Vienna is the capital city of Austria, lying on the Danube river in the east of the country. It’s known for its artistic and cultural heritage, shaped by residents such as Mozart, Beethoven and Freud. It’s full of glorious baroque architecture and is a perfect option for a weekend city break.
Here are 5 highlights to see in a weekend visiting this amazing city.
1. Schloss Schönbrunn
In the 17th Century Schloss Schonbrunn was the Habsburgs’ summer palace (the Habsburgs are the former rulers of Austria), and the famous family lived here until 1918. We travelled there by underground and it’s well worth the effort as it is magnificent.
The palace itself is gorgeous inside, including The Blue Chinese Salon room which is where the negotiations were held that culminated in the renunciation by Karl I as the last emperor of Austria and the proclamation of the Republic of Austria (ending 600 years of Habsburg rule). Also inside is The Grand Gallery, which is where President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Kruschev met to diffuse the Cuban Missile crisis (the only room in the history of ancient houses my Dad has been interested in!). Also at the palace are stunning gardens, as well as a Palm House and a maze. There’s even a zoo (Tiergarten Zoo) on the site.
2. St Stephen’s cathedral
The ancient cathedral is a symbol of Vienna, its tower dominating the skyline of the city, and its colourful roof (rebuilt following extensive WWII bombing) one of the main attractions of visiting – providing panoramic views out over the city.
Also within the cathedral is a treasury, as well as catacombs which contain the coffins of the early Habsburg Emperors and urns containing the entrails of later Hapsburgs (!). Also in the catacombs you can see a mass grave pit of 18th century plague victims from the last plague outbreak in 1735. Out of a population of 30,000, 10,000 died.
3. Schloss Belvedere
Art isn’t really my thing, but when in Vienna it’s something that must be done. Schloss Belvedere is now an art gallery, home to many famous artworks including Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ which we were lucky enough to see all to ourselves as we arrived early (again it is a short underground trip away but not too far). The painting is stunning and much larger than expected. For someone who is no art aficionado, it was really interesting to visit (and I enjoyed it!)
4. Sachertorte at the Hotel Sacher
Sachertorte is an Austrian institution – and if you like chocolate, you won’t want to miss trying a slice. This rich mix of chocolate sponge cake, apricot jam, and dark chocolate icing was invented in Vienna. You can purchase Sachertorte all over Vienna, but the original (and most luxurious) is at Hotel Sacher itself, which still prepares the sweet treat to the original recipe.
5. The Hofburg
Until 1918 the extensive palatial complex at the heart of Vienna was the political centre of the monarchy. Today it fulfils the same role for the democratic Republic of Austria. A visit to the palace today includes the Imperial Apartments (where the Emperor and his wife resided in opulent surroundings), a tour of the silver collection (giving an insight in to how courtly dining once operated) and the Sisi Museum (a museum about the Empress Elisabeth and her incredible life).
Vienna is full of beautiful buildings and interesting sites; there are museums around every corner and you could easily spend a week exploring this beautiful city. Unfortunately we only had a weekend, but it was still long enough to see the main sites! Just wandering around is a lovely experience with the coffee shop culture and lots of delicious eateries.