What comes to mind when you think of Vienna? For me, it is the imperial ambiance that could be found at every turn. From the opulent Hofburg, the marvelous Stephansdom to the grandiose Schönbrunn, the legacy of the Habsburg monarchy seems strikingly alive in this city.
Vienna’s root dates back to 15 BC when the Romans established the military base Vindobona on the Danube River. In the following centuries, this settlement developed into a cultural, economic, and political center.
Vienna eventually became the capital city of Austria at the beginning of the 19th century. Its focal point is the Innere Stadt (inner city) – an outstanding architectural ensemble in which Baroque palaces and gardens blend with grand buildings and monuments in numerous architectural forms.
1. Vienna Old Town
The Innere Stadt encompasses the entire Vienna historical center. At the center of it is the Stephansdom (St. Stephen Cathedral) – the city’s most recognizable symbol. It was firstly built in the 12th century to meet the town’s religious needs. But in 1258 a fire completely destroyed the original building.
The cathedral received its current form in the Gothic style after the reconstruction in the 14th century. Stephansdom has borne witness to several important events in Habsburgs and Austrian history, including the famous “Viennese double wedding” which brought the Habsburgs both the Hungarian and Bohemian crowns.
Within walking distance from the cathedral is Hofburg – the main residence of Habsburgs monarchs. Constructed in the 13th century and expanded over the centuries, it was the empire’s heart for more than 600 years. The Baroque palace comprises various edifices such as the St. Michael’s Wing, the Court Library, the Imperial Butterfly House, as well as the Neue Burg (New Palace).
The whole complex is about 240,000 m² in size and decorated in various architectural styles, from Gothic to Baroque and Neo-Classicism. Today, the Hofburg Palace is home to numerous museums with outstanding collections, the Spanish Riding School, and the seat of the Austrian Federal President.
At the periphery of the Innere Stadt, you can find the marvelous Vienna city hall in Neo-Gothic style and the Greek-inspired Austrian Parliament Building. Both were constructed in the 19th century under the rule of Emperor Franz Joseph. They are lined along the magnificent Ringstraße – a circular, grand boulevard surrounding the old town.
The Karlskirche (St. Charles Church) with its unmistakable cupola is also located on this boulevard. The church is the last work of the eminent architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. It was built as the result of a vow taken by Emperor Charles VI during a plague epidemic. Finished in 1739, St. Charles Church is widely considered as the most outstanding Baroque religious building in the city.
Outside the old town, the imperial atmosphere is clearly visible on the splendid Belvedere. Built in the early 18th century by the famous architect Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, the Baroque palace was the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy. It comprises two palaces: the Upper Belvedere and the Lower Belvedere, as well as an extensive garden. It is counted as one of Europe’s most stunning Baroque landmarks and listed as UNESCO Heritage Site since 2001 (together with the city’s historic center).
Today, it houses the greatest exhibition of Austrian art dating from the Middle Age to the present day, including works by Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, and the world’s largest collection of oil paintings by the iconic artist Gustav Klimt. Kiss (Lover) – his most popular masterpiece – holds an honorable position in the Upper Belvedere.
3. Schloss Schönbrunn
Another architectural gem that should not be missed is Schloss Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Palace) located in the western part of Vienna. The palace’s history dates back to 300 years ago when Emperor Leopold I ordered to build an imperial hunting lodge for his son, Crown Prince Joseph. Over the course of the 18th century, it grew into a palatial residence and the young Prince, later to become Emperor Franz Joseph, spent a great deal of his life here.
With over 1400 beautifully decorated rooms (several are opened to the public) and an extravagant garden, the former imperial summer residence is one of the country’s most popular attractions. The palace is surrounded by an enormous Baroque garden extending for 1.2 kilometers from east to west and approximately 1 kilometer from north to south. In the garden, you can find many beautiful sites such as the Maze, the Neptune Fountain, or the Gloriette.
