Things To Do In Vienna
Vienna -- Austria’s capital city -- is one of the most important cultural centers in the world. The actual traditional heart of Vienna is full of gorgeous architectural wonders, including Baroque castles and masterful landscapes, plus the late-19th-century Ringstrasse that is dotted with fantastic structures, monuments and parks. UNESCO has officially recognized reading the newspaper while enjoying a pastry and sipping the special local espresso as the Viennese traditional pastime.
The historic center of Vienna always provides an interesting walk -- you will constantly discover new and wonderful things. And once you fall in love with Vienna, you will want to return frequently and will never tire of admiring its majestic scenery and grandiose-style buildings.
When To Go:
One of the best times to visit is during the winter holidays when the entire city center is illuminated and decorated with Christmas garlands and ornaments. The climate is basically continental, which means it has a chillier or even cold winter season -- throughout the day the temperature doesn't climb much above freezing point (December through February). By the middle of March, the milder climate has most individuals out in the city once more. In summer, it is warm and at times hot (July and August), however there's generally a lot of natural air movement in the city due to westerly winds, as well as the nearness of the Vienna Woods and the Danube River.
In summer, heat waves are common and will generally last close to a week, finishing with thunderstorms. Weather changes can happen suddenly, however, so have an umbrella handy in the event that something goes wrong. From May until October, Vienna's monuments and parks are elegantly spruced up; pleasant cafes return to life and nighttime temperatures permit outdoor promenades. This is additionally the time when primary attractions begin to get crowded with tourists.
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Here are the top things to do when in the city of Vienna:
Historic Center of Vienna
In the Historic Center of Vienna it is impossible to walk with your head down, for everywhere you look there is great architecture; very beautiful scenes and elegant buildings are found on every one of the main streets. You can wander for hours through the amazing combination of centuries-old history and modernity. The grand old cathedrals, museums, churches, and palaces all line up right alongside more "normal" (but very cute) streets and houses. From the first time you find yourself in the center of Vienna, you begin to understand that Viennese people really enjoy life. Take the time for a stroll on the Ring Boulevard, walk to the National Museum, and then turn and go towards the Grabenstrasse to discover the charming Old Town with its well-preserved buildings.
The capital of Austria is proud of its historical traditions and the special charm that is famous throughout the world. If you take a walking tour of the historic center you will definitely feel this uniquely Viennese allure and comfort. Try some famous Wiener schnitzel (served with potato salad, drinks not included) or any of numerous other local food specialties and you will be even more fascinated.
The Schonbrunn Palace is best enjoyed with an audio tour, but the visitation may be made in six different ways! Visit the website first to verify the differences among the types of tours and the price ranges. Upon entrance the attentive staff of the castle will welcome you. If you want to look at all the sights you need to spend 5-6 hours -- but to tour just the palace will only take about an hour, because just a small number of the chambers are open to the public. Those that are open, however, make the tour very interesting. Schönbrunn is a well-preserved palace with a lovely neighborhood -- and do not forget to pass by the shop and buy some Mozart chocolates.
There is a mini-train on the grounds that offers sightseeing tours, but if you plan to conduct your visit on foot do wear comfortable shoes! You will need them for taking the garden tour, too. These gardens are over a mile wide, and were originally a game reserve. Opened to the public in 1779, they now contain a zoo, the palace greenhouse, and even a museum of carriages -- with everything from a grand limousine to a baby carriage.
During the Easter period, the place becomes especially festive; the traditional egg hunt fairs held here are very bright and colorful.
The Schlosspark Schoenbrunn is a grand park near the palace. It is a beautiful place with two labyrinths, as well as several fountain groups and pavilions. The open areas are sunny and hot, but there are shady avenues provided. Also at the park are museums -- including the famous zoo and the museum of carriages that includes an exhibit of a ceremonial sleigh. Like all parks in Vienna, it is very well maintained, neat and seems endless. You can wander through it for hours. Try to climb the hill to the Gloriette as from there, a beautiful view of both the city and the park itself will be worth the hike.
Of course, the best times to visit are summer and autumn, when all the flower gardens are in peak bloom. Entrance to the park is free. To the left of the palace, there are green areas and neatly trimmed flowers everywhere. You can walk around on foot, or you can ride on the small train or take a horse carriage. There is also a cafe with a beautiful view where you can drink coffee and tea. In the spring when the roses begin to bloom the elegant atmosphere turns more magical and the park is filled with a rainbow of colors.
State Opera House
At the State Opera House, the classical music so loved in Vienna can be heard everywhere. Buying tickets online in advance is necessary, but if that fails, you can enjoy a live broadcast to a huge screen right on the street while you admire the amazing beauty of the building itself. The cost of a ticket will depend heavily on the performance and your choice of seating space. When choosing a ticket, please note that there are some seats with limited visibility. Regarding performances -- everything will be fine; there are only exceptional performances here! For example, you might be surprised by an outstanding performance by soloists from the Russian ballet school.
