Vienna (German: Wien, Austro-Bavarian: Wean) is the capital of the Republic of Austria and by far the largest city in Austria with its population of more than 1.7 million.
Vienna hosted the Habsburg court for several centuries, first as the Imperial seat of the Holy Roman Empire, then the capital of the Austrian Empire, and later of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which finally fell in 1918 with the abdication of the last Emperor Karl I. The court tremendously influenced the culture that exists here even today: Vienna's residents are often overly formal, with small doses of courtliness, polite forms of address, and formal dress attire. One of the many paradoxes of the quirky city is that its residents can be equally modern and progressive as they are extremely old-fashioned.
Weather in Vienna
- Spring starts in late March,
- Summer in Vienna is usually warm. Weather in June is moderate and sunny with a light summer windy breeze. In July and August, there are some hot and humid days where it reaches 35°C (95°F), but overall, summer in Vienna is pleasant.
- Autumn starts around September, although an "Indian Summer" with warm and sunny days.
- Winter in Vienna can be just above 0°C (32°F)
What to see in Vienna
Vienna has a rich history as the capital city of the monarchy and thus abundant historical buildings and museums. Here are some Vienna's top attractions, each of which could easily occupy an entire day, (or more).
- Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) and the two most well-known museums,
- Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) and Albertina, are located in the Innere Stadt.
- The Schloss Schönbrunn palace, a part of the UNESCO World heritage list, is located in the Outer West district.
- The Museums Quartier: A vast cultural center which opened in 2001 and is affectionately known as MQ. Located in the old Imperial Court Stables, the complex houses five modern art museums and a children’s museum. There’s also a great café for when culture overload strikes.
- The Hundertwasserhaus: While it’s a bit out-of-center, the Hundertwasserhaus is one of the country’s most fascinating buildings. Designed by the avante-garde artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and built in 1985, it's an apartment complex with odd features such as curved floors, mis-matched colors, and trees growing out of the walls. For more Hundertwasser, also check out the Kunsthaus Wien.
- The Liechtenstein Museum, This museum is located in the Liechtenstein Palais and holds the Prince of Liechtenstein’s massive art collection, which has been cultivated since the 17th century. The palace itself is grand enough to warrant a visit and the most notable part of the collection is the Peter Paul Rubens Room.
- The Hofburg Palace: The former home (pictured above) of the Habsburg royals is now chock-full of museums and other attractions, including the Imperial Apartments, the National library, the Winter Riding School, and a popular museum devoted to Sisi, wife of Franz Josef.
- The Ringstrasse: This boulevard circles Vienna’s historic center and is the city's poshest address. The wide, tree-lined street is lined with extravagant hotels, museums, and sites such as the Opera House, the Volksgarten, and the Burgtheater. If you don’t want to walk the length, hop on a tram for a short cut.
What to do in Vienna
- Ball Season: One thing you should not miss when you visit Vienna during the carnival season is to attend one of the many glamourous balls in the city, some of them in wonderful elegant locations like the Vienna Hofburg or the City Hall (Rathaus). The most widely known and elegant balls are the Opera Ball in the State Opera or the ball of the Wiener Philharmoniker. Many professional guilds have their own ball like e.g. the Kaffeesiederball by the Vienna Coffee house owners. The ball calendar can be found on the pages of the Vienna City Council
- There are also a lot of other open-air-film festivals in summer, e.g. at the Augarten, the Vienna Turf Krieau, the Prater, and Schloss Neugebäude.
- In the summer, there is also the ImPulsTanz Festival for contemporary dance & performance. They are also good if you are interested in dance workshops.
- Climb to a hill above Vienna
Shopping in Vienna
Store hours are generally 8 or 9AM-6 or 7PM Monday-Friday, 9AM-6PM Saturday, Closed Sunday. There are slightly longer hours at some malls. Credit cards are normally accepted at large and at high-end stores. All chains that you can find in the malls also have stores on the city's shopping streets, which tend to be more accessible and tourist-friendly.
Vienna airport has a duty free shopping area with 70 shops. Plan around one hour if you're going to visit every other shop.
There are 21 markets with stands and small characteristically Viennese hut-like shops that are open daily (except Sunday). Additionally many of these have true farmers' markets, often on Saturday mornings. There is a large variety of sellers and markets, from the upscale to the dirt cheap. Each has several shops of different kinds (butcher, bakery, produce, coffee, etc.).
Charity auctions are common in Vienna. Some stores give their proceeds to social programmes (often second-hand store back-to-work programs similar to Goodwill, or other charity shops).
International Festival Charity Bazaar taking place in 2014 on December on the begining of the month, at the Austria Center U1 – Station Kaisermühlen, has been organized yearly for over 40 years by the ladies of the United Nations Women’s Guild of Vienna. Volunteers, from a 100 different countries, who have some kind of connection to the United Nations, organize it and all proceeds from the Bazaar go to children’s charities in Austria and around the world.
Drinking water in Vienna
Rather unusually it is necessary to say some words about Vienna's drinking water which is really unique in Europe. The majority of Vienna's water comes from the three "Hochquellwasserleitungen." Meaning "high-(as in mountain) spring waterlines (as in aqueducts). Indeed the city's water flows through aqueducts from the mountains around 100 kilometres south of Vienna (Schneeberg and Hochschwab). These were built during the reign of Emperor Franz Josef and supply Vienna with nearly unchlorinated high-quality drinking water, with a considerably higher quality than many bottled waters. So if you visit this city, it is not necessary to buy water, you can simply drink tap water here - unless you prefer sparkling water.
What to eat in Vienna
In addition to this, the local snack culture also includes more ex-Yugoslavian and Turkish varieties of fast food, such as the Döner Kebap, sandwiches of Greek and Turkish origin with roasted meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and yogurt and/or hot sauce. Places that sell kebap often sell take-away slices of pizza too.
Good kebaps can be bought at the Naschmarkt. The lower end of the Naschmarkt (further away from Karlsplatz or city centre) is cheaper than the upper end (closer to Karlsplatz), and the right lane (facing away from the city centre) is reserved for mostly sit-down eateries. Another good place to find snacks (especially while going out) is Schwedenplatz.
By far the cheapest way to get a fast food meal in Austria (and probably the only meal available for just over €1) is buying an Austrian sandwich (sliced brown bread + ham/cheese + gherkin) from a supermarket. Supermarkets with a deli counter (Feinkostabteilung) will prepare sandwiches to take away at no extra charge. You only pay for the ingredients. There is usually a large selection of meat products, cheese, and bread rolls available here, too. You point at the combination you want, can also mention the max total you can pay, and then pay at the cash register. One of the favorites is the "Leberkässemel", which is like a bigger but less dense version of a high quality hot dog on a bun.
Nightlife in Vienna
Despite Vienna's stuck-up reputation don't be led to believe it is a quiet city. There are diverse cafés, bars, clubs, parties and festivilles as well as thriving noctornal prostitution and casino scenes.
The most popular cluster of bars is in the old Jewish Quarter (First District), in an area around Ruprechtskirche known as the Bermuda Dreieck (Bermuda Triangle). Other districts with fewer tourists include the Spittelberg area, around Amerlinghaus (Seventh District) and in the Fourth District, adjacent to the Naschmarkt. Many of the best places in Vienna will not be obvious to tourists, as they are strictly marketed at locals and are not necessarily in the centre of town.
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