vienna’s oldest and still most renowned restaurants, you’ve hit the Austrian food jackpot. The origins of the name (The White Chimney Sweep) is as steeped in Viennese history as the hospitality and excellent food. Ask your waiter to tell you the story over a glass of their delicious sncapps.
Laid back with five star service, rooms with some of the best views of the city plus award winning dining and Robbie William’s favourite bar in Vienna downstairs. One of master architect Sir Terence Conran’s hotel masterpieces is the ideal spot to stay if you want to balance all that history with a taste of contemory Viennese culture at it’s best. Check out our full review here or find out more here.
Vienna is synonymous with live music for many so the year long celebration of one of the other musical genius who decided to become “Vienese by choice” is the perfect excuse to visit. Experience Beethoven’s music in the city he created it after moving to Vienna from Bonn at age 22. Plenty to choose from in some of the most spectacular musical venues in the city.
The discount on entries to museums and attractions alone will cover the cost of your investment in the Vienna City Card and the addition of free public transport and optional tours this is a city card worth having.