Vienna (in German: Wien ) is the capital and largest city of Austria, located in the northeast of the country in the region of Lower Austria. Vienna is the political, economic, cultural and intellectual center of the country.
The city extends from the banks of Wiennerwald to the Danube River on the one side and into the Wiener Becken basin on the other. Its strategic location made it a desirable home to the Habsburg rulers of Austro-Hungarian Empire for centuries. The Viennese are very passionate of their tradition and many of the imperial buildings are preserved.
The majority of Vienna’s attractions are located within the inner city which is largely for pedestrians only. The old city center, with its focal point - the magnificent Stephansdom- is dotted with famous coffeehouses and majestic Habsburg palaces and mansions. On the outskirts of the center is the new Museumsguartier, with numerous cultural institutions, including the Leopold Museum, famous for its large collection of Schiele’s paintings. Further into the suburbs lies the amusement park Prater - known for its ferris wheel, and the majestic Schonbrunn palace.
Vienna is a major musical capital. From the 18 th century onwards many famous composers – Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss and Mahler - lived and worked here. Today this spirit still lives on in the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, State Opera House and the Vienna’s Boys’ Choir.
Vienna is also an artistic city: A revolution in painting occurred at the end of the 19 th century, with Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka opening the door to the new avantgarde.
Vienna has a moderate continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. There are four distinct seasons. Precipitation is moderate, with snow or rain occurring 7 – 9 days per month. There is an average of 2000 hours of sunshine registered annually. The summers can get very hot, especially in the cities. Winters are cold; temperatures below zero are frequent in January and February. The best time to visit Vienna is spring and the beginning of summer and autumn. July is the average warmest month; January is an average the coolest month. Maximum average precipitation occurs in June.
January average temperature 0 deg Celsius, 38.1 mm rainfall February average temperature 2 deg Celsius, 43.2 mm rainfall March average temperature 5 deg Celsius, 40.6 mm rainfall April average temperature 9 deg Celsius, 50.8 mm rainfall May average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 61.0 mm rainfall June average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 73.7 mm rainfall July average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 63.5 mm rainfall August average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 58.4 mm rainfall September average temperature 16 deg Celsius, 45.7 mm rainfall October average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 40.6 mm rainfall November average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 50.8 mm rainfall December average temperature 2 deg Celsius, 43.2 mm rainfall
Flughafen Wien Schwechat is Vienna’s international airport, 19 km from the city center. It handles 80 airlines and moves 12 million passengers per year. The main carriers in Austria are Austrian Airlines and Lauda Air. Ticket price includes the departure tax.
To reach the city, use either the cheaper S7 train leaving every half hour. It takes 35 minutes and costs €3. You can choose the faster double-decker City Train which only takes 16 minutes and leaves every 30 minutes and costs €8 one way or €15 round-trip.
Vienna is well connected with the rest of Europe by rail. It has several train stations and you can arrive at Westbahnhoff, Südbahnhof or Franz Josefs Bahnhof.
Bus travel is cheaper than train, but also slower and less comfortable. The connections with Western and Eastern Europe are good. International long-distance buses arrive at Wien-Mitte central bus station. Bus is the best option for reaching remote places within Austria.
You can enter Austria by road from all neighboring countries with ease; the major border crossings are open 24 hours. Due to the EU Schengen Agreement there is no border control between Italy, Germany, and Slovenia.
BOAT & FERRY
You can reach Vienna by the Danube River with the Blue Danube Steamship Company. You will arrive at Praterlande and from there it is a short hike or taxi ride to the subway station.
Vienna has one of the most efficient public transport networks in Europe. Trains, buses, trams, the underground (U-bahn) and S-bahn are all punctual and frequent. Services run from 5:30 am until midnight, some U-bahn lines even run until 1:00 am. In addition, there are also night buses. Single-trip tickets can be obtained directly from bus or tram drivers, or from ticket machines and in addition, you can choose from a range of passes (e.g. daily, weekly, etc).
Driving in Vienna can be quite difficult due to a complicated system of one-way streets, and street trams. Parking can be a problem and is very expensive. The 1 st and 6 th -9 th districts are limited parking zones. You need to display a paid parking chit.
The inner city, where many major attractions are to be found, is easily manageable on foot and is made easier by the many ‘pedestrian only’ zones.
Vienna offers over 700 km of bicycle tracks, some of which run along the Danube River.
The tallest structure in Vienna, located in the Donaupark, offers various delights as there are two revolving restaurants offering a beautiful panorama of the city and, for a different thrill, there are bungy-jumps available at various heights: 150, 160, and 170 m.
Address: Donauinsel, Wien 22 Access: U-Bahn U1 Donauinsel; Tram 31, 33; Bus 83A, 84A
Built in the 1970s, the original purpose of the Donauinsel (Danube's island) was to protect the area from floods, but it soon became a popular place for leisure activities. There is a 40-km beach, and plenty of sports activities to choose from: cycling, running, roller skating, swimming, surfing, sailing and boating. The island has many restaurants and barbecue huts and in the evening the place turns into a party paradise, with numerous restaurants, bars and floating discos.
The marathon is held each year. The 42 km long path starts at the UNO building and leads the runners through the city’s most interesting districts and past many interesting buildings. Give it a try; it is a spectacular way of sightseeing!
A magnificent Gothic cathedral built in the 12 th century but renovated in Gothic style in the 14 th century. The south tower, nicknamed Steffl, is 136 m high and has a viewing platform, from which you can see a beautiful panorama of the city. The cathedral also features the country's largest bell, the Pummerin ('boomer bell'), weighing 21 tons. It was installed in 1952, but suffered extensive damage during World War II. It has been repaired and is now used to mark special occasions, like the New Year.
Address: Löwengasse and Kegelgasse Web: www.hundertwasserhaus.at Phone: +43 0900 90 0913 Access: U-Bahn: U1 or U4 to Schwedenplatz, then Tram N to Hetzgasse.
This strange, brightly colored eccentric building designed by Austrian avant-garde artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was built in 1985. It was a sensation then, and it continues to draw crowds of visitors. Hundertwasser was against the use of straight lines and was in favor of nature. He planted trees and lawns on top of the building. Inside are 50 apartments. Also nearby is Kunsthaus Wien, which is another one of Hundertwasser’s designs and houses a permanent collection of his works.
Address: Schönbrunnner Schloss-strasse Web: www.schoenbrunn.at Email: email@example.com Phone: 01/81113-239 Open: April - June, September - October daily 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, July-August 8:30 am-7:00 pm, November - March daily 8:30 am - 4:30 pm Access: U-Bahn: U4/Schönbrunn.
Schönbrunn Palace was designed in 1696 and was the Habsburgs' summer residence. It has 2000 rooms, 40 of which are open to the public. Perhaps the most fascinating is the Great Gallery with frescoed ceilings, huge chandeliers and mirrors. You can visit the Mirror room where Mozart played his first royal concert for Maria Theresa at the tender age of 6.
Additional points of interest are the huge, elegantly planted gardens, and the world's oldest zoo. Schönbrunn Palace is one of Vienna's most popular tourist attractions.
Address: Maria Theresien-Platz Web: www.khm.at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 01 525 24 Open: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
The museum houses the Habsburg family's magnificent art collection, which is one of the finest in Europe. The painting collection includes many famous names like Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Vermeer, Titian and more. There is also an Egyptian and Near Eastern collection with numerous monuments and artifacts. Among the most astonishing are monuments of ancient South Arabia. Take some time to explore the building itself, as it offers some delightful exhibits. There are murals which were created by, among others, a young Klimt.
Address: Karlsplatz Phone: 01/504-61-87 Access: U Bahn: U1, U2, or U4 Karlsplatz
Open: daily 8:00 am – 6:00 pm One of Vienna’s greatest buildings, the magnificent Karlskirche, was built in the early 18 th century, during the reign of Karl VI, and was dedicated to St. Charles of Borromeo when the plague abated. It is an enormous baroque church with freestanding columns inspired by Rome’s famous Trajan column. The construction began in 1715 by designer Johann Fischer von Erlach, who boldly combined various architectural styles; ancient Greek, ancient Roman, contemporary Roman and contemporary Viennese. When finished, it received mixed responses and triggered no imitations. Today it is one of European architectural curiosities.
The museum is located in Museumsquartier and has on display over 5200 paintings and drawings by contemporary Austrian artists, dating from 1880 – 1950. The works were originally part of a private collection belonging to Rudolf Leopold, Unfortunately, due to his financial difficulties, they eventually became government property. The collection includes famous names like Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and Oskar Kokoschka, and is considered one of the most important collections of Austrian art in the country, or possibly in the world.
Address: Prater 9 Web: prater.at Phone: +43 1 728 0516 Open: daily 10:00 am – 1:00 am Access: U-Bahn: Praterstern
Prater is a large green, wooded park, most famous for the huge Ferris wheel and the amusement park with merry-go-rounds, various rides, cafes and food stalls. Originally the park served as hunting grounds for the emperors but was opened to the public in 1766. The Worlds Fair of 1873 was held here, and the giant Ferris wheel is a reminder of those times.
A traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses, established in 1572, named after the Spanish Riding School, the oldest such school in the world. The breed was imported from Spain by Maximillian II in 1562 and in 1580 a stud farm was established in Lipica, Slovenia, hence the name Lipizzaner. The School’s home was built by the famous architect Joseph Fischer von Erlach between 1729 and 1735.
The show is very popular so it is advisable to order your tickets in advance or via the internet. Performances are usually from March to December. The school is closed for vacation in July and August. The show usually takes place on Sundays at 11:00 am, and on selected Fridays at 6:00 pm.
Vienna is famous for Wienner schnitzel - a veal cutlet coated in egg, flour and breadcrumbs, and fried. Another item of Viennese cuisine is Tafelspitz - a very lean boiled beef, often served with grated horseradish. There are also many varieties of sausages, which you can try at one of Vienna’s sausage stands.
The Viennese are also famous for a long tradition in the baking of sweets and cakes. The most famous is called Sachertorte – a delicious chocolate cake. Other delicious sweet dishes include Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), palatschinken (sweet pancakes) and Knödel (dumplings) often filled with fruit.
As far as drinking is concerned, the city of Vienna has its own vineyards, wine is served in small Viennese pubs called Heurigers. Wine is usually drunk as a spritzer with sparkling water. Beer is the next most popular drink. Vienna has one large brewery, Ottakringer, and some smaller ones.
Address: Sitftgasse 8 Phone: +43 01 526 1660 Open: daily 9:00 am – 2:00 am Access: Volkstheater: U3
This restaurant boasts a wonderful, romantic courtyard garden, especially popular in the summer. The food is very good and guests can choose among first-rate international and Austrian dishes, with a selection of delicious vegetarian dishes also on the bill. On Sundays they offer a large breakfast buffet.
Right in the city center, opposite the Stephansdom you will find this authentic Viennese restaurant, famous for the biggest and most delicious Wiener schnitzel in the city. Beer is not served but you can choose from a good selection of home-brewed wines.
Address: Operngasse 26 Phone: +43 1 587 53 08 Open: Sunday - Thursday 11:30 am – 12:00 pm; Friday and Saturday 11:30 am – 2:00 am Access: Karlsplatz (U1, U2, U4)
For a late night snack pop into this Turkish fast food place. It is located in the area with numerous night clubs. They offer many variations of kebab, and other Turkish dishes like lamb stew and humus. There is also a refreshing yogurt drink called Ayran.
The restaurant offers high quality food and service. The menu includes Italian and Spanish dishes, with pasta, fresh fish and the house specialty - tapas. The average cost of a main dish is around €15. Aioli is their special mayonnaise with garlic. In the summertime the terrace is another inviting feature as it allows you to gaze at the Stephansdom and the inner city.
Date: from December 31 – mid March Email: email@example.com Phone: (tourist office): 01/ 24-555
Balls are a tradition, deeply rooted in the Austrian history. During Fasching (January – February) the balls are held almost every weekend, on various locations all over the city. The official ball season offers over 300 balls, the most famous and expensive being the Opera Ball. Other famous balls include: the Philharmoniker Ball and the Kaiserball. These are the highlight for the social elite.
WIENER FESTWOCHEN / VIENNA FESTIVAL
Date: May – June Web: www.festwochen.or.at Location: various locations throughout the city Wiener Festwochen: Lehargasse 11
This annual festival offers theatre, music and dance productions by famous artists from around the world. There is something for every taste: from classical concerts, to modern dance, and from comedy theatre to exhibitions.
The annual New Year's Day concert is performed by the world-renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Their repertoire usually includes some of the best loved waltzes by famous and popular composer Johann Strauss.
DONAU ISLAND FESTIVAL
Date: end of June Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 01/535 3535 Location: Donauinsel / Danube Island
The festival on the Danube is a very popular youth festival with music and dancing. Performers include local bands, as well as famous international artists. Open-air performances take place on various stages all over the island.
Christmas markets or Christkindlmarkte encompass three main market areas with numerous stalls selling Christmas crafts. The one in front of the City Hall (Rathaus) has many elaborately decorated trees, another at Schönbrunn Castle displays traditional Austrian handicrafts, and the most authentic one can be found at Spittelberg, set in a historical quarter, along narrow granite-paved alleys. Do not miss the delicious hot spiced wine sold at the stalls.
Vienna offers several options for a night out. If you visit during the opera season and are lucky enough to get tickets, you can dance at one of the most famous opera houses in Europe. For a drink in the evening, go to the Bermuda Triangle where bars and small restaurants abound. Heurigen are an authentic way to experience Vienna at night. They are wine bars where you can listen to music and taste new wine.
The Staatsoper is famous for its annual high-society ball. It is considered to be one of the best opera houses in Central Europe. The program includes performances by The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the State Ballet Company and other top quality artists from around the world.
Austria 's most famous theatre was built between 1874 and 1878. The repertoire includes German classics, along with modern works. The program is diverse; from theatre and concerts to special events. Closed during July and August.
BARS AND PUBS
Bermuda Dreieck pub district
Access: U1, U4 – Schwedenplatz, Bus no. 2A
The 'Bermuda triangle' is an area with numerous pubs and bars, located between Rabensteig, Judengasse, and Seitenstettengasse. Many bars emerged in the late 1970s and soon became very popular with the Viennese – and they still are!
Heuriger is an Austrian wine-drinking locale. Originally only the most recent wine was served. There are still some restrictions – a Heuriger can only serve its own wine and it can only be open a certain amount of time per year. A sign signaling that the establishment is open are small fir twigs hung over the entrance. The music is usually live, played by two singers who accompany themselves on a guitar and accordion.
The region around Vienna was already inhabited in the Stone Age, and the area of Vienna itself emerged as a Bronze Age settlement in 800 AD. Around 900 AD Romans established a military camp called Vindobona. It served as a borderline fortress for the Roman Empire to protect against the Germanic tribes. The camp was situated in the middle of today’s Innere Stadt. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5 th century the barbarian invasions reduced the town to ruins.
In the 8 th century Frankish king Charlemagne established an eastern outpost in the vicinity. In the 10 th century ithe town came under the German Babenberg dynasty. During their reign it became a major trading center and was first mentioned as a city in 1137. War with invading Hungarians saw the end of the Babenbergs. This was followed by 40 years of turbulent interregnum. The turmoil ended when Rudolf of Habsburg, the new Holy Roman Emperor, took over. He instilled his two sons as rulers of Austria and Styria in 1282.
The Habsburgs ruled the country for over 600 years, until 1918. The Habsburg dynasty extended over to Carinthia, Carniola, and Tirol. Vienna became a bishopric and the Habsburgs, archbishops. After a number of political marriages the dynasty became an empire and gained new territories such as Bohemia, Hungary, Holland, Spain and Burgundy. Soon the empire became so huge that it was impossible to be ruled by just one person. In 1521 it was split between Princes Ferdinand (who took Austria) and Prince Charles. Howerer, Vienna was under constant external threats during the 16 th and 17 th centuries, the most severe were the Turks who laid siege to the city in 1529. They were not successful but they remained very dangerous neighbors for the next 150 years, as they were in control of most of neighboring Hungary.
In 1679 a severe plague epidemic killed around 80,000 Viennese. The Turks were repelled in 1683, and Vienna grew once again. Under Karl VI many baroque buildings were constructed, including Karlskirche and the Belvedere palaces. During the period from 1740 to 1790 (the Golden Age) the empire was ruled by Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II. They completely reformed Austria, introducing obligatory elementary education for all, reorganized the army, founded Vienna General Hospital, and opened Prater and Augarten to the public. Schönbrunn castle was completed, and the city developed into the musical capital of Europe, where Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert worked and lived.
From 1805 to 1809 Napoleon occupied Austria. Franz I was forced to give up the German crown and the title of Holy Roman Emperor. After Napoleon’s defeat and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, order was restored by Franz I and his minister Prince Metternich, who imposed autocratic rule. Revolution folowed in 1848 and Metternich was driven out of power. He was replaced by Franz Joseph I, who demolished the inner city walls and the Ringstrasse was laid out. The second half of the 19 th century saw the influx of many talented men and women from all over the Empire. However, the ethnic mixture and crowded conditions brought about social tension.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
The turn of the century was a turbulent time in Vienna. The coffeehouses became hotbeds for opposing political and creative ideas. This was the time of Freud and the birth of psychoanalysis. New artistic styles such as Jugendstil, Secession and Expressionism were born and artists like Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, Moser and Mahler emerged.
The Habsburg Empire, however, was decaying and ended with the abdication of Karl I. After the World War I the German speaking remnants of the Empire were reformed into a republic. A new era began with the election of Social Democrats, who introduced social policies, such as the public housing scheme – the Karl-Marx-Hof (containing 1325 apartments) and the restructuring of the school system. The tensions between the socialist climate of the city and the increasingly conservative mood of the rest of the country culminated in a civil war in 1934. The army secured the conservative regime of Federal Government. In 1938 followed the union of Austria with Nazi Germany.
During World War II Vienna was severely bombed, most public buildings were damaged and many homes destroyed. After the war Vienna was split among the Western Allies and only regained independence in 1955. After 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Empire, Vienna recovered and became a gateway between the East and West.
In recent decades a lot of attention has been given to preserving the architectural heritage of the city. In 1972 the reconstruction of the Danube River took place – the threat of flooding was removed with a man-made island, the so-called Danube Island, which also now serves as a public recreation area. Today, Vienna is a forward-looking cultural, political and tourist center.
People usually greet by shaking hands. Formal greeting is "Grüß Gott" (literally: "May God greet you"). Informal greeting is "Servus" used both hello and good-bye. "Danke" means thanks, "Bitte" means please, or you are welcome.
Punctuality is highly valued. If you will be late for a social meeting, you should call your host to let them know. Be on time for both social and business meetings.
Austrians are generally very honest and tell it like it is – they tend to be direct but polite.
Vienna is among the safest cities in the world. There are no slums or dangerous districts.
Pickpockets, or rare money scams are the only dangers for a tourist today. At night there are some places, however, that are best avoided: Karlsplatz station and Schwedenplatz station. After dark it is wise to avoid parks, for example the Prater and Praterstern – mainly due to pickpockets. After dark also avoid the Südtirolerplatz and tram stations along Margareten and Wieder Gürtel and Mexikoplatz where there is supposed to be a black-market scene.
Women travelers should experience no problems, verbal and physical harassment is less common than in other countries.
Vienna is an all year round tourist center. There is always something happening. Weather-wise, January can be very cold, and July and August are hot. However, during these summer months many music festivals are held. Additionally, many Viennese go on holidays, so the city is calmer. The best weather and the most pleasant temperatures can be expected in June and September. But these periods can be very busy, so consider visiting during the less crowded spring and autumn months, for example: May, early June, and October till November, when the hotel prices are lower.