1. Visit the Hofburg and Schönbrunn Palaces
Vienna’s famous Hofburg Palace has housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was the Habsburgs’ principal winter residence, as the Schönbrunn Palace was their preferred summer residence. The Hofburg Palace currently serves as the official residence of the President of Austria.
Both palaces are stunning in appearance, and will give you a great insight into how the rich and powerful lived in centuries gone by. The Hofburg Palace is located in the city centre, but you’ll need to venture a little further out to see the beautiful grounds and gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace, and the world’s oldest zoo that sits within them.
2. Take a tour of St Stephan’s Cathedral
Originally constructed in the twelfth century, ‘Stephansdom’ as it’s known in German, was rebuilt after a fire in 1258 and was heavily damaged during World War II, but the restored cathedral is considered one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Europe. It contains an exquisite collection of religious art and carved altars, and climbing the 343 steps to the top of the south tower, or Steffl, will give you an amazing view of the city.
3. Walk around the Ring
A good way to see Vienna is to take a stroll around the Ring, a series of roads that surround the old city. A city wall once stood here, but the Ring now forms a border around the area, which contains many of Vienna’s most popular sights and attractions. If it’s cold or raining you could choose to take a tram around the Ring, and you’ll still see the main attractions, which include the Hofburg (Imperial Palace), the Museum of Natural History, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), the Burgtheater, and the State Opera House, as well as Vienna’s City Park.
4. Spend some time exploring the Museum Quarter
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the museum quarter is sleepy! Enjoying a very central location in Vienna, the museum quarter is in fact known for its vibrancy and for the wealth of bars and restaurants that sit in between and alongside the 12 museums that give the area its name.
Amongst the many art galleries and city museums located in this district, the Leopold Museum, home to a a prestigious collection of paintings by local Austrian artist Egon Schiele, is a particular highlight, as is the Vienna Museum of Modern Art (Moderner Kunst).
5. Watch a performance at the Spanish Riding School
The Spanish Riding School of Vienna, is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses. Lipizza is a small region in Slovenia, and is famous for producing what is widely regarded to be the best classical type of race horse. It’s from this region that the horses have been taken from since the founding of the school in 1572.
Aside from being a centre for classical dressage, it also offers public performances as well as public viewing of some training sessions.
6. Take a coffee break at one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses
Vienna is famous the world over for its coffee houses (Kaffeehäuser). They offer a fantastic place to relax, watch the world go by, and escape the cold in the winter! Of course, they also give you an opportunity to sample the delights of Austrian baking…of which there are many. Some of the typical cakes and pastries include:
Strudel – sweet pastry with apple, nut or sweet cheese filling
Beugel – pastry croissant with nuts
Rehrücken – chocolate cake
7. Take a stroll around the Saturday Naschmarkt
The Naschmarkt is Vienna’s largest and most popular outdoor market. Located at the Wienzeile over the Wien River it spans about 1 and a half kilometres and has existed since the 16th century. Nowadays, you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, you can sample delights from local restaurant stalls and there is also a flea market to peruse.
8. Visit the State Opera House
Vienna is quite simply synonymous with opera, and even if you don’t appreciate the art form itself, the opera house is well worth a look in its own right. One of the top opera addresses in the world, the famous place offers a different programme every day, with over 50 operas and ballet works on around 300 days per season. There is actually a museum dedicated solely to the opera house, which has been in existence for 140 years.
9. Watch the world go by in Stephansplatz
Stephansplatz is situated right in the heart of Vienna and is home to the magnificent St Stephan’s cathedral. Sitting in the square you can indulge in a spot of people-watching, and of course, enjoy the street performances and the coming and going of the gothic-looking horses and carriages that offer tourist rides around to city too . The main shopping streets in Vienna are very close to Stephansplatz as well, if you fancy pampering yourself for an afternoon!
10. Enjoy a ride on the Wiener Reisenrad
The Wiener Riesenrad is a Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Austria’s capital Vienna. It is now one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions, and symbolises the district as well as the city for many people.
The Riesenrad was one of the earliest Ferris wheels, erected in 1897 to celebrate Emperor Franz Josef I’s golden Jubilee. At this time it was the largest in the world with an overall height of almost 65 metres. Not only will it enable you to experience a slice of Viennese history, it’ll also give you a fantastic view over the city.
Cactus offers a range of German courses and accommodation options in Vienna. For full details or to book please visit the Cactus Language website.