Vienna Stories and Tips

Overview and Highlights

A fiaker passes the Hofburg Photo, Vienna, Austria

Full of gilded Hapsburg palaces and regal parks on the banks of the Danube, Vienna is a wonderful city. Tradition and innovation walk hand in hand. This is a city not to be rushed. Few places in the world glide so effortlessly between the present and the past as here. You can easily recognise its splendid historical side - grand imperial palaces, magnificient squqres, baroque interiors and then the Hofburg where the Hapsburg rulers lived and ruled.

Vienna is one of the great capital cities of Europe and was for centuries the main stamping ground of hte Hapsburg rulers of the Austro Hungarian Empire.

From the late 18th century onwards, the culture, particularly music, was famous throughout Europe. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss and Mahler all lived in the city, composing wonderful music which is still played in concert halls all over the world.

At the end of the 19th century, the city's artists and architects such as Klimt and Loos brought about an artistic revolution. Look out for the glinting Space Needle like object that hovers over the North end of Vienna - this is the city's waste incinerator designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Huddled up against the Slovak, Czech Republic and Hungarian borders in Austria's east, Vienna is home to almost 2.5% of the country's 8.3 million population. The Danube, not quite as blue as Strauss would have you believe, washes through the city on its way to the Black Sea.

Vienna's history has largely been dictated by its geography, right at the very heart of Europe. A hotbed for espionage when the countries to its east were Communist, Vienna was also heavily bombed during World War II. And the reason coffee is so popular here - it was brought to the city by the Turks when they were trying to invade in 1529 and 1683.

This is a city that loves music and food and is a great place to bring children. They will have a ball enjoying traditional sweets and hot chocolate. At every turn, you will hear waltzes and impromptu violin concerts on street corners, this, along with magificient museums and palaces, atmospheric coffeehouses with an old fashioned feel and a UNESCO World Heritage listed historic centre makes it a great place for a break.

Our highlights in Vienna were:

* strolling around, drinking in the marvellous architecture and especially enjoying all the street performers. By the cathedral they are especially diverse - our son would have stayed watching the different acts for hours.

* the coffee houses - so lovely and elegant - a perfect place to relax and enjoy a drink, before recommencing the tourist trail.

* a fiaker ride through the streets of the city - you could almost imagine what it must have been like to be a member of the Habsburg family.

* the Lippizaner stallions - we went to their morning training session and watched them practise in the stunning surroundings of the Hofburg. This was a real highlight, particularly since we were not in Vienna during one of their performances.

* Hundertwasserhaus - crazy, zany, fun and definitely worth going to have a look at this creation of Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

* The Prater Park and the funfair - a bit tacky but fun nonetheless with thrills and spills a plenty.

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