13 Wonderful Things to See in Vienna
Schönbrunn Palace and Gloriette
One of the most beautiful sights to admire in Vienna is the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace and its glorious Gardens. You cannot separate the two, because the gardens are actually an organic extension of the 1,441-room summer residence that is the palace.
This wonderful Baroque ensemble represents Vienna’s most popular tourist attraction, with millions of visitors coming here every year. And for good reasons too: a simple stroll in these perfectly trimmed gardens will both amaze and relax you, while giving a glimpse into the time of Habsburg emperors.
Also part of the Schönbrunn Gardens is the imposing Gloriette, which was built in 1775 as a lookout point for the garden. Here Emperor Franz Joseph I liked to take his breakfast, and today ordinary people can enjoy a delicious cup of coffee in the café that used to be a dining and festival hall.
Located on the grounds of the aforementioned palace, the fascinating Schönbrunn Zoo (also known as Vienna Zoo or Tiergarten Schönbrunn) is a place of wonder and excitement. Opened in 1752, this is the oldest zoo in the world, with a stunning collection of wild and exotic animals.
Initially an imperial menagerie (a sort of predecessor to modern zoological gardens), the zoo still preserves much of its original baroque charm. Modern elements have been added to the complex, but visitors can still get a feel of what the 18th century menagerie was like.
The main purpose of the zoo is to help conserve endangered species, including the beautiful giant pandas. Actually, the first giant panda birth after natural insemination in Europe took place here, in 2007. At Schönbrunn visitors can also experience a simulation of Amazon rainforests, see Arctic animals in the polarium, and wonder at numerous incredible underwater beings in the giant aquarium.
Haus des Meeres – Aqua Terra Zoo
For huge fans of animals, the Schönbrunn Zoo might just not be enough. So if you want to see even more exotic being, Haus des Meeres (meaning “House of the Sea”) is a destination you cannot afford to miss. Managed by a non-profit organization called Aqua Terra Zoo, this place houses over 10,000 animals, most of which live under water.
It is a public aquarium and terrarium located in Esterhazy Park, Mariahilf district. The tropical seawater section is definitely the main center of interest here, with its sea turtles, sharks, beautiful fish and mesmerizing corals. Visitors can also see crabs, shells, sea urchins, snakes and starfish in the Mediterranean section.
The terrarium animals include lizards, constrictor and poisonous snakes, crocodiles and more. Relatively new are the crocodile park and the tropical house, the latter holding free monkeys and birds for a more realistic, into-the-wild experience.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
The most significant religious edifice in Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a stunning Romanesque and Gothic building and one of the Austrian capital’s most recognizable attraction. It boasts a soaring tower that is 448 feet tall, and a steep roof decorated with rich colored tiles that form beautiful ornate patterns.
There is a variety of artistic and historical treasures to discover inside the cathedral, some of which can only be visited if you choose to opt for a guided tour. You will definitely be impressed by the sepulcher of Emperor Frederick III, which took 46 years to sculpt in red marble (1467 to 1513), the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the Gothic winged altar, and the pulpit whose creator put a self-portrait on it instead of a regular signature.
Sisi Museum is a place of wonder, where visitors can catch a glimpse of Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s unique personality, as well as the different facets of her complex personality. Famous portraits of Sisi as well as many of her personal objects will make you linger and set your imagination free, allowing it to transport you to ages past.
The museum takes you through all the important stages of Elizabeth’s life, starting with the time when she was just a little girl in Bavaria and ending with her tragic assassination in 1898. The Empress’ life was much like a soap opera. She was a free spirit, not embracing court etiquette, permanently striving to keep a slim and beautiful figure, and doing things her own way.
Sadly, she had to bury both her children, which took much of her light away. Then at age 60 she too met her end by the hand of a young anarchist in Geneva. Her life story can be discovered in many fascinating details at the Sisi Museum.
The Belvedere Palace was erected as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy. It is actually a complex of Baroque buildings, and like all royal constructions, it is a stunner. It boasts breathtaking views of Vienna, hence the name Belvedere, which means “beautiful view”. The palace and its gardens are actually remarkable sights themselves.
The complex was built in four stages, starting with the purchase of the land in 1697 and ending with the last completed stage in 1721. The Lower Belvedere castle was finished four years before the construction of the Upper Belvedere began in 1720. The upper castle is more lavish and imposing, both in style and in size. Also remarkable is the garden between the two castles, which keeps much of its original design today.
Vienna State Opera
Its story began in the mid-19th century, and it still continues today, gathering opera enthusiasts from all over the world, every day. The Vienna State Opera is one of the most important opera destinations in the world, boasting world-class productions in a stunning environment. A vast repertoire of operas and ballets awaits connoisseurs and amateurs alike.
