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Vienna, Austria

Vienna is a city that straddles both the past and present with ease. No other city effortlessly combines a rich history that has left behind such remarkable gifts as the gothic Stephansdom or baroque Schönbrunn palace with contemporary gems such as the Leopold Museum or the Museums Quarter. It's no surprise that the Turks once referred to this city as "the golden apple". Here you can spend your days marvelling at one historical building after the next, or soaking up the cafe culture, then while away your evenings clubbing to electronic beats.  





Orientation

Many sights are in the Innere Stadt (inner city), which is encircled by the Danube Canal (Donaukanal) to the northeast and broad boulevards called the Ring or Ringstrasse.

In addresses, the number of a building follows the street name. Any number before the street name denotes the district, of which there are 23. District 01 (the Innere Stadt) is the most central. Generally, the higher the district number, the further out it is.

Vienna’s ostentatious buildings and beautiful parks make it a lovely city for strolling. Catch tram 1 or 2 around the Ringstrasse (the road circling the centre) to acquire a taste of the city. It passes the neo-Gothic Rathaus (Town Hall), the Greek Revival–style Parlament, and the 19th-century Burgtheater – you can even glimpse the baroque Karlskirche (St Charles’ Church) from the tram.

Heading into the Innere Stadt (Inner City) will take you to a different age. Designated a Unesco World Heritage site, the heart of the city is blessed with a plethora of architectural wonders that hint at Vienna’s long love affair with history. Begin by strolling along the pedestrian-only Kärntner Strasse past its plush shops, cafes and street entertainers and into Graben, where the knobbly Petsäule (Plague Column), designed by Fischer von Erlach, was built to commemorate the end of the Plague. Turning left into Kohlmarkt brings the impressive Hofburg (Imperial Palace), the Habsburgs’ city-centre base, into view. Walk towards it and wander around this large complex’s nooks and crannies. There are several museums inside, including the Kaiserappartements & ‘Sissi’ Museum, which relates the unusual life story of Empress Elisabeth (Sissi), and the Schatzkammer, where all manner of wonders, including the 10th-century Imperial Crown, a 2860-carat Columbian emerald, and even a thorn from Christ’s crown, are on display.

Not far from the Hofburg is the Kaisergruft, the final resting place of most of the Habsburg elite (their hearts and organs reside elsewhere).

 

Stephansdom

The prominent latticework spire of Stephansdom, along with the geometric pattern of its roof tiles, make this 13th-century Gothic masterpiece one of the city’s key points of orientation. The interior is nothing to scoff at either, complete with a 16th-century stone pulpit and gigantic baroque high altar. Inside, you can take the lift up the north tower, tackle the 343 steps to the top of the south tower, and explore the church’s Katakomben, which contains some of the internal organs of the former Habsburgs rulers. 

 

Museums & Galleries

When it comes to classical works of art, nothing comes close to the Museum of Fine Arts. It houses a huge range of art amassed by the Habsburgs and includes works by Rubens, van Dyck, Holbein and Caravaggio.

The Museums Quartier

(Museumsplatz 1), a public and exhibition space unrivalled in the capital, contains both contemporary and baroque architectural splendour. Its highpoint is the Leopold Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Egon Schiele paintings, with some minor Klimts and Kokoschkas.

Belvedere Palace consists of two main buildings. One is the Oberes Belvedere & Österreichische Galerie, where you’ll find instantly recognisable works, such as Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, accompanied by other late-19th to early-20th-century Austrian works. The other is the Unteres Belvedere, which contains a baroque museum. The buildings sit at opposite ends of a manicured garden.

Built in 1898, the Secession is a popular art nouveau ‘temple of art’. It bears an intricately woven gilt dome, and inside the highlight is the 34m-long Beethoven Frieze by Klimt.

Albrecht Dürer’s Hare and a few Michelangelos are joined by superbly curated modern exhibitions at the Albertina.

At Haus der Musik

Make your own music in this mind-blowing array of interactive exhibits.

Sigmund Freud Museum is the former home of the father of psychoanalysis, while the Wien Museum provides a snapshot of the city’s history, and contains a handsome art collection.

Dining

Der Wiener Deewan

(09, Liechtensteinstrasse 10) Pakistani curries – three vegetarian and two meat – are prepared daily and served buffet-style at this easy-going eatery. There’s no set price here, just eat at much as you like and pay as much as you like, although the food’s so good you’ll want to fork over a decent amount of cash.

Kent

(16, Brunnengasse 67) Authentic Turkish cuisine and one of the largest gardens in the city make Kent a hugely popular choice with locals of all ethnic backgrounds. After your meal, take a wander along the nearby Brunnen market and pick up some fresh fruit for dessert.

Zu den 2 Leiserln

(07, Burggasse 63) A classic Beisl (traditional Viennese pub serving solid Viennese fare) if ever there was one. Leiserln has been serving enormous schnitzels for over 100 years to politicians, blue-collar workers, and everyone in between. Take a seat and appreciate a true Viennese institution.

St Josef 

(07, Mondscheingasse 10) St Josef is the choice of the healthy diner. It only serves wholly organic and vegetarian cuisine, and the menu changes daily.

Stomach

(Seegasse 26) Many vegetarian dishes have dropped off the menu at Styrian-style Stomach, but some remain, and the quaint, ramshackle rooms and the courtyard create a rustic outpost in the big city.

Schweizerhaus

(02, Strasse des Ersten Mai 116) In the Prater park, this place serves Hintere Schweinsstelze (roasted pork hocks) and the like to a rowdy crowd of international travellers who wash it all down with huge mugs of Czech beer fresh from the barrel.

