Vienna : Travel Guide
No trip to Europe would ever be compete without a stop off in Austria and its capital Vienna.
A city that wears its history on its sleeve and has been the home to some of the world's greatest, most renown minds and talent in the modern era.
And we're not talking Schwarzenegger, although to some he may be the greatest thing since sliced Wiener Schnitzel.
To understand Vienna and its position in Austrian history, one needs to take a quick trip back in time to the Hapsburg dynasty.
The Hapsburgs came to power in the 13th century and made Vienna their stomping ground.
They ruled for several centuries, finally giving up the their roost to Russian tanks during the big war of 1914.
In more prosperous times the Hapsburgs thought nothing more of spending their country's money on expanding their territory and surrounding themselves with beauty and culture.
This meant commissioning great palaces and buildings as well as courting the most popular musicians of the time, such as Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert and Strauss.
This heritage and history can be seen in today's Vienna which proudly shows off arguably the best examples of Gothic and Baroque architecture in Europe. You can also visit some of Europe's more impressive museums and even take a look inside the mind of Mr. Viennese himself, Sigmund Freud. Now, if I get this right, the church's steeple represents the male......"
When to go
Austria has two distinct seasons: the summer and the winter. Both are great depending on what you like doing. Surrounded by magnificent Alps, winter (Dec-Mar), is the ideal time to catch some snow, while summer (May-Aug), is ideal for touring the lowlands and cities. Perhaps the best time to visit though, and especially if you are just going to Vienna, is late in the year around Nov-Dec. At this time the winter season is arriving and most people, including tourists, head to the mountains. This leaves Vienna pretty much untouched and also has makes finding accommodation that much easier.
What to see
Vienna is abound with absolutely great architecture, and all is conveniently entrapped for your pleasure by the Ringstrasse. A demarcation zone of buildings and boulevards that essentially circle the inner city (Innere Stadt).
St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen's Cathedral is often seen as Austria's greatest example of Gothic architecture. Made ever more impressive with its 370 foot steeple. Apart from its significance as a work of art, it also houses an intriguing catacomb where you can find the bones of numerous people who fell to the Black Death in the middle ages.
The Hofburg (Imperial Palace) is where the former Hapsburgs governed over their land. More than just a palace, the Hofburg features an Augustinian Church, some rather ritzy apartments for the imperial family, a right royal Chapel, a Treasury and the National Library, just to name a few.
The Treasury actually is quite fascinating because not only does it contain pieces of obvious wealth, but it also is the home to some priceless relics. More specifically, the nails from Christ's Crucifixion and one of the thorns from Christ's crown. How these relics made their way into the ownership of the Hapsburgs is a bit of a mystery though.
After a visit to the Hofburg you will be ready to see some of the other great museums of the Innere Stadt. The Museum of Fine Arts is a good place to go to see some great painting collections, particularly if you are a fan of Rubens or Brueghel. In fact the museum itself is close to a work of art and is just as interesting to see as are the paintings that hang from its walls.
For something different, make the trip to the Sigmund Freud Museum. Here you will see the apartment where our man Sigmund grew up as well as furniture, writings and other memorabilia.
The Belvedere and Schönbrunn Palaces
Outside the Ringstrasse are two beautifully crafted Baroque Palaces: the Belvedere and the Schönbrunn. The Belvedere Palace is now home to the Austrian Gallery, while the Schönbrunn Palace has been home to some famous historical figures, namely Maria Theresa and the short one himself, Napoleon.
Viennese, as with most Austrians, enjoy their beer. The best place to see this in action is around the Ruprechtsplatz, Seitenstettengasse, Rabensteig and Salzgries. These can all be found close to the Danube in the central zone.
What it costs
Vienna can be as cheap or as expensive as you like. For budget travelers, you should be able to get by on $30 a day. If you feel the need to eat well, sleep well and party late, then triple that to about $90 a day. As a guideline, work on the following costs:
- Cheap meal: US$5-8
- Restaurant meal: US$12-18
- Hostel: US$15-25
- Cheap Hotel: US$60-80 (double)
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