Vienna is one of Europe’s most impressive cities because of its architecture, sense of history, and overall attractiveness. A city of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque designs, it offers a lot of atmosphere and plenty of worthwhile sightseeing options. Architecture is not the only reason to visit this Austrian metropolis. Markets, parks, shopping streets and a variety of interesting museums are also on the sightseeing menu. It would take weeks to experience Vienna in depth, but few people have that long to spend in this Central European city.
Here are Vienna’s highlights. These sights should be on every visitor’s itinerary.
This sprawling palace complex was used by the Hapsburg emperors until the end of World War I. Its story starts well before then, with a chapel the only remaining feature of the Medieval castle that first stood on the grounds. The grounds now house several museums and visitors can explore numerous state rooms. The famous Spanish Riding School is also located on the premises. Museum highlights include the Imperial Furniture Museum and Imperial Silver Museum, both of which house impressive collections of artifacts from the time when this castle housed Europe’s most powerful rulers. With so much to see, Hofburg can occupy visitors for a day or more.
Museum of Fine Arts
This palatial museum is one of the world’s great art museums. It houses a collection compiled by the powerful Hapsburg family over the centuries. Major art luminaries like Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio have works that currently hang in Vienna’s Museum of Fine Arts. There is also an impressive collection of artifacts from Greek and Roman times, as well as an assortment of archeological finds from Egypt. Unlike many museums, photography is permitted in the galleries of the Museum of Fine Art.
This historic cathedral was built using a variety of styles. It originally began in the 1300s, though additions were made for several hundred years after that. In a sense, this building is a microcosm of Vienna: it has a combination of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance design. Guided tours allow visitors to explore the towers and the catacombs beneath the church. Though the tour is worthwhile, sightseers can be impressed by just stepping inside to see the panels and stain glass windows that characterize so many churches that were built hundreds of years ago.
Vienna Opera House
This opera house is a great place to see a concert, but it is also impressive from a sightseers perspective as well. This building was built in the 1860s and still carries the grandeur that theaters from that era are known for. Sweeping staircases, statues, ornately decorated ceilings and classic boxes make this an impressive design specimen. Multilingual tours are available for people who want to see the concert hall without actually attending a concert or performance. These tours also allow visitors to see the backstage areas and some other sights that are generally beyond the reach of event attendees.
Cruising the Danube
The Danube River is a major feature of Vienna’s topography. Not only is the river itself very scenic, it also an important route for sightseers. With some amazing views located along the banks, this is an ideal river for a sightseeing cruise. Since it passes through several large European cities, some people cruise long sections of the river over a period of a week or more. For people on these cruises, a stop in Vienna is a highlight. Day cruises along the Danube are also possible for Vienna-based travelers. These tours float past the river-side sights. Another way to appreciate this river is from the high observation deck of the Danube Tower, a purpose-built tower located on the banks of the river.
This museum has benefited from recent renovations. It focuses on mechanical and technological advances. The exhibit halls are filled with mechanical instruments from the earliest days of the industrial revolution and even from times before that. The museum also includes more-modern forms of technology. At over 20,000 square meters, this is one of Austria’s largest exhibit halls; it takes several hours to explore in depth. Especially interesting are the displays on the infrastructure and services of Vienna (including its recycling services, water, electric grid and sewage system).