Sausages are the fast-food choice of many Viennese (especially at the end of a night out), and sausage stands dot the city. For fresh fruit and cheap kebabs, head for the colour Naschmarkt (06, Linke Wienzeile), which also has a string of fine Asian diners.

 

Drinking and Dancing

The area near Schwedenplatz, dubbed the Bermudadreieck (Bermuda Triangle), may still attract plenty of drinkers (mainly drunk teenagers and out-of-towners), but the real scene has moved out of the centre to the likes of the Naschmarkt, along the Danube Canal (summer only), Schleifmühlgasse area, and along the Gürtel, an outer ring road that joins up with the A22 on the north bank of the Danube and the A23 southeast of town.

Flanagans

(Schwarzenberg Strasse 1-3) With plenty of tellies featuring live English football and international rugby, along with Guinness and Stella on tap, Flanagans pulls in the expat crowd like no other pub in Vienna. Friday and Saturday nights here can be a spectacle.

Kunsthallencafé 

(Tel 587 00 73; 04, Treitlstrasse 2) The ubercool Kunsthallencafé is a mecca for BoBos and students, offering slick surrounds, comfy couches, regular DJs, and a massive summer terrace. Surprisingly, the desserts here are divine. Rhiz (Tel 409 25 05; Lerchenfelder Gürtel 37-38) One of the bars lining the U-Bahn (underground) arches near the Gürtel, this is a hip mecca of Vienna’s electronic music scene. Also recommended: Chelsea (Tel 407 93 09; Lerchenfelder Gürtel 29-31) Underground spot with frequent indie band concerts and DJs. Phil (Tel 581 04 89; 06, Gumpendorferstrasse 10-12) Retro bookshop-bar with a bohemian slant and easygoing vibe. Schikaneder (Tel 585 58 88; 04, Margaretenstrasse 22-4) Alternative bar-cinema attracting students and black-clad folk.

 

Flex 

(Tel 533 75 25; Danube Canal/Augartenbrücke) Time after time this uninhibited shrine to music (it has one of the best sound systems in Europe) puts on great live shows and features the top DJs from Vienna and abroad. Each night is a different theme, with Crazy on Tuesday and London Calling on Wednesday among the most popular.

Roxy 

(04, Operngasse 24; hWed- Sun) Often leading the way, or at least keeping pace, with Vienna’s progressive clubbing scene. Its tiny dance floor is therefore regularly bursting at the seams. The sounds range from jazz to world music.

Volksgarten 

(Tel 532 42 41; 01, Burgring 1) In the middle of the park of the same name, this place is very popular. There’s modern dance and an atmospheric 1950s-style salon that was once a former Walzer Dancing venue. Friday and Saturday are the big nights, although it’s open other evenings, too.

Der Wiener Deewan (09, Liechtensteinstrasse 10) Pakistani curries – three vegetarian and two meat – are prepared daily and served buffet-style at this easy-going eatery. There’s no set price here, just eat at much as you like and pay as much as you like, although the food’s so good you’ll want to fork over a decent amount of cash.

Kent (16, Brunnengasse 67) Authentic Turkish cuisine and one of the largest gardens in the city make Kent a hugely popular choice with locals of all ethnic backgrounds. After your meal, take a wander along the nearby Brunnen market and pick up some fresh fruit for dessert.

Zu den 2 Leiserln (07, Burggasse 63) A classic Beisl (traditional Viennese pub serving solid Viennese fare) if ever there was one. Leiserln has been serving enormous schnitzels for over 100 years to politicians, blue-collar workers, and everyone in between. Take a seat and appreciate a true Viennese institution.

St Josef (07, Mondscheingasse 10) St Josef is the choice of the healthy diner. It only serves wholly organic and vegetarian cuisine, and the menu changes daily.

Stomach (Seegasse 26) Many vegetarian dishes have dropped off the menu at Styrian-style Stomach, but some remain, and the quaint, ramshackle rooms and the courtyard create a rustic outpost in the big city.

Schweizerhaus (02, Strasse des Ersten Mai 116) In the Prater park, this place serves Hintere Schweinsstelze (roasted pork hocks) and the like to a rowdy crowd of international travellers who wash it all down with huge mugs of Czech beer fresh from the barrel.

Sausages are the fast-food choice of many Viennese (especially at the end of a night out), and sausage stands dot the city. For fresh fruit and cheap kebabs, head for the colour Naschmarkt (06, Linke Wienzeile), which also has a string of fine Asian diners.

Drinking & Dancing



Flex (Tel 533 75 25; Danube Canal/Augartenbrücke) Time after time this uninhibited shrine to music (it has one of the best sound systems in Europe) puts on great live shows and features the top DJs from Vienna and abroad. Each night is a different theme, with Crazy on Tuesday and London Calling on Wednesday among the most popular.

Roxy (04, Operngasse 24; hWed- Sun) Often leading the way, or at least keeping pace, with Vienna’s progressive clubbing scene. Its tiny dance floor is therefore regularly bursting at the seams. The sounds range from jazz to world music.

Volksgarten (Tel 532 42 41; 01, Burgring 1) In the middle of the park of the same name, this place is very popular. There’s modern dance and an atmospheric 1950s-style salon that was once a former Walzer Dancing venue. Friday and Saturday are the big nights, although it’s open other evenings, too.

Recommendations

17

The apple Strudle next to the concert hall is by far the best. Thanks Ben for the tip."

Tom, Australia

#hopon to Vienna