Our Vienna city guide takes you through the Austrian capital, one of Europe’s oldest and most cultural cities and a symphony of glorious architecture and cutting-edge design. By Oliver Hughes
Vienna is a city of contrasts, as hyper modern as it is historically classic, with the grand architecture of the Hapsburgs a constant reminder of its past as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – which balances seamlessly with its hip and happening present.
For imperial splendour the ornate Hofburg Palace, which has numerous wings open for exploring, and the Schönbrunn Palace are both magnificent. Mozart’s house in the Old Town and the Opera House are also unmissable. The Baroque Belvedere art gallery houses some great original works and many fascinating exhibitions covering different periods. And the Museum of Military History is where you can see Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s blood-stained jacket, and the Gräf & Stift car he was being driven in when he was assassinated.
What to eat
Food stalls and markets are everywhere, combining traditional sausages with ethnic food, particularly kebabs. There are plenty of restaurants dotted around but it is advisable to book in advance, particularly if you’re visiting when the Christmas markets are in full swing. Or you can just grab a currywurst and a cup of hot Glühwein and soak up the atmosphere as you walk around.
Head to the ultra-trendy 25 Hour Hotel, right near the city centre. It features a rooftop bar (pricey, but cool), and gives some great views over the city. Also worth exploring is the Museum Quarter which has all kinds of cutting-edge exhibits from the art world. And of course a slice of rich, chocolatey Sachertorte, served with cream.
There are markets everywhere, all year round, though these are best at Christmas time for the really traditional vibe. You can buy all sorts of things at the stalls, from hand-carved wooden artefacts to leather bound notebooks. For a more conventional shopping experience, there are plenty of impressive malls and stores with all the designer names you could wish for.
The Austrians are as efficient as the Germans when it comes to their public transport system. You can hop on the S-Bahn (tram) for street-level transportation, or take the bus. But the best option by far is the U-Bahn (tube) which is simple and easy and covers pretty much the whole city. Taxis are plentiful too, but expensive. The Vienna Card (18.90 euros) will provide you with means to get on every type of public transport without any fuss.
Where to stay
The Hotel Rathaus Wein & Design is an intriguing concept – every room is different, each styled to fit a certain type of wine. This small, charming, Art Deco-style hotel is probably one of the most unique places to stay in Europe. It’s right around the corner from the city centre, near shops and a U-Bahn stop and is definitely one for wine lovers – you can get a bottle sent to your room 24/7. Rooms from 210 euros a night (hotel-rathaus-wien.at/en/).
By contrast, the suave and stylish Hotel Meliá is part of a massive skyscraper, the tallest in Austria (you can journey up to the 57th floor restaurant for some stunning views and even better food). Luxurious and contemporary, the hotel is ideally located for exploring the city. Rooms from 138.11 euros a night (melia.com/en).