Vienna, a fairytale capital in central Europe, bustling with music and art. For centuries, musicians and artists have made their way here (my art teacher in university told me it was primarily because it was so central so it was a good base to travel around from! :P). Horses pulling carriages trot by as you stroll down the streets listening to the likes of Mozart, Strauss, and Schubert. If you're a history buff, you will enjoy monuments and stories from WWII, along with the Baroque architecture and of course, the imperial dynasties.
**If you're a student, almost every attraction in Vienna has student prices.
Schönbrunn Palace & Gardens
You can't go to Vienna without heading to the imperial summer palace of the Habsburgs! I personally loved the audio guide that I bought; it wasn't too long, but gave a good amount of history, without leaving me overwhelmed with a jumble of royal names. If you don't want to take a tour of the palace, a large portion of the gardens are free, so you can easily take the metro there and just stroll around for the day! Make sure to climb the hill to the back of the garden so you can get a great view overlooking Vienna. Included in my Imperial Pass was also the maze, which I enjoyed, along with all the 5 year olds around me :)
Donautrum Danube Tower
Even though it seems somewhat out of the way, I was really happy that I made my way over to the tower. If you go, I would recommend getting there before it gets dark, as the park that you have to walk through from the metro station is hardly lit! And it looked quite gorgeous. If you get there before sunset, you can take some pictures, head up to the cafe while you wait for the sun to go down, and then take some more pictures with the lights of the city shining back at you!
Vienna State Opera House
If you are interested at all in opera, Vienna is the place to go! Tickets can be expensive, but often you can go on the day of (they even have a special ticket office for ‘day of’ tickets) and get a standing ticket for 12 euro.
St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is impossible to miss, a gorgeous Romanesque church standing watching over the city center for the past 700 years.
I went to many museums and to me, the top two that you can’t miss are Kunsthistorisches Museum and Belvedere. Kunsthistorisches is just stunning inside, making the architecture and decoration part of the experience in itself. It has a nice blend of time periods, of paintings, sculptures, and items from the imperial treasury.
Belvedere is primarily known for its collection of works by Gustav Klint (and the sole reason why I went to Vienna!). Here you can see his famous painting, ‘The Kiss’. If you want more of Klint, head of to the Secession Building to see his ‘Beethoven Frieze’ — in its own temperature controlled room! (The three photos prior are from Kunsthistorisches, in the Museum Quarter, and the photo below is from Belvedere).
Give your respects to Strauss, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and Mozart
If you make your way around the area of the Seccession Building, the Naschmarkt is a great place for cheaper eats and strolling around. Every restaurant in the market has outdoor seating, so it’s a lovely afternoon break!
Explore the coffeehouses
Talking about food and drink, the coffeeshops in Vienna are beyond impressive! The first coffeehouse for Austria opened in 1683 in Vienna after the failure of the second attempted siege by the Ottoman Empire (ahh I would love to go into that, but should probably save it for a post that isn’t about travel tips!). Coffee beans were kept from the exiting Turks and a Polish military officer, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, added some milk and sugar to give us the famous Viennese coffee of today.
Try the famous Sachertorte
On the dessert side, don’t miss out on trying a traditional sachertorte! Technically, Cafe Sacher is the only place where you can buy the real one, but there are many cheaper options around the city if you want to save a little money. I love the story behind this cake though: Prince Wenzel von Metternich was having a large gala and his chef was unable to finish the meal. Concerned about not having a dessert for all his guests, a lower assistant, Franz Sacher, was assigned to quickly put together a creation. Sacher stepped up to the task, creating a chocolate sponge cake layered with apricot jam and a dark chocolate icing on top. It is one of the most famous culinary items from Vienna to this day, almost 200 years later!