5 Reasons Why Vienna is One of the Great European Cities!
There’s no doubt that Europe is home to some amazing capital cities. London, Rome, Berlin and Paris all immediately come to mind.
The Austrian capital of Vienna is sometimes overlooked. But it is a grand and majestic city and an amazing place to explore.
1) The sights are incredible
Cathedrals, palaces, monuments. Vienna has a bit of everything. Okay, it actually has a lot of everything. There is so much to see, all of it breathtaking. Even though it’s a concrete jungle of a city, Vienna still feels very open. You don’t feel claustrophobic like you might elsewhere, even when it gets busy.
Stephansdom, the sprawling cathedral at the heart of Vienna’s historic center is definitely worth a visit. Make sure to time your visit to coincide with a guided tour of the extensive and fascinating catacombs. You can also go up to the top of the North Tower, and separately the South Tower for views across the city, and to get closer to the cathedrals tiled roof.
In complete contrast to the typically imperial and baroque architecture