Paris, you’ve got quite the competition, and it’s named Vienna.
Grandeur truly is the perfect adjective to describe Vienna, with its majestic architecture that lines the streets, taking your breath away around every corner. The imperial capital of Austria houses baroque and gothic masterpieces, among many others.
Then there’s a whole list of famous names like Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Freud, to name a few, who called the lavish city home.
The combination of a world-renowned music culture, classic art, and exquisite coffee houses, gives Vienna many ways to seduce its fellow visitors.
Exploring the historic city center
Strolling through Vienna’s city center on foot is the best way to take in all its architectural splendidness. Even the cooler temperatures of winter won’t discourage, as the city’s Christmas markets and festive lights will warm you right up. From experience, Vienna during this time of year is incredible. For a list of Vienna’s Christmas markets, click here.
Ringstrasse, broken down into 9 sections, encircles Vienna’s city center and is a wonderful way to explore the city. So get your walking shoes (or winter boots) on and hop to it. There are many fantastic sites, shopping, and coffee houses along the way. Not knowing that coffee was such a big deal here, I was pleasantly surprised at the wide array of cute little places (and some large and fancypants) there is to have a cup of joe.
Vienna State Opera and Rathaus (City Hall) are two significant sites along this route. It’s worth seeing them at night, as their illumination is stunning.
Around the corner from Vienna State Opera, you’ll find the luxurious Hotel Sacher. People like Queen Elizabeth and John F. Kennedy have stayed here, but the hotel’s real fame comes from the original Sacher-torte, a rich chocolate cake you can indulge in inside of the Sacher Cafe. There is often a long line waiting to go into the cafe, especially on weekends. The cake is good but it probably won’t knock your socks off, so try to go when there isn’t a line.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of Vienna’s most proud landmarks, towering and watching over the city for more than 700 years. It’s also the place where Mozart was married in 1782, and funny enough, he ended up living down the street a couple of years later (you can visit his home at Mozarthaus). Inside the cathedral, you’ll find art treasures and an incredible view of the city if you’re willing to walk up 343 steps.
If walking steps isn’t really your jam and/or you prefer a more modern and chic setting, head to the top floor at DAS Loft in the Sofitel Hotel. The trendy atmosphere provides chillout music and fancy cocktails. However, the best part is the gorgeous view of the city, particularly of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Rathaus.
Speaking of drinks: The Austrians know what a gin and tonic is, but as far as mixing anything else, they get confused. My vodka and soda water with a lime was perplexing for all, so you have to explain the concept to them. They’re beer drinkers after all. And my favorite bar was Motto. It has a cool atmosphere with a DJ, more underground and less pretentious, fantastic drink prices, and stellar service.
Okay, so back to the cultural highlights. The powerful Habsburg monarchy ruled Austria for centuries, making the magnificent Hofburg Palace their home. The palace houses a chapel where the notorious Vienna Boys’ Choir sings Sunday Mass.
If you cross through the gardens from the palace, you’ll enter into Vienna’s Museums Quartier, where you can easily spend a few hours. From modern art to classics by Klimt to math and space discovery, this area is loaded with creativity and genius!
If this all weren’t enough, there’s much to explore outside the historic center as well, like views of the Danube, extravagant palaces, and vineyards. Wine lovers, did you know that Vienna is the biggest wine-producing capital city?! Me neither. So in addition to the many vinotheques you can find within the city, there are vineyards as far as the eye can see just waiting to be visited.
So if elegance is what you’re looking for, pack your bags and get to Vienna!
If you’d like to know which neighborhoods I’d recommend staying in, feel free to ask below and I’d be happy to give you the scoop.