The Imperial City: A Guide to Vienna, Austria

Often considered the continent’s culture capital, Vienna, Austria’s capital, is famous for its romance, music, art, and architecture. The city, located on the Danube river, is home to 23 districts, each with its own unique allure. Nicknamed the Imperial City, Vienna is considered one of the most liveable cities in the world. From its imperial palaces, Schönbrunn and Hofburg; to its beautiful churches, St. Stephen’s and St. Peter’s; to its famous former residents, Beethoven and Strauss; Vienna is famous for dozens of reasons. Despite the short amount of time I spent in the city (just a day!), Vienna is easily one of my favourite cities I’ve ever visited. Throughout this post I’ll be giving you the ultimate guide to this Austrian metropolis, with info on transportation, accommodation, and attractions within Vienna.

Transportation

Vienna’s public transportation system is very well developed and easy to use. It is made up of four main forms of transport; U-Bahn (underground trains/subway), S-Bahn (suburban trains), Straßenbahn (trains), and Autobus. The system works on honesty – there is no formal checking of tickets, though undercover agents who randomly do ticket checks can be found spread throughout the trains and buses. I didn’t get the chance to actually use the system during my time in Vienna, though I have heard that is it very reliable, fast, clean, safe, and rarely overcrowded. To get around Vienna however my family used the car we rented for throughout our entire trip. The only time we really needed the car though was to get from our hotel (which was on the outskirts of town) to Schönbrunn, then into the centre of the city, and back to our hotel. Vienna’s old town is very compact and walkable, so you likely wont need to use a car or even public transportation when navigating through the city centre. Also, as shown above, a popular mode of transportation within the city centre is horse and carriage rides. So, if you’re feeling tired of walking everywhere, hail one of these and head on your way through the city!

Accommodation

The hotel my family and I stayed at in Vienna, the Gartenhotel Altmannsdorf, unfortunately closed shortly after our stay there. A few nice hotels that I read about online however, that I would suggest visitors to stay at, include the Hotel Mercure Vienna, a four stay hotel in the city centre; the Vienna Mariott Hotel, a five star hotel just outside the old town; and the Le Meridien Vienna, a five star hotel near the Opera House. Another great accommodation option for visitors to Vienna would be staying in an AirBnb. This is great option as you’re able to live more like the the local Viennese, and generally for a cheaper price than a hotel!

Attractions

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace, a former imperial palace in the centre of Vienna, is one of the city’s most prominent sights. Often called a “city-within-a-city”, as it is absolutely huge, Hofburg was originally built in the 1400s and later expanded to its current size. Currently the official residence and workplace of Austria’s president, this palace displays many varying architectural styles, ranging from Gothic and Renaissance to Baroque and Classicism. Both the exterior and interior of Hofburg Palace are absolutely breathtaking and without a doubt a must-see spot in Vienna.

Maria-Theresien-Platz

Surrounded by two symmetrical buildings, Maria-Theresien-Platz is a huge public square near the city’s Hofburg Palace. The square’s north building is home to the Museum of Natural History, a 19th century museum with a vast natural history collection; and its south building is home to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, a  19th century museum displaying many unique antiquities and art pieces. Named after Maria Theresien, who is recognized in a statue in the middle of the square, the square is home to a huge, impressive Christmas market during the holiday time (shown above!).

Michealerplatz

Vienna’s Michealerplatz is easily recognizable, as it is one of the city’s most photographed spots. It is known for its Michealertor, a part of the Hofburg Palace that opens up into the square; and its Michealerkirche, the former church of the Austrian monarchy. In the middle of the square, just below street level, you’ll find excavated ruins, which include remains of a Roman house, some medieval foundations, and parts of a past theatre.

Stadtpark

Vienna’s Stadtpark, located in the  Lanstraße district, is one of the city’s largest parks. Decorated with statues of famous Viennese, the 28 acre park is the perfect, picturesque place to relax in after spending some time exploring the bustling city.

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace, the most visited tourist attraction in its country, is a 1441 room baroque palace located on the outskirts of Vienna. It is often compared to Paris’ Versailles Palace, and nicknamed a “mini Versailles”. The palace’s beautiful gardens decorate Schönbrunn’s exterior, while its stunning imperial rooms light up the interior of the palace. From the world’s oldest zoo to the room where Mozart’s first concert was performed, Schönbrunn Palace pretty much has it all! Read my separate post all about the palace through this link.

St. Peter’s Church

St. Peter’s Church, a Roman-Catholic parish church, is located just off one one of Vienna’s main streets, Grabenstraße. Possibly the oldest street in all of Vienna, St. Peter’s was originally built around the year 800, and later rebuilt in the 1700s. I didn’t get to see it for myself, but the interior of the church is supposedly stunning. Even if its just for a quick photo, seeing St. Peter’s church is definitely worth part of your time in Vienna.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Likely the most iconic attraction in all of Vienna, the city’s huge St. Stephen’s Cathedral will definitely take your breath away at first glance. With its highest point being 136 metres tall, the cathedral literally towers over the capital city. St. Stephens stands on the site of many former churches, built on its site before it itself was constructed. This gorgeous Romanesque / Gothic church was completed in 1160, making it close to a century old. Dodging complete destruction during the bombings of the second world war, St. Stephen’s was later restored to its former glory after being partly bombed in the mid 1900s.

Vienna City Hall

A symbol of the city, Vienna’s City Hall is a beautiful Neo-Gothic style building that serves as the home to Vienna’s government. Built in the 1800s, the city hall is another major symbol of Vienna. I only got to see the building from afar, so I’d love to get the chance to see it up closer next time I visit Vienna. Even from a distance however, the city hall looked truly spectacular!

Vienna State Opera House

Home to one of the world’s most renowned opera, the Vienna Opera House is without a doubt a must see spot in Vienna. Originally opened in 1869, the Vienna Opera House, producing 50-60 operas annually, is now one of the busiest operas worldwide. If you have the time, I’d definitely suggest trying to see an opera while in the city. I didn’t get to see one while I was there, though I hope to do so in the future!

That’s all for my guide to Austria’s capital, Vienna! I hope you enjoyed. Have you ever been to Vienna? If so, what was your favourite spot you visited while there? Let me know in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments

  1. PW
    May 6, 2018

    I wished I had more time there! And I loved the pastries and coffee shops in town. Viennese espresso is superior to Italian espresso, in my opinion!

    Reply
    1. Hannah Travels
      May 13, 2018

      Me too 🙂 I haven’t tried either but I’m sure they’re both great!

      Reply

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