Vienna—the birthplace of such diverse icons from Alfred Adler to Franz Schubert—certainly sets the standard for classical music and sophisticated culture, and its 1,900-year history makes it even more interesting. Modern Vienna is a refined mixture of old Habsburg-era architecture fused with contemporary values. Sample a taste of the city’s culture and history with the city’s top 5 highlights listed below—some are seasonal, while others are available all year round.
The beautiful city of Vienna, Austria’s capital, is the country’s cultural hub in more ways than one. Vienna enjoys a long history and has been home to one of Europe’s enduring dynasties, the House of Habsburg. This background has given the city some of the most memorable monuments of art, architecture, and culture, spanning virtually all eras of European history. Drawn by the splendor of its cultural heritage, unique historical attractions, and classical music and dance, Vienna is a dominant force in tourism and is sure to be a treat for culture vultures, as well as the whole family.
- Schloβ Belvedere: This absolutely gorgeous palatial complex is definitely not to be missed while in Vienna. The former palace has been converted into an art gallery and now houses some of the most coveted international artwork. Stroll through the impeccably maintained gardens. Visit the art galleries. Marvel at the beautiful Baroque architectural facades of the palace. Learn more about Austrian history at one of the museums. You won’t run out of things to do or see.
- Opera: Vienna’s relationship with music is legendary and is widely celebrated around the world. Opt for a night of culture with an opera performance at the world-renowned Vienna Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper). If you’re looking for deals, either buy your ticket way in advance or risk your luck and wait for the day of the performance. Also look out for student, children, and senior citizen specials.
- Opera or Imperial Ball: Not only is music an important part of Austrian life, but ballroom dancing also shares a special place in the hearts of Austrians. The annual Imperial Ball used to be reserved for high-society aristocrats, but over time, it has garnered widespread appeal and popularity. It takes place on New Year’s Eve at Hofburg Palace and welcomes visitors from all over the world. The venue is the former winter residence of the Austrian Emperor. Ring in the New Year with grandeur and glamour!
- Schönbrunn Palace: Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, the Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most important tourist attractions in Vienna; it is the former 1,441-room summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs. Some of its highlights include the perfectly manicured garden labyrinth (the French Garden) and the oldest zoo in the world (Tiergarten Schönbrunn). In operation since 1752, it is home to giant pandas, elephants, and other rare wildlife. The palace is a beautiful emblem of the city’s imperial history and is representative of the tastes, interests, and aspirations of the Habsburg monarchy.
- Christmas Markets: Starting in November, the beautiful Christmas markets are sprawled throughout the city, marking the beginning of the festive season. They usually last until right before Christmas or just a little after. You can buy local delicacies, small arts and crafts from local artisans, and consume gallons of glühwein. It’s definitely worth a visit and a great way to get into the holiday spirit!