In this Vienna travel guide, we explore Austria’s music-driven capital, a city full of old-world charm brimming with imperial history.
According to The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Austria’s capital city of Vienna has been voted the most liveable city in the world for two years running. Vienna obtained near-perfect scores across all categories in the new liveability index, from stability and healthcare to education and infrastructure. Along with its rich cultural offerings, historic architecture and Baroque streetscapes, Vienna is also home to a fantastic coffee and epicurean scene to keep locals and travellers occupied.
Whether you’re just passing by or planning an extended stay, we’ve sussed out some of the best sights, restaurants and beds to crash in for any holidaymaker’s first visit to this incredible city.
What to do
Museums for days
Art and history buffs rejoice — Vienna is home to some of the most impressive artworks around the world. The permanent collection at the dazzling Kunsthistorisches Museum houses works by Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Albrecht Dürer, and one can pop by Belvedere to get a glimpse of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. MuseumsQuartier, once imperial stables, has been dramatically transformed into an ensemble of museums that showcase pieces from 19th and 20th-century Austrian art to modern avant-garde works. Those that love natural history can find themselves in the Naturhistorisches Museum, home to meteorites, fossils and prehistoric finds as well.
The sounds of music
Vienna is known as the City of Music, which says a lot given that Austria is home to an extensive musical heritage that involve renowned composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, among countless others. It is here you can find an abundance of wonderfully curated venues such as the Musikverein, home to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatsoper, as well as the multistage Konzerthaus.
Explore the great outdoors
We cannot imagine being sick of the beautiful museums and architecture in the city, but the rolling hills on the outskirts of Vienna is a lovely way to get away from the bustle. It takes less than an hour from the city centre’s overground trains to any one Vienna’s extensive outdoor space. Locals love renting a bike for cycling trips too — an insider’s trip is a 10-kilometre route that begins in Sievering and goes on a circular walk that includes amazing views at the highest point in Vienna, Hermannskogel hill.
Where to eat
Casual luxury is key here at At Eight. Head over to Vienna’s The Ring Hotel and be prepared to dine in a modern, well-lit dining room similar to contemporary homes. Here, guests are made to feel as though they are dining in a comfortable space, taking apart the notion that fine-dining has to be stuffy and proper. Local and seasonal produce is what drives the menu, with new dishes available almost monthly. The a la carte menu is a modest selection of dishes, as most diners choose the three, four or five-course set.
Many visitors from around the world come to Vienna for Restaurant Steirereck, fondly known as one of the best fine-dining places in the country. Expect to find smooth white table clothes and immaculate service here, all housed under a glass cube in the middle of Stadtpark. The two-Michelin-starred diner champions the search for the aromas and flavours of Austria, complemented by a whopping 35 thousand bottled cellar. Those unable to choose can pick a six or seven-course tasting menu for dinner, or the four or five-course menu for lunch. An a la carte menu is also available, with crowd favourites like Char, a fish dish served with beeswax, yellow carrot ‘pollen’ and sour cream. If you’re up for it, their hallowed cheese trolley is a spectacular sight (and taste!) to feast on as well.
Walter Bauer, is a cosy family-run restaurant hidden in one of Vienna’s quiet, curving lanes. The charming establishment has been consistently ranked highly by locals and no-frills gourmets around the world, so much so that it has earned itself a Michelin star. Here, come without the expectation of fancy plating and elaborate get-ups — find only unpretentious, classic Viennese dishes elevated to contemporary standards. To complete your meal, choose from a wide range of wines in their cellar, including several Austrian bottles for the true-blue local experience.
Where to stay
Hotel Grand Ferdinand Vienna
Guests who prefer cosier, modern finishings can choose to spend the night at Hotel Grand Ferdinand Vienna. This stylish, upscale hotel is a 12-minute stroll to an S-Bahn station and a short 14-minute walk from the Hofburg Imperial Palace. Sleek, clean designs reign in all of their 186 rooms and suites, each fitted with an open-plan bedroom and cloud-like beds. If you’re here in the summer, be sure to take a dip at their rooftop pool. The infinity pool features beautiful views over the Ringstrasse and is flanked by wicker tables and chairs for an after-swim drink or two. If you’re up for a taste of Vienna, pop by any one of the hotel’s three eateries, all dishing out Viennese classics right at your doorstep.
Grand Hotel Wien
Austria’s first luxury accommodation is the Grand Hotel Wien, who opened its doors for the first time in 1870. It quickly found favour in the local’s social circle and was frequented by the famed Johann Strauss, composer of Kaiser-Walzer. In the present day, the 19th-century hotel sits on a street just a brisk 10-minutes walk away from Hofburg Palace and a three km from the Prater park. Upon entering, the hotel’s old-world opulence immediately shines through — sweeping staircases, ornate chandeliers and glistening marble speak to a grandeur unlike any other. Each of the 205 bedrooms and suites is fashioned in classical Viennese style, made complete with modern conveniences. Guests who prefer convenience can dine in one of their seven restaurants, spanning Japanese to Arabic choices for the discerning traveller. If there is just one restaurant to try, it would be Le Ciel by Toni Mörwald, a Michelin-starred establishment serving elegant Austrian and French cuisine.
Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna
Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna, located just inside the Ringstrasse, is a polished establishment brimming with character. The heritage-listed Palais was built in 1873, a brainchild of the celebrated Theophil Edvard von Hansen and other architects. Each of its 152 stately rooms is decked out in contemporary amenities, and feature a blend of traditional Viennese and modern decor. Guests who find themselves lost with the plethora of options around the city can book experiences via the hotel instead, including monthly apple strudel cooking class and excursions in a Fiaker, a traditional Viennese horse-drawn carriage. After a long day, spend a couple of hours at the in-house Ottoman-inspired spa, complete with six treatment rooms, a hydro pool and a steam room to boot.