Visting Vienna, Austria

By Jonathan Spira on 15 January 2009
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Vienna is Austria´s capital and has a population of ca. 1.7 million (2.3 million within the metropolitan area). It is also one of nine Federal States of Austria, the largest city in Austria, and its cultural and commercial center. It has the tenth largest population in the EU and was rated 2nd in quality of living by Mercer.

The Parlament (Parliament) on the Ringstraße

The Parlament (Parliament) on the Ringstraße

Vienna traces its origins back to 500 B.C.E. and was a Roman frontier city, known as Vindobona (“good wine”), guarding the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes to the north.  It was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg Empire and continues to play a major role in European and world politics as a bridge between East and West.

Vienna is also a world capital of the arts and music. The Burgtheater is one of the best German-language theaters in the world and the Volkstheater and Theater in der Josefstadt are also well known. The city is home to the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), considered the finest orchestra in the world by many, based in the Musikverein in the Bösendorferstraße. The Staatsoper (State Opera) and Volksopera (devoted to Viennese operettas) are several of the city´s opera houses and are also among the world´s finnest.  The music of Johann Strauß (both junior and senior) resonates throughout the city.

Vienna can be as daunting a city to visit as London or Paris. Visitors can focus on music (a visit to the Haus der Musik museum is almost mandatory), art, military history, architecture, or shopping.

A typical Würstelstand in Vienna

A typical Würstelstand in Vienna

Consider watching the movie  The Third Man, one of the greatest films of the 20th century, set in post-World War II Vienna, before your trip, to get a sense of the city’s more recent history.


The Imperial is one of the best hotels in the world, located on the Ringstraße. The Bristol (also on the Ring) and  the Sacher are also considered  top hotels, as are Palais Coburg and Palais Schwarzenberg.

More modern hotels (in modern buildings, compared to the aforementioned establishments) include Le Méridien and Do & Co.  The InterContinental was recently renovated.  The Hilton am Stadtpark is very modern and is located near the Stadtpark (City Park) and the City Air Train (CAT) terminal.


The author at Weingut am Reisenberg, a Heuriger

The author at Weingut am Reisenberg, a Heuriger

Traditional Viennese restaurants include cafés, such as Café Prückel and Café Landtmann.  A more modern Austrian restaurant Gaumenspiel.  Traditional Austrian dining celebrates wine and a visit to a Heuriger, literally taverns for this year’s wine, is highly recommended.   Grinzing is a district (Bezirk) in Vienna famous for its Heurige.  Visit Weingut am Reisenberg, Oberer Reisenbergweg, 1190 Döbling, in the hills above Grinzing.

Another appealing local option is to go to a Beisl for “alt Wiener Küche” or traditional Viennese cuisine. The word “Beisl” is slang for a Wirtshaus, Gasthaus, or pub. One example is Zum Reznicek.


The Hofburg (Imperial Palace) houses the Schatzkammer (treasury), displaying the Habsburg imperial jewels. The Sisi Museum is a museum devoted to Empress Elisabeth, who married Franz Josef I., Emperor of Austria, in 1854, and was assassinated in 1898 by an anarchist in Geneva.   Across from the Hofburg are the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum.

The MuseumsQuartier (museum quarter) is located in the former Imperial Stalls. The Museum of Modern Art, known as the MUMOK (Ludwig Foundation), and the Leopold Museum (displaying works of the Viennese Secession) are all worth a visit.

The Albertina has been remodeled in recent years and often has quite good special exhibitions.

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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