Vienna is famous for its imperial history, coffee culture and a joyous love of life. There are festivals, concerts, theatre, art and architecture just waiting to be discovered. Here are 10 reasons to visit Vienna.
Vienna celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Klimt, one of Austria’s greatest painters, in 2012. The Belvedere is home to the world’s largest Klimt collection, and you can also see his works at the Leopold Museum, the Wien Museum and the Albertina. Tour his last studio, opening this summer after extensive renovations.
On May 19 the whole of Vienna will celebrate the 20th Life Ball. Every year this spectacular AIDS charity event draws in international VIPs such as Bill Clinton, Janet Jackson, Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, Sharon Stone, Dita von Teese and Liza Minnelli.
Around three million people attend the annual Danube Island Festival – from June 22 to 24, a total of 2,000 musicians will get audiences in the mood to party with around 600 hours of music.
Long before there was Starbucks there were coffeehouses in Vienna. Elegant places to sip fine coffee, sample delicate pastries, leisurely read the newspaper and meet friends. Today, Viennese coffeehouses are more alive and divers than ever. You can still visit the plush, traditional establishments, but there are also tine espresso bars, along with coffeehouses combines with inns, bookshops, bars, music clubs and cabaret theatre.
The Giant Ferris Wheel is one of Vienna’s best known landmarks. Built between 1896 and 1897, the British-engineered Wheel offers fantastic views over the city. The Ferris wheel sits at the entrance to the Prater, an amusement park brimming with 250 attractions including a ghost train, merry-go-round, kart race track and the world’s tallest chain carousel.
Experience a live ballet performance by the world-famous Lipizzaner horses at the baroque Spanish Riding School, established in 1572. Since 1735 the baroque winter riding school as hosted performances of these elegant creatures. Guided tours give a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this 430-year-old institution.
The members of the Vienna Boys’ Choir are the city’s musical ambassadors and not only perform at the capital’s leading concert halls. Founded five centuries ago, the choir takes the stage at the Musikverein on Fridays and can also be seen at Sunday mass in the Hofburg Chapel.
In 2010 Schönbrunn Zoo was crowned Europe’s best. The conditions at the world’s oldest zoo (constructed in 1752) have been the key to countless successful breeding programs, with panda cubs born in 2007 and 2010 among the rare new arrivals. Fu Hu is an absolute magnet for visitors. The Imperial Breakfast Pavillion, built in 1759, has been transformed into a café-restaurant.
From mid-November to Christmas the Magic of Advent transforms City Hall Square into a romantic yuletide wonderland. The Christmas Markets at the Belvedere, Schönbrunn Palace, and Maria-Theresien-Platz are also well worth a visit.
New Year’s Eve in the city includes a special trail through the old town, thronging with stages, marquees, concession stands and music from pop to dancefloor. Look for the Vienna Philharmonic on stage at the Musikverein and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra at the Konzerthaus.