Beautiful, grand Vienna – a city with great museums, architecture and plenty of history to keep you busy, all in a walkable historic center. Last year we focused on audio guide walks around the city, learning fascinating facts and discovering obscure and interesting places we would never have found on our own. This year we put the walking tour guides away and visited some new to us museums, up down and all around St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Karlskirche, and made plenty of time for wandering, cafés and yes…cake.
- Kunsthistoriches Museum
- Neue Burg Museum
- Espresso and cake at iconic cafés
- St. Stephens Cathedral and views over Vienna from the roof
St. Stephen’s Ticket to Everything
With a beautiful sunny day in Vienna, our first stop was over to St. Stephen’s Cathedral to go up the towers for views all over Vienna. The €13.80 All-Inclusive ticket gives you access to both towers, the interior of the Cathedral with an audio guide, the Treasury, and the Crypt.
Tip: You don’t have to see everything in St. Stephen’s all at once, go to the towers on a beautiful day and return for the other parts of the Cathedral at any time. The ticket doesn’t have an expiration, but do check the closing times and plan accordingly.
Tip: If you don’t have time or the inclination to get an All Inclusive ticket, just get the ticket to go up the tower with the elevator (the north Tower). The best views of Vienna and the fantastic tiled roof are from this tower.
Neue Burg – Three Wonderful Museums in One Fabulous Palace
What better way to get used to a time zone with a 9 hour difference than wandering around a wonderful museum? The Neue Burg museums are in the “New” Imperial Palace, an immense magnificent building near the much visited Imperial Apartments and Sisi Museum in the Old Palace. If you want a calm relaxing environment exploring interesting museums in gorgeous rooms, this is the place.
There are three different collections in the Neue Burg, all part of the same ticket and all fascinating – 1.) Arms and Armor, 2.) Historic Musical Instruments, 3.) Ephesos Museum of Roman sculptures and architecture.
Tip: The Nueu Burg Museums are part of the Kunsthistoriches Museum, your entrance ticket here also gets you into the Kunsthistoriches.
WWII: Hitler announced the annexation of Austria to 200,000 cheering crowds from the Neue Burg balcony in 1938.
Great Break: Take a break at a historic Viennese coffeehouse – Demel, just down the street from the Imperial Palace. Terrific espresso and yes…cake.
Fabulous Kunsthistorisches Museum
The palatial Kunsthistoriches Museum was designed to house the immense art collection of the Habsburgs. Filled with masterpieces by Rubens, Rafael, Michelangelo, and Velázquez, art lovers will want to spend hours in here.
The unique Kunstkammer collection of curiosities is “the most important collection of its kind in the world” according to the Kunsthistoriches Museum. The Habsburgs collected exotic objects from all over the world and had them made into fabulous works of art. It’s all fascinating, but I especially like the delicate and bizarre ivories and elaborate automatons.
Tip: The audioguide explains the wonderful Klimt paintings adorning the spaces between the columns in the grand staircase.
Great Break: Take a break in the museum café under the elegant dome for an espresso and …cake.
Impressive Military History Museum – the Heeresgeschichtliches
A long walk through the Belevedere Palace grounds and a couple of blocks beyond is the Military History Museum in what used to be Vienna’s Arsenal, a huge military complex built by Emperor Franz Joseph I to not only house the imperial arms and collections but to create a magnificent Hall of Fame and Memorial for the Imperial Army. Mission accomplished! The Hall of Generals, central staircase and ceiling, and Hall of Fame are stunners.
This collection of everything that happened in the history of the Austrian Armed Forces is arranged in chronological order from the top floor down with extensive information in English in the flyers in each room. There’s a lot of exhibits and for me the earliest periods were a bit hard to care too much about, not being adept at that early period of Habsburg Imperial war history. Pace yourself and save your energy (and all that reading) for the rooms downstairs with fascinating exhibits on World War I and II. A highlight is the car that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was riding in when he was shot in Sarajevo, the assassination that launched World War I.
Tip: Head back to Vienna by way of the Naschmarkt for an easy dinner at one of the many cafés.
Beautiful Baroque St. Charles’s Church (Karlskirche)
There are plenty of beautiful churches in Vienna, but only one where you can take an elevator up to the dome for a bird’s eye look at the colorful frescoes. To get right up into the cupola, take the stairs to the very top. The €8 fee (and €2 audioguide fee) finances the upkeep and continuing restoration. The beautiful baroque church was dedicated to Charles Borromeo, a 16th century Bishop from Milan who inspired parishioners during the plague. Among the swirling fresoes in the cupola you’ll see the Bishop pleading with heaven for relief from the plague.
Terrific Displays on Design in a Beautiful Building – the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK)
Lots of interesting exhibitions on architecture and design, and a bonus – it’s free on Tuesdays from 6:00pm to 10:00pm.
Fabulous Vienna City Hall (Rathaus)
Visiting the fabulous Vienna City Hall is a treat to see the beautiful rooms used by City Government from 1883 to this day. You can wander around the public spaces on your own, like the magnificent multilevel stairway, but to see some of the sumptuous rooms take the informative (and Free!) guided tour. The tour is in German but you’ll get an English audioguide to follow along as you go from room to room.
The most fun you’ll ever have at a government building is a ride up and down and around on the centuries old Paternoster lift. This is an elevator with open compartments that runs continuously, as it loops by you’ll see people going about their City Hall business up or down. To get on, grab the handle at the side and jump on while it’s in motion and be quick about it – the Paternoster doesn’t stop. Jump off at the top or for even more fun stay on as it slides sideways at the top or bottom to continue on it’s eternal loop. The Paternoster is accessed at the side of building, or ask at the Info Desk where you meet for the tour.
Great Break: The iconic Viennese coffeehouse Café Central isn’t far from the Vienna City Hall (Rathaus). In the beautiful Palais Ferstel, it’s my favorite place to enjoy a great cappuccino and…yes, cake.
Gloriously Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral
With your All-Inclusive ticket you can go back to St. Stephen’s to visit other parts of the Cathedral that you may have missed, you don’t have to do it all on the same day.
Outstanding Leopold Museum
The outstanding Leopold Museum showcases Austrian art – I was going for the Gustav Klimt collection, but what really fascinated me here was the Egon Schiele collection, the largest in the world. I’d seen some of his pieces before at the Belvedere and it didn’t wow me. But at the Leopold, his work and troubled life is explored in a compelling series of rooms with an audioguide.
There’s a lot to see in this beautiful museum, a perfect way to spend several hours on our last day in fabulous Vienna.
Fly from Vienna to Ljubljana
Adria Airways flies direct to Ljubljana in under an hour, a great flight at a reasonable price with no hidden or extra charges. You can check one bag for free and carry the other on, or carry them both to the jet where they’ll collect one of the bags for the hold.
Tip: If you book in advance you can get a discounted fare for a least one person.
Tip: Call Adria Airways when you’re in Vienna to get a seat assignment. Seat assignments and Online Check-In aren’t available on their website for the flight to Ljubljana from Vienna.
Our apartment on this trip was a terrific Airbnb not far from the Opera House and close to Metro hubs, my favorite location of our 3 different visits to Vienna. But don’t ask about it, we were the last short term guests in the apartment, it’s now only rented out by the month.
- Vienna Map
- Austrian Train (OBB) OBB has a terrific Search For Route planning tool – use it to help you get to and from the airport using the inexpensive suburban S7 Train (Schnellbahn) and transfer to the urban U-Bahn
Have you been to Vienna? What were the highlights of your visit?