Vienna is full of cultural attractions and beautiful historical sights, which is why one will never run out of things to do here. The city is also named ‘the gate to Eastern Europe’ and this alone reveals a lot of what visitors can expect. It’s a story of past glory, impressive architecture, an intriguing musical heritage…and cake. Read on to discover the 5 must-do’s when in Vienna.
Experience Vienna State Opera
One of Vienna’s most spectacular buildings is located on Opernring and dates back to 1869. I’m referring to the State Opera, which music enthusiasts from all over the world needs to see at least once in their lifetime. When the opera opened almost 150 years ago, it was with Mozart’s Don Juan in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth. The opera suffered severe damages through World War II, but it stands completely rebuilt today. In modern times, Vienna State Opera is regarded one of the most important opera houses in the world, and it also has the largest repertoire!
The Viennese are very proud of their musical heritage - with good reason! Geniuses such as Mozart, Beethoven and Johann Strauss descends from the city, so if you want to get acquainted with Vienna’s history and its people, you simply can’t miss an evening at the opera! Do bear in mind though, that tickets can be quite expensive if you’re interested in ‘the real deal’.
Taste the Sacher Tort at Hotel Sacher
Calling all cake lovers! Vienna is the capital to visit if you have a sweet tooth (and who doesn’t?!) or if you’re curious about Austrian dessert traditions. There’s a lot of them. Apart from the beloved Apfel Strudel, the Sacher Tort might just be the most popular cake invention in the history of Austria! Everybody’s talking about it and of course there’s only one place to eat it; at the famous Hotel Sacher on Philharmonikerstrasse. Not only does the hotel belong to the true league of old-fashion luxury hotels, it has also made an institution on creating the perfect piece of Sacher Tort! The cake is of course produced according to the original recipe from 1832, which is a well-kept secret of the hotel.
Make sure to visit this typical Viennese café located opposite of the opera house, and order a piece of Sacher Tort accompanied by a Café Melange. That’s the spirit of Vienna! The cake can also be ordered online if you’re tired of waiting in line (yes, there’s a line to get in).
Visit the Hofburg Palace and The Spanish Riding School
Whether you’re an avid history fan or nat, it’s almost mandatory to visit Hofburg Palace when in Vienna. The palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European history such as the Habsburg dynasty and there’s really nothing quite like it anywhere else. The palace itself is enormous and testifies to a past full of wealth and glory. Today, it serves as the official seat of the Austrian president.
Embark on a guided tour for 13,50 EUR or stroll around the area on your own. Either way, there’s plenty to see.
The Spanish Riding School is the oldest riding academy in the world, in fact, it’s more than 400 years old! It’s located in the near of Hofburg Palace, for which reason you might as well visit both while you’re there. There’s a live training every Saturday morning, and depending on the seats tickets cost from 23-130 EUR.
Experience the Viennese coffee culture
Viennese coffee houses have always played an important part shaping Viennese culture. Since 2011 it has actually been listed as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ by UNESCO - a good indicator for why you simply have to explore it while you’re in Vienna! In the other hand, it’s quite hard to avoid as well.
Even though many countries have their own significant coffee culture, there’s really nothing quite like the Austrian one! According to history, the Turks left a number of sacks with coffee beans after being defeated by the Polish-Habsburg army in the 17th Century, and ever since, the coffee culture has thrived in Vienna. A whole set of social practices and rituals comes with a cup of coffee here, which by the way should be a cup of Wiener Melange (similar to a cappuccino). It simply consists of strong, black espresso and whipped cream. No milk and sugar. My personal favorites amongst the Viennese coffee houses are Demel, Hotel Sacher and Café Diglas.
Get lost in the historical city centre
Vienna is a cosy metropolis, where getting lost is only recommended - at least if you’re up for exploring the exciting history of the city and moving off the beaten paths. From Ringstrasse (built in the 19th Century), which encircles the oldest part of the city, to Medieval and Baroque houses, which Mozart or Beethoven most probably lived in during their time in Vienna (Mozart stayed in more than 25 places in the city due to neighbor’s complaints!)
Grab a coffee from one of the many coffee houses and get lost in the historical streets such as Graben (can be traced all the way back to Ancient Roman times), Stephansplatz and Maria-Theresien Platz. My personal favorite is the small, narrow street of Fleischmarkt, where the oldest restaurant in Vienna, “Greichenbeisl” is located. The restaurant dates back to 1447 and you can really feel the presence of history while sitting at the same spot as Mozart and Mark Twain did…many, many years ago.
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