Vienna, Travel Guide
Vienna became an important centre in the tenth century, then in 1278 the city fell to Rudolf of Habsburg, but didn’t become the imperial residence until 1683. The great aristocratic families flooded in to build palaces in a frenzy of construction that gave Vienna its Baroque character. By the end of the Habsburg era the city had become a breeding ground for the ideological passions of the age, and the ghosts of Freud, Klimt and Schiele are now some of the city’s biggest tourist draws.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Central Vienna is surprisingly compact, with the historical centre, or Innere Stadt, just 1km wide. The most important sights are concentrated here and along the Ringstrasse – the series of traffic- and tram-clogged boulevards that form a ring road around the centre. Efficient public transport allows you to cross the city in less than thirty minutes, making even peripheral sights, such as the monumental imperial palace at Schönbrunn, easily accessible. However, for all the grand palaces and museums, a trip to Vienna would not be complete without spending a leisurely afternoon over a creamy coffee and a piece of cake in one of the grand, shabby-glamorous coffeehouses for which the city is famous.
Vienna’s imperial grandeur is the legacy of the powerful Habsburg monarchy. Their home for more than six centuries, the Hofburg palace complex, incorporates the Burgkapelle (Imperial Chapel), where the Vienna Boys’ Choir sings Sunday Mass, and the famed Spanish Riding School, where Lipizzaner stallions perform elegant equine ballet, along with a trove of museums, including in the chandeliered Kaiserappartements (Imperial Apartments). Other immense palaces include the baroque Schloss Belvedere and the Habsburgs’ 1441-room summer residence, Schloss Schönbrunn, while 19th-century splendours such as the neo-Gothic Rathaus (City Hall) line the magnificent Ringstrasse encircling the Innere Stadt (inner city).
One of the Habsburgs’ most dazzling Rinsgstrasse palaces, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, houses the imperial art collection. It’s packed with priceless works by Old Masters, and treasures including one of the world’s richest coin collections. Behind the Hofburg, the former imperial stables have been transformed into the innovative MuseumsQuartier, with a diverse ensemble of museums, showcasing 19th- and 20th-century Austrian art at the Leopold Museum to often-shocking avant-garde works at the contemporary MUMOK. Meteorites, fossils and prehistoric finds fill the Naturhistorisches Museum, while exquisite furnishings at the applied-arts Museum für Angewandte Kunst are also among the artistic feasts in store.