Tips for visiting Vienna
- Vienna’s old town is relatively compact and can be explored by foot. But thanks to the city’s excellent public transport system, it can be done by metro as well. Another alternative is using tram 1 or 2, however, they only run along the Ringstraße.
- Belvedere is not always crowded. But you can buy the ticket in advance to avoid the (possible) queue at the ticket office.
- As a tourist hotspot, Schloss Schönbrunn is usually crowded. Thus, it is strongly recommended to book the online ticket in advance.
- Considering a combo-ticket if you want to visit both the palace and the garden. Only the ticket to the palace is time-slotted. Other attractions in the garden can be visited whenever you want.
58 thoughts on “Vienna: Legacy of the Habsburg Monarchy”
Fantastic pictures! We only wish we had better cameras and skills when we were there!
Vienna is hands down my favorite city in Europe. Its compact historical center, impressive palaces, and big portions of food are just a few of what I love the most about the city. I was lucky to have a local (my cousin’s friend) to take us around. Your beautiful photos bring back some fond memories to me, so thanks for that!
My pleasure! Apart from the palaces, the thing I love most in Vienna is the cake. They taste heavenly! I am not really interested in sweets, but I ate cakes every day when I was in Vienna. 🙂
You had great weather for your photos — much better than I had on my recent visit to Vienna..
Indeed, we had luck with the weather! Just days ago, when we were in Salzburg, it was pouring rain.
Thanks for an informative post, there is no substitute for personal recommendations. We are spending Christmas in Vienna. Looks like there will be plenty to see and do.😀
You will surely enjoy Christmas in Vienna! The city is absolutely stunning during the holiday season. You cannot visit the gardens but the Christmas Markets will be able to make up for that. But it will be icy cold, regardless what the weather person say 🙂 I trusted the weather forecast and was silly enough to leave the gloves at the hotel. The result: I could not make any photo because my hands were numb.
😀 thanks for the advice. I’ll be sure to wrap up warm!
Great write up and great photos.
Thanks a lot!
Cooool, so much to look forward to. You sound like a wise old historian (a wise old historian who takes great photos). 🙂
Must admit I’m getting a little fatigued from seeing all those palaces and castles and churches and cobbled streets and I’m getting my sites mixed up…
I can understand 🙂 They looks pretty much similar, especially between Germany (Bavaria), Austria, Hungary and Czech. Well, they belonged to one dynasty after all. When you are in Vienna, do not miss the Schnitzel at Figlmüller (reservation is seemingly impossible so show up early).
Ok ok, I’m going to Google that schnitzel! What history books do you recommend? I’d love to read up on Europe history 101.
Most of the time, I read the description/leaflet at the sights 🙂 If there is anything that I found interest, i will buy a book about those places or Google them. I don’t have a book that covers Europe history in general. I think Europe history is so complex with so many dynasties (marrying, fighting,etc.). I can only remember several names and some major events 🙂
Awesome recommendation for the schnitzels! Loved the salads too. Have to blame you for the expanding waist line though… 😔
Haha when did you show up? 🙂
Last night for dinner. We had a birthday boy in our group so we got in with no booking!
Wow, a luckbringer! When in Vienna, you should definitively try the cakes too 🙂 I recommend Cafe Central (the Schokoladezauber is the best) and Cafe Sacher (their classic Sacher Torte). I think both are good but I like Central a bit more 🙂
😒 Please provide weight loss advice first!
I don’t know how to send photos in comments, but that cake was heavenly. We ordered 4 different cakes and shared. Thanks! 🤗
You welcome! Those cakes will be online soon 🙂
Crap, you serious! The schnitzel is twice the size of my head! I thought the pork knuckles in Munich were big enough, but this is something else…
Did you go Gundel in Budapest?
Nope, have never been there. The schnitzel looks huge but it is flat 😉 You can make it haha
I’ll start to starve myself. 👍
Looks like a fairy tale. When is the life ball?
