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There is so much to do in Vienna. Perhaps this is part of the reason the city has attracted creative minds for so long; one could almost never be bored or want for inspiration. The best Vienna things to do revolve around art, shopping, art shopping, music, historical learning, cooking, dancing and eating. Revel till you drop (or till you're broke).
Neighborhood: 3rd District, southeast of The Ring
Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736) was a general and a great connoisseur of the arts, and he had Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt build him Belvedere Palace as his summer home. To this day, the palace houses some of the finest artworks in the world, including two pieces from Gustav Klimt's golden years: "The Kiss" and "Judith." The splendor of the gardens and baroque architecture alone make this palace worth a visit.
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Neighborhood: Right on the south edge of The Ring
Vienna's State Opera House is home to an impossible wealth of cultural history. It opened in 1869 with the premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni, and has since housed and debuted the works of countless legends. It has survived wars (with restorations) and remains one of the most iconic sights in Vienna to this day—as well as the most important venue. Purchase tickets early for anything you'd like to see there on your trip, or, alternatively, visit for a guided tour
of the State Opera House and Museum.
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Neighborhood: 2nd District, northeast of The Ring Riesenrad
The famous Giant Ferris Wheel ("Riesenrad") stands 200 feet high and was built in 1897 to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of Franz Joseph I's reign. It is surrounded by Vienna's most well-known amusement park, The Prater, a square that was redesigned in 2008 to resemble its own heritage from the year 1900. A typical Viennese souvenir is a snow globe (they were invented here) with the Riesenrad inside. If you've ever ridden it and gazed out to the hills and vineyards, rivers and forests and the historical square below, you know why.
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Neighborhood: The Ring
Demel, founded in 1786, is the most famous confectionary in Vienna. For Vienna travel, a visit to this cafe, chocolatier and pastry shop is a must as it will fill your senses with colors, tastes and smells like you've never seen, tasted or smelled. In a good way. You can peek into the kitchen to watch them make Mozart balls and other delights the same way they have for over 200 years or just cozy up to a table with a slice of Sacher cake and a delicious coffee. Be sure to peruse the extensive gift selection on your way out.
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Neighborhood: Just south of The Ring/Freihausviertel
Babette's is a foodie's dream come true—the shop is part bookstore, part restaurant and filled with spices and cookbooks for purchase. You can also order yourself an inexpensive, expertly prepared lunch at Babette's. The menu changes daily and includes inspiring recipes, usually with interesting stories behind them. And, if you like what you're eating, you can sign up to take a cooking class to learn some new tricks as well as the Viennese basics. What's worth learning to cook in Vienna? Oh, strudel, Mozart balls, Sacher tortes, Wiener schnitzel and sausages, just to name a few ...
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Neighborhood: The Ring
If you're on a Vienna vacation in January or February, you must attend a ball. It's an experience on par with seeing the Serengeti or the scenery in Bora Bora—completely overwhelming the best way. You should also brush up your waltzing skills while in Vienna (especially if you're going to a ball, because everyone does dance, but go anyway). Keep in mind that the Viennese Waltz is 60 beats per minute, and even if you think you know what you're doing, you might be surprised at how fast that is. At some studios, you don't even need to make a reservation to drop in and take a class.
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Neighborhood: Between The Ring and Spittelberg
Another top Vienna attraction, MuseumsQuartier, is one of the ten largest cultural complexes in the world and is home to several museums, including the Leopold Museum, famous for its Schieles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Considered a younger, hipper arts scene, it's also home to clubs, cafes and a courtyard where DJs and bands play all summer long. This is where the cool kids hang out, and you'll feel cool just being there. Grab a coffee at the Istanbul-inspired Milo cafe; you'll love the ceilings.
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Neighborhood: 13th District; take the U4 subway or 10 or 58 tram to Schönbrunn Station.
Schönbrunn Palace is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed palace with architecture as old as the 17th century. It served as home to Maria Teresia, Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Sisi (Sissi), just to name a few Habsburg greats. This huge yellow palace has several different tours to suit your interests including the Imperial Tour, which takes you through the private quarters of the various monarchs, highlighting their distinct individual stylistic preferences, the Grand Tour, which focuses more intensely on the life of Maria Teresia and the Sissi Ticket Tour, which includes entrance to the Sisi (Sissi) Museum and Imperial Silver Collection. During the holidays, a craft market takes place out in front of the palace. Also noteworthy: the garden labyrinth and private zoo.
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Neighborhood: West of The Ring
As one of the top things to do in Vienna, the Hofburg Imperial Palace is an expansive complex featuring not only the breathtaking royal residences, parts of which date back to the thirteenth century, but a number attractions for tourists and locals alike. A stroll through the gardens is a treat, but to take absolute advantage of your visit to the Hofburg Imperial Palace, visit the active Spanish Riding School, the Treasury, the Butterfly House, the Collection of Ancient Instruments and at least several of the museums. You could return here every day of your trip and not run out of things to do. Recommend: the Thursday night dinners at Kunsthistorische
, where dinner and wine are served and you can explore the museum between courses.
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Neighborhood: The Ring
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St. Stephen's Cathedral was built in 1147 AD. It's wildly colored, outrageously gothic and is home to countless ghost stories and religious legends as well as an impressive collection of art. Definitely stop by for a morning or afternoon guided tour for just 4.50 euros—check the website for times.
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