The beauty of Vienna is that it is only an hour and a half away by train from where I live. When time allows I can hop on an early morning train and escape to a city that I enjoy exploring.
The train brings me to Vienna’s main train station. From there, after grabbing a coffee, I usually walk ten minutes to the Belvedere Palace. I find walking through its botanical gardens very peaceful as I make my way to the city center. On my most recent visit the garden I discovered a big beautiful ginkgo tree and a section devoted to exotic cacti. The palace itself is worth visiting. It is home to the world’s largest collection of works by Klimt and other 19th and 20th century Austrian art.
For breakfast, I head to Café Central – my favorite coffeehouse in Vienna. What I find special about Café Central is its high vaulted ceiling and Renaissance columns as well as its amazing selection of cakes – each one perfect and beautifully served.
Established in 1876, the cafe is located inside Palais Ferstel, a palatial mansion house inspired by Venetian Trecento-era architecture. The cafe was once known as a place to play chess and it is famous also for the philosophers and poets that used to hang out here.
Café Central is located on Herrengasse, in Vienna’s first district and close to the city’s best-known sights and museums. Just down from Café Central is St. Michael’s Church, Vienna’s oldest church dating back to the 13th century. It’s high altar, with its falling angels, literally took my breath away. You can read more about it here.
Right next to St. Michael’s Church you will find Vienna’s most exclusive shopping streets which stretch from Kohlmarkt via Graben to Kärntner Strasse. I must admit that I am not much of a shopper but I do appreciate the window displays because they tend to be very imaginative and fun to photograph.
Just as you are about to turn right on Kärntner Strasse, turn left and you end up in front of Austria’s most important and most magnificent gothic structure – St. Stephen’s Cathedral. You can take an elevator up to the North tower to gain an exceptional view over the city. My vertigo prevents me from standing in such heights but I can imagine the view must be spectacular. St. Stephen’s Cathedral has one of the largest church bells in Austria and it is said that Beethoven had discovered his deafness when he realized that he could no longer hear it.
Located in the same area as the historic center is the *must see* Kapuzinergruft – The Habsburg Imperial Burial Vault located beneath the Kapuzinerkirche. It’s splendor I felt also deserved its own post and you can see my images and read more about it here.
If like me, you are into street art then you want to head down to the banks of the Donaukanal. The best and most interesting work can be found between Schwedenplatz and Schottenring. If you are serious about street art and want to see more of it you can use the Vienna Street Art Guide to plan a more in depth tour around the city.
For lunch or dinner, I recommend the restaurants and food stalls at Naschmarkt, Vienna’s central food market. Here you can find meals to suit all budgets and you can choose from a variety of cuisines from traditional Austrian to Asian to Middle Eastern. It is also a great place to pick up provisions for a picnic. The market sells a great selection of prepared food including stuffed olives, fresh bread, deli meats, and cheese as well as hummus.
There is so much to discover in Vienna. I have only named a few highlights. If you have a favorite place in Vienna please leave a note in the comments. I would love to know.