Overview

Electric Vienna Austria
Electric Vienna Austria © kainet

It's difficult to explore the sights and sounds of Vienna without thinking of an elegant Strauss waltz or a memorable Brahms lullaby. This beautiful Baroque capital of Austria was for centuries the centre of the Habsburg Empire, retaining its grand spirit in the form of magnificent palaces and grand mansions peppering the Innere Stadt.

The city's cultural heritage is mainly musical, with great composers such as Strauss, Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn and Mozart all having lived and performed here. Today, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the State Opera House help to keep alive the city's traditions by offering more classical music performances a year than any other city in the world.

While Vienna is a city of music, it's also synonymous with gourmet fare, cream cakes, superb coffee, the angelic strains of the Vienna Boys' Choir, and the proud prancing of the Lipizzaner stallions at the world-famous Spanish Riding School.

Starting out as a Celtic settlement on the banks of the Danube, Vienna became one of Rome's most important central European bases. Its favourable location on the strategic river contributed to the city becoming the stronghold of a mighty empire, reaching its peak during the tumultuous reign of the dazzling Habsburg dynasty.

At the end of the 19th century, the golden age of the Austrian Empire began to decline as Vienna's coffee houses filled with radical intellectuals such as Freud, Klimt and Mahler. The World War II Nazi occupation left scars, but Vienna survived to remain a captivating capital that blends Italian romanticism with Germanic orderliness.

Most of the city's tourist attractions are within the largely pedestrianised inner city area, which was once enclosed by the city walls. The walls have been replaced with the Ringstrasse, a wide ring road. Further out in the suburbs is the thrilling Prater amusement park with its massive Ferris wheel, and the opulent Schonbrunn summer palace. Visitors also should not miss a trip to the Vienna Woods, peppered with wine taverns called heurigen.

Vienna is truly a paradise for classical music aficionados, with unrivalled history, influence and majesty. But it's also a city of sophistication and class, a romantic outpost of old world grandeur shining through the heritage of imperial power.


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