There is a lot to do in Vienna. The Hofburg is filled with Hapsburg history and a tour of the Imperial Apartments should be on every list of things to do. Likewise, Museum Quarter across the Ring has at least 5 museums of interest — the Kunsthistorisches Museum being the largest with three floors of European art and is worth a couple of hours of your time at a bare minimum. The Albertina at the Hoftburg itself is also filled with treasures. There are several churches inside the Ring worth a visit. There isn’t a fee to visit any Austrian church and some of the best to stop in are Stephensdom (the largest and its spire is a landmark around which the inner city seems to hum), St. Peters in all its Baroque splendor,
Schonbrunn Palace is the summer palace of the Hapsburgs that is a quick metro ride into the suburbs. You can send an email to the booking office and reserve a time for the tour in advance and skip a long line of folks trying to buy tickets. You will see about 40 rooms on the Grand Tour. There are add ons as well. Most of the garden areas are free. The small Privy garden is nice but not really worth a separate ticket price. It has lots of citrus and the same formal garden as Belvedere. The Glorietta ticket is for a climb to the top and a view of the palace and surrounding countryside. The cafe at the Glorietta has really nice food. The labyrinth and maze require the add on ticket and are fun for kids especially to get lost, play a few games and access a great playground.
Nacht Market is near Karl’s Church and fills a few blocks with produce, meats, Cafes and takeaway stands plus clothing, jewelry and other sundries. It is worth a stop around lunch time as a place to grab something good to eat.
Karl’s Church is one church with a twist — at least while renovations are underway. It’s gold dome dominates the cityscape. A baroque jewel — it has a large elevator and set of scaffolding that has become an attraction itself. For a small “donation” you get an elevator ticket to the top of the main church dome. Then you climb even higher on scaffolding into the cupola at the very top for a view of the city out of the windows. On the walk back to the dome’s elevator level, you pass all of the painted frescos that grace the dome — coming eye to eye with angels, Jesus, saints and Sistene Chapel type artwork you can almost reach out and touch. Getting this high into a church dome is special — seeing what you normally see from the church pew high above you at eye level is cool.
Secession near the Nacht Market is a building with some very strange art and one beautiful set of wall panels painted by Gustav Klimt. It was created for avant guard art gallery and work space, and it still has exhibit space. We saw one piece of art where the artist literally crawled and writhed on the floor. This is worth a stop to see the Beethoven Frescos by Klimt but the new exhibits are not really our cup of tea. We got a laugh out of it but little else beyond the Beethoven beauties.
Spanish Riding School is located in the Hofburg and is where you see the famous Lipanzanner stallions perform. We lucked out and got tickets on their website and it is a terrific performance. The winter riding hall is a marvelous space and the horses are grand. I finally got to see the “schools above the ground” where the horses leap into the air!
Prater is a world famous amusement park just outside the ring road. It has a famous Ferris wheel featured in the James Bond “Living Daylights” movie as well as “The Third Man”. Even if you don’t ride the thrill rides, it is a great place to find great beer gardens and great beer garden foods.
Stadpark is a cool and leafy retreat at the edge of the inner city. There is a golden Strauss statue being photographed by 100s of Japanese tourists every time a bus unloads them at the gates. There is a performance hall as well and you will be approached by Mozart attired clones trying to sell you concert tickets. But walk the trails and enjoy the gardens themselves.
Free Opera — You can pay a small standing room only fee to see a bit of opera at the Opera house if you love it enough or want to see inside the plush house itself. (Tours in English are given on some afternoons for a fee as well.) But for free, you can watch Opera on a large screen on the side of the Opera House itself. They put out chairs and even have a person who will give you a program for a small fee. Starbucks is across the street — what more to you need?