With numerous cultural corners accompanied by cute little cafés, Vienna is definitely a place that should be on a must-have list of every traveler.
However, you won’t get to see everything in just a day. Vienna offers so much, that you’ll have troubles to manage it within a couple of days, and yet there would still be places to look for.
I tried to make the most out of my three-day-long stay in Vienna, and trust me, how fast did I have to move to get to see everything that I’m gonna list you in a couple of further articles!
Our day 1 was more history-orientated, we’ve basically toured the entire city centre, leaving nothing behind, so we could move away from the very heart of the town to the more further suburbs and attractions located over there. Here are all the things we saw, listed in a sequential order. Enjoy!
Starting on the Karlplatz U-bahn station, the first thing we’re going to see is the majestic
- Vienna State Opera
This opera is considered one of the largest in Europe and one of the best in the world. It was the Vienna State Opera, which contributed in no small measure to awarding Vienna with the title of music capital of not only Europe, but the whole world. It has a magnificent orchestra and its own ballet company. The theater’s repertoire includes more than 50 performances!
The Opera House was built in the late 60s of the 19th century. Its grand opening was marked by a performance of “Don Giovanni” by Mozart. Subsequently, the Vienna State Opera has become a favorite place for the capital aristocracy and members of the royal family. Unfortunately, the building was irreparably damaged during the Second World War. It was restored, and has reopened its doors to lovers and connoisseurs of opera in the 1950s. The theater reopened with the opera “Fidelio” by Beethoven.
Nowadays you can take a look at the interior of the famous theater, visit its foyer, or climb the grand staircase during the excursions. They are held several times a day.
At the end of the 19th century, there was a tradition started in Vienna, that you should have dinner in the restaurant of the Sacher Hotel before attending the opera. You can see it in front of you, at the corner of the street.
- Hotel Sacher
This luxury hotel has hosted a number of famous people from around the world during its long history. It’s not very accessible for the general public I’d say, but at least you can try the famous Sacher cake in the restaurant and café. It’s a chocolate sponge cake with one or two layers of apricot jam, covered with chocolate glaze at the top and sides, usually served with whipped cream. They also serve amazing coffee.
Now turn left, pass between the Opera House and the Hotel Sacher. You will find yourself on the
- Albertina Square
On the left side of the square, there is a building, which gave its name to the square – Albertina.
It is the world’s largest collection of graphics, which covers the most important era of art history. The collection consists of 65 000 drawings and watercolors, and about one million pieces of printed graphics. The collection of 139 drawings by Albrecht Dürer is the most interesting. Also, the museum presents the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, Oskar Kokoschka, Rembrandt, Gustav Klimt, Cezanne and many others.
Now walk back to the Sacher Hotel, then turn left to the Kärntner Strasse street, by which we’ll get to the gorgeous
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral
The first mention of the cathedral dates back to the early 13th century, it was built on the site of the former parish church to the height of 137 meters! Starting from the 15th century until the middle of the last century, a viewing platform on the tower, located at an altitude of 82 meters, served as a lookout for the fire service. You can also climb it and admire the beauty of the city, but you have to climb the 343 steps.
Now walk to the end of the cathedral and stand in front of its main entrance.
The main gate, called also “huge gate” or “Giant’s Gate”, two towers flanking the gate and fragments of stained glass. Until the middle of the last century, this entrance was open only for big celebrations. And only aristocrats and statesmen could use it. On the left side of the gate, you can see the “Vienna length standards”. This is measure for the size of a loaf of bread and the iron bars, which also called Viennese yard. With their help, anyone suspecting a baker of cheating could come and check the size of the loaf he had bought. According to a legend, dishonest sellers were put in a cage and repeatedly ducked into the Danube. It is said that hence the expression “tarnished reputation”.
Now let’s go inside the cathedral. The interior of the cathedral is really charmingly beautiful, isn’t it?
Now turn left so you can see this view:
And continue straight ahead to the
- Graben Street
Elegance, spaciousness, wealth – these words can describe the street you are walking along, starting right under the cathedral.
Being built in the 17th century, it was immediately considered the most expensive street of the city. Wealthy people of Vienna lived and still live here. You’ll find a large number of cafés and restaurants there.
There is the Plague Column or Holy Trinity Column in the center of the street. The column was placed here to commemorate the deliverance of the city from the plague that struck Vienna in the late 17th century. Two fountains on the sides of the streets are named after the most revered saints in Austria – “Josefsbrunnen” and ” Leopoldsbrunnen”.
