To experience the best of Vienna, slip on comfortable shoes and follow us. We’ll start our tour at Stephansplatz in the Inner City. Lift your gaze upwards to a height of 136 metres, reaching the highest of the four towers of Stephansdom, also known as St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Construction of the symbol of Vienna began in the 12th century. Today it’s considered to be the most eminent Gothic building in Austria. After climbing 343 stairs, a breath-taking panoramic view opens up. Also worth mentioning is the Pummerin, the second largest free-swinging church bell in Europe. If heights are not you cup of tea, you can stay on the ground and admire the precious altars inside, the relics decorated with gold and precious stones or the sarcophagi. If you like mystery and adventure, you can descend and explore the local catacombs, which are connected to new underground funeral chambers.
Music lovers will find the residence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral. Covering an area of 1000 m2, you can discover the work of the genius composer and details of his life. After this remarkable experience, your taste buds may start becoming restless. Sachertorte is a must for every Vienna visitor. Although you can get it almost everywhere, the only place where they treat you to the original Sachertorte is the Café Sacher. They have preserved the original recipe since 1832. Local confectioners make the cake by hand and use only the finest chocolate. One of the key ingredients is high-quality apricot jam. It should be served with home-made whipped cream and the perfect coffee, of course. But don’t expect to find a free table when you enter the café, there are long queues waiting to be seated, but the wait is worth it. If one piece of Sacher didn’t satisfy you enough, in the boutique patisserie you can get a cake to take away for later. Several sizes of cake are available, and it goes without saying that they are luxuriously packed.
Charged with fresh energy, you are now ready to visit the Albertina. It houses one of the largest and most valuable graphic art collections in the world. Specifically, it includes more than a million prints and 60,000 drawings. The Albertina is also home to famous works by old masters Dürer and Rubens and a new collection of more recent paintings, with works by Monet, Picasso, Klimt, Cézanne, Renoir and many others. The largest residential palace, the Albertina is located at the southern corner of the Hofburg palace complex. Today, the National Library, a congress centre and several museums are located here, but it is primarily the seat of the Federal President. Originally a medieval castle, the only reminder of that period is the castle chapel, where a Sunday Mass is held, accompanied by singers from the elite Wiener Sängerknaben. Another rarity is the Spanish Court Riding School with its world-famous Lipizzaners showing off their riders’ skills in harmony with the music. The riding school is also the only institution in the world where classical dressage has been cultivated in unchanged form since the Renaissance. It was registered with UNESCO World Heritage List two years ago.
Knowledge and Entertainment
Just around the corner you can find the Art History Museum. It was opened to the public in 1891 and today houses one of the foremost art collections in the world. You can admire works by Raphael, Vermeer, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Titian and other famous artists. Directly opposite the museum is the Museum of Natural History. In an architectural sense, these buildings are twins. The Museum Quarter is a popular cultural venue and one of Vienna’s most visited attractions, with the Leopold Museum, Kunsthalle Wien, Museum of Modern Art, the Architecture Centre and various cafés, restaurants and shops, all spread over the area of 60,000 square metres. Not only will you be amazed by its size and range of attractions, but also how successful the postmodern mixture of Baroque buildings and modern architecture can be.
Fête imperiále (Imperial Feast)
After so much history, you’re bound to feel a little peckish. We suggest you try one of the Plachutta restaurants. Order the famous Tafelspitz, the dish that Emperor Franz Joseph I, a great lover of Tafelspitz, made hugely popular. You’ll be surprised how much food will land on your table. First the staff pour a strong beef, root vegetable and bone bouillon from a copper pot over the noodles in your plate. Now it’s your turn. Remember to remove the bones and spread the marrow on toasted dark bread with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Finally, it’s time to enjoy the beef that is traditionally served with apple horseradish, cold chive sauce and potato rösti. If you feel like having the traditional Wiener Schnitzel with a light potato salad, visit one of the Figlmüller restaurants. Since 1905, the best Wiener schnitzels have been prepared here, which with a diameter of 30 centimetres hang over the edges of the plates. They use special breadcrumbs for coating and fry each schnitzel in three pans, each having a different oil temperature. The result is the crispiest schnitzel you’ve ever eaten.
After a delicious traditional meal you’re ready to go out. People in Vienna enjoy their life to the fullest, they meet up in various pubs and bars before going out and dancing and listening to music. At the beginning of Carnival, the Viennese ball season starts with the public dancing of the waltz. The ball season reaches its peak in January and offers more than 2,000 hours of dance entertainment. The Opera Ball at the Vienna State Opera is the pinnacle of the season, one of the most exclusive events in Central Europe, to which world-famous celebrities are invited every year. If you want to attend the Viennese Opera Ball, you’ll have to dig deep into your pocket to afford the tickets. You can also watch the popular opening ceremony on television. The President of Austria is present and more than hundreds of debutant couples, as well as thousands of Austrians. The capital will simply captivate you with its unforgettable atmosphere and countless superlatives.
Vienna City Card
If you want to experience as much as possible during your stay in Vienna and save money at the same time, get the 24, 48 or 72 hour Vienna City Card. It includes free travel on public transport throughout the city or the Hop On Hop Off tours run by Big Bus Tours. You’ll also get access to more than 210 discounts at a variety of locations – from museums to local facilities.
Autor: Lucie Kalousová
You could read this article on the autumn on-board magazine Leo Express.