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Austria's royal and imperial capital used to be the public treasury of the Habsburg Empire and it still is. Beautiful palaces, churches and museums. It is also the city of classical music. Does it sound like dullsville? You are mistaken. Although Vienna may rely heavily on glorious days of the past, it is also a 21st century city with modern art, trendy events and a vibrant nightlife.
The St Stephen's Cathedral is the city's eye-catcher. The Gothic church with towers in Romanesque style on both sides of the entrance has a multi-colored roof of glazed tiles. The 136-meter-high Alter Steffel is located on the south side. The church has no less than 23 bells. The heaviest bell that goes by the pet name Die Pummerin weighs over 20 tons and only sounds on special occasions. Inside, pay special attention to the stone pulpit, where sculptor Anton Pilgram has chiseled his self-portrait.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Vienna's city walls and defenses were demolished to make way for the Ringstrasse. Along that street you will find countless monuments. For starters, the Staatsoper which has a rich history, if only because of the famous conductors who have worked here, like for example Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and Herbert von Karajan. This is where the famous New Year's concert takes place, which is broadcast on television around the world. If you want to attend a performance, you need to book tickets well in advance. Fortunately, however, you can also book a guided tour without attending a concert.
Do you prefer jazz? In that case, visit the famous jazz club Porgy & Bess in the Innere Stadt. Or do you prefer techno? Discotheque Flex or the Volksgarten. As you can see, tradition and modern times go hand in hand very well in the Austrian capital.
Old and new also meet in the wide range of museums. The Museum quarter is the area of modern art, while other museums focus on history. The Museum of Art History houses works from the Habsburg collection, including many pieces by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. But the museum is not acclaimed the world over only because of its paintings. It also has a collection of objects specifically designed for the Habsburg Emperors as well as a collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art.
The Habsburgs ruled their empire from the Hofburg, a huge complex of which part is now being used as the presidential palace. The Habsburgs relaxed in the Schönbrunn Palace, their summer residence. Also not half bad; it has 1400 rooms. At the age of six, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart already gave a concert for Empress Maria Theresa in the Hall of Mirrors of this palace. The park surrounding the palace is magnificent, and large: one square kilometer.
You have not really visited Vienna if you have not had a cup of coffee in one of the stylish coffee houses. Note: a 'Kaffeehaus' or a 'Café-KonditoreiEspresso-Café' is the trendy version. Didn't we already mention that romanticism of the old days goes hand in hand with the 21st century in Vienna? When visiting a traditional coffee house you obviously also have to taste the pastry. Wiener mélange with Sachertorte, mmmmm!
Speaking of food and drinks: the Naschmarkt is the place to go for a quick snack. Together with a good glass of Austrian wine of course. During the weekend, farmers from the surrounding area come to this market to sell their produce: handmade Blunzen (blood sausage), Fleichstrudel and fresh trout from Burgenland.
Vienna offers a wide range of hotels and room rates are reasonable. Most hotels are located in the city center, close to all the tourist attractions. Thanks to an excellent public transport system though, booking a hotel outside the center is no problem either.
On the outskirts of the city you'll find the wine taverns. They are called Heurige and they are a Viennese specialty. As of November 11, these wine taverns serve the Heurige, the wine from the current vintage. They are allowed to serve that wine for 300 days. After that, they have to wait for two months for the next vintage. You will mainly find Heurige in Grinzing and Neustift. You can recognize a true Heurige by a green-white poster and a green pine branch on the door.
Located on the Danube, Vienna is an excellent starting point for car trips through the Danube Basin. Along the way you can visit vineyards as well as (ruins of) castles and charming, medieval towns that are scattered around the region, like for example the walled Hainburg an der Donau, sixty kilometers outside Vienna.
Bad Vöslau is a spa town 35 kilometers south of Vienna. It is known for its thermal baths and the delicious red wine that is produced here. Bad Vöslau is one of the oldest and most impressive thermal baths.
In the old city center as well as the surrounding neighborhoods there is only paid parking, for a maximum of two hours. Fortunately the city has many parking garages. An electronic system shows which garages have availability. On the outskirts of Vienna you can find P+R areas, where you can take the subway or trolley to continue your journey.
Vienna Airport is located eighteen kilometers southeast of the Austrian capital. You can easily reach Schwechat Airport from the city center via freeway A4 or the Bundesstraße B9. The exit 'Flughafen' is clearly signposted on both roads.