It was held in middle of June 🙂
Breathtaking photos! I was in Vienna once, and I found it to be beautiful, although I don’t think I am going back anytime soon. I really want to visit other cities in Austria though.. Salzburg, Innsbruck, Hallstatt. Maybe a blog post on one of those places if you’ve already been there? 🙂
You read my mind, Pooja! 😉 Those posts are coming soon.
Beautiful photos.. 🙂 Reminds us of our trip..
Many thanks! You were in Austria just a few months ago, right? I remember that i saw your photos in Hallstatt and Innsbruck (?) – the place with the Swarowski park 🙂
Yes.. we travelled through Austria in April.. such a gorgeous country. 🙂 We visited Innsbruck, Hallstatt and Vienna..
I loved Vienna! So much to do and see. I enjoyed the local fish market in the heart of the city, as well as perusing the galleries and museums, and strolling Schonbrunn’s gardens.
Don’t forget the Viennese coffee house and their delicious cakes! Honestly, I had a hard time choosing them 🙂
I have been twice to Vienna.
The 2nd time was for the Christimas market and also, I got engaged there:) So it will always hold a place in my heart.
Please also follow my travels, hope you’ll get also inspiration!
You have my full support as well.
Congratulation! Your fiancee (husband now, I assume) really know what romance is 😉
:)))) Yes, he put some effort to it;) and actually set a trend among some of our friends. But of course these are in the end the least important things; what counts is respect and caring
Excellent write-up and photos!
Thank you! 🙂
Splendid architecture ! And thanks for sharing the history and other important details about the city. 😃
My pleasure! I am glad that you like it 🙂
I don’t know from where to even start! Your pictures are absolutely BREATHTAKING. I could just keep going up and down all afternoon looking at the gorgeous sights and admiring the angles and quality of each shot. Amazing! Thank you for all the information and history behind each subtitle. Very informative and helpful since I will be there for the 1st time on Dec. 27th. Cannot wait to see it all in person! Thank you for sharing!
My pleasure! I think you chose the best time to visit Vienna. With all the Christmas decoration and Christmas markets, the city looks like a fairy tale. It might be cold, but very atmospheric 🙂 Enjoy your stay there!
Wonderful insights to this lovely city and your photos are incredibly beautiful.
Many thanks 🙂 I am glad that you like them
This is an absolutely glorious “tour” of Vienna Len. I love this city and your beautiful photos have reminded me of what an architectural/historical feast Vienna offers.
Thank you, Caroline! I’m glad that you like the post 🙂
Great pictures 🙂 Which was your favourite thing in Vienna?
I would say the Viennese coffe culture, especially the cakes 🙂 Simply irresistible! In term of architecture, the Parliement Building is my favourite.
Vienna looks like an amazing place to visit for its history, architecture and people. As Jolene said, you sound like a wise old historian – such informative pieces of history behind each building and space you visited. What a beautiful view across Schloss Schönbrunn and it does sound like a luxurious place to wander through with stunning greenery. Very vivid and beautiful photos all round 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the food and coffee there too, Len 🙂
Those are my favourite 😛 I spent three days in Vienna and I had to go to Cáfe Central once per day. Their cakes are addictive! Btw, thank you for your very kind words 🙂
Sounds like Cáfe Central has amazing cakes. Hope you had enough cakes from there to last you a while. If not you can always go back for more – which is a good excuse to go back 😛
A perfect excuse 😀 I also want to see the National Library. It was closed during my visit 🙁
Awww. Another excuse to go back, to see the National Library. Every city has a National Library which is worth checking out 😀
Vienna is totally an epic city. Thanks for this detailed info and beautiful photos.
My pleasure 🙂
Just WOW! Another top post Len…Already booked and can´t wait to see this in August. Did you also take the tour for the Schönbrunn Palace? Your photos sell it all Len, really wonderful and your eye for detail is great. I loved the fact that you showed why this city is special. It´s grandeur is exquisite!
I would definitely try their cakes as you´ve mentioned but my husband is already looking at the menu for his favourite Wiener Schnitzel Haha!