Published August 18, 2012
Vienna, Austria, was once the crown jewel of the Austrian Empire and the first imperial seat of the Holy Roman Empire. Vienna is Austria's capital and largest city, and is famous for its role as a historical center for music and politics. Here are five must-see attractions in the city of music:
Historic Center of Vienna
According to UNESCO, Vienna's historic center depicts three culturally and politically significant eras: the Middle Ages, the Baroque period and the Gründerzeit.
This core of the city is home to Austria's oldest monastery, Schottenkloster, which was built in 1155. The church of Maria am Gestade is one of the main Gothic structures.
St. Stephen's Cathedral, called Stephansdom in German, is a symbol of Austrian identity that rose from the ashes following its near demolition during World War II. The Romanesque Giant Gate (Riesentor) and Towers of the Heathens (Heidentürme) date back to the 13th century. A Gothic structure was built in the early 14th century after a fire ruined the basilica in 1258.
The Ringstrasse is home to theaters, museums and large private buildings characterized as the Gründerzeit, a term that refers to the late 19th century period of industrial and cultural expansion.
Visiting Schönbrunn Palace, a baroque complex that previously served as the imperial family's summer residence, can take up an entire day. The original palace was destroyed during a Turkish attack in 1683, and then rebuilt in 1695. What you see today has been restored to look as it did in 1918.
The seamless extension of the gardens into the palace provides a beautiful example of the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, composer Richard Wagner's term for the synthesis or conversion of many art forms.
According to UNESCO, the orangery garden is the longest in the world, and the Palm House, which is the largest in Europe, is divided into three climate zones. Take a guided tour through numerous Rococo style rooms and try to weave your way through Schönbrunn's labyrinth. While you are there, stop at the Vienna Zoo at Schönbrunn. Founded in 1752, it is the world's oldest existing zoo.
Hofburg was the imperial family's winter home and currently functions as the president of Austria's official residence. It served as the center of the Habsburg empire until 1918. Hofburg houses the imperial silver collection and the Sisi Museum, which displays personal objects that once belonged to Empress Elisabeth, the enigmatic wife of Franz Josef I. You can also tour the Imperial Apartments, where you can see furniture and fittings from the second half of the 19th century.
Located across from Hofburg Palace, the Kunsthistorisches Museum holds some of the art and artifacts from the Habsburg collection. The museum, which was completed in 1891, houses a collection of ancient Egyptian and Greek art as well as works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Don't miss the Albrecht Dürer collection, which includes "Blue Madonna" and "Martyrdom of 10,000 Christians."
Vienna's famous three-mile circular road was built in the 19th century to replace the old city walls. The tree-lined road is worth a spin on a bicycle or one of the yellow ring trams. You can see the neo-renaissance Vienna State Opera, the Rathaus (City Hall), Palais Epstein, the aforementioned Kunsthistorisches Museum and the city's Museum of Natural History.