While walking on the square, you can enjoy open air concerts. It is not surprising. Vienna is recognized as the capital of music.
Then, we will head towards the
- St. Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Church is one of the oldest in Vienna. It is believed that the first church on the site was built in the first half of the 4th century. There is speculation that the second church on this site was founded by Charlemagne in the late 8th century.
The St. Peter’s Church acquired its modern appearance in the early 18th century. Then, construction of a new church building began on the initiative of Emperor Leopold I. When designing the building, the architect borrowed an idea of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The church is extraordinarily beautiful both outside and inside. The image and symbol of the Holy Trinity can be seen everywhere in the church. Emerald dome is decorated with a wonderful painting depicting “Assumption of the Virgin Mary”.
Now make your way to the end of the Graben Street. Eventually on the right side you’ll spot the
- Demel Confectionary
The history of confectionery begins almost 200 years ago. In the late 18th century, a small shop selling candy and candied nuts opened on the outskirts of Vienna. Christoph Demel was an employee of this shop. In the mid-19th century, together with his sons, he bought this place and founded the family bakery and coffee shop. The family business began to flourish and “lived” to the present day. The confectionery manufactures and sells truly royal sweets. After all, Demel was the official supplier to the imperial court!
Today, as many years ago, almost everything is done by hand there. If you go into the rooms of confectionery, you will easily travel back in time 100 years ago, because there are not much has changed since then. Local residents affectionately nicknamed Demel “Temple of confectionary”. Even if you do not have a sweet tooth, you can still admire “works of art” made by the hands of skilled craftsmen.
If you are a fan of sweets, you should definitely try candied lilacs in addition to sweets, chocolates, pastries and cakes. It is sold in the same box for more than 100 years! And it’s not only delicious candy. If you put the lilac flower in a glass of champagne, it will seem to come to life, and the drink will turn a nice lilac color.
The confectionery also has a café, where you can enjoy an extraordinary Viennese coffee with imperial desserts. Bon Appetit!
Now walk to the end of the Kohlmarkt Street, and you will find yourself at the
- St. Michael’s Square
The St. Michael’s Square or Archangel Michael Square is named after the parish church of noblemen.
The St. Michael’s Church is located on your left. It was built by Babenbergs. Originally, the church was surrounded by a cemetery. Since the late 18th century, new burials in this place were forbidden. If you visit the Michaelergruft crypt, you will see mummified corpses in burial clothes, which are very well preserved, thanks to the unique climate. In the center of the square, there is the archaeological site of ancient Roman ruins. This is the remains of the ramparts of the ancient settlement.
Let’s go through the gate and stop in the next large square yard.
- Old Hofburg
We are in the old part of the Hofburg. The old palace is to your left. The Swiss Gate, which stands out on its façade, is quite unusual, and made in ancient Roman style. It was built in the mid 16th century by order of Emperor Ferdinand II. A long list of Ferdinand’s possessions is engraved on them with gold letters. Once, the gate functioned as a drawbridge.
The oldest part of the Hofburg – Alte Burg complex begins beyond the gate. Presumably, a medieval castle of the Dukes of Babenberg was in this place, protected by four powerful corner towers. The castle chapel was the only one that has survived to the present day. It was rebuilt later in the Baroque style. Services are held on Sundays and public holidays. Viennese Court Music Orchestra in conjunction with the Vienna Boys’ Choir performs high mass there.
The Swiss Court is behind the chapel. From there you can get to the Treasury. The most valuable exhibits of the palace collection are kept in its halls. Jewelry and the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire are the “Heart” of the collection, presented in the Treasury.
If you pass to the Swiss Court, you will get to the Joseph’s Square. On this square, there are the Austrian National Library and the Augustinian Church where the Habsburgs got married. The hearts of imperial family members are kept in silver urns in the church’s Hearts Crypt.
Now turn to face the monument standing in the middle of the square. It is a monument to Emperor Franz I. The pedestal is surrounded by figures personifying Peace, Might, Faith and Justice.
On your left, there is the Leopold Wing, named in honor of Emperor Leopold I, who built it. Today the palace is the official residence of the president of Austria.
If you move in a clockwise direction, the next building will be the Amalia Residence. You see it right after the pedestal. The palace was named after the widow of Emperor Joseph I Wilhelmina Amalia Braunschweig Lüneburg. She lived here during her long widowhood. Later, in the 19th century, Austrian Empress Elisabeth of Austria (known as Sissi) so loved by everyone, lived in the palace. Part of the buildings of the Amalia Residence is now occupied by the exposition “Imperial apartments”. These are royal chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Sissi, as well as the Alexander apartments, which were occupied by Tsar Alexander of Russia during the Congress of Vienna.
