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Vienna in 15 top sights

Have you been to Vienna, the capital of Austria, already?

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Vienna, the majestic capital of Austria, is one of my favourite cities in Europe.

Every time I come here, it’s like a fairytale come true—mainly because of the magnificent architectural sites, museums for every taste, and comfort dishes of the local cuisine.

I’ve chosen the 15 must-visit spots that will be interesting for both first-comers, classic music concert goers and art and museum lovers!

1. Hofburg Palace 

The Hofburg Palace is the former imperial Palace initially built in 1279 and expanded over time once the power of the Habsburgs grew. It was mainly used during winter, while  Schönbrunn Palace was more of the summer residence (see below). It’s a magnificent complex occupying 300,000 square metres, making it one of the largest palace complexes in the world!

Now, it’s the seat of the President of Austria. However, you can still visit it – for instance, for a concert of Austrian classical music, such as Strauss and Mozart, performed by the Vienna Hofburg Orchestra in one of the palace halls!

It’s also home to a few museums, including the Spanish Riding School, Albertina, Sisi Museum, Imperial Treasury, Imperial Silver Collection, and an extensive library.

2. St. Michael’s Square

St. Michael’s Square, or Michaelerplatz, is one of the most impressive squares in Vienna, dating back to the 18th century. It is named after a church on the side of it dedicated to the same saint – St. Michael’s Church is actually one of the oldest churches in the city. You can easily spot it because of its Romanesque facade. St. Michael’s Square connects the significant streets of Vienna –  Kohlmarkt, Herrengasse, Schauflergasse and  Reitschulgasse- which lead to the Hofburg Palace.

Come here to admire the fantastic baroque architecture, glance at the houses, and maybe shop at the Christmas market if you’re visiting in winter! The first Vienna roundabout for cars also emerged here in 1927. Also, spot Looshaus, designed by Adolf Loos, which is a prominent example of modernist architecture.

3. St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, located on Stephansplatz, is probably the most recognisable symbol of Vienna.

It was completed in the 16th century, but construction started in the mid-12th century. Just look at this gorgeous 136-metre-high building! Pop inside to admire the altar and the lavish interior and to observe the burial. In winter, there is a lovely Christmas market surrounding the cathedral.

You can climb it to have a better look at its colourful tiles and to observe the city panorama, too! 

4. Mozart’s house in Vienna

The Mozarthaus, or the House of Mozart, at Domgasse 5  is probably a must-visit museum in Vienna because this city’s fame is at least supported by the influence of the best composers of all times, such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss.

Mozart lived in this building from 1784 to 1787; this is the only Mozart residence in Vienna that has made it to this day. With an audio guide, you can explore the composer’s life and some of the objects and furniture of his time. During our visit, photography was limited.

5. The Plague Column

The Plague Column, also known as Trinity Column, is a Baroque landmark you won’t miss while walking along Graben Street. It’s a large monument erected to commemorate the victims of the Great Plague in 1679. 

6. Ferstel passage

The Ferstel Passage, also known as the Freyung Passage, is a shopping arcade dating back to 1860. It’s located inside the Palais Ferstel, the former Bank and Stock Market Building designed by architect Heinrich von Ferstel, hence the name.

It came into decline in the second part of the 20th century, but now it’s again filled with shops and cafes!  

7. Café Central 

Another site of the Palais Ferstel is one of the most iconic Vienna cafes, Café Central, dating to 1876! Its entrance is at the Herrengasse 14, and the place is famous for being the preferred spot for revolutionist Leon Trotsky, columnist Alfred Polgar, writer Stefan Zweig, poet Peter Altenberg, father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud and architect Adolf Loos.

Come here to admire the interior and get some coffee with dessert, but be aware that the place tends to be crowded.

8. Natural History Museum 

The Natural History Museum, located on Maria-Theresien-Platz opposite the Kunsthistorisches Museum, is one of the largest museums in the country, with collections assembled over 250 years ago.

The museum was officially opened in 1889. Come here to learn about evolution, dinosaurs, minerals and all other things you expect from a museum like this. 

9. Museum of Fine Arts 

The Kunsthistorisches Museum, or the Museum of Fine Arts, is a twin museum on Maria-Theresien-Platz that houses Austria’s largest collection of art objects.

It was opened in 1891 and houses an impressive collection of paintings and other precious objects that initially started as the private collection of the Royal Habsburg Family. 

10. St Charles’s Church

The St. Charles’s Church, or Karlskirche, is another baroque masterpiece of Vienna dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo. It was constructed in 1739 by Emperor Charles VI (hence the name) after the city was ‘miraculously ‘freed from the plague.

It sits on the Karlsplatz and is one of the most famous Vienna landmarks! Admire its incredible dome and all the marble sculptural decorations, and, of course, pop inside to see frescoes by Johannes Michael Rottmayr and the organ. You can also climb to see the panorama of Vienna! 

11. Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace is another must-visit spot for both history and art lovers.

This palace complex, which consisted of a few buildings (Upper and Lower Belvedere, Orangery and Stables), was built in the early 19th century and used to be the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy.

Now, everyone comes here not only to admire the baroque gem of Hildenbrandt but also to see many world-famous pieces of art, starting from mediaeval art to more modern pieces, including The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.

12. Schönbrunn Palace 

Schönbrunn Palace, in contrast to Hobsburg, was the Habsburg’s main summer residence. It’s called ‘Beautiful Spring’ after a famous mineral spring around the court. It’s a large, lavish palace where you can learn about the significant events of the Austrian Empire and its main characters – don’t forget to take an audio guide to enrich your experience! The buildings on this site date back to the 14th century, while the Kattenburg estate was acquired by Maximilian II Habsburg in 1569 (it was renamed Schönbrunn later, around 1642).

The exterior you see today dates to the mid-18th century and the reign of Empress Maria Theresa. Unfortunately, the photography inside the Palace was limited during my visit; however, you can still take photos of the park outside.  The Palace is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. Schönbrunn Zoo 

Schönbrunn Zoo, or Tiergarten Schönbrunn, is said to be the oldest zoo in the world that is still in use! It was founded in 1752 and is part of the Schönbrunn Palace complex.

It houses over seven hundred different species, but the main attraction there is probably giant pandas! The zoo runs numerous conservation and scientific projects.

14. Anker Clock

Anker Clock, built in 1911-1914, is a gorgeous bridge with a clock created by Franz Matsch in Art Nouveau style. It connects two buildings of the former Anker Insurance Company (now Helvetia) at Hoher Markt Street. Come here at noon as the figurines parade, moving across the bridge! 

15. Hundertwasser house

 Hundertwasserhaus, or the Hundertwasser house, is one of the most unusual buildings you’ve seen in your life: it’s multicoloured, with some plants growing here and there and giving vibes of Barcelona’s most creative architectural sites. 

This apartment house was completed in 1985 and was designed with the innovative ideas of Friedensreich Hundertwasser (there was an unpleasant court case that stated that the help of Joseph Krawina, who made an artistic concept come true, should also be noted). You can’t visit the apartment, but you can explore the Hundertwasser Village, created in 1990-1991, nearby.

You might also like my other blogs about Austria:

Hope you liked my blog,
Anna xxx

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