The Essence of Vienna Tour
The defeat of the advancing Ottoman army at the gates of Vienna in 1683 marked a turning point in the history of Europe and the fortunes of the Viennese people.
Free from the fear of future invasion, the resulting peace beckoned in an age of prosperity and artistic achievement.
Join us as we discover the legacy of this momentous event and go in search of the very essence of what makes Vienna one of Europe’s most fascinating destinations today.
With behind-the-scenes guided tours, and other special events and activities, The Essence of Vienna Tour is a unique cultural travel experience expertly guided by one of the city’s leading cultural historians.
During your stay, you will have the opportunity to explore the city’s most iconic landmarks, imbue works of outstanding art and architecture and walk in the footsteps of some of the world’s most famous classical composers. A performance of Renaissance haute école horsemanship will further bring to life Vienna’s exceptional past.
Dining experiences in traditional Coffee Houses and authentic Viennese restaurants, will provide evocative surroundings in which to enjoy cuisine and beverage of the highest quality.
Your hotel has been selected for its high quality service, comfortable accommodation and central location.
Guided walk from your centrally located hotel through the Kärntner Strasse and the "antique quarter" to the Treasury at the Hofburg Palace, former residence of the Habsburg rulers. Followed by an expert guided tour of the palace’s Imperial Apartments, Sisi Museum and Silver Collection & Imperial Burial Vaults.
A Special Spanish Riding School Experience:
A Welcome Reception with sparkling wine and canapes in the school’s Representation Salons, with introductory talk, followed by viewing (in reserved seats) of the morning training session with the horses in the Winter Riding Hall
Afterwards see the horses at rest with a private guided tour of the stables, providing more fascinating insights into the heart of the Spanish Riding School.
Private ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of the Austrian National Library. With some of its collections on the UNESCO’s Memory of the World list, the Austrian National Library is considered to have the most beautiful library hall in the world.
Half day guided tour of Schönbrunn Palace, including entrance to the “Wagenburg” (carriage museum)
Behind the scenes’ tour of the State Opera House with private viewing in the morning of a State Opera Ballet training session
Guided ‘City of Music’ walking tour, passing residences of Ludwig van Beethoven, Haydn, Franz Liszt and Chopin and tracing in the footsteps of other famous composers such as Antonio Salieri, Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Gustav Mahler and Johann Strauss
Entrance and guided tour of Mozart Haus, where the life and works of this musical genius are exhibited, followed by a private piano concert at the ‘Bösendorfer Hall’ with sparkling wine and canapes
A ride in a Viennese “Oldtimer” Tram with Viennese coffee and cake on the famous Ringstrasse with entrance to the ride’s final destination the Palais Liechtenstein. The journey takes in the sights of the city, including Schwarzenberg Square, the State Opera House, Hofburg Imperial Palace, Museum of Fine Arts & History, the Austrian Parliament, the city’s university and Stock Exchange and the Palais Liechtenstein.
A ride in a Viennese “Oldtimer” Tram from the heart of the old town to the village of Grinzing, experiencing a special meal with wine tasting in a vineyard
Guided tour of Kunsthistorisches
Guided tour of the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palace, including Gustav Klimt’s Jugendstil Collection
Tour of the old town by horse and carriage
Guided tour of the Palais Coburg Wine World including tasting of 5 different wines (1 x wine in each cellar) and canapes
Guided tours of the MAK, Secession Building and Freud Museum
A half hour private performance of an 18th Century classic string puppet show in the Marionetten Theatre within the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace
Followed by a look ‘behind the scenes’ at the work which goes into not just the manipulation of the puppets but also how the puppets were created
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Lunch | Introduction to Tour
Introduction to Essence of Vienna Tour by Dr. Brigitte Roth with buffet lunch.
Afternoon | City Orientation Tour & Hofburg Visit
After a city tour that takes in the most prominent landmarks, including Kärntnerstrasse, Stephansplatz, Graben, Kohlmarkt, Michaeler Square and the gothic St. Stephens Cathedral, your Expert will introduce you to the imperial world of the Habsburgs with guided tours of the Imperial Vaults, Imperial Apartments, Sisi Museum and Silver Collection within the Hofburg Complex.
Since 1633, the Imperial Crypt has been the final resting place of 149 Habsburgs, including 12 emperors and 19 empresses and queens. The last emperor to be buried here was Franz Joseph I, whilst the last Empress was Zita in 1989 and burials continue to take place to this day.
