The Seat of An Empire.

For centuries Vienna has dominated Europe in a multitude of ways. Once the de-facto seat of the Holy Roman Empire, the ancestral home of the Hapsburg dynasty and the capital of the Austrian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Vienna’s influence was felt across Europe and the Mediterranean. Aside from forging empires and territories, Vienna has also birthed countless musicians, artists, sculptors, architects and intellectuals, rightly cementing its reputation as the city of arts and culture.

Today, Vienna retains all of its traditions, its city centre a Baroque centrepiece, crammed full of galleries, museums, concert halls and stunning architecture. To dine in one of Vienna’s famous cafes is to go back in time, whilst a stroll through the UNESCO listed centre may leave you feeling as though you have stumbled upon a large scale re-enactment. There is something for everyone in Vienna, from its sweeping palaces, pristine avenues, quiet parks and painfully neat gardens. Once a stop on the ‘grand tours’ of the past, Vienna is re-emerging as a European favourite.

It is difficult to avoid being drawn into the history behind the city. It is worth reading up on events of the past, as your experiences whilst here may take on new meaning. There is so much to see, but when you walk through the Rococo rooms of the Schloss Schönbrunn, it may have a greater impact on you to know who lived here, and why. During and after my visit I found myself obsessively researching both the city and the Imperial families, and I became fascinated by accounts of the charge of the Polish hussars during the siege of Vienna, and the rise and success of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian empires. For fans of history, music, the arts and culture, the city of Vienna is a must.

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The grandeur of the Austrian nobility is showcased throughout the city, but the extensive gardens and interiors of the Schloss Belvedere and Schloss Schönbrunn will transport you back in time. Both just within a reasonable walking distance of the centre (or a simple tram), these examples of baroque magnificence are a unforgettable visit.
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If you time your visit right, the city centre can be a relaxing and quiet place. Visiting in Autumn risks colder weather, but the crowds disappear and as the Autumnal sun begins to bathe it in golden light, the buildings will be transformed into an oil painting before your eyes.
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Vienna’s history is extensive, and scattered throughout the centre are dozens of statues, plaques and memorials to famous figures of the past. Whilst not everyone’s cup of tea, history enthusiasts can take delight in tracking down someone from history. The up side is that many of these statues form part of pristine gardens, which are a great place to escape the hustle and bustle.
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The best way to see the city is to walk. Be prepared to cover some serious miles! A walk through the grounds of the Schönbrunn alone could be reserved for a full day, and the mazy streets around the Hofburg palace and St Stephens cathedral will draw you in for hours on end.
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Cars are banned from much of the centre, instead replaced by horse drawn carriages winding their way through the cobbled streets. The pristine architecture and slower atmosphere begins to feel like a Wes Anderson movie. You may find it a struggle to draw yourself away from it.
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Vienna has hosted dozens of famous composers, writers, and musicians. Icons such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert lived and worked here. The city is home to dozens of concert halls and theatres, with performances occurring almost daily. Free concerts can sometimes be found, sometimes within one of the many churches dotting the skyline. During the Summer, the parks occasionally play host to outdoor concerts, weather depending.
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If you grow weary perusing the shopping arcades and retail streets, you can take advantage of one of the many traditional Viennese cafes hidden throughout the city. Many retain the architecture and service of years gone by, but be prepared to wait, or delve into the smoking section. Try Cafe Central, or Cafe Mozart.
Vienna is also famous for its museums. There are many scattered through the Museumsquartier, such as the Leopold museum, and MUMOK. Walking tours will miss the interior’s of these, so make sure you allocate some time!
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Just walking through the city can be interesting enough, but a visit to the Hofburg palace and its stunning Imperial treasury is a must see. Part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the treasury boasts the Imperial Crown Jewels, alongside hundreds of curiosities, including pieces of the true cross and the holy lance.
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St Stephens cathedral stands in the centre of Vienna. Whilst the centre contains many of the highlights, it is worth widening your exploration. Worth seeing is the Prater, the famous Ferris wheel of Vienna, along with the small amusement park surrounding it. Whilst Vienna technically borders the Danube river, the Danube proper is not close to the centre, but can be worth the walk on a sunny day.

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