Home to the Habsburg dynasty since the 15th century and once the de facto capital of the Holy Roman Empire, Vienna is one of the finest and most historic cities in Europe. In addition to its vast imperial history, Vienna’s impressive musical legacy is evident in the city’s many theaters, opera houses and concert venues. The capital of Austria is also famous for its lively coffeehouse culture and boasts an active independent music scene and vibrant night life.
Day One: The Heart of Vienna
Kick off your visit by picking up the Vienna Card at your hotel or the tourist information center. Just 20 Euros, it provides free rides on public transportation and over 200 discounts at museums, historic sights, restaurants, theaters and concerts for 72 hours. Then, get a feel for the city by circling the Ringstrasse via the Vienna Ring Tram. As you do, you will pass some of Vienna’s most significant sights, including City Hall, the Parliament Building, the State Opera House and the famous Hofburg Palace. End your tour of the Ringstrasse near the end of the Kärntnerstrasse closest to the 12th century gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Take time to explore the Cathedral’s catacombs before climbing the 343 steps to the top of the bell tower for a sweeping view of Vienna. Stroll down the Kärntnerstrasse, Vienna’s grand pedestrian mall, on your way to the Hofburg Palace, the winter home of the Habsburg Court. Don’t miss the lavishly decorated Kaiserappartements with the impressive Imperial Silver and Porcelain collections or the Schatzkammer – the Imperial Treasury, which showcases the crown jewels. Those wishing to spend even more time at the Hofburg might also visit the Spanish Riding School, the Burgkapelle (home of the Vienna Boys’ Choir) and the 14th century Augustinerkirche. After dinner, wind up your first day in Vienna with a trip to the opera or catch some live music at one of the city’s concert cafes.
Day Two: Museum-Hopping
Today, dig a little deeper by
visiting some of the city’s top museums. Start with the
Kumsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum), built in 1891 to house
the art collection of the royal family, and the neighboring Museum of
Natural History. Take a break for a stroll through the Stadtpark, Vienna’s first public park, where you’ll find the often-photographed monument to Johann Strauss. Stop at the Café Sacher to sample the famous sachertorte and then head to the MuseumsQuartier Complex, one of the largest cultural quarters in the world. With a vast array of museums, restaurants, shops and cafes, this can easily keep you occupied well into the evening. Three must-sees include the Kunsthalle, featuring international contemporary and modern art; the Leopold Museum showcasing modern art, including the works of Gustav Klimt; and MUMOK, focusing on 20th and 21st century art, including pop art, nouveau realism and photorealism.
Day Three: Vienna’s Imperial Past
Start your third morning with a visit to the Naschmarket, an open air market on the edge of town that has been around since the Middle Ages. Then, explore more of Vienna’s imperial past at the enchanting Schoenbrunn Palace and Park. Take a guided tour through the opulent rooms of Empress Elizabeth’s former summer residence, explore the Baroque palace gardens and get lost in the vast 17th century Maze. Wrap up your afternoon with a visit to the Vienna Zoo at Schoenbrunn, the oldest zoo in the world and one of the best in Europe. To celebrate your last evening in Vienna, treat yourself to dinner at the zoo’s Kaiserpavilion or the Café-Restaurant Residenz on the palace grounds before enjoying the works of Mozart and Strauss in a concert at the Palace Orangery.