As well as the appropriately named, Heart Crypt, which contains the hearts of the Habsburgs who were buried between 1654 and 1878, there is the magnificent double sarcophagus of Maria Theresia and her husband, Emperor Franz I, a work by Balthasar Ferdinand Moll, Vienna's most famous sculptor.
Formerly the residence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth, as well as other Habsburg rulers who had preceded them, the Hofburg’s 19-room Imperial state and residential apartments offer a magnificent display of royal wealth and taste. Combined with a visit to the Silver Collection you will have the opportunity to imagine the imperial court in all its splendour.
A visit to the Sisi museum, will uncover the true personality of Empress Elisabeth through the display of her personal items. Affectionately known as Sisi, she was to become a beauty icon of the 19th Century. Eccentric and melancholic throughout her life, she was murdered in cold blood by the anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, in 1898, creating a sensation throughout European society.
Evening | Dinner in Vienna
Meals included: L, D
Morning | Special Welcome Reception at 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.
During your visit you will be personally welcomed into the Representation Salons of the Spanish Riding School, where you will enjoy refreshments, including sparkling wine and canapés at a special introduction to the school’s heritage.
Afterwards, you enter the famous Baroque Winter Riding Hall, taking your reserved seat to witness the riders and Lipizzaner horses perform an orchestrated ‘ballet’ to the sound of classical music.
A private tour of the stables follows where you will be able to get up close and see the horses at rest, providing more fascinating insights in to this unique riding school.
Afternoon | Lunch close by before Guided Tour of Hofburg Treasury and Austrian National Library
This afternoon you will be expertly guided through the Hofburg Treasury and Austrian National Library.
Dating from the 13th century, the Hofburg Treasury is located in the oldest part of the Imperial Palace. Here you find the Imperial Regalia which contains symbols of the power of the Holy Roman Empire. The most important of which are 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 given to Maximilian I in 1477 and the treasure of the Order of the Golden Fleece (a chivalry order founded in 1430 by Philipp III, Duke of Burgundy).
Among the most fascinating of objects are those that became “inalienable heirlooms of the House of Austria”, meaning under no circumstances could they be sold. These include the ‘Ainkhürn’, or the horn of a unicorn (which is in fact a giant narwhal tooth) and a late antiquity agate bowl, believed to have been the legendary Holy Grail.
Another symbol of immense Imperial wealth is the 2,860 carats emerald ‘unguentarium’; a vessel container for oil. Mined in Colombia and originally purchased by the Habsburg ruler Rudolph II in the early 17th century, it was Emperor Ferdinand III who was to commission the renowned gemstone carver, Dionysio Miseroni, to produce this uniquely beautiful object.
At the heart of the former imperial court library, now the Austrian National Library, is one of the most beautiful library halls in the world; the Prunksaal. Built by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach according to plans of his father, Johann Bernhard 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.
You will experience a special ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of the library, led by one of the library's custodians and includes access to areas normally off limits to the general public.
Evening | Dinner and concert at the Kursalon
Meals included: B, L, D
Morning | Schönbrunn Palace, Park & Carriage Museum
You will start this morning with a visit to Schönbrunn Palace & Park. Until 1918, Schönbrunn, 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 today.
During your guided tour of the palace, you will visit many of the palaces’ 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.
You will finish your tour with a visit to the Wagenburg (Carriage) Museum, which includes over 170 carriages, sleds, sedan chairs and associated harnesses, saddles and caparisons. Perhaps the most fascinating object is Maria Theresa’s gold leaf carousal sleigh with accompanying 350 gold bell-clad harnesses, designed to ring a range of tones in order to create a melodious royal ride.
Afternoon | Lunch at Cafe Residenz Schönbrunn followed by Guided Tours of 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. Your Expert will guide you through the cathedral, bringing to life the techniques used by the artists.
"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 in 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.
Evening | Dinner at leisure
Meals included: B, L
Morning | Kunsthistorisches Museum of Art History | Upper & Lower Belvedere Palace
Commencing the day with an expert-led tour of the renowned Kunsthistorisches Museum of Art History, you will have the opportunity 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, for example, the gold-plated saltcellar by the Florentine genius Benvenuto Cellini, 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 at the museum you will depart for the Belvedere palace.
