Vienna is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world and consistently tops liveability rankings. Its unparalleled architectural flair, its world renowned cultural sights and its diverse culinary and music scenes make the Austrian capital one of the most alluring cities on the planet. Here are some suggestions on how to spend a few days in this amazing city.
History and overview:
The origins of Vienna date back as far as 500BC when Celtic settlements were located on the banks of the Danube river. Those settlements were later transformed and fortified by the Romans and modern day Vienna was born.
The city has been a thriving cultural and economic hub for centuries. Vienna was the original stronghold of the Habsburg royals, one of the most influential European families of all time, controlling an empire stretching across the complete extent of the continent.
The end of the Middle-Ages saw Vienna become the epicentre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the strongest and largest nations in the world. Vienna thus became one of the world’s most advanced cities and its culture, music and scientists gained global acclaim.
The Empire collapsed after the First World War and Austria became independent before being annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. The bombings of the Second World War did take its toll on Vienna but fortunately most of the city’s ancient core and lavish buildings remained unharmed.
The end of the Second World War saw Vienna regain its former glory and embark on an unbroken rise to fame. Vienna is today home to various international organizations and the cultural, economic and political centre of the region. The city moreover attracts tourists and expats alike with its art and music scene and especially its high quality of life which has earned it the title ‘most liveable city in the world‘ on several occasions.
The best area to stay is the City Centre (District 1) around St Stephan Cathedral. In this area you will be close to all the main sights and to lots of food and nightlife options. Alternative areas are Districts 7, 8 and 9. Vienna has an excellent public transit system which means that you won’t lose too much time if you decide to stay a bit further away from the busy core.
Wombats City Hostel: A lively hybrid between hostel and hotel right at the busy Naschmarkt. An excellent choice for solo travellers who are eager to meet fellow wandering souls.
Boutique Hotel Aldstadt: A fantastic little hotel with clean and crisp rooms and legendary Austrian hospitality in an excellent location.
Intercontinental Vienna: One of the best upper range options for travellers who want to spend their nights in the Austrian capital in style while enjoying all the usual amenities.
Hotel Rathaus – Wein & Design: Another charming boutique hotel with designer rooms and world class service. This small, well located hotel moreover boasts a beautiful rooftop terrace from which you can see most of Vienna’s breathtaking buildings.
Cultural offer and activities:
Vienna has such an abundance of cultural sights at its disposal that it is hard to pick a few for a short visit. Here are some of Vienna’s greatest museums and areas, bearing in mind that this list is far from exhaustive.
Stephansdom and Old Town: A stroll around the Old Town will give you an impression on why Vienna’s architectural flair is seen as unparalleled around the world. The buildings are not only impressive and aesthetic but also well maintained which emphasizes their beauty. When in the centre, a stop in one of the traditional Viennese coffee shops is an absolute must, this guide recommends Hawelka (Dorotheergasse 6) a true coffee lovers’ institution in the heart of Vienna where ordering ‘coffee‘ without further specification will get you nothing more than grumpy responses from the staff. In Vienna you either order a kurzer Brauner (short brown – espresso), a Verlängerter (long black coffee) or a mélange (coffee and milk).
Military Museum (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum): (Arsenal Objekt 1) An instructive museum to learn about the many conflicts that have left their mark on Austria’s history and especially the First World War, in which the former Austro-Hungarian Empire played a major role.
Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum): (Burgring 7) A fantastic museum for nature lovers where the the natural history of the world is documented in a stunning Habsburg palace right in the Museum district.
History of Art Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum): (Maria-Theresien-Platz) One of the top addresses in Vienna for art lovers, bearing in mind that Vienna has dozens more art museums and galleries which art enthusiasts can visit.
Schönbrunn Palace: (Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47) One of the major tourist attractions in the city, this former imperial residence will delight architecture and history lovers alike with its imposing exterior and its lavish interior.
Danube Canal: The Canals are a great place for a stroll and offer excellent terraces on warm summer days. The Danube itself is located a bit further out and therefore not really an ideal excursion if you only spend a few days in the Austrian capital.
