Vienna—located on the banks of the Danube River—is one of the Europe’s most monumental cities. It was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a great musical and artistic city, as well as a center of philosophy and political thought during the early 20th century.
With all her attributes, it ‘s hard to get to know this splendorous city in just one visit. You’ll have to come more than once to discover the heart of the place the gave life to indispensable historical figures, such as Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, Queen Marie Antoinette, Fritz Lang, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss I, and Johann Baptist Strauss II, among others.
Our tour begins at the Stephansplatz where we’ll bask in the mysterious embrace of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. With its 450-feet-hihg spire and a roof richly decorated with black, green, yellow and white tiles, it is the city’s most famous Gothic edifice. Its famous bell—the Pummerin—was cast from 208 cannonballs fired by the Turks against the city walls in 1683 during the Second Site of Vienna in the Great Turkish War (1645-1699).
Nearby is Graben, a busy pedestrian shopping street where you’ll find the Plague Column (Pestsäule), erected in memory of those who died after this scourge in 1679. At the end of the boulevard stands the oldest church in the city: the baroque Church of St. Peter (Peterskirche), known for its beautiful green dome built in the time of Charlemagne.
Located in the city center—and just behind the State Opera—is the Albertina Museum, where the imperial atmosphere is harmoniously combined with art masterpieces. This palace is the largest Habsburg residence in Vienna with 21 luxuriously furnished rooms.
Also in the vicinity, the Belvedere Palace is home to the largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt, including his golden portraits The Kiss and Judith.
Following the museum experience, it is time to for a relaxing break at some of the city’s emblematic cafes, such as the Mozart or the Central, where you can enjoy the typical Viennese coffee and a piece of Sacher cake. Or better yet, go to the legendary Café Griensteidl in Michaelerplatz.
Our next stop is the Imperial Palace, winter residence of the Habsburg Dynasty and famous for being the official residence of Empress Sissi, consort of Emperor Franz Joseph I. Many travelers particularly enjoy the lavish royal apartments and personal items of the famous Empress.
Another essential institution in Vienna is the Fine Arts Museum, which houses a large collection of historical objects— from Egyptian and Greek antiquities to paintings by artists like Raphael, Rubens, Velázquez, Titian, and Rembrandt.
Vienna is also one of the most musical cities in Europe. When in town try to catch a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Musikverein, one of the most traditional auditoriums, built in 1870 by Theophil Hansen and inspired by a Greek temple. The theater is located on Karlsplatz, near the magnificent Ringstraße Boulevard. Every year, its Golden Hall becomes the perfect venue for the New Year’s Concert, which is broadcast around the world for the enjoyment of people who love music and Vienna. ■