The theater itself is very nice and comfortable. The VIP premium seats are located in the balcony -- and for these you need not stand in long lines with everyone else. If you are not able to buy a ticket online and do not want to spend money on the dealers (scalpers, which in Vienna cost a LOT,) try to buy standing-room tickets before the show starts. The cost of these tickets will be more like $2.50 and up. The Opera is a formal affair so follow the strict dress code: long gowns for women and tailored suits for men. A surprising number of people wait after the show, when performers often reappear to hand out roses to ladies in the audience.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum holds one of the world’s greatest art collections. From ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome; through the Middle Ages and the 17th through 19th centuries; from Vermeer, Bruegel, Dürer, and the Spanish Infanta Velazquez -- all sorts of masterpiece collections are shared here. In the cafe you can relax amidst the beautiful art that surrounds you; the space is itself under a painted dome. In the permanent exhibitions you can safely take pictures; however, at the temporary exhibitions you will be warned not to do so. The museum is located near the historic center of Vienna and can be reached on foot. If you want to see what a museum should look like, be sure to go investigate the huge numbers of fossil specimens, rocks, stones, casts of animals, breeds of animals, insects, birds and so much more. This Museum is both interactive and intuitive. There are rooms where the exhibits move, so kids (and adults) can touch and even play with them to understand the world better. The touch screens are a lot of fun too -- they show things like bones moving, in 3D art. This is one of the best museums in the world. For a visit to this museum it is best to allocate at least half a day to move around slowly and understand all the rooms.
Imperial Palace (Hofburg)
The Imperial Palace is one of the main attractions of Vienna -- it was the center of the Hapsburg Empire for seven centuries. You can choose from visits of different lengths, but it is advised to see as much as you possibly can! You should definitely at least go visit the Treasury; the splendor of the various treasures that are stored there is truly astonishing. The visit to the palace is divided into several parts and each one leaves indelible impression. In one area, for example, you will have the very interesting and unusual chance to appreciate the services of plates and cups that are still used today for banquet receptions of any visiting Heads of State. In another, you can find the stables that have now become the home of the famed Spanish Riding School.
In another area you explore the private space of Princess Sissi (Empress Elizabeth) -- her real story is light years away from what the collective imagination and the complexity of the film about her has impressed on the public. Equally remarkable is the visit to the Silver Collection. This allows you to imagine how life took place at court in an era far removed from our own. For fans of the genre, there are collections of silver, porcelain and table centerpieces whose maximum height ranges up to almost 100 feet! All of the rooms are impressive but the best section is the one about the private princess.
Kirche Am Steinhof
The Kirche Am Steinhof is one of the finest cultural and religious attractions of Vienna and one of the most important Art Nouveau churches in the world. The church is open only on Saturdays from 3:00 to 4:00, with explanations in German, for a $10 entry fee. Those who do not know German can visit free of charge from 4:00 to 5:00. On Sundays the church is open from 12 to 4:00. It is easily accessible by the 48A bus that passes by Doktor Karl Renner Ring near the Parliament (about 20 minutes). Situated on top of a hill, this is the Roman Catholic oratory of the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital. Architect Otto Wagner designed it in the early twentieth century with assistance from other artists, and it is an authentic manifesto of the artistic "secessionists" who promoted a functional architecture that was attentive to the needs of end users. From a distance, it is easy to spot the beautiful oriental golden dome, while the building itself is decorated with white marble slabs and aluminum studs.
Visually striking are the four angels who pray high on the facade, and the statues of St. Leopold and St. Severino (done by sculptor Richard Luksch) who are sitting on chairs designed by Hoffmann. The interior is impressive, with precious stained glass by Koloman Moser (representing the seven virtues and the seven spiritual materials), and a golden altar by Geyling. The building features many precautions for the safety of the mentally ill (banks without sharp edges, holy water that drips rather than standing in a vesse l-- to avoid infection, extra exits, gently sloping floors and tile on the walls for easy cleaning, vestments designed by Wagner himself to decrease the excitability of the sick, and the open confessional).
Rathaus (Town Hall)
The most interesting building in the Ring, the Rathaus (Town Hall), was built in the second half of the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style. It looks great especially at night when it is illuminated in impressive fashion. Throughout the year, authorities host various important events in and around this hall.
In winter, you can recharge your Christmas mood in a spectacular Christmas market. In August, a music festival is held, with cultural shows and more. The stage is set in the park in front of the town hall; pavilions, food stalls and souvenir shops surround the area.
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is housed in a building that is inimitably beautiful both inside and outside. Enjoy a fortunate evening listening to one of their concerts, and see a hall full of listeners, with musicians playing for example an amazing cello concerto as the award-winning Manfred Honeck conducts (International Classical Music Awards in the category "Symphonic Music"). You will not only hear a stunning performance but also see the golden hall of the Philharmonic Orchestra. The lovely acoustics with speakers all around up to the external corners deliver a true delight for classical music lovers.
Belvedere Palace and Museum
The best time to visit the Belvedere Palace and Museum is during summer when everything is green and when the fountains with statues are working. This place is a symbol of old Vienna, but with views of modern buildings constructed in the distance. Visit also the exhibition of paintings, and the wonderful art collection consisting of the masterworks of Gustav Klimt, Monet, and Picasso among others.
There are many other exhibition stands that are worth checking out and other halls that are open for viewing. The museum employees here are very attentive and politely answer any questions with factual and interesting information. There is a small café inside where you can enjoy freshly baked Viennese pastries while admiring the nice view outside.
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