With its fantastic location on the Ring Boulevard we found many of the city’s main landmarks easily accessible from Hotel Imperial Vienna and I thought I’d tell you a bit about what we got a chance to see. And with a legacy of famous composers, Imperial and cultural history there is so much to see in Vienna. Being home to over 50 theatres and operas houses, 100 museums, galleries, palaces and churches, we barely scratched the surface of what there was to do. Here’s a few ideas of what to see with limited time if you’re a history lover.
1. Walk The Ringstrasse
Back in 1857 Emperor Franz Joseph ordered the building of the Ringstrasse or Ring Boulevard, a 5 kilometre road which circles the city centre. Along the Boulevard are many of the city monumental buildinga and a casual stroll along here allows you to feel the spirit of the city and admire the architecture.
In the City of Music, the Viennese Opera House is one of the most important buildings and it is one of the leading opera houses in the world.
Also located on the Ringstrasse is the Hofburg Imperial Palace, once the centre of the Habsburg Empire. The Hofburg is a large complex that encompasses many important landmarks such as the private apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Empress Elisabeth, the Sisi Museum, and The Imperial Silver Collection.
It is also the location of the famous Spanish Riding School, the only place in the world where the traditional classic equestrian skills are preserved. The performances are known to be utterly spectacular and I’ll certainly be getting tickets next time.
Also along The Ringstrasse you can find The Parliament, City Hall, The Burgtheater, The Museum for Applied Art, The Natural History Museum and much more.
2. Step inside Hotel Sacher
You know I love a good snoop around a hotel, and I love it even more when the hotel’s history is linked to the city. The Hotel Sacher was found in 1876 and is known for being the home of the world-famous Sachertorte.
As well as having your cake at Cafe Sacher Wien or the Blaue Bar, I highly recommend a good nose around this beautiful hotel that has welcomed not only Emperor Franz Joseph I, but also Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly, President John F Kennedy and Indira Gandhi.
Not only are the public rooms utterly splendid, the hotel also houses an art gallery.
3. Discover Beautiful Churches
Vienna was home to the Habsburg Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and with a close connection to the Roman Catholic Church, there are many examples of beautiful churches throughout the city.
Endowed in 1327 this beautiful Augustinian Church became the Imperial Court Church in 1643 and was the venue for many of the Habsburg weddings including Emperor Franz Joseph to Empress Elisabeth.
We found this beautiful church down a side street on Petersplatz and from the outside it’s fairly understated.
But inside Peterskirche (St Peters Church) its intricately decorated in Baroque style with a design inspired by the St Peter’s Basilica of the Vatican in Rome. The location is actually thought to be the oldest Christian site in Vienna with a church at that location since the 4th Century.
4. Visit St Stephen’s Cathedral
First built in 1147, the symbol of Vienna and one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria, a visit to St Stephen’s Cathedral is a must do when staying in the city. It’s not hard to do as the cathedral lies right in the city centre.
Encompassing a main nave, catacombs, religious relics and art, but perhaps the most eye-catching element is the South Tower at 137 metres tall. If you have the energy, walk the 343 steps to the tower room to see the views across Vienna
The Cathedral is where Mozart married his wife and also where his memorial service took place.
5. Play at Princesses at The Belvedere Palace
Despite our limited time, one place we were very keen to visit was the Belvedere Palace a little way out of the centre of Venice but still walkable.
The site is actually made up of two palaces, Upper and Lower Belvedere, on a beautiful park. On one side are sculptured gardens.
On the other a sculpture park and a lake that was frozen over when we were there. The Palace was built as the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy and his former apartments and state rooms are housed in Lower Belvedere.
Whereas Upper Belvedere houses Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the Modern Day.
It also houses the world’s largest collection of Klimt paintings including ‘The Kiss.’ While you’re not allowed to take photos of the famous golden painting, there’s a dedicated selfie area so you can make sure that you get your shot.
Also don’t miss the view of the beautiful symmetrical palace gardens and a panorama of the city.
Sadly we didn’t get a chance to get to Schönbrunn Palace, one of Europe’s most famous Baroque palaces and the former summer residence of Empress Sisi. Here you can also visit the gardens, the maze and the zoo; it’s one on the list for next time so let me know if you’ve ever been.
6. Learn the History of The Jews
Owing to my own heritage, I’m alway interested to hear about the Jewish history of a city. The Jewish population flourished in Vienna before 1938 when the Nazis invaded. Around 130,000 fled the city and of those who were left around 65,000 were murdered. A population of only around 1,000 remained. One of the most famous people to emigrate was Sigmund Freud who subsequently died in exile in the UK in 1939.
This statue in the Albertinaplatz depicts an old Jewish man cleaning the streets.
7. Enjoy Viennese Coffee Culture
I know I already touched on this in previous posts but I thought I’d just mention it again as it really is an intrinsic part of the city. Bertolt Brecht even described Vienna as ‘a small city built around a few coffee houses.’ It actually all started in 1683 with the Turkish invasion and by the late 18th century the coffeehouses became popular in high society. By the turn of the century the great thinkers, artists and writers were drawn the coffee houses, and they became a corner stone of culture.
We visited one of the most famous coffee houses, the opulent Cafe Central.
But I’d also recommend Demel for sweets…
And Café Imperial for excellent cakes including the Imperial Torte. Other recommendations I had that I didn’t make to (there’s only just so much cake that girl can eat!) were Café Sperl, Café Landtmann and Café Mozart.
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A big thank you to Vienna Now Forever for taking us on a tour of the city and for buying us cake!
Have you ever been to Vienna? Are you a history lover? What was your favourite thing to do?