Vienna, along with other major cities including London, Paris and Florence all embody a reputation of preserving a rich Western culture and way of thinking that has had such a tremendous effect on modern society. Whether it is through the ground-breaking music of Mozart, the great academic contributions of Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Hayek, or the amazing artistic works crafted by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, the contribution of Viennese society to the world in many relevant fields remains undeniable. As a traveller that prioritises visiting culturally rich cities, the urge to explore Vienna intensified over some time so I finally initiated a trip with the travelling crew, comprising of MRG and Valentino, to satisfy my wanderlust.
The city fully met my expectations of being a centre of total cultural immersion. It was the impeccable palatial architecture, the plethora of art museums, the legacy of classical music, the atmospheric coffeehouses and the authentic cuisine that won me over. The city is littered with cultural experiences and infected with a slowing of time - I simply couldn't have asked for more.
Below is a detailed guide for Vienna divided into two main parts - Art & Culture and Eating & Drinking. Here, you learn about what I did, ate and saw so you can figure out what made Vienna such an amazing city to visit.
ART & CULTURE
- The Belvedere Palace is an absolute must for first-timers. This palace houses the largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt - one of the most influential artists in Austrian history. You can view iconic paintings such as The Kiss and enjoy a leisurely stroll in the well-presented garden afterwards.
- The Leopold Museum is another museum worth visiting if you want to get acquainted with Austria's fascinating art history. The museum is conveniently located in the MuseumsQuartier and contains the largest collection of modern Austrian art with a floor entirely dedicated to the famous Egon Schiele (definitely the highlight of the experience). You can also decompress in the Leopold cafe after finishing up with the exhibitions.
- The Albertina Museum is right in the centre of town in close proximity to the opera house. To my surprise, it curated the best art exhibition that I have ever paid to see - a Monet to Picasso exhibition. There was also a Chagall to Malevich exhibition, which I had the pleasure of visiting on a different day. Read up on their on-going exhibitions closer to the time of your visit - I can guarantee a memorable experience!
- The Kunsthistoriches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) is another large art museum that's quite close to the Leopold museum. If old master paintings and antique pieces are your thing, this place will definitely hit the spot.
COOL STUFF TO SEE AND EXPERIENCE
- A tour of the Inner Stadt is an experience I would strongly recommend in order to really understand the history of the city and to view most of the city's main monuments in one go including the Rathaus (city hall), St Stephen's Cathedral and the Hofburg Imperial Palace.
- The Austrian National Library was surprisingly very impressive. I don't think I have ever laid my eyes on a more beautiful library. Go there for the aesthetics at least.
- Kärntner Straße is a famous shopping street in Vienna with roads off it leading to high-end boutiques and iconic coffee houses.
- The Schönbrunn Palace, also known as the Imperial Palace is a massive Baroque palace central to Viennese history. The gardens are vast and impeccable and apparently, a viewing of the interior will impress any seasoned traveller (unfortunately I didn't have time to go inside).
- We were able to see Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Vienna State Opera one evening - a memorable experience indeed. Before heading to the performance, you can enjoy a round of pre-theatre drinks by the neighbouring Albertina museum where you can view the exquisite architecture of the Neo-Renaissance opera house. I would strongly recommend taking some time out to appreciate some classical music when you visit Vienna. It doesn't even have to involve going to the opera house as there is bound to be a large offering of casual recitals in such a culturally rich city. However, if you're keen on going to the opera house, don't forget to pack a dinner jacket or an evening dress as attending the opera in Vienna is more of a formal affair.
- Neufelder See is a pristine lake that is about a 45 minute drive from Central Vienna. Luckily, Valentino's family had a little lake-house there so we were able to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours (not that Vienna is that noisy) to enjoy some peace and quiet by the lake with a simple home-cooked meal.
EATING & DRINKING
- Heuriger Werner Welser is a bit off the beaten track but worth your buck! I would say this place had the "realest" feel of my dining experiences because I felt as though I was surrounded by ordinary Austrians trying to relax and have a good time. The food is traditional but casual and the outdoor seating area has a beer garden vibe with vines everywhere and entertaining live music.
- Woracziczky Gasthaus is known for combining the flavours from high quality local cuisine with modern aesthetic elements. The interior is fantastically minimalist (and oddly Scandinavian) but the back-to-basics vibe is still maintained with the honest flavours, the friendly service and the little details such as the hand-written menu (also offered in English).
- Reinthaler Gasthaus is a known traditional lunch spot in the city. The meal I had here couldn't have been any more Austrian: Wiener schnitzel with Krautsalad and a chilled Radler.
- At Plachutta, you can try what it is arguably the best boiled beef in the city. The meal was very filling with a pot of boiled beef also containing some bone marrow and a flavourful broth - probably not the ideal meal for a hot summer day but enjoyable nevertheless!
- Oberlaa is a known patisserie that you can check out for their indulgent treats featuring macaroons, delicate pastries and over-the-top iced coffees.
COFFEE HOUSES (part of the essential Viennese cultural experience)
- Cafe Sacher is definitely the most refined coffee house on this list with its poshly decorated room staffed with smartly dressed waiters. Don't forget to try out their iconic chocolate cake!
- Cafe Sperl is more of a casual, typical coffee house featuring classic interiors and delicious pastries - perfect for a quick bite to start off the day.
- Cafe Dommayer is a bit further out than the rest but ideal for a slow-paced breakfast in a quiet area.
- Cafe Hawelka has an aged and grimy feel but these qualities give it an aura of authenticity.
BARS AND CHILL SPOTS
- We headed to Bar Tabacchi after eating at Woracziczky Gasthaus. The bar is dimly lit and intimate with a knowledgeable bartender at your service.
- You can head to the 25 Hours Bar to enjoy night-time views of the city with good cocktails, good music and a younger crowd.
- The Blaue Bar located in Hotel Sacher is admittedly on the higher, and more mature, end of things but it provides an atmosphere to be enjoyed by old souls and for those in search of a tamer end to the night.
- Palmenhaus functions as the perfect spot for afternoon breaks in between some heavy-duty touring as you can enjoy cool drinks in the expansive alfresco area with scenic views of a small frontal park.
*All photographs taken by me*