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Trip List by TITraveller

Vienna - Top 10 highlights

Jun 29, 2007  
4.0 of 5 stars based on 14 votes

Ten highlights (from so many) of a wonderful city you must visit

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Vienna
  • Category: Recent trip
  • Traveler type: Culture, Sightseeing, Shopping, Never been before
  • Appeals to: Tourists
  • Seasons: Summer
  • 1. Musikverien

    You may be familiar with this magnificent concert hall if you have seen the New Year's Day concerts broadcast. It is a magnificent venue, extremely ornate. I went to a performance given by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra - a small band who dress up in period costume but play modern instruments. The Vienna Phil it ain't and the programme of bits and pieces of Mozart's greatest hits and the compulsory finish with Strauss' 'Blue Danube' and 'Radetzky March' was a bit tacky but they are actually quite good and it was just marvellous to spend part of an evening in one of the most famous concert halls in the world.

  • 2. State Opera House (Staatsoper)
    State Opera House, Vienna

    Even if you can't get a ticket to a performance, get a ticket for a guided tour. It is one of Vienna's cultural bastions and worth a look to see what a EUR 150 seat is like as well as where the social hobnobbing takes place. If you are lucky (as I was), you might even get to go on the stage wings and see the stagehands doing the set up for the night's performance. If you can get a ticket for a performance, go ! The orchestra is magnificent and generally speaking you won't see a bad performance, such are the extreme standards they set.

  • 3. Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule)

    I was very lucky - I couldn't get a ticket to one of their display performances (weekends only) but managed to get a ticket to see the morning exercises (with music) for two hours and a guided tour of the museum later including the stables which are off limits to the general public. Some people think that this is quite boring - perhaps, but the High School Arts of Rising are more dressage than showjumping. It is about control of a big, strong, bad-tempered and aggressive stallion which is a lot harder than it looks. Impressive.

  • 4. Imperial Apartments (Hofburg)

    You get to see the silver and china collection for starters - great if like that sort of thing. I was lucky enough to get a guided tour (a quick one which covered all the details) - essentially the State Apartments are divided between those rooms occipied by the Emperor (Franz Josef I) and his wife. Alex's knowledge about the Imperial Family, their quirks and the building was most impressive. Essentially, some of the apartments are divided into the myth behind the Empress Elisabeth (nicknamed 'Sisi') and the truth (which wasn't all that pretty - anorexia and severe depression for starters - but I'll skip the details which are not that important). We had a good laugh when Alex showed us the bell that the Emperor had to ring when he wanted to visit his wife (in the same building, yes). A maidservant would answer, ask the reason why the Emperor wished to visit his wife, convey that message to the Empress and then convey the Empress' response. The Empress could decline (!) and apparently did so on many occasions.

  • 5. Schönbrunn Palace

    The fact that it has 1,441-room gives you an indication of the scale of the thing. Schloss Schönbrunn was built between 1696 and 1712 at the request of Emperor Leopold I for his son, Joseph I. Leopold envisioned a palace whose grandeur would surpass that of Versailles. However, Austria's treasury, drained by the cost of wars, could not support the ambitious undertaking, and the original plans were never carried out. Rather like the Sydney Opera House, you have to wonder what it would look like if they were. Still, the State Apartments are the most stunning part of the palace. Rococo architecture, with red, white, and 23 1/2-karat gold everywhere. It is staggeringly ornate and if you like that sort of thing, you will enjoy your visit here. The gardens are very nice to walk around and the hike up to the Gloriette is worth it just for the view down to the palace below.

  • 6. Hotel Sacher / Sacher Torte / Sacher Eck

    Home to the eponymous Sacher Torte (now 175 years old), the recipe for which is a proprietary secret (at least two types of dark chocolate for the couverture and apricot jam to finish, that much we do know). Due to enforcement of a dress code, limited seating in the tourist area and inability to cajole and persuade in German, I wasn't able to enjoy a piece in Vienna but you just go to their shop (the Sacher Eck) nand buy one. In some respects, this is better than consuming a piece there. Also. their other cakes are as delicious and decadent.

  • 7. St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom)
    St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom), Vienna

    The biggest church / cathedral in the city and thus important historically but that was not my primary interest - Mozart was married here, had two of his children baptised here and his funeral was here. There has been a church of some description in the area since the 12th century. It’s historic importance to Vienna and Austria cannot be underestimated.

  • 8. Mozarthaus (Figarohaus)
    Mozarthaus Vienna, Vienna

    About a block behind the Stefansdom is (what was) a seven room house once occupied by Mozart and where he wrote The Marriage of Figaro. Bit like the Geburthaus in that it is something of a tourist trap, but if you are not going to Salzburg, then this would be worth a visit. Some interesting displays and there's a bit of mystery as well - what did Mozart use certain rooms for (which happen to be rather more ornately decorated than the norm ?). Bear in mind however the old Victor Borge joke / truism about some of Mozart's music: "Mozart wrote this piece in four flats. He move three times". He was a frequent mover and you can still see some of his old digs in the Graben and in Milchgasse as well. These are not open to the public, however.

  • 9. Julius Meinl am Graben
    Meinl am Graben, Vienna

    Julius Meinl's gourmet paradise (located at the end of the Graben - hard to miss) is as good as they get anywhere. Easily on a par with Fauchon and Hediard in Paris, Meinl forged his reputation on his importing of fine coffees, teas and gourmet products. Their store is a wonder and unfortunately, I only had a chance to have a very very quick look around (and nearly fainted from sensory overload - it was that good). A must if you are shopping in Vienna.

  • 10. Vienna Card

    Get a Vienna Card - 72 hours worth of free transport in the CBD, discounts on a whole lot of things and so forth. Quite useful if only for the transport alone.