Vienna is a unique and lovely city which should definitely be on the agenda of every visitor to Austria. For many centuries it was the centre of the Hapsburg dynasty and the Imperial rulers created a marvelous Innere Stadt crammed with beautiful palaces, state apartments, churches and architectural monuments.
Although Vienna is still the official seat of the Austrian President and his Government, the Hofburg is now an open-air museum with attractions ranging from the Lipizzaner horses in the Spanish Riding School to the Egyptian Papyrus Museum. The most breathtaking attractions however are the state apartments and the Imperial Treasury which has a dazzling array of jewel-encrusted religious, royal and imperial ceremonial items which are priceless.
The Albertina is the most visited museum in Vienna and this former presidential palace houses a stunning art collection in the preserved staterooms. Decorated in rich colours and laden with gilt décor and carvings, the palace has an ebony and rose-inlaid parquet floor and original furnishings. The diverse collection of paintings includes works by Monet and Picasso, Klimt’s Studies of Women, photographs and architectural sketches.
Other highlights in Vienna to wow you are the former apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph and his family which still have the original furnishings along with a display of the Imperial Silver Collection. Even if you do not wish to attend a performance or Opera Ball at the Vienna State Opera House, the building is well worth seeing when illuminated at night.
Beyond the Innere Stadt, the Schloss Schonbrunn and Tiergarten (Zoo) offer a full day of activities. Guided tours of the 40 rooms within the palace show the wonderful interior of this fabulous building. It is set in large formal gardens which are a delight to stroll around in summer. There is a maze, tropical greenhouse and a large zoo within the grounds.
Beyond the grand architectural attractions, Vienna offers many more things to do. The pedestrianized area has excellent shops within the ground floor of some beautiful architecture. Individual shops, markets and shopping centres offer beautiful Austrian gifts including carvings, cuckoo clocks and some of the smoothest chocolate in the world. Vienna even has its own Viennese cuisine which is distinctly different from Austrian cuisine.
Music, especially waltz music, pervades the air of this lovely city which is the home of the Vienna Boys Choir, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and composers Haydn and Beethoven. There is a prevalent café culture with many coffee houses offering the chance to sit outdoors and people-watch over a Viennese coffee.
In December, the city hosts several traditional Christmas Markets. The stalls are in small wooden chalets decorated with greenery and fairy lights. Seasonal music, hot gluhwein and spicy biscuits keep the cold at bay as people shop for handcrafted gifts.
Whether you are staying in the city or renting a chalet nearby, skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed at neighboring ski resorts in the Alps. Buses transport visitors from Vienna to the slopes each day.