Mozart, Beethoven, Freud, and stunning baroque architecture.
Vienna: Austria’s beautiful capital. It’s known for its artistic and intellectual contributions from those like Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud, as well as its stunning baroque style architecture. To experience this amazing, culturally driven city to its fullest, here are 5 must-do’s that give you the best of both traditional and modern.
1. St. Stephen’s Cathedral
As one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a must-visit for anyone visiting Vienna. It’s colorful roof tiles and massive towers make for a beautiful and impressive facade, while the inside boasts gilded altars and precious relics. The South Tower is climbable if you want sweat through 343 steps, but the view across Vienna at the top is definitely worth it. If you want less of a challenge, make the trip to the top of the (shorter) North Tower. Its advantage over the South Tower is its elevator. Right next to the North Tower is the entrance to the catacombs where you’ll see the burial places of Duke Rudolph the Founder and other members of the Habsburg family, the bishops of Vienna, and 56 urns with the intestines of the Habsburgs in the Imperial Burial Vault. Pleasant, I know.
2. Hofburg Palace
The Hofburg Imperial Palace was the residence and seat of government of the Habsburg emperors until 1918. It is also one of the largest palace complexes in the world. Within the complex are multiple museums, the world renowned Spanish Riding School, a congress center, and the seat of the Austrian Federal President. You could say it’s a “city-within-a-city” with its 59 acres, 18 buildings and 2,600 rooms. It’s architecture reflects many different styles as each Austrian ruler over 700 years has made additions or alterations to it. You’ll see Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and even Rococo styles, making for a very interesting visit style-wise. As an epicenter of Austrian and European culture, it’s a definite must-do.
3. Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens
Schonbrunn Palace is the former summer residence of the Habsburgs and is one of the most beautiful Baroque complexes in all of Europe. As one of Austria’s most important cultural centers, it is recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. 45 of the 1,441 rooms are visitable, and the park/garden is open all year round. Within that park is, what ended up being, the world’s first zoo. Gesamtkunstwerk is a term that describes when a work of art seamlessly makes use of multiple, if not all, art forms. The palace and park are considered an excellent representation of this term, showing how special this place really is.
Fun Fact: Mozart made music in the mirrored hall of the palace as a six year-old prodigy.
As Vienna’s largest outdoor market, the Viennese Naschmarkt is a morning must-do for visitors and locals alike. You’ll find lots of local produce, international spices you’ve probably never even heard of, and handcrafted items galore. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the Wienfluss river was roofed over during the 19th century and dealers starting putting their stalls on top of the roof that it became the phenomenon it is today. Make sure you go on a Saturday morning when they have their extremely popular weekly flea market,. With over 120 stalls and restaurants with items from every part of the world, there’s something here for everyone.
5. Quintessential Austrian Food
You can’t visit Vienna without indulging in some authentic Austrian cuisine. We’re talking Wiener Schnitzel and Sacher-Torte. For those of you who don’t know, Wiener Schnitzel isn’t just a funny name, it’s a pan fried cutlet of deliciousness. They butterfly the veal cutlets, pound them thin and flat, dredge them in eggs, flour and breadcrumbs, and fry them in lots of clarified butter until golden. It’s typically served with Kopfsalat (a type of salad) or potato salad, and a slice of lemon. If you’re skeptical about it, just take one bite; you’ll never want to eat anything else again. For those with more of a sweet tooth, make sure you try the world’s most famous chocolate cake, the Sacher-Torte. Starting in 1832, Hotel Sacher began crafting this elegantly rich chocolate cake in their kitchens in Vienna, and is still doing so today. According to their website, “The basis of the entire confection is a chocolate cake, thinly coated by hand with best-quality apricot jam. The chocolate icing on top of it is the crowning glory. It tastes best with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream.” Talk about YUM. Try to get a table in the Sacher Cafe (it’s worth the long wait), where you can experience true Austrian coffeehouse culture while indulging in this delectable treat.