With its splendid architecture, wide collection of museums and galleries, and regular performances of world-class ballet and classical music, this is the place to embrace high art. Throw in atmospheric bars, taverns and cafes, and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful city.
Visit the Scholoss Schonbrunn and the Psiegelsall
The Schloss Schönbrunn, the baroque palace that was Marie Antoinette’s home as a child, is a microcosm of Vienna – touching on many of the things for which the city is famed.
You can learn about its royal inhabitants, its baroque exterior and the rococo excesses of its interior.
You can visit the room in which Napoleon is said to have slept when he inhabited the palace in 1805 and 1809, and the famed Spiegelsaal where Mozart performed when he was just six years old. Outside, there’s some spectacular gardens and the world’s oldest zoo (founded 1752).
See Vienna’s centre via the Ringstrasse
The centre of Vienna is a compact area crammed with majestic buildings, stately palaces, buildings and churches, and parks. The best way to (quickly) soak it all up is to jump in a tram and do a lap of the Ringstrasse (ring) – the roads running in a circle around the centre of Vienna. In the middle is St Stephens Cathedral, with its massive spire and grand interior.
Eat wiener schnitzel at Naschmarkt
Vienna’s contribution to global cuisine is the king of hearty foods: wiener schnitzel (meat covered in breadcrumbs then fried). The city’s open-air food market Naschmarkt along the River Wien is often worth checking out for its winter-warming Viennese goulash and wiener schnitzel, as well as Thai and Indian.
Ride the Riesenrad at Prater amusement park
If you’re looking for a high vantage point for a few crafty photos, then head out to the Prater amusement park and climb on board the Riesenrad (ferris wheel).
This is not just a thrill ride – actually, it’s not much of a thrill at all, unless you’re scared of heights, rickety old structures or the combination of both — it’s a 65m tall symbol of Vienna, a movie star (see The Living Daylights, The Third Man and Before Sunrise) and a history lesson as well.
Built in 1897 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I, the wheel was damaged by bombs in World War II but rose to rotate once more, thus symbolising the reconstruction of the city.
Try the local brew
Vienna is famous for its coffee houses, where you can sip Viennese coffee and feast on Sachertorte, a chocolate-covered sponge cake with a sweet apricot jam filling.
What you need to know about travelling to Vienna, Austria
When to go: Any time, but book ahead for July, August or Christmas.
Getting there: By air or by train from London.
Getting around: The Vienna metro is fast and frequent. Consider buying a 24-hour travelcard for cheap travel. Trams are quick for trips across the centre of town.