The major Vienna Attractions are located in and around the “Heart of Vienna”, in what is known as Vienna’s Central or, First District. This is also the city’s major tourist draw. One can spend several days walking and exploring this area.
The District is delineated by what today is known as the Ringstrasse, which actually are a several streets forming a semi-circle around this old part of Vienna. The west bank of the Danube River completes the circle. Ringstrasse replaced the wall, remnants of which can still be seen today, that encircled the original city and protected it from invaders such as the Ottomans. Within this district you’ll find the architecture and spirit that attracted the greats of the past and today – visitors from around the world.
Within The Ringstrasse…
you’ll find the well known Vienna Attractions such as the Hofburg Palace, with its 700 year history, the Vienna State Opera House, St. Stephens Cathedral, magnificent court yards, city park, memorials, etc. Here you’ll even find a touch of Americana - just a touch though.
Take a Carriage Ride
The best way to see the attractions is either by foot or horse drawn carriages (Fieker), which are plentiful in this part of the Vienna. Taking a tour by carriage may be a good way to get an overview of the historic Central District before you explore specific places – by foot. Ah, yes don’t worry about the horse droppings, the Viennese have a clever way of taking care of that.
On the other side of Ringstrasse, is the imposing Rathaus with its Gothic style and cathedral like tower. It was built between 1872 and 1883, and today is Vienna’s City Hall and serves as the seat for the Mayor, the city council and approximately 2,000 workers.
The Wonderful Museums
Nearby and also across the street from the Hofburg Palace are the Museums of Natural History (Naturhistorisches Museum) and the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunsthistorishes Museum). Built between 1872 and 1891, the Museum of Fine Arts was originally built to house the vast collection of the Imperial Family. Today it holds the former art collections of the Habsburgs’ Medieval Art, along with important ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities. It is unequivocally, one of the preeminent museums in the world. The picture gallery holds works from Michelangelo, Velazquez, Durer, Raphael, Titian and probably the most comprehensive collection of Peter Brueghel to be found anywhere.
With its earliest collections of artifacts begun over 250 year ago the Museum of Natural History is said to be one of the most important museums in the world. The collection includes the 25,000 year-old figure of “Venus von Willendorf”, one of Austria’s most significant archeological finds, discovered in 1908 during the excavation of palaeolithic remains of a settlement at Willendorf in the Wachau region. On display is also the skeleton of a Diplodocus, the longest terrestrial vertebrate that has ever lived, a giant topaz weighing 117 kg (4,127.1 oz.) and the valuable bouquet of jewels which Maria Theresia had made as a present for her husband. Over 20 million objects are said to be scientifically maintained and cataloged at the museum.
Even a Starbucks!
When you get tired of touring the palaces and museums, or perhaps may be getting a bit home sick, here you’ll even find Starbucks and McDonald’s. No, they don’t ruin the setting, and in fact blend in quite nicely. A better choice may be to explore the local fare and cafes for which Vienna is well known.
Now, This Is Ice Cream!
If ice cream is on your mind, a shop at Sweden Platz, has some of the smoothest and best ice cream you’ve ever tasted.
Best Way to Tour? Walk or Carriage
Walking around old Vienna, which by the way is very safe, and enjoying some of the architectural marvels and other Vienna Attractions, can certainly give you a feeling that you’re stepping back a few centuries in time. It may also have you realize where so many of the greats of the past go their inspiration from. I think that you’ll find that walking around centuries old buildings and taking in the history is half the fun of being there.
Learn more about Vienna at Things to do in Vienna.
Burgenland is a place of contrast with the rest of Austria. It is known for its wine, the composer Joseph Haydn, and, yes, storks. Lying east and south of Vienna and bordering Hungary, Burgenland lies at the edge of the relatively hot and dry Pannonian plain, an ancient sea bed.
Its prominent feature is the Neusiedlersee, today a major water recreational area for Austrians and especially the Viennese. One can rent boats, go wind surfing, bird watching in this wildlife sactuary, and just enjoy the setting by sitting on an outdoor patio, having a glass of wine and soaking up the scenery.
Although a relatively large lake, some 200 square miles, the Neusiedlersee is very shallow, measuring only 5 feet at its deepest point. Nonetheless it basically controls the micro-climate in the area and contributes to it’s major product – wine, which is proudly served at the local Heuringens (wine bars) and restaurants.
By the way, don’t mistake the Heuringens as just being wine bars, along with the wine, the establishment may serve cold cuts, pastries and frequently, most also serve great home cooked local fare.
Burgenland is also the birthplace and home of Joseph Haydn. The area definitely has music in its blood, with major summer festivals in the town of Mörbish and in St. Margarethen, at an an old Roman Quarry, where you can witness performances such as the passion play, whose cast is all local.
Then there is the “Haydnmatineen”, a series of concerts of Haydn music held in Schloss Esterhazy in Eisentstadt, the capital of Burgenland. Schloss Esterhazy was at one time the residence of the aristocratic family that ruled Hungary during the Habsburg dynasty. Nearby and further up the street, is the church dedicated to Haydn and where his body is entombed.
The nearby town of Rust is quite unique in that every spring, dozens of pairs of storks come to roost on the town’s chimney tops to rear the next generation of “baby bringing” storks.
Another unique feature of Rust and a number of other Burgenland villages is that they were built in the so-called “Anger style” with one house attached to another, so that the entire village would form a court around its main street. In the early days both ends of the street were gated so as to keep out the Turkish raiders.
After some walking around and gawking at the stork comings and going, rest your feet at one of the numerous Heuringens and taste some of the local fare and main product – wine.
P.S. Burgenland′s National Park Neusiedler See is also a birdwatcher′s paradise: it hosts approximately 320 species of birds over the course of a year. There’s quite a lot to see and experience in the small package of Burgenland.