Getting to know Vienna
It’s known as the “City of Music” for its musical legacy, as well “The City of Dreams”, for it was the home of the world’s first psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. It played an essential role as leading European music center, while the historic center is rich in architectural ensembles, such as Baroque castles and gardens.
The baroque streetscapes, the imperial palaces and the “coffee-house” culture are what makes the city a very tempting travel destination for a lot of people. The fabulous architecture, the vast boulevards, the rich wines and the museum masterpieces create a perfect scenery for an unforgettable city-break.
What you can do for free in Vienna
- Visit the museums
While most museums will charge a fee for its visitors, there are some options for people who want to save some money: the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts) has all of its exhibitions open to the public for free on Tuesday evenings. A string of museums, including the Wien Museum Karlsplatz, Römermuseum, MAK and Otto Wagner Hofpavillon Hietzing have their doors opened for free on every first Sunday of every month. Museums are also free of charge on Austria’s National Day, on October 26.
- Spend some time relaxing in Vienna’s wonderful parks
Some of Vienna’s most beautiful parks and nature filled areas that are worth a visit are the formerly royal gardens of Schonbrunn and the Belvedere, the wild forested areas of Vienna Woods and the exotic vineyard areas. Explore them by foot and maybe bring a picnic basket for a delightful break in the grass.
- Watch a film in an open-air cinema
Many open-air cinemas are open around the city during the summer, and they screen films of every genre, for anyone who wants to enjoy a unique experience, under the Austrian star filled skies.
- Explore the music scene of Vienna
Vienna is the perfect place for any type of music lover. For classical music enthusiasts, the Schoenbrunn Summer Night Concert is the best event to fit into the itinerary. Around Christmas time, the carol concerts in St. Stephen’s Cathedral are a great opportunity to really get into the holiday spirit and borrow some of the wonderful joy of it.
Other free activities include watching performances for free outside the Opera House in the summer, when they are projected on a screen in front of a few rows of seats, peek inside Vienna’s secret buildings during the Open House Vienna event, that takes place annually in the autumn, taking a tour of the famous monuments, or trying free food samples at the Naschmarkt.
Top spots to visit
- Schönbrunn Palace
The Schönbrunn Palace used to be the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers and it is located in Hietzing, Vienna.This Baroque palace has 1,441 rooms and it is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the Austria. It has been a major tourist attraction since the middle of the 1950s, but the history of the palace and its gardens spans over 300 years, which allows the tastes, interests and aspirations of the successive Hasburg monarch to be reflected in its appearance and style in general.
There are tickets on the official website that can be purchased in advance for tours. In addition to tours and tour packages, many classical concerts featuring the music of Mozart and his contemporaries can be enjoyed with the added benefit of more time in the spectacular halls, Orangerie, or Schlosstheater.
- Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
The Kunsthistorisches Museum (“Museum of Art History”, also often referred to as the “Museum of Fine Arts”) is the largest art museum in Austria. It is housed in its festive palatial building on Ringstraße and an octagonal dome crowns it.
Along with the impressive picture gallery, visitors can see a an Egyptian and Near Eastern collection, a collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, a collection of sculpture and decorative arts, a coin cabinet and a beautiful library.
- Wiener Riesenrad
The Wiener Riesenrad (Giant Wheel), or Riesenrad, is a 64.75-metre tall Ferris wheel, located right at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, Vienna. It is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions, and symbolises the district as well as the city for many people.
If you visit the official Wiener Riesenrad website, you will notice that private luxury cabin offers are also available. You can book a romantic crystal dinner for two in the Crystal Wagon, which was designed by Swarovski Vienna. This sounds like one of the most romantic things you can think of, and it is definitely worth a try if your trip to Vienna is a romantic getaway for two.
- Madame Tussauds Vienna
Most people have probably already heard about the amazing Madame Tussauds wax figures exhibitions. Well, you can find them in Vienna too. Book your trickets for a visit to this fantastic attraction and bring your camera! Historical figures, as well as modern day celebrities are waiting for their visitors. You can also book your tickets online and they are valid for 2 months, but they need to be booked at least 2 hours prior to your visit.
There are also lots of very advantageous ticket combination offers. For example, on both the Wiener Riesenrad and the Madame Tussauds Vienna websites you will find offers for a ticket that will grant your visit for both attractions. However, keep in mind that if you choose one of theirs offers, the first attraction you visit should be the one that sold you the ticket in the first place.
Hidden spots to visit
- The Imperial Crypt
This unusual tourist attraction holds the remains of 143 members of the royal family. Oh, the hearts are also kept in a separate room. Visitors can see an elaborate collection of sarcophagi that hold the bodies of emperors, empresses and other people of royal descent. The decorated coffins that honor the dead are a fabulous sighting for the crypt’s visitor.
- The Austrian National Library
This grand building’s interior is filled with columns, busts and fine woodworking details. The library’s collection contains more than two million books, along with other collections, such as the ones containing manuscripts and rare books, map collections, a museum of globes and a papyrus collection and museum.
Kriminalmuseeum is a museum of crime and punishment that displays relics and artifacts about the morbid history of the less pleasant part of humanity. Exhibits cover the history of gruesome crimes and their equally gruesome punishments, dating back as far as the Middle Ages. There are also displays covering brothels, counterfeiting, and lock-picking. It is certainly not for the faint of heart, but it is unforgettable.
Vienna’s restaurants range from extremely expensive to completely affordable. If you’re looking to spoil yourself and make your trip a luxury one, the restaurants you should try are Cuisino – Casino Restaurant Wien, Veranda, Rote Bar and Edvard. The food they serve is predominantly Austrian and Central European, and these are definitely the spots to choose if you want to really “taste Austria”.
Other more affordable places to enjoy the tradition Austrian food are the Schachtelwirt Restaurant, Zum Alten Fassl, Gasthaus Elsner and the Brau-Bar.
Cheaper good places include Vienna Sausage, Knoedel Manufaktur, Kolar and Swing Kitchen.
Wherever you are in Vienna, you will definitely find something that your taste buds and stomach will love. You can also look for a reviews for the restaurants that you are interested online to get an idea about weather or not you should stop by.
Recommended time of visiting
The best times to visit Vienna are during the winter (December to February/March), since this city is the embodiment of those fabulous, cozy-looking, fairytale-like pictures of Christmas, holiday, astonishing winter sceneries. It gets cold in Vienna too, so make sure to bring warm clothes and big scarves, so you can enjoy the beauty of it without shaking in the cold outside.
Summer (June to August) is also a good choice. A lot of the locals migrate to summer residences or vacations, but their absence is quickly replaced by lots and lots of tourists. However, the good weather and vibrant street culture turn a visit to Vienna in the summer into the perfect trip for anyone.
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I’ve got a crush on the world // Veni, vidi, amavi