Construction of the building began in 1861 and eight years later it was completed in an imposing Neo-Renaissance style. The public response, however, was not very enthusiastic, as the building failed to be as grand as people had expected. Also, the street in front of the opera was raised by three feet, which made people call it “the sunken chest” and consider it a failure of architecture.
Sadly, the criticism overwhelmed Eduard van der Null, one of the two architects that had created the plans for the building, and he committed suicide in 1968, before the construction was finished. Some say that the Emperor was so affected by the news, that from then on he called every new artistic endeavor “very beautiful”.
Officially called Wurstelprater, but usually called simply Prater, this specific destination in Vienna is exciting for both children and adults. It is a busy amusement park that is part of a larger public park called the Wiener Prater. The amusement park is in season from March 15 to October 31, during which time it is open to the public every day from 10:00 am to 1:00 am.
There are numerous interesting, scary or quirky attractions in the Prater, some of which include ghost trains, roller coasters, bumper cars, shooting galleries, carousels and many more. Souvenir shops will help you take more than just memories away with you.
Even when not in season, the park welcomes visitors with restaurants and food stands that are open throughout the year. The advent season always brings a lovely Wintermarkt (Christmas Market) here, with traditional gifts, seasonal beverages and foods, unique decorations and a very merry spirit.
Vienna City Hall – Rathaus
The Vienna Rathaus or City Hall is a beautiful Gothic building that is the seat of the mayor and city council. Out of all the impressive buildings that were constructed in Austria’s capital at the end of the 19th century, this was the most expensive. Its 328 foot (100 m) tall tower is topped by an 11.5 foot statue known as the Rathausmann, which is one of the city’s main symbols.
Rathausplatz is the name of the square in front of the City Hall. A number of annual events are held in this square, including the Music and Film Festival in summer, the Wiener Festwochen in springtime, and most importantly the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market) in winter. The latter brings thousands of presents and decorations to the square, all waiting for visitors to admire and buy.
This is not exactly a common city attraction, because tourists don’t usually go to a capital city to visit its apartment buildings. However, this building is so unique, that not stopping to take a picture when you pass by it is virtually impossible.
Called Hundertwasserhaus, the apartment building was born from the collaboration of architect Joseph Krawina and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The latter came up with the concept, hence the name of the building. Hundertwasser began his artistic career as a painter, but later started to develop an interest in architecture, exploring a new, less conventional and boring side of it.
When in 1977 the artist was invited to actually bring to life his unique vision of architecture, he knew he needed the help of a professional, and so architect Joseph Krawina was invited to transform his artistic concept into a feasible architectural project. Today it is a part of Vienna’s cultural heritage, attracting numerous curious tourists every day, and it has been doing so ever since its completion in 1985.
For a truly memorable experience in Vienna you should put the Donauturm (or Danube Tower) on your list of things to see. At 827 feet (252 m) tall, the structure is one of the tallest towers in the world (among the top 75) and the tallest building in Austria. It is situated near the north bank of the Danube River and it boasts breathtaking views of the surroundings.
Its construction began in 1962 and lasted for about 18 months, after which it became an important part of the beautiful Viennese skyline. Two high-speed elevators can take up to 14 people each from the bottom of the tower to its viewing platform in only 35 seconds. That doesn’t even compare to how long it would take visitors to climb the 779 stairs on foot.
And for the experience to be complete, you should also have a drink and maybe even a nice dinner in one of the two revolving restaurants (actually, one is a café). Yes, they do spin, boasting slowly changing panoramas, and completing one full revolution in 26 to 52 minutes. A dinner reservation for two? Yes, please!
Parndorf is the place where shopaholics can go and enjoy a guilt-free shopping spree. Already got your attention, haven’t we? It is a designer outlet town with too many brands to remember and sales that can secure you luxury buys at up to 70% off.
Iconic fashion brands and high-street names offer clothes, shoes, accessories, home décor objects, perfumes and more at much lower prices than you would expect. It’s true that they are last season’s items, but when you are looking for a really good price-quality balance, this issue takes second place.
Zanoni & Zanoni
Because the hot season is here, we thought we should add this great place to the list: the lovely Zanoni & Zanoni Italian ice-cream parlor. If you are looking for the finest gelato in the city, this is where you should begin and end your search.
A dizzying number of gelato flavors will make you stand there for minutes, trying to decide what to taste and what to leave behind. It’s always a tough challenge. This is also an excellent place to start your mornings right, with a delicious cup of coffee and a yummy breakfast. Also on the menu there are various snacks and drinks that make this place a haven of happiness and smiles. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it actually is great.