Vienna : So Classical
Elegant, classic, and sophisticated.
These are the best adjectives I can use to describe Vienna, considered—for four years in a row—the best city to live according to Mercer. The capital of Austria is pure charm. It maintains its refinement with aristocratic palaces, superb museums, and spectacular architecture. Around downtown you can see beautiful manicured gardens, broad avenues, and dozens of monuments that make the city both chic and authentic.
In previous centuries, Vienna was the “center” of Europe and the Viennese influenced the entire world with their customs, trends, fashion, and art. The city was home to many of the most influential classical musicians, like Mozart and Strauss, and boasts numerous concert halls. Visitors to Vienna can attend a concert exactly as it was presented at the time in which it was composed. I recommend the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, which performs in beautiful Musikverein.
The city grew even more when it was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, led by the powerful Habsburg dynasty. The empire was dissolved, but the city has not lost its rarified air. Sisi, the eternal empress, bequeathed the refinement found in Vienna today, as everything does, from chocolatiers all the way to the royal cavalry, called Spanische Hofreitschule.
All this glamor has its price. Vienna is one of the most expensive cities in the world and the tourist infrastructure is no exception. Hotels, taxis, transfers, tickets and restaurants are more expensive than in Eastern Europe. But its expensive milieu is not what makes the city shine. Remember that with Mastercard all is priceless!
The charm of the Habsburg
Wherever you are in Vienna, start your tour around the heart of the city, on Stephansplatz. This square is actually a block of closed streets, and it vibrates. At its center, erected in 1147, is the cathedral of St. Stephen, a beautiful example of the Gothic style.
The roof of the cathedral draws attention by patterning made from colorful tiles, but the highlight of the visit is to climb the 136-meter tower, up an endless spiral staircase. When you catch your breath, the view will reward your effort!
In the vicinity of St. Stephen are several restaurants and shops. The Stephansplatz is the Times Square or Piccadilly Circus of Vienna. Walk the streets, cross Kartnerstrasse Graben and appreciate the (slow) Austrian pace, stop for a coffee and sample the delicious Sachertorte, a traditional delicacy, overloaded with chocolate.
The region has been the focus of contention among Viennese, many of whom were opposed to the construction of buildings in modern styles. Nowadays, you can appreciates the intersection of the old and the modern.
A little further on is the Hofburg Palace, seat of royalty since the thirteenth century. Recently its interior became open to the public, so you can check some of the rooms and halls, including the office of the Empress Sisi. Personal items, ornaments and jewelry of royalty are also on display.
he palace is the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule) founded in 1572, where you can attend an hour-long Lipizzaner stallion demonstration.
Leaving from there, take a carriage or walk around the Ringstrasse, surrounded with manicured gardens, such as the Sissi and Volksgarten. Although you will notice the general beauty, pay attention to the little details and thoroughness of facades, with the apex of the nines in Parliament Buildings and the City.
As a dinner option, try Zum Schwarzen Kameel. This 400-year-old restaurant offers traditional Austrian cuisine. They also have a deli and wine shop—where you can stock up for tomorrow’s picnic lunch!
The sound of the Blue Danube
The second day of sightseeing in Vienna brings more delights. The first stop is Belvedere Palace, with its beautiful baroque architecture and well-designed gardens. The Belvedere is regarded as one of the world’s best examples of Baroque design. The tour costs 12 euros, including the audio-guide, and to get to the palace just grab the D tram in front of the State Opera House.
The palace was built as the summer residence of Prince Eugene and is comprised of two palaces, the Upper Belvedere and Lower Belvedere. Besides the beautiful interior decoration, the palace is home to various exhibitions, among them the largest collection of the artist Gustav Klimt.
Gustav Klimt was a great Austrian painter in the nineteenth century and spread his impressionistic style of golden mosaics over much of Vienna. In fact you can view its printed fabrics on many objects in gift and souvenir shops.
One of the most popular attractions in Vienna is “Schonbrunn Palace,” which means “Beautiful Spa” in German. The summer palace of Hofburg was inspired by the “Chateau de Versailles” in France and is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Luckily, it was untouched during the Second World War and today features a guided tour of 40 rooms out of the existing 1441.
The palace gardens are magnificent in summer and do not lose their charm through the harsh winter, during which they are covered by a thick layer of snow. Follow these gardens until the end and you will be rewarded with a wonderful seat inside the cafeteria on the hill. From there you have a beautiful view of the palace and Vienna in the background. Also in the complex is the oldest zoo in the world, founded in 1752.
Schonbrunn is easy to get to! Just take the U4 subway line and get off at the Schonbrunn station. It is open to visitors daily and admission is 12.50 euros with the audio guide included.
To end the day the Viennese style, attend one of the numerous concerts in the city, such as the Musikverein Vienna Mozart Orchestra.
Who said the day was over? For those who still resist sleep, return to Stephenplatz to savor the very traditional Apfelstrudel, puff pastry apple pie, usually served with vanilla ice cream. Delicious!
Now yes, gute Nacht!
Share the post "Vienna : So Classical"