Vienna, Austria's largest city, is also regularly voted the world's most livable city. When you visit you'll see why. Arranged along the banks of the Danube River, it wins points for its mild social and economic climate, its educational system and public transit, and its cultural offerings, including its fine restaurants, vibrant music and theater, historic architecture and expansive parks. On a lazy afternoon, you can enjoy a locally brewed beer or coffee, admire centuries-old buildings, take in a free-form street performance, then go to a ball and dance a waltz or go to a disco and dance...well, whatever you want. That's urban living, Vienna-style.
With its cobblestone-lined streets, quaint houses and majestic buildings, the city itself is a charming attraction and one of the best things to do in Vienna is a simple stroll around. Another way to grasp the soul of the city is a visit to the Hofburg Palace and its court complex of centuries-old buildings, which draw a varied bunch of visitors, from students to artists to couples to backpackers. Many consider the royal court the historic heart of Vienna, since it gave rise to much of the city's sophisticated culture. Relive the lives of the Hapsburgs on a tour of the Hofburg Kaiserappartements or marvel at the collections displayed in the Sisi Museum (which holds personal items of the eccentric Empress Elisabeth) and the Schatzkammer (the treasury of the Hapsburg dynasty). Around the court and within the inner city are old houses turned to shops, historical landmarks and squares and St. Stephen's Cathedral, with its Gothic style.
A quick way to take in many sightseeing stops in one day is on a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour, which will hit all the highlights, including Schonbrunn Palace, the Ringstrasse, the State Opera House, the MuseumsQuartier cultural district and much more. For a less hectic view of Vienna, relax on a boat excursion along the Danube.
Shopping and Dining
Vienna's shopping districts beam with culture, trendy fashion and high-end sophistication but there are also flea-market finds galore. The Naschmarkt is the city's most popular market, a long open-air space with everything from fruit juices to pickles to handwoven baskets to couture gowns. More shops, cafes and restaurants are clustered along the Mariahilferstrasse shopping boulevard. If buying stimulates your appetite, relax and enjoy a torte and a cup of coffee or a quick lunch in a traditional kaffeehauser with the locals.
After dark, Vienna is a varied city. Many still dress up to eat a formal dinner and dance waltzes. Many others dress down and head out to enjoy the nightclubs, pubs, wine bars, beer gardens and live-music venues in the downtown Innere Staadt (Inner City). If classical music and theater are your idea of a entertainment, try to land tickets to the Volksoper Wien, which puts on a wide-ranging program of opera, symphony concerts, Broadway shows and more.