Cultural Guide to Vienna: Top 7 Sights to See
Vienna is generally known for being the eternal cultural capital of Europe. Which it definitely is. From a gorgeous library to a uniquely painted house and a never-ending list of Marias, Vienna gives anyone their own type of thrill. I myself have been to Vienna quite a few times, and I can confirm that it never fails to keep me coming back for more.
Being the capital of Austria, Vienna is a large city. But, with its system of U-bahns and trams, it is easy to get around, and even walking between sites offers a lovely view of old buildings and a lively city. Even though I instantly fall in love with every new place I visit, Vienna will always hold a special place in my heart as it is one of the first cities I travelled to.
If you’re a cultural buff like me, this breathtaking city will keep you occupied for days. Of course, in between the museums and churches, don’t forget to taste the infamous Sacher cake! And if you dare, get your adrenaline kicking on the roller coasters of the Prater amusement park.
1. Schönnbrun Palace & Gardens
When planning a trip to Vienna, the Schönnbrun Palace is probably at the top of every visitor’s list. It is definitely the most famous sight, as it was the summer residence of the famous Habsburg family. With its stunning baroque architecture and beautiful gardens, you can spend a day wandering around, feeling like you are an 18th century empress.
There are 40 rooms you can walk through in the palace, each of them hiding its own story. From endless family trees to East Asian furniture, the whole imperial atmosphere was definitely my favourite part of the palace.
Besides the palace and its gardens, you can also visit the Zoo, the Palm House or walk up the hill to the Gloriette and check out the incredible view of the city.
Traveling with my family, we have a habit of taking a look inside most churches that we come across. Of course, Stephanskirche was also a must as it is the most important church in Vienna. The cathedral towers over Stephansplatz and looks majestic, even at night when it gives off an especially mysterious vibe.
The entrance to the cathedral is free, but if you want to climb the steps to the top, there is a small fee to pay. The view from the bell tower is definitely worth it: you can see the whole city right from its centre, and the colourful roof of the Stephanskirche makes it even more charming.
There’s a number of museums and galleries you can choose from in Vienna, two of the most important being the Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches Museums. As we were more interested in modern art, we decided to visit the Albertina instead. Even so, the historical museums have incredible architecture and are worth visiting as the two identical buildings face each other on the Maria Theresien Platz.
The Albertina is a very versatile museum, you can find anything from Habsburg State Rooms to contemporary art and photography. But my personal favourite part was the collection of modern art by Monet, Modigliani, Klimt, Picasso and other famous artists of that time.
I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something in the mixed styles of all the artists and the quietness of the museum that makes me want to sit and stare at the art for hours.
Vienna has many hidden gems, but Hundertwasserhaus is probably one of my favourites. I have seen many museums, churches and palaces on my travels, but I only saw one especially interestingly painted house.
This unusual apartment house was designed by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It is the most unique building I have ever seen, and probably the most colourful one as well. The astonishing architecture, with trees and plants growing from the balconies just compliments the interesting pattern of the façade.
5. Austrian national library
I swear, I have not seen a prettier library! And that’s coming from someone who loves hanging out in libraries. So, you can imagine that it is something special.
More than a library, it looks like a room from Schönnbrun, mixed with cathedral interiors. It was founded by the Habsburgs and it is the largest one in Austria. I was mesmerised by rows upon rows of old books that can only be reached with a wooden staircase, with a few giant globes and frescoes in between.
6. Imperial Treasury
The Imperial Treasury hides all the things we dreamed of as kids. The museum contains two of the most important crowns: The Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian imperial crown. Both crowns are shining from all the jewels and decorations, and hide some very interesting stories.
There is also an interesting artefact believed to be a unicorn horn that is that is literally taller than me. The Secular Treasury also exhibits capes, a cradle and a giant emerald. As I have just read the Da Vinci’s Code at the time, one of the most interesting artefacts for me was a bowl once considered to be the Holy Grail.
Besides the Secular Treasury, there is also the Ecclesiastical Treasury, containing religious artefacts.
7. Rathaus, Belvedere, Hofburg, Karlskirche
The city as a whole has unbelievable history and just walking through the centre gives you an opportunity to see the amazing architecture and learn about the past. All of the places on this list are just as fascinating from the outside as they are on the inside.
But must-sees are also the Rathaus – Vienna’s town hall; the Belvedere palace with its museum; The Hofburg, where you can find the Imperial Treasury; and Karlskirche, another stunning baroque church.
Besides everything on the list there is so much more to do and see in Vienna. Among all the museums, there is definitely something for everyone. But even hanging out in coffee shops, walking around the city or shopping on Mariahilfer Strasse is special in its own way. And if you don’t mind the cold weather, visiting Vienna during the Christmas season is especially magical.
It is impossible to describe how impressive all of these sights are – my words don’t do them justice. I think you should just go and see them for yourself!