Even before it was the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s capital, this elegant city on the Danube was renowned as a European cultural hub. From the grand edifices and expansive gardens of Schönbrunn Palace to the sounds of a Mozart opera wafting through the doors of the Staatsoper, it’s hard not to fall for Vienna.
One of the world’s most magnificent libraries and the largest Baroque library in Europe, the Austrian National Library began its life in early 18th century at the behest of Emperor Charles (Karl) VI as the Court Library in the Hofburg Imperial Residence. Even without the archival and historical art exhibitions it hosts, the library would merit a visit for its frescoed domed ceiling, Venetian Baroque globes, and collection of more than 200,00 books, dating back to 1500.
Vienna’s coffee houses have long been known as centers of intellectual debate and artistic life, from as early as the 18th century. While Café Landtmann isn’t the oldest – that honor arguably goes to Café Frauenhuber – it has been a landmark since 1873, and has been frequented by a host of intellectuals from Freud to Mahler to Marlene Dietrich. Order a kaffe and a slice of Vienna’s famous sachertorte and admire the ornate, traditional style.
The massive apartments and sumptuous gardens of this magnificent city palace were, until 1918, the center of the Habsburg dynasty and the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Once the home of Empress Elisabeth – known as Empress Sissi – many of the gilded halls have been preserved and transformed into a variety of museums, including one about the empress herself. The oldest part of the palace houses the treasury, which displays the 10th-century Emperor’s Crown of the Holy Roman Empire.
One of Vienna’s newer museums, the Kunsthalle is the city’s contemporary art exhibition gallery. Part of the Museumsquartier – a collection of former Imperial stables transformed into museums, cultural centers, and event spaces – the gallery hosts both rotating exhibitions by both established and up-and-coming artists with an eye to contemporary international discourses, making it one of the city’s most compelling art destinations.
A pan flute said to have inspired the opera “The Magic Flute” sits among original scores, paintings, violins, and interactive exhibits on 18th-century life in this excellent, four-story museum devoted to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life and music. The Austrian composer lived with his family on the second floor of this elegant apartment building from 1784 to 1787, and it’s the only of his Vienna residences still in existence.
One of Europe’s largest outdoor markets, dating back to the 16th century, the Naschmarkt stretches a mile down one of Vienna’s largest boulevards, attracting locals and visitors alike to its bustling stalls selling produce, prepared traditional foods, baked goods, fresh fish and meats, spices, and more. On Saturdays, a popular flea market holds court at one end, offering colorful antiques and vintage finds.
Vienna may be a postcard-perfect historic city, but, as a center of arts, music and culture, it’s also a vibrant, cosmopolitan destination for creatives. Wander the streets of the Neubau District and discover a hip side to the city, full of independent designer’s boutiques, art galleries, vintage furniture stores, and trendy bars, cafés, and restaurants.
Upholding a rich tradition of classical music dating back to the reign of Leopold I, Vienna is home to one of the world’s most illustrious opera houses. A Renaissance-inspired structure adorned with exquisite architectural details and works of art, the Vienna State Opera’s grand stage bursts to life with over 50 different productions each year. And it’s just one of the city’s many renowned music venues, from the Musikverein to the Wiener Konzerthaus.
A former palace transformed into an elegant art museum, the Upper Belvedere houses the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. At its heart is the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection, including such highlights as “The Kiss” and “Judith.” The museum also features masterpieces by Schiele and Kokoschka, and impressive collection of Viennese Biedermeier paintings, and prominent works by the French Impressionists.
Venture off the beaten arts path and pay a visit to the recently opened campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. The school’s buildings were designed by such renowned architectural names as Zaha Hadid, Atelier Hitoshi Abe, London’s CRAB studio, and Madrid’s NO.MAD Arquitectos. For those who’d like to learn more about the buildings, the Architecture Center Vienna offers tours.
In world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei’s first solo show in Vienna, he has recreated an ancestral temple from the Ming Dynasty in the 21er Haus exhibition space.
Every holiday season, Europe’s most famous Christmas market transforms Vienna’s City Hall Square (or, Rathausplatz) into a winter wonderland of mulled wine, artisan gifts, and festivities.
Between Open Studio Day, Family Day, and roundtable discussions and exhibitions by leading artists, the annual Vienna Art Week turns the city into a giant canvas accessible to all.
A storied icon of European arts and culture, this black-tie ball celebrates Vienna’s world-renowned arts, with orchestra and ballet performances opening the event.
Join Viennese society in kicking off the year with one of its favorite annual traditions: a classical concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra at the famous Musikverein concert hall.
Vienna is one of the only metropolises in the world where grapes are cultivated for wine within the city borders. Heuriger wine taverns are Viennese institutions where locals and guests can enjoy live music and the owner’s homemade wine alongside traditional Viennese culinary specialties.
In addition to the unparalleled views over the Vienna State Opera and the iconic Ringstrasse, lined with musical institutions, the hotel's rooms are named after former directors of the Staatsoper.Learn More
While much of Viennese architecture hearkens back to the earlier Habsburg era, the Hotel Bristol reflects another notable period in the city's history as an Art Nouveau architectural icon with Art Deco interiors.Learn More
The storied hotel's guestbook has included the links of Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson, President Theodore Roosevelt, George Gershwin, Enrico Caruso, and Sergey Rachmaninoff, to name a few.Learn More
The hotel has been the site of many diplomatic events, including the 1879 meeting between Prince Bismarck and Count Andrássy of Hungary, and Mussolini's 1943 escape from an Italian prison.Learn More
In keeping with Vienna's historic salon tradition, the elegant 1873 HallenSalon Bar hosts regular live music performances to accompany its cocktails and light bites.Learn More
Designed to treat residents like royalty from the start, the Hotel Imperial was built in 1863 as a residence for the Prince of Württemberg.Learn More