Most people think of Paris as the city of love. I think of Vienna as the city of love. The city of music. And the city of dreams. This is the city where both of my parents lived during their youth. It is also the place they met and fell in love. If I ever moved to Europe it would be in Vienna, Austria.
As a classical musician and a fellow Austrian, Vienna holds a special place in my heart. There are too many beautiful places to see, so I can’t mention all of them. But I can go about this categorically. Here are some of my favorite things to do and see in Vienna.
There are quite a few palaces in Vienna. The two big ones are Schönbrunn and Hofburg. Respectively, these were the summer and winter residences of the Emperor and Empress of Austria. Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth were the last great monarchs of the Hapsburg dynasty (now that’s a history lesson for another day).
Schönbrunn Palace is my favorite one. It resembles a lot the Palace of Versailles in Paris. It has a beautiful courtyard and the most amazing gardens you have ever seen! Many famous classical musicians played for the royal family here, including Mozart and Strauss. Napoleon Bonaparte also lived here for a time.
Hofburg is right in the city center and it was the headquarters of the imperial royal family. It looks and feels like something out of the movie Gladiator. There is a lot of Roman and Greek-inspired architecture in this city. Currently, the president of Austria works and resides in this palace. In a section of the Hofburg Palace there is the Austrian National Library, which is just stunning! You feel like you have stepped back into time.
There are two major government buildings that I really like. Firstly, the Parliament building and then the Rathaus, which is their city hall.
The Parliament Building literally looks like something out of the movie Troy. It looks like the Parthenon, and has a huge statue of the goddess Athena in the front. Architecturally, this building is a marvel and a glorious ode to the past. So many statues, and so many details. So much gold and so much marble, especially indoors. It’s an interior design dream.
The Rathaus is the Vienna City Hall, where the mayor works. Now this building pulls on the influence of Gothic architecture. And apparently has about 3,000 rooms inside. This is a massive structure. Vienna can definitely make you feel so small around such massive and stately buildings. I remember one time when I was kid, I was here for the famous Christmas Market that happens right in front of this building. It’s absolutely magical.
The churches are jaw-dropping. I’ve seen quite a few. But two of them are my favorites so far. Karlskirche and Stephansdom. Karlskirche was built in the Baroque style in the 1700s and inside it looks like a treasure house. There’s something so solemn about the place. It’s covered with amazing art all over the ceilings, including the dove right at the top of the dome, representing the Holy Spirit. There are many marble pillars and gold covered statues. It’s a lot to take in, and you can’t take it all in with one visit. You have to go again.
Stephansdom is the other church I love, right in the center of the city. It’s very different than Karlskirche. Firstly, it is much older having broken ground in 1137, smack dab in medieval times, during the Middle Ages. Secondly, it’s very different in style. It’s a Gothic style church building. I love how they ring the church bells so regularly. Since it is such a large church, you can hear the bells echoing throughout the city. I almost feel like I’m transported to a different time. This kind of stuff makes me want to time travel.
There are so many countless of cultural buildings. I will just focus on two right now. One of my favorite places to visit was the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which translated means “Museum of Art History.” This building was commissioned by the emperor, to be built as a museum. But let me tell you, the actual building itself, is my favorite “art” to look at there. The building is like a palace, and the place is mind-boggling. The interiors are lavishly decorated with marble, statues, and mural paintings all over the ceilings. When I say there is marble in there—I mean it’s the stairs, the handrails, the walls, the pillars. All of it. My favorite art section to see is the Greek and Roman antiquities.
The other cultural building I really wanted to see was the Vienna State Opera house. Firstly, I love classical music, secondly, this Opera House was featured in Mission Impossible 5. The opera house was inaugurated with Emperor Franz Josef and his wife Empress Elisabeth present. When I took the tour, we got to sit in the spot that was reserved for them. Yet again, the entryway inside, is flanked by a marble staircase, and amazing statues and art. I love all the statues of the different Austrian composers. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra plays here often and is often considered the best orchestra in the world.
The city gardens put the gardens in North America to shame in a way. They are simply so grand compared to North America. The gardens are a great place to just sit outside, listen to the water and the birds, and enjoy the flowers. There are many of them. But I’ve got to say my favorite ones, are situated on the palace grounds. So of course, Schönbrunn Palace Gardens is one to mention. The garden here is really a huge park and it takes a long time to walk through it. I didn’t even have time to see everything. But I did get to see the Neptune Fountain, which is beautiful!
My personal favorite is Volksgarten, which literally means the people’s garden. It has endless roses, over 3,000 rose bushes. It also contains multiple fountains. There is an area dedicated to the late empress, the Empress Elisabeth Monument made of marble. There is also a mini-sized Parthenon-styled Greek temple located in the gardens.
Right next to it is Burggarten, which was the private gardens of the royal family at Hofburg Palace. It is famous for the Mozart Statue and in front of it, there is a bed of fresh flowers shaped in the musical sign of the treble clef. There is also a statue of Emperor Franz Josef in his older age. Definitely worth a visit!
All in all, there is so much more to Vienna than what I described here, which is amazing to even fathom. And of course, the food was brilliant! But that’s for another article. I had so much food, including some of my favorites: Wiener schnitzel, Hazelnuss torte, and of course their cappuccino specialty the Wiener melange. I hope this inspires you to visit Vienna one day. ||