The Austrian capital needs no introduction being one of the largest contemporary art and cultural hub of Europe. The capital of Palaces, home to art collections from renowned artists including Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele to name a few and the architectural sites to admire…Vienna literally has it all!! The Viennese capital has German as a primary language but if you speak decent English then you can easily have an amazing time. Vienna continuously manages to rank in the top European cities in the quality of living index survey done by Mercer and indubitably it is the classiest city in the European continent. From the moment I landed in Vienna, Austria, I never looked down and kept cherishing its architectural beauty residing not only in the palaces but precisely everywhere. It’s really easy to love the city but despite that, I have my top 4 things to do in Vienna which must not be missed.
1. Belvedere Palace
A historic site from the Austrian capital built during the period of Habsburg empire characterized by the iconic Baroque style stemming from Rome from the 16th century. The palace complex consists of two main palaces – *Upper Belvedere* and *Lower Belvedere* and a garden separating them.
Upper Belvedere was actually the first place I visited in the capital and it easily got to my heart with its glittering white building and green dome. It was my photographic gem with a small pond on the entrance and views of the capital from the rear side. Upper Belvedere houses the famous painting from Gustav Klimt’s – ‘The Kiss’. Although all the paintings in the palace were jaw-dropping gorgeous it was ‘The Kiss’ which caught all the attractions from the tourists.
There are two ticket options – one for either of the Boroques and the second one for both the Palaces. Still a beginner in art discovery I opted only for the Upper Belvedere which arose my ever-growing interest in art.
Upon exiting from the Upper Belvedere, the St. Stephan’s Cathedral can be clearly seen from the gardens of the complex. Although I didn’t see lower Belvedere Palace Museum, it also had distinctive looks in terms of red rooftops on top of the similar white building. Photography is allowed inside the Belvedere museum, but no touchings to the paintings & sculptures.
2. Schönbrunn Palace
The 18th century imperial Palace from Vienna attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year easily topping the top position in the must-visit places. Even occupied by Napoleon in early 18th century, the architecture of the Palace had undergone major architecture restorations since then. The palace is a former summer residence of various monarchs of the Habsburgs dynasty and is now a historical, cultural and an architectural marvel.
The palace holds 1400+ rooms holding different styles indicating the different styles from the rulers Austria once held. The Palaces holds a variety of tours – Imperial Tour, Grand Tour, Sisi Ticket, Classic Pass among a few others. The Imperial tour is the most basic one out of the lot and will give you an insight of the grandeur of the Palace including the staterooms and private apartments of Frank Joseph and Sisi. Grand Tour includes the parts from Imperial Tour along with centuries-old interiors & furniture. Sisi Ticket gives you access to the Sisi museum holding the detailed life story about the most beautiful Empress of Europe ‘Sisi’ along with the ones clubbed in the grand tour.
I opted for the Imperial pass which took me through an audio tour of the Palace and all the apartments from the Emperor’s residence. Photography is not allowed inside the Palace, although they don’t deposit your mobiles/cameras but keep a routine check at every nook and corner to prevent tourists from clicking. Yet, when I went through a huge sculpture of Sisi looking into the mirror, I couldn’t resist myself from clicking. Considering it was a memory worth capturing in my camera roll, though not posting it here – it would be unfair to all those who want to go and see it themselves 🙂
Apart from the Palace, the complex also holds an enormous garden area on the rear side of the Palace going up till the Gloriette – a facade on one end of the gardens. In spring season the garden is blooming with flowers all over making it a pleasing site and also a garden worth capturing.
3. Tiergarten Schönbrunn – Zoo
Raise your hands if you love Pandas 🙂 A part of Schönbrunn Palace Complex, the Tiergarten zoo is the world’s oldest zoo and is not to be missed if visiting Vienna. Schönbrunn is the Palace no tourist would miss, then I recommend visiting the zoo highly as it’s a part of Schönbrunn complex and I can be sure you won’t leave disappointed. Even I was skeptical about visiting the zoo as an adult and a solo traveler but isn’t that the plus point of traveling solo that you can go where your heart takes you.
