Vienna, Austria: 10 Must-See Attractions…

Ask the locals. They’ll tell you so. And one look around this European jewel, you’ll understand why too Vienna is known the world over for its quality of life. In fact, in 2008, Mercer ranked the Austrian capital #2 in that category (second only to Zurich, Switzerland).

During your visit, it might be difficult to decide what to see first and what to experience next. To help, here’s a list of 10 to get you started. Each should also branch out to other possibilities. Vienna is full of them!

  • Schonbrunn Palace: Designed by the von Erlachs, the Baroque palace and its 1,441 rooms was a summer home for the Habsburgs. See the Gloriette in the Imperial Gardens, the stunning State Apartments, and Palace Theater and Carriage Museum on the grounds.
  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom): Dating back to the 12th century, this basilica is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe. See the South Tower, standing 445 feet tall; the pulpit of St. Stephen’s; and the carved Wiener Neustadt altarpiece (c. 1447). [Trivia: Mozart was married here in 1782 and had his funeral in December 1791.]
  • Schatzkammer: The Imperial Treasury, protecting a thousand years of treasures, including Charlemagne’s saber, the Holy Lance, and the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire and Habsburg Empire. The collection is highlighted by the imperial crown (c. 962).
  • Museum of Military History: The city’s oldest state museum, the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum is located in the center of the Arsenal and was built with plans by Ludwig Foerster and Theophil Hansen. It features five main sections delineating the military history of the Habsburg Empire.
  • Burgtheater: The Austrian National Theater known by the locals as “die Burg.” The theater itself dates back to 1741, was moved in 1888, and after World War I, was restored in the mid-1950s. Today, it stands as the dream stage for German theater.
  • Spanish Riding School: Home to the magnificent Lipizzans. Located in the Vienna Imperial Palace, the school is the oldest institution in the world devoted to classic dressage. Guided tours are offered year-round, alternating between the Winter and Summer riding schools, and the Renaissance-designed Stalburg (stables).
  • Riesenrad: The second-largest Ferris wheel in the world (behind London’s “Eye”) and one of 250 attractions at Vienna’s Prater Amusement Park, located in the 2nd district of the capital. The Riesenrad was built in 1897 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Franz Josef I.
  • Volksgarten: Known as “The People’s Garden,” the Volksgarten is perfect for a stroll. Built in 1820, it was designed to resemble Paris’ Luxembourg garden.
  • Hundertwasser House Vienna: An apartment house in Vienna designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. An example of the “modern” Vienna, built between 1983-1986.
  • And Music: Vienna brought the world the waltz, as well as some of its most famed operas. Think Mozart, Beethoven, and Mahler. During the summer, experience Strauss and Mozart in the park. Try and attend a performance at the State Opera. Book in advance to hear the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

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