Discover the essence of Vienna in 14 Easy Steps
1. Take a guided tour of Vienna’s most prominent landmarks, including Kärntnerstrasse, Stephansplatz, Graben, Kohlmarkt, Michaeler Square and the gothic St. Stephens Cathedral, before arriving at the Hofburg Complex to discover the world of the Habsburgs with guided tours of the Imperial Vaults, Imperial Apartments, Sisi Museum and Silver Collection.
2. Visit the Spanish Riding School. For 450 years the Lipizzaner horses and their riders have practiced the tradition of Renaissance haute école horsemanship at the world renowned Spanish Riding School. Performing carefully orchestrated steps, they demonstrate exceptional harmony between rider and horse. Visit the stables to see the horses at rest.
3. Take a guided tour of the Hofburg Treasury. Dating from the 13th century, the Hofburg Treasury is located in the oldest part of the Imperial Palace. Here you find the Imperial Regalia containing symbols of the power of the Holy Roman Empire, including the jewel encrusted Emperor’s Crown (dated 962 AD), the Holy Lance and the Imperial Sword.
Other treasures include the Austrian Emperor’s Crown (dated 1602), the 15th Century Burgundian ‘dowry’ treasure, the treasure of the Order of the Golden Fleece (a chivalry order founded in 1430 by Philipp III, Duke of Burgundy), the ‘Ainkhürn’, believed to have been a unicorn but is in fact a giant narwhal tooth and a late antiquity agate bowl, believed to have been the Holy Grail.
4. Enjoy a private guided tour of the Austrian National Library. At the heart of the Austrian National Library (the former imperial court library), the Prunksaal is one of the most beautiful library halls in the world. Built by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, the hall is almost 80m long and 20m high. Crowned with a magnificent dome, decorated with frescoes by the imperial court painter, Daniel Gran, it contains over 200,000 volumes and is considered a jewel of secular Baroque architecture. Two exquisite one meter diameter Venetian baroque globes: one for the earth and one for the sky, enhance the hall’s splendour.
5. Enjoy an evening dinner and Strauss & Mozart concert at the Kursalon Wien. Combine the musical delights of a Strauss & Mozart concert with a delicious gala dinner in the stylish surroundings at the Kursalon Wien, an historic Viennese classical concert venue.
6. Visit the Schönbrunn Palace, Park & Carriage Museum which until 1918, was the summer residence of the Habsburgs and, along with the Hofburg, the principal seat of the Holy Roman Empire and subsequent Austrian Empire.
Built by Emperor Leopold I, to the plans of the renowned architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, with further considerable changes made by Maria Theresa’s architect, Nikolaus Pacassi, between 1744 and 1749, the palace is one of the most famous sights in Vienna.
Visit the palaces’ many rooms, including the Mirror Hall where Mozart gave his first concert (aged 6), the Napoleon Room where the only legitimate son of Napoleon died of tuberculosis and, the Great Gallery, one of the most magnificent Rococo interiors in existence and where, in 1961, the legendary encounter between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev took place.
Opened to the public around 1779, the park at Schönbrunn, will provide you with beautiful French style gardens in which to roam.
Finish with a visit to the Wagenburg (Carriage) Museum, which includes over 170 carriages, sleds, sedan chairs and associated harnesses, saddles and caparisons, including Maria Theresa’s gold leaf carousal sleigh with accompanying 350 gold bell-clad harnesses, designed to ring out a range of musical tones.
7. Visit the Kirche Am Steinhof & Secession Building. Designed by Otto Wagner, considered by some to be the father of modernism in architecture, and decorated by Kolo Moser, a leading Secession designer, the Kirche am Steinhof, is a monument to Austrian art nouveau and modernist architecture.
"Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit". "To each time its art. To art its freedom”, is the motto mounted above the entrance to the Secession Building. Constructed by Joseph Maria Olbrich, the Secession building is of the Jugendstil (art nouveau) style, a movement founded by Gustav Klimt and a number of other artists in 1896. The building's leaf-work dome, the "golden cabbage", is the symbol of the Secession and visible from afar.
Gustav Klimt’s 34 metre interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the "Beethoven Frieze" (1902), can be viewed on the basement level. Today, around 20 exhibitions of contemporary artists’ work is shown each year in the 1,000 square meters of exhibition space on the levels above, which you will be able to view during your visit.
8. Visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Art History and Upper & Lower Belvedere Palace. Commence the day with a tour of the renowned Kunsthistorisches Museum of Art History, to gain greater insight into some of the world’s most famous works of art.
Built over centuries by generations of Habsburg monarchs, the museum’s Collections of paintings, antiquities and decorative art, are perhaps the ultimate display of royal wealth and taste.
Focused on the Old Masters from the 15th to the 18th centuries, including masterpieces by Bruegel, Vermeer, Durer, Titian and Tintoretto, the museum’s Picture Collection is among the most exquisite in existence.
Other Collections include Roman and Greek antiquities and Egyptian-Oriental artefacts, whilst the Kunstkammer collection of ‘Curiosities & Wonders’ holds many unique and fascinating objects, including the gold-plated saltcellar by the Florentine genius Benvenuto Cellini, which is considered to be one of the world's greatest Renaissance artefacts. Valued at over £35million, it was famously stolen in 2003 before being rediscovered and returned to the museum in 2006.
Architectural highlights of the building itself, include the magnificent main staircase and the Cupola Hall which is beautifully decorated with coloured marble and refined granite and stucco work.
After coffee and cake depart for the Belvedere palace.
Discover both the Upper and Lower Belvedere, where perhaps the highlight is Klimt’s painting, The Kiss, which is the centrepiece of the world’s largest collection of Klimt paintings (on display in the Upper Belvedere). The theme of a pair of lovers united by a kiss, has captured the imagination of art lovers ever since its unveiling in 1907. Part of his “Golden Phase”, with an emphasis on ornamentation and use of gold leaf, inspired by Byzantine iconographic mosaics, it is considered the culmination of the Jugendstil art movement.
Also on display are paintings by Ergon Schiele, protégé of Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, known for his intense expressionistic portraits.
9. Take a leisurely “Oldtimer” tram ride (with aperitif and snacks) to Grinzing, a village on the outskirts of Vienna, for dinner at a Heuriger restaurant.
Best described as a vineyard on the outskirts of the city, the "Heurigen" were originally taverns where local vintners sold their wine. They have since become an essential part of Viennese life. Enjoy your evening meal in the informal, rustic and cosy setting of the tavern whilst musicians play folk music, creating an authentic Viennese dining experience.
10. Discover Vienna’s musical heritage with a guided walk and 'behind-the-scenes' tour of the Vienna State Opera House (with opportunity to view the ballet dancers in training).
It is rumored that when Mozart was composing Requiem, one of the world’s most famous works of choral music, he believed he had been cursed to write it for himself, because he was about to die.
Weeks later he was dead and buried in an unmarked grave, in St Marx Cemetery on the outskirts of Vienna, having completed around two thirds of the composition.
Powerfully influenced by Mozart, Ludwig von Beethoven spent 35 years in Vienna and wrote some of his most famous works, including his 5th Symphony and the opera “Fidelio”.
Walk through Vienna’s picturesque historic squares and side streets, walking in the footsteps of Mozart and Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, Antonio Salieri, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Gustav Mahler and Johann Strauß, visiting the places they lived, worked and performed and gain a new appreciation of their creative genius.
First stop is the Vienna State Opera House for a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of this magnificent classical venue, where its possible to immerse oneself in the magical world of ballet at a training session of the State Opera Ballet dancers. As you observe the dancers’ grace and beauty, your guide explains how each dancer incorporates their own artistic freedom into each performance, and what it takes to create a successful ballet production.
The tour culminates in a special private piano recital at Mozart Haus, where Mozart lived from 1784 to 1787. The only one of his Viennese residences that exists today, the apartment exhibits, over four levels, the life and works of this musical genius.
11. Enjoy lunch, pastries and coffee at Café Landtmann, a renowned Viennese Coffee House, once frequented by Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler and Peter Altenberg. There’s no better way to bring to life fin-de-siecle ("end-of-the-century") Vienna than to soak up the atmosphere at this icon of Viennese café culture.
12. Take a horse drawn carriage ride to the Palais Coburg Wine Cellar for a wine tasting experience. Travel in true Viennese style in a horse-drawn carriage (a ‘Fiaker’), taking in the facades of Old Vienna before arriving at the magnificent Palais Coburg, encompassing 6 wine cellars and a total of 60,000 bottles of wine.
13. Enjoy an evening dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking Vienna's Old Town and Prater Ferris wheel. Made famous by the adaption of Graham Greene’s The Third Man to big screen, the Prater Ferris wheel is a must-see for any fan of film noir.