You will be guided through both the Upper and Lower Belvedere, where perhaps the highlight of the visit 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.
Afternoon | Group Lunch followed by Afternoon at Leisure
Evening | “Oldtimer” tram ride to Grinzing for dinner at Heuriger restaurant
This evening a special highlight is a ride on a Viennese Oldtimer tram with aperitif* and snacks.
Departing from the old town your journey takes you on a tour of Old Vienna before arriving at a “heuriger” in the wine village of Grinzing. 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. As you enjoy your evening meal in the informal, rustic and cosy setting of the tavern, musicians will play typical Heurigen music in the background, creating an authentic Viennese dining experience.
Meals included: B, D
*sparkling wine or white/red wine
Morning | Musical Heritage of Vienna | Vienna State Opera House | Tour and Ballet Training Session
This morning you will discover the extraordinary musical heritage of Vienna. Including Mozart and Beethoven, more famous composers have lived and worked in the city than any other.
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 (literally) buried in an unmarked grave, in St Marx Cathedral 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”.
As you join us on a guided walk through Vienna’s picturesque historic squares and side streets, walking in the footsteps of Mozart and Beethoven, as well as other world famous composers, such as 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, you will have the opportunity to understand the very essence of their creative genius.
First stop will be the Vienna State Opera House for a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of this magnificent classical venue. where you will also be able to immerse yourself 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 will explain how each dancer incorporates their own artistic freedom into each performance, as well as detail 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.
Lunch | at Café Landtmann
Enjoy lunch, pastries, drinks and coffee at Café Landtmann, a renowned Viennese Coffee House. Frequented by the likes of Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler and Peter Altenberg. There’s no better way to bring to life end-of-the century fin-de-siecle Vienna than to soak up the atmosphere in this iconic café.
Afternoon | Horse drawn carriage ride | Wine Tasting at Palais Coburg Wine Cellar
This afternoon you will travel in true Viennese style. A true symbol of Vienna, the horses and carriages known as ‘Fiakers’, are an unforgettable way to experience the city. Take in the facades of Old Vienna as you trot the paths, before arriving at your destination, the magnificent Palais Coburg Wine Cellar, for a wine and food tasting experience.
Evening | Dinner at Restaurant Overlooking Vienna's Old Town and Prater Ferris wheel
Meals included: B, L, D
Morning | Jewish Vienna | Visit to Sigmund Freud Museum
There are few European cities whose past is as closely connected with Jewish history as Vienna. Up to and during WWII, 140,000 Austrians had to flee the country from the Nazis and, 65,000, who could not escape were murdered.
During a walk through Jewish Vienna, your Expert will paint a poignant picture of this dark episode of Vienna's past.
Next you will visit the Sigmund Freud Museum.
Press the button on the first floor, beside the plate inscribed PROF. DR. FREUD, before stepping back into the world of the Austrian neurologist and father of psychoanalysis. Made famous by the publication of his seminal work, The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud revolutionised how the Western world thinks of the mind and human behaviour, being the first European to investigate the concept of the unconscious. During your guided tour you will be able to analyse the doctor’s life and work and perhaps discover what dreams are made of...
Lunch | Farewell lunch in Vienna
Meals included: B, L
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5 nights in 4 star hotel accommodation with breakfast
4 lunches* and 5 dinners*
The services of an Expert in the cultural history of Vienna and a professional Tour Manager from start to finish
All transfers by high-quality air-conditioned coach as detailed in the Itinerary
All entrance fees
* All included lunches and dinners are three courses and include 1/3 to ½ bottle of wine or 2-3 x bottle of beer, tea/coffee, water and juice.
Local Expert Guides
Our Local Expert Guides are experienced licenced tour guides with special access to museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions.
Professional and gifted communicators with unparalleled local knowledge, each one specialises in bringing the past to life.
For more information about our Expert Guides, please contact us on 020 8877 2883 to speak with a Grand Cultural Tours representative.
5 star centrally located hotel in Vienna, hand selected for its locaiton and high quality accommodation and service.
Passports and Visas
For general information regarding passport validity for UK citizens, please refer to the Foreign Office website.
A Visa is not required by UK citizens to enter Austria.
Foreign Office Travel Advice including Health & Safety Information
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The currency of Austria is the Euro.
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2 hours 15 minutes (departing from London)
Dates & Prices
* Please click here for more information regarding flights for this tour.