Sigmund Freud Museum: (Berggasse 19) The most famous psychologist of all time has certainly left his mark on Vienna and the museum is an excellent place to learn more about this curious person and his even more curious work.
Prater fair: The famous Prater is a large fair with a classic and a modern Ferris wheel, many attractions and innumerable restaurant options, definitely worth a visit, especially in summer.
Hundertwasserhaus: (corner of Kegelgasse & Löwengasse) This famous house was built after the expressionist concept of famous Austrian artist Hundertwasser and its extraordinary style has turned it into a Viennese landmark.
Wine & Dine:
Austrian cuisine is hearty and very tasty. Vienna’s speciality is obviously the Viennese Schnitzel, which is usually served with potatoes and salad on the side. You can eat a decent schnitzel pretty much everywhere in the Austrian capital but the price-quality relation can vary. Here are our suggestions.
Landsknecht: (Porzellangasse 13) A great off the beaten path restaurant where locals enjoy their Schnitzel and other Austrian cuisine in a cosy and traditional setting.
Figlmüller: (Wollzeile 5) One of the more well-known restaurants in Vienna specialized in ..you guessed it… Schnitzel. The oversized veal schnitzels are delicious and unique although a bit pricey.
Vienna’s nightlife scene is diverse and lively. From chic burlesque discos to cheap dive bars and electro clubs, everything can be found in the Austrian capital. Here are some suggestions.
Dick Mack’s: (Marc-Aurel-Straße 7) A great student pub with a wide range of well priced drinks and a buzzing atmosphere that does not end until very late.
Das Loft: (Praterstraße 1) The place to enjoy a drink with a breathtaking view over the Austrian capital. From the bar located inside the Sofitel Hotel you can marvel at Vienna’s architectural masterclass while trying one of their innumerable international cocktails.
Charlie P’s: (Währinger Str. 3) Our favourite British style pub in Vienna. Different rooms and a great beer selection make this one of the best pubs in the Austrian capital. A great place for sports events, pub food or just to have a beer in a cosy setting.
Grelle Forelle: (Spittelauer Lände 12) One Vienna’s most renowned techno/electro clubs. An unorthodox venue where the best local and international DJs will enthrall you with their finest beats until dawn.
Loco Bar & Club: (Währinger Gürtel 172-174) The term Absturz in German means crash and this is the kind of partying that best describes Loco. Dirt-cheap and full of party addicted students from all over the world, the Loco is the ideal place to celebrate in a crazy manner without breaking the bank.
Vie I Pee: (Csardastraße 135) One of the best hip-hop clubs in the Austrian capital. Put on your sneakers and baseball cap and dive into the world of rap, r’n’b and trap. A great club for genre enthusiasts with a basketball court inside and a lovely terrace for summer nights. Be aware that the Vie I Pee is known for having a very strict door selection, usually not accepting groups consisting solely of male customers.
Roter Engel: (Rabensteig 5) A cool little bar in the centre with crossover music and a diverse crowd. An excellent spot to start your night out in Vienna or to enjoy some drinks in a hip setting.
The Pub: (Schottengasse 2) A great little bar with a restaurant in the city centre where you can try a wide variety of local and international beers.
Flex Club: (Augartenbrücke 1) One of Vienna’s top electro clubs. If you love a rave, this is the place for you, if you are not fond of techno/electro and all that comes with it, stay away.
The ‘Gürtel’ city belts: The outer belts of the city centre are an up and coming nightlife district with lots of clubs and bars for every taste and budget.
Final tips & verdict:
Vienna is one those cities where you always want to return. A sheer infinite array of cultural sights, fantastic food and nightlife options and unspoilt architectural beauty for reasonable prices make this one of the greatest cities in the world.
English levels are generally high in Austria and even more so in Vienna. Knowing some basic German is nevertheless very advantageous when talking to locals, even though the Viennese have a strong dialect which even a native German speaker will have trouble understanding.
Is Vienna overrated? Certainly not. Vienna deserves all of its fame and its highly effective public transport system adds even more everyday comfort to its unmatched liveability. If you haven’t been to Vienna yet, seriously, you don’t know what you are missing.