From boulevards filled with world-class architecture to coffee houses filled with ridiculously tempting cakes, you’ll find plenty of distractions to delight the senses in Austria’s capital city. We’ve put together a list of what to see in Vienna, but you’re bound to find other must-see attractions as you go.
1) Baroque till you drop at the Karlskirche
Vienna is filled with Baroque masterpieces, but here’s one that sits head and shoulders above the rest. Literally. That copper green dome towers over the skyline, 70 metres (230 feet) high. The dome may be Baroque, but as you get closer you’ll realise this is a fascinating mixture of all sorts of architectural styles. You can come and look around, or for a truly atmospheric experience, why not get tickets for a performance of classical music here one evening?
2) Be the third man
You might just recognise the Riesenrad, the giant Ferris wheel that circles majestically over the city. This is where Orson Welles menaced Joseph Cotten in the movie The Third Man. A trip round the wheel takes 20 minutes or so. And if that whets your appetite, visit The Third Man Private Collection, a museum not just about the movie but life in post-World War II Vienna. The museum is at 4, Pressgasse 25.
3) Walk in Mozart’s footsteps
You can see a statue of Mozart in the Burggarten, listen to his music at the State Opera House, and call in on him at the Figarohaus. Yes, you guessed it, this is where he wrote The Marriage of Figaro. He lived here for just 3 years, but there is plenty to look at when you visit, including letters, drawings and musical instruments. You’ll find the Figarohaus at 1 Domgasse 5.
4) Say hello to Schiele
The early Expressionist artist Egon Schiele made Vienna his home, and very few art galleries around the world have examples of his work. So if you like art, make a point of visiting the Leopold Museum, where you’ll see the world’s largest collection of his masterpieces on display. If it leaves you hungry for more art, the Kunsthalle Wien and MUMOK are nearby, both showcasing contemporary work.
5) Play ping pong
The Augarten is one of the more unusual public spaces in Vienna. Vast Second World War defences loom above beautifully kept flowerbeds, and a restaurant is housed in a Second World War bunker. But perhaps the strangest thing about the park for visitors is the provision of table tennis tables, available for anyone to play on for free. It’s a way of getting to meet the locals, we guess.
6) Watch the dancing horses
The Spanish Riding School is a wonderful reminder of the Habsburg’s glorious past. If you’re extremely lucky, or you’ve planned months ahead, you can get tickets to see a show performed by the famous Lipizzaner stallions. But if you haven’t got tickets, you can still take a tour to see the performance hall or take a peek at a training session.
7) See the Hundertwasserhaus
Vienna is an architecture lover’s dream, with everything from a Neo-Renaissance opera house to baroque masterpieces like the Karlskirche. The Hundertwasserhaus is well worth seeing too. The building looks like an assembly of children’s building blocks, and seems to teeter precariously above you. Vibrant slabs of colour give it an exuberance and personality quite unlike anywhere else.
8) Have a Viennese coffee
You can’t come to Vienna and not have a coffee. Or two. Or 30, which is the number of different types they offer at Sperl, the Viennese institution. Or visit Alt Wien, and order your coffee with some Haustorte, a special chocolate and jam cake. Forget the diet, what happens in Vienna stays in Vienna.
9) Go round in a circle
The Ringstrasse boulevard is an open air museum, with a succession of magnificent buildings to gaze and wonder at. The State Opera House, the City Hall, the Parliament building, they’re all on this same street. All stand as a testament to the might and power of the Austrian Empire before the end of World War I.
10) Visit the zoo
They say it’s the oldest zoo in the world, and Tiergarten Schonbrunn has also won plaudits for its conservation work. You can walk through a rainforest house, experience desert conditions, see a live coral reef and then call in on the giant pandas. We hope they’re not too shy.