A recent study by Mercer identified Austria’s capital, Vienna, as the city with the highest overall quality of living. One of the most prosperous cities in the world and packed with culture, museums, history, restaurants and a lively nightlife, there’s something for everyone. It’s also a safe, attractive, clean and welcoming city.
Psychologists will know Vienna as the ‘City of Dreams’ which stems from the fact that it was once home to Sigmund Freud. Its city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in part thanks to its Baroque castles and gardens, and the grand buildings, monuments and parks that line the late-19th-century Ringstrasse.
The best time to go sightseeing in Vienna is during the months of June to September, when temperatures average 16 to 22°C and peak at around 37. If you have just a couple of days in the city, here are some ideas of what to see and do.
One of the cheapest activities in Vienna is simply wandering along its historical streets checking out the architecture. Highlights include the Neo-Gothic Rathaus Town Hall, where you can treat yourself to an extravagant meal in one of its baroque halls, the Burgtheatre, one of the most important German language theatres in the world, the Vienna State Opera House, Schönbrunn Palace, and the university and parliament buildings.
Also along the Ringstrasse is the twin museum of natural history and fine art. The Homburg houses the imperial treasury and is one of Vienna’s most famous museums. The Sisi is devoted to Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum houses many paintings by old masters, as well as ancient and classical artifacts. The city hosts dozens of art museums and collections, as well as the more kitsch galleries focusing on such topics as burial, art fakes, Sigmund Freud and Vienna clocks.
There are loads of pretty parks in Vienna, many of which have interesting monuments. At the Prater, you can ride a ferris wheel, roller coaster, light railway or 117 m high flying swing, or visit a planetarium, while the imperial Schönbrunn’s grounds contain the world’s oldest zoo. Another park, the Donauinsel, is an artificial island at the confluence of two rivers popular for its water sports and leisure activities.
Morbid as it sounds, the Central Cemetery – or, to use its official name, Zentralfriedhof – is a popular location because so many famous people were laid to rest there. You can also find memorials to Mozart at the Habsburg gardens and at St. Marx cemetery.
Vienna hosts more balls than there are days in a year, and some feature multiple live orchestras, with dancers and opera singers often performing as people arrive. Most balls start around 9 pm and go on well into the next morning.
With a scenic bike path along the Danube and trekking in the surrounding mountains, you’re never short of ways to stay fit while taking in the sights. There’s a company that takes you ‘sight running’ – an 8 km route past some of the city’s main attractions. Horseback riding and segway tours are also available, and there’s even a beach on the banks of the Danube.
Vienna is also close to the borders with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, making it not only a great destination for a weekend break, but a handy stopover on your way towards Eastern Europe.
The official tourism site for Vienna:
Sightseeing tours in Vienna: