There is an interesting mix of the old and the new in Vienna culture and entertainment. From artworks to music, theater to clubs, Vienna is one city in Europe that can provide you a special treat that is truly unique from other European locales.
Museums and galleries
You’ll see good reflections of Vienna culture through its museums and galleries. As Austrian writer Karl Kraus puts it, Vienna streets are “paved with culture”. Two of the most famous architectural gems of Vienna are the Naturhistorische Museum and the Kunsthistorische Museum found at the Ringstrasse. People who fancy 20th-century modern art may visit the KunstHausWien designed by the famous Austrian painter and sculptor Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
For theater enthusiasts, there is the Burgtheater. But it requires some basic German to understand what’s going on. For performances in English, there are the International Theater (primarily American) and the English Theatre in Josefstadt (plays are rehearsed in London). A good place for satirical cabaret shows is Ronacher.
The Vienna culture is largely marked by classical music. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the Musikverein, perhaps the best acoustics of all concert halls in Austria. Nearby there is the Konzerthaus, another famous concert hall. Most musical events are about classical music, but being Vienna the capital of the music, you can also find festivals of jazz, rock and other kinds.
At first glance, Vienna is an old-fashioned and stiff city, but its nightlife proves all the critics wrong. Vienna nightlife is vibrant, in the same way as the other party capitals in Europe. The Bermuda Triangle is one of the most popular nightlife spots; it is the area around Seitenstettengasse, Ruprechtsplatz, Salzgries, and Rabenstein. The bar and club scene makes Vienna entertainment one of the best in Europe.
Vienna is an art hub, so it is not surprising that it has many museums, art exhibits, and galleries. The downside is that it makes it hard for tourists to know where to begin. Continue reading if you are planning to visit the city and are interested in Vienna museums.
Albertina Graphic Arts Collection
It is perhaps the most important and largest graphic collection in the world, with around 60 thousand drawings and approximately one million graphic reproductions.
Haus der Musik
What is great about this music museum is that it allows for an interactive musical experience. You can even conduct and lead the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, well, virtually.
This museum is located in Vienna’s third district. It is a house and does not follow the usual museum norms and cliches. The Kunsthaus Wien offers a permanent Hundertwasser exhibition.
If you happen to be interested in the life and work of the genius Mozart, Mozarthaus is the museum of choice. Explore where he has lived for some creative and happy years composing “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Impresario” among many other masterpieces.
The Museum of Young Art is fast-becoming one of the most popular Vienna museums. Located near Burgtheater at Ring Boulevard, the city’s most magnificent road, it is a newly opened museum that showcases contemporary European art.
This museum is located in the city’s first district right on the Ring Boulevard. This well-known cultural institution highlights culture as an uncompromising search for legitimacy and authenticity.
This popular Cienna museum was designed by Karl von Hasenauer and Gottfried Semper and was built from 1872 to 1891. It ranks as having one of the world’s most important and richest art collections.
One of the best parts of your Vienna travel is the experience of seeing the breathtaking architecture that has been standing in the city for centuries. Vienna is rich with quality architecture from several different periods in history. Some of Vienna architecture that you should not miss include the following:
Belvedere Palace is well renowned for its baroque architecture, copper roofs and stunning collection of Klimt paintings.
Hofburg was erected over many centuries. The contrasts of the styles used and the attempts at modernization are enthralling.
Hundertwasser House is a stunning building that fuses the modern with the eccentric.
Karlskirche is one of the many examples of a building that borrowed Italian-style architecture and added a Viennese baroque style.
Liechtenstein Palace was built at the start of the 18th century. It marks the period when the architecture of Vienna was largely influenced by Italian architects. You will appreciate this building if you are seeking an architecture that mirrors the romantic feel of the bygone era.
Ringstrasse is a great area in Vienna to see a diverse mix of architectural designs, experience the Vienna underground and even do nightclubbing or some shopping.
Secession Building was erected by the city’s art community to denounce classical art and embrace the movement of English Arts and Crafts. You will find Gustav Klimt’s famous “Beethoven Frieze” in the building’s basement.
Schoenbrunn Palace is a picture-perfect rococo/baroque confection that features a wonderful architectural park.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a nice example of architecture following the Hallenkirche style popular in the 14th century Vienna. Marvel at the cathedral’s needle-shaped spire that pierces the city skyline.
Parks And Garden
Vienna parks and gardens give you unmatched opportunities for exercise, exploration, and enjoyment in the very heart of the Austrian capital. Here are some of the more popular parks and gardens in the city:
Wiener Prater Park
This world-famous park features a wide range of attractions for all fun-seekers. A public park since 1766, it houses Wusterprater, an exciting theme park. Perhaps its most popular attraction is the 61-meter Ferris wheel Riesenrad. Interestingly, admission is free.
Established in 1752, Schönbrunn is the world’s oldest zoo. Today, it is one of the very few zoos in the world that houses giant pandas. Its Amazon Rainforest House has an aquarium that allows you to witness a recreation of an Amazon flood. Schönbrunn is also a nice place to appreciate Baroque architecture, which was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I.
It is considered as one of the most charming Vienna parks and gardens. It offers a great variety of facilities such as a colossal chessboard, a skateboarding area, and a petting zoo. The 252-meter-high Danube Tower is its most popular landmark. The tower has two revolving restaurants that offer a unique outlook of the entire Vienna.
The Botanical garden is one of the greenest Vienna parks and gardens. It is home to more than 9,000 rare and tropical plant species. Botanical research open lectures are organized on weekends.
Vienna definitely knows how to enjoy life. The capital of Austria is home to some of the most colorful festivals!
Read on to know some of the most popular Vienna festivals from a traveler’s perspective:
Wiener Festwochen: This cultural festival happens from May to June every year. It offers contemporary and classical performances; theater, music, and dance by notable local and international artists.
Film festival on Rathausplatz: It is an open-air film festival, happening from July to August. There are also free screenings of concerts and previously recorded live opera performances. Satisfy your Viennese and international cuisine craving with the flooding of food stalls. www.wien.info.
Viennale: This two-week international film festival happens yearly every October. This star-studded festival screens a great selection of feature films (local and international), shorts, and documentaries. It offers over 320 screenings that attract 90,000 film buffs. www.viennale.at.
Christkindlmärkte: Christkindlmärkte (Christmas markets) brings the city to its most colorful life every middle of November through December 24. This vibrant Vienna festival features traditional cookies, hot punch, mulled wine, Christmas tree baubles, and many other souvenirs. The classic market located in the park facing the city hall features ornately decorated trees in the square. For the best shopping experience, the Spittelberg market located in the Seventh District is the place to be. If you want to watch concerts after shopping, visit the Schönbrunn Palace market.
Ball Season: November to June is Vienna’s ball season. Dozens of joyful balls take place throughout the city, which ranges from the affordable to the flamboyant. The most popular ball of all is the Vienna State Opera Ball, which attracts celebrities from different parts of the world. It is also understandably the most expensive and elaborate. Officially, the ball season jumpstarts with the festive Imperial Ball (www.kaiserball.at) on the last day of the year and ends on Ash Wednesday. However, balls happen from November to June.
Viennese cuisine is often considered as the same as Austrian cuisine. But while elements of traditional Viennese meals have spread throughout the country, other regions have developed their own variations. Viennese food is known for its delicious pastries, but it also renowned for other exceptional dishes.
Traditional Viennese dishes include Topfenstrudel (quark cheese-filled strudel), Apfelstrudel (apple-filled pastry), Wiener Schnitzel, Palatschinken (Viennese crêpes), Rindsuppe (beef soup), Sachertorte (chocolate cake), and Buchteln (butter and yeast bakery with apricot jam). Other popular Viennese food include Liptauer cheese, Beuschel (a ragout that contains veal lungs and heart), Selchfleisch (smoked meat) complete with dumplings and Sauerkraut, Gulasch (hotpot), and Tafelspitz (boiled beef, usually served with horseradish sauces and apple).
Modern Viennese cuisine: many chefs now combine traditional Viennese food with the nouvelle cuisine principles to create the so-called Neue Wiener Küche or New Viennese cuisine. Also, Indian, Middle Eastern, Jewish, and Turkish cuisine are becoming popular due to the increasing immigrant communities.
Street food: Vienna is one of the best-stocked capitals on the continent for food supplies. Naschmarkt is the best as well as the least expensive open-air market. It is only a short walk from Karlsplatz. It is full of stalls that sell loaves of bread, cheeses, fresh produce, meats, tea, flowers, and many more. Fast-food counters serve ready-made food, including grilled chicken, sandwiches, German and Austrian sausages, and even beer.
You will find on street corners throughout the city Würstelstand, one of its most popular snack hubs. Small stands sell soda and beer, plus bratwurst, currywurst, frankfurters, and other Vienna sausages, often served on a roll with mustard.
Vienna may not be as popular as Barcelona or Paris as a gastronomical spot in Europe, but restaurants in Vienna offer meals that you cannot afford to miss. For travelers with adventurous tastebuds, Vienna is a good place to know what modern cooking tastes like. Here are some of our highly recommended Vienna restaurants.
True to its name, the Dining Room is a real dining room situated right in a private home. It has only four tables and has a loose and informal atmosphere of a family dinner. It also has an adorable house dog, a golden retriever, and lots of overlapping conversations. In spite of the casual feel, the Dining Room food is accomplished and satisfying. It serves a different set of menus of international cuisine weekly.
Österreicher Im MAK
Run by star chef, Helmut Österreicher, the Museum of Applied Art (MAK) lists as one of the top Vienna restaurants because it pulls off some magic. The private dining room requires reservations. And on busy days, the open dining areas and larger front cafe are available for drop-in guests.
This restaurant is a cheese shop that sells 120 varieties of cheese from 13 countries and other Austrian regions.
Primarily a spice shop and cookbook for foodies, Babette’s also serves lunch. With main courses costing around €10, this restaurant is hardly a big-ticket meal, and its lunch-only feel perhaps will not impress your date. But it will certainly impress many food lovers, considering its food history, range of recipes, spices, and food-themed calendars.
Saint Charles Alimentary
For hard-core culinary buffs, nothing can compare with Saint Charles Alimentary. One of the best restaurants in Vienna, it is a place completely committed to the “local” and “seasonal” buzzwords. A lot of its ingredients are harvested directly from the country’s forests, with the rest bought from local growers. Gumpendorferstrasse 33; 43-676-586-1365; www.saint.info.
Dining out is one of Vienna citizens’ pastimes. So as soon as you get to the Austrian capital, you should try to have a Vienna dining experience. Besides traditional Viennese and French food, you will find top-class restaurants that serve Czech, Hungarian, Serbian, and Slovenian food, along with Italian, Russian, and Asian cuisine. The city’s popular Bermuda Triangle is a hub of bars and restaurants that is a short walk north of Stephansplatz, Rotenturmstrasse, Schwedenplatz, Marcus Aurelius Strasse, and Hohermarkt surround this restaurant district. While Viennese cuisine is traditionally hearty, creative and innovative chefs are now coming up with lighter and modern versions of the classic food.
People in Vienna love eating six times a day on average. Breakfast is usually served with bread with cheese, jam, or butter, along with coffee and milk. Viennese have gabelfrühstück (snack breakfast) around 10 am when they often relish some type of meat, such as little finger sausages. Midday lunch is usually a filling meal, while the afternoon jause consists of open-face sandwiches, coffee, and the delicious pastries that the locals bake so well. Dinners are also hearty, although many Viennese only prefer a light meal.
Because of its opera houses, concert halls, and theaters, many locals and travelers alike prefer to have their dining in Vienna after a wonderful performance. Après-théâtre is rage in this beautiful city, and many cafes and restaurants are open late to satisfy the cravings of cultural buffs. Unlike in other western European cities, a lot of Vienna restaurants are closed on Sunday (read the SONNTAG RUHETAG signs). There are also summer vacation closings when many cooks prefer to enjoy nearby lake resorts than prepare meals for hordes of Vienna tourists. So plan your travel well in advance. Sometimes Vienna restaurants announce holiday closings a week or two before closing down.
From the off, party animals should not expect much like the kind of party mecca that cities like New York, London, or Paris can offer. Flex still waves the flag for the club scene, but right now, scores of go-getting new clubs fight to steal the crown.
Vienna nightlife presents you with a lot of superb choices, so it is a good idea to do some careful planning if you want to get the most out of the city’s party scene.
You have several options to have a great night. You might want to go to the famous Bermuda Triangle in the central district of Vienna. Here, bars and restaurants are open late. We also suggest that you visit a wine bar or Heurigen for an evening of beautiful music and tasting of wine.
Many of the best bars in Vienna are found in the Innere Stadt. You can go medieval in the spacious kellers that serve wine and beer. The Augustiner Keller and Esterhazy Keller may not be the height of hip, however, they offer an eternal introduction into “Gemutlichkeit’s” cozy world. Their consistent popularity with people in Vienna keeps them from plunging into the tourist trap territory.
f you spend a summer in Vienna, we suggest you visit the Copa Cagrana. This riverside retreat offers you an antidote to the snootier set-up of central Vienna. Bars in beach styles serve fruit-laden cocktails to spirited young revelers.
Wander around the Naschmarkt, where some of the best bars in Vienna, if you are craving for something that is alluring but not necessarily disorderly. Just beyond the Ringstrasse, this strip is a fine spot to spend your time. You will find a cosmopolitan combo of bars, clubs, and restaurants.
Remember that Vienna is a very laid back city. Everybody seems cool and no one seems in a hurry. This is a vibe reflected in the club scene. Here are some of the most popular clubs in Vienna:
Many consider Babenberger Passage as the most elegant club venue in Vienna. Playlist ranges from house music to dance-floor classics to’80s and ’90s favorites. Location: First district, Burgring, corner with Babenbergerstrasse. Website: www.sunshine.at.
Birdland is a stylish and airy live music club. It was founded by the late keyboardist Joe Zawinul, an Austrian jazz legend. Location: Third district, Am Stadtpark 1. Tel. +43 1 219 63 93. Website: www.birdland.at.
Flex is widely known as one of the best clubs in Europe. It has an extraordinary sound system, with each night featuring different genres like indie and alternative music, and hip-hop, and drum and bass. Location: First district, Am Donaukanal, Schottenring stop of U2 and U4 underground lines. Tell. +43 1 533 75 25. Website: www.flex.at.
Gürtel is a huge clubbing area that stretches about 2 miles. It houses numerous hot spots, which are centered around Volksoper, Nussdorfer Strasse, and Josefstädter Strasse metro stations. Location: Gürtel Boulevard where the U6 line surfaces.
Rhiz is a place for all kinds of music that go beyond the conventional underground sound. It plays experimental, electronic, and alternative music. Location: Eighth district, Gürtelbogen 37-38. Tel. +43 1 409 25 05. Website: www.rhiz.org.
Volksgarten is a spacious but charming Vienna club that has a separate bar and dance area. Its potted palms make a beautiful indoor garden atmosphere. You will enjoy the bar in the garden and open-air dance floor in summer. Location: First district, Burgring. Tel. +43 1 532 42 41. Website: www.volksgarten.at.
Vienna is every culture buff’s dream. It only takes a walk down Mariahilfer Strasse, the city’s major shopping district, to understand why the Austrian capital is one of the centers of fancy shopping in Europe. The lovely window displays of boutiques and specialty shops make your shopping in Vienna a unique experience.
If you plan to browse through fashion sales, you must visit the historic center of Vienna. Small and compact, it is located exactly in the middle of Ringstrasse. There is no need to bring a car because you can walk the distances between major shopping venues.
For popular chains and renowned designer labels, visit the Graben and Rotenturmstrasse (U-Bahn: Stephansplatz), Kärntnerstrasse (U-Bahn: Karlsplatz), Kohlmarkt (U-Bahn: Herrengasse), Favoritenstrasse (U-Bahn: Süditrolerplatz), and Landstrasser Hauptstrasse (U-Bahn: Schlachthausgasse).
Art and antiques
If you are a fan of antiques found in the streets around the Stephanplatz U-Bahn station, you will take pleasure in browsing through all types of pictures and bureau clocks, some great pieces of Empire and Biedermeier furniture, and other excellent stuff. A Vienna shopping experience you will never forget.
Food markets and flea markets
People of Vienna have an old tradition of buying decorative goods and essentials directly at open-air markets. Rathaus (City Hall Square), Karlsplatz, and Brunnengasse are some locations that you cannot miss.
One of the pictures that come to mind with the mention of Vienna is mentioned is the delectable chocolate-topped Sachertorte. A trip to outstanding confectionery Vienna shops is a must even for people who do not consider themselves chocolate vultures.
We highly recommend the following sweets shops in Vienna: Xocolat (Palais Ferstel arcade), Grand Cacao (Schleifmühlgasse), Schokoladekönig (near St. Peter’s Church), and Sacher Confiserie (facing the State Opera House).