The city that nurtured genius, whose buzz still crackles among its monumental museums, grandiose palaces, sublime churches and astonishing opera houses.
Pinched between towering Alps to the west, and the mighty Danube to the east, Vienna is a city of legends. The musical genius of Mozart, the ponderings of Freud and the controversy of Klimt have all played out among the coffee houses of Vienna. Its palaces are grander, its churches are more daring and its galleries more ground-breaking than any other city in Europe.
It's all a lot for visitors to take in. A good place to start is the fairground of the Weiner Prater, where the century-old Ferris wheel will lift you up well above Vienna, giving you a birds-eye view. St Stephen’s Cathedral will probably grab your attention first. Its gleaming white Gothic spire pierces Vienna's skyline, advertising one of the most dramatic cathedrals in Europe. It has its counterpart in St Charles’s Church, whose shimmering green dome and twin towers celebrate a glorious fusion of Romanesque and Baroque styles.
These both lie within the bounds of Vienna's Innere Stadt – the historic centre ringed by the wide Ringstraße. The city's most famous museums can also be found here: the Museum of Art History, Natural History Museum, Albertina, and the modern-art hub of the MuseumsQuartier. The Austrian National Library’s name is deceptive, as this also houses three fascinating museums.
The peaceful surroundings of Central Cemetery include memorials to the City of Music’s most famous sons. Head to the Vienna State Opera to hear some of their works performed, or enjoy high-quality theatre in the lavish surroundings of the Burgtheater.
You can’t miss Vienna’s Hofburg Imperial Palace. For centuries, Vienna was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Habsburgs dynasty ruled large swathes of Europe from here. You can see their wonderful extravagance at the summer Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofburg Imperial Palace (their winter residence). Lesser members of the aristocracy also created beautiful palatial residences like the Prince of Savoy's 18th-century Belvedere home.
Visit the famous coffee houses to enjoy delicious pastries, or head to the Naschmarkt open-air market for fresh food and shopping.