Few European cities have such a rich history as the Austrian capital of Vienna. As the former home of the Habsburg court and its various empires, the city still has the look and feel of the imperial capital of its day. Artists and composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Gustav Klimt found inspiration and fame in this vibrant metropolitan city. Today, Vienna remains a city with a world-class musical and cultural heritage, mouth-watering cuisine, beautiful parks, liberal attitudes and a flourishing gay scene.
Having had the opportunity to visit this destination on several occasions, we decided to share a few of our favorite haunts and must see/dos.
Built in 1696 to rival Versailles, Schoenbrunn Palace with its surrounding buildings and the expansive park is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Austria. Formally the summer residence of the Habsburgs, Schoenbrunn is Vienna’s most popular tourist destination and is a must see for any first time visitor to Vienna.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
One of Vienna’s most famous sights, St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its steep multi-colored tile roof, is a landmark of the city center and has been the heart of Vienna for centuries. Built in 1147, the cathedral was the highest building in Europe for many years. Other notable features are the cathedral’s massive door with rich ornamentation of birds, demons, dragons, birds and lions. Although there is no shortage of impressive cathedrals in Europe, the St. Stephen’s Cathedral is certainly more that worth acknowledgement.
Wiener Hofreitschule – Spanish Riding School
Founded in 1572, the Spanish Riding School is the oldest and last Riding School in the world where classic dressage is still performed in its purest form. Horse enthusiasts will marvel at the majestic White Lipizzaner Stallions. Originally bread in Lipizza, Slovenia, the Lipizzaner is regarded to be the oldest classic horse race in Europe. The Riders of the Spanish Riding School train the horses for many years to perfect their performances. Dates for performances and training can be found at www.srs.at.
Vienna Opera House
A night at the State Opera is one of the most impressive events to experience for any visitor to Vienna. The Vienna State Opera is considered one of the most important opera houses in the world. This venue offers a different program every day, with over 50 operas and ballet works performed 300 days per season. Because of the high demand, it is recommended purchasing tickets in advance. Viennaconcerts.com
The Goldener Spiegel is the oldest existing gay venue operating under the same name in Vienna. This is a nice place for authentic Viennese food or just stop in for a drink in the bar. www.goldenerspiegel.at
The Café Savoy is a traditional Viennese coffee house with generous outdoor seating. A prime location to see and be seen. www.savoy.at
The Motto remains a top destination for food and drinks in Vienna. The clientele is mixed, and the percentage of prominent people is high. Designer Helmut Lang was a waiter here before he became a fashion icon. www.motto.at
The Village Bar has a diverse crowd and a relaxed vibe, known for friendly waiters and delicious cocktails. Not as large as clubs you may find in North America. www.village-bar.at
Felixx has been a fixture of the Vienna gay scene for several years. Open daily, the Felixx has a great ambiance and excellent music, if you enjoy pop and house. www.felixx-bar.at
From large chain store to small boutiques, Vienna offers a variety of antique stores, jeweler’s shops, galleries and high-end fashion boutiques.
Vienna’s Old City, hosts the exclusive flagship stores of Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani, Miu Miu, Roberto Cavalli, Prada, and Yves Saint Laurent. This luxury shopping area is referred to as the “Golden Quarter” and is a must for see for any fashionista.
Mariahilfer Straße is the city’s largest shopping street. This is a great area to window shop and the street is full of unique stores that you won’t find anywhere else.
For those looking for something less pricey, the flea market at the Naschmarkt is a culinary voyage around the world with its food kiosks serving up a variety of fare in a casual and fun setting. In addition, like most flea markets, there are all sorts of treasures and junk to sort through. Who knows, you may find that rare gift for someone special or a treat for yourself to remember your trip.