Introduction Home to one of the capitals of the Holy Roman Empire in its heyday and serving as one of Europe’s most prestigious cultural centres, Vienna is heaven to culture hunters everywhere. From grand palaces to glamorous balls, copious amounts of museums, and a coffee scene that will make hipsters consider spending some time apart from Berlin, there is plenty to love about Austria’s gorgeous capital.
Begin your time in Vienna by getting Schönbrunn Palace ticked off on your list of things to see. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered by many to be Vienna’s top historical attraction, as it once served as a hunting ground and royal residence for Holy Roman and Austrian monarchs.
Its interior is every bit as regal as you’ve made it out in your head to be, and the exterior doesn’t disappoint either, as its broad lawns, prominent fountains and intensely colorful rows of flowers, trees and hedges will be pleasing to anyone who appreciates natural beauty.
That isn’t all though, as Tiergarten Schönbrunn, located on the grounds of the palace, also warrants a visit. Opened in 1752 to serve as a menagerie for the royal court, it today counts as the oldest zoo in the world.
Possessing a mixture of typical zoo animals plus 18th century Versailles style structures makes this place a definite highlights if you are into these types of attractions.
Vienna is also well known for the exceptional quality of its performance artists, the best of whom you can see in action at the State Opera House.
The actors and singers here are among the busiest of their kind in the world, putting on upwards of 60 distinctive operas and ballets, spread over 300 nights per year.
As such, the chances of a production being on during your time in Vienna are very high, so plan on attending a show during your time here.
If you’d prefer to participate in this city’s culture instead of being a spectator, be sure to attend a ball if you are traveling through the region between late November and the end of February. It is at this time of year that Ball season is on, with various professional guilds, government agencies, and associations putting on elaborate to-do’s that seek to celebrate the waltz, which is a dance style that was born here.
The first ball of the season is held by the Red Cross in late November, one of the most fabulous is celebrated at the Imperial Palace on New Year’s Eve, and the last of the majors is the Johann Strauss ball, held in mid-February. Plan your travels accordingly, and dress to impress!
Other Attractions If you are a museum fanatic, Vienna will not let you down either, as it is home to a district known as Museumsquartier. One of the top ten arts districts in the world, the Museumquartier is home to fine arts (Leopold Museum), architecture (Architekturzentrum Wien) and contemporary art (Kunsthalle Wien) museums that will keep a culture hound busy all day and into the evening! Horse lovers will also love Vienna, as it is here where the world famous Spanish Riding School is located. While its primary function is indeed to serve as a place where jockeys learn to ride Lipizzan horses in the classic style, its long history has also made it into a tourist attraction. With riders going through their routines on a dirt surface, but below crystal chandeliers and white walls, the spectacle is a unique one even for those that aren’t into equestrian sports. Have kids you need to keep entertained, or still young at heart yourself? If either case is true, find time in your schedule to pay a visit to Prater, a large park in Vienna that contains amusement facilities in one of its corners. Known as the Wurstelprater, its Ferris Wheel, bumper cars, and roller coasters are open from the middle of March to the end of October, giving you an option to appease your restless kids through most of the warmer months of the year.