On your right, there is the Imperial Chancellery Wing opposite the Leopold Wing. It was built at the request of the Emperor Charles VI. It was originally used as the residence of famous guests of Empire; later it was the State Chancellery, which gave it its name.
On your left, there is the gate in the Leopold Wing.
Go through them and you will find yourself at the
- New Castle of Hofburg
After the demolition of the city walls in the middle of the 19th century, Emperor Franz Joseph planned to expand the Hofburg. In the 1880s, the construction of a grandiose and a bit pompous “New Castle” began. Construction work was stretched out over 30 years, but the grand plan was never implemented. They built only one wing, but it impresses with its monumentality. Semicircular facade of the new palace stands on a large pedestal in the form of large windows with arches and statues illustrating the history of Austria. A balcony is located in the middle of it. It is remarkable that from there Adolf Hitler announced the “reunification” of Austria with the German Reich on March 15, 1938.
Today, the palace houses several museums.
In front of the New Castle Wing, there is the Heroes’ Square, where military parades were held earlier. Equestrian statues were erected in the square: on the right side – the statue of Archduke Karl, the victor over Napoleon at the Battle of Aspern; on the left side, closer to the wing – the statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy who liberated the Balkans from Ottoman rule.
Directly in front of you is situated the
- Portal of Heroes
The portal was built on the site of a small bastion of the old city wall. In the 30s of last century, it was turned into a memorial to Austrian Heroes of the War of 1914-1918. At the same time, the portal received its present name.
Leave the Hofburg through the Portal of Heroes, cross the road and stop at the
- Maria Theresa Square
The Maria Theresa Square is a very large square decorated with emerald carpets of lawns and dark green balls of masterfully trimmed bushes. There are two near identical museums on both sides of the square, as if guarding it. On the one hand – the Art History Museum, on the other hand – the Natural History Museum. Between museums, in the center of the square, there is a statue on a high pedestal depicting Empress Maria Theresa, the namesake of the square.
In this point if you will continue further left, you would get to Vienna’s most famous shopping street – the Maria Hilfe Strasse.
We had a quick stop in a couple of shops there, but then decided to go back to the Maria Theresa Square and turn left to see the
The Federal Assembly of Austria holds its meetings in a majestic Parliament building with a triangular pediment and a facade decorated with Corinthian columns. As you may have noticed, the Parliament building was built in the Greek style. The architect who designed the building was a great admirer of Greece and lived in this country for a long time. His creation looks more like an ancient temple. As conceived by the architect, large equestrian statues were meant to remind deputies to curb their political passions and use common sense. Statues of historians erected around the Parliament, is a warning to the same deputies that they should know the history of their country and to draw lessons from past events.
Yeah, definitely what I was expecting after walking more than 1km from the Maria Theresa Square in a freezing wind.
Continue your journey further; go along the park that you see to the right of the Parliament. Walk up to the City Hall Square, where you’ll find the amazing
- City Hall
In the 19th century, the city’s population increased because of the addition of numerous suburbs. As a result, there was not enough space in the old city hall. Finally, at the end of the 1860s, there was a competition to design a new building.
64 architects took part in the architectural competition. Local native Friedrich Schmidt won the competition. A monument to him was built later on the other side of the city hall. Construction continued for 10 years. The building is 127 meters wide and 152 meters long, and topped with three towers. The central tower has a height of 105 meters. On top of the tower, there is an iron guard “Rathausmann”. The statue is 3.5 meters high and weighs 1.8 tons. There is an observation deck under the statue. You can climb there if you are able to overcome 256 steps.
It hosts about 800 events during the year! These are different carnivals, balls, festivals, concerts, fairs, celebrations. If you come to Vienna in December, visit the Christmas Market and be sure to taste the glühwein, it’s delicious!
All in all, Vienna is a must-see town for everyone. However, it did not leave a mark on me like some of the other places I’ve been to did. One trip (and three days) were simply enough, there’s nothing to come back for in my opinion, even though we really enjoyed these three days.
What is your opinion about Vienna?
Also, another two things worth of mentioning:
- these cute traffic lights (also LGBT)
- the PERFECT Asian restaurants all around the town – just look at my dinner, yum!
//created with the help of izi.travel/nl
Have a great day!