I must admit, I went in there primarily for my love for Panda, but let me tell you honestly after my personal experience…the zoo is much more than just Pandas. Yes, undeniably Pandas are a hit with every generation and a huge number of tourists literally line up to get a glance of Pandas. Admittingly, the zoo was not something I intended to include in my itinerary but knowing that it actually provides a natural habitat for a variety of species. I actually hopped onto to the opportunity and took a chance, which by the way turned out to be great. I think a sub-post like this won’t even do justice to the experience I had. You’ll see a dedicated post *soon* with more pictures & videos from the mindboggling experience I had which in turn got a position in my recommendation list 😉
The zoo is gigantic in the area and you will need 2-3 hours to cover it all and if you want to photograph the wonderful creatures too then add an hour into that. You will come across Sea Lions, Zebras, Leopards, Kangaroos, Penguins, Polar Bears and Pandas (of course) amongst a lot of others. Visiting the zoo brought the child out of me and there were times when I literally laughing like a child and added this to my good decision-making skills 😉 Children below the age of 12 can not visit alone and may need adult supervision as per the Zoo rules. If you’re heading to the world’s capital of Music with the family and especially kids, don’t miss the zoo!!
Quick Tip – Phone cameras are good, but you might need a DSLR with a good zoom lens to capture the animals in your camera roll. I didn’t have one hence the picture quality isn’t as good as I wanted them to be.
4. St. Stephan’s Cathedral
A cathedral bearing the brunt of over 7 centuries is one of the most distinctive buildings from the capital of Austria. As mentioned above, the church spire is clearly visible from Belvedere Gardens. Located in the historic city center, the cathedral is not only an architectural landmark but also the *only* Roman Catholic church of the city. The church attracts as much as million tourists around the year.
The church embraces the peculiar Gothic architecture with highly gracious rooftop and a distinctive 137 meters high spire. The entire city can be viewed by climbing up to the top of the cathedral although that includes 343 steps. For those fit ones out there, this should be a must-do, as I don’t fall under those so I gave it a pass. I enjoyed the gorgeous city views from Prater which I’ll come up with in another post.
The church is also a historical landmark as it was almost destroyed completely during WWII but was reconstructed during 1960’s. The cathedral is easily accessible by U-Bahn or the underground rail network and the nearest station is Stephansplatz. As the church is located in the city center, you can not drive/board cabs till there. Either a walk or the subway is the best way to head to the church. In my first visit, I headed to Church from the Belvedere Gardens following Google maps, but I must admit that wasn’t a very optimized way as it tired me a lot. Also, I thought I can ask around locals to tell me a shortcut to the church, that also didn’t help as people don’t understand either the name by which I pronounced it or my Indian accent. So on my second visit, I opted for U-Bahn which was a lot faster and comfortable and took me directly to the front of the church so a win-win finally 🙂
5. Historic City Center
The center of the capital not only holds the famous St. Stephan’s Cathedral, but also will give you a hint of Viennese culture. The center is buzzing with all sorts of activities, local artists, shoppers going in and out from the renowned brands, tourists enjoying the zeal of the culture of the city, and typical Viennese food and wine culture is eminent on the food booths.
The food stalls as in the below pictures are right in the middle of the road, people enjoying the food and famous Viennese wine and much more, all the hustle bustle can be felt here. The city center can get really crowded as the prime spot for tourists and locals equally and even feel annihilating to some but it is still the best way to get a hint of the city’s culture.
Also, check out my must have European delicacies
Fancy a ride on the fiaker a medieval style horse carriage?? They’re easily spotted in the city center and primarily around the Cathedral. I was on budget so avoided them, you can try them at nearly 40-70 Euros and cover either Stephansplatz and some even other historic sites too.
Although I visited other spots in the city also, these are my recommended spots from the Austrian capital for which I can even go back for & always love them!! If you plan to visit Vienna, don’t miss these attractions from Austria and you’ll leave with the memories of a lifetime and a city you’ll cherish forever!!
Have you been Vienna yet? What did you like most from the city?? Do share your experience with me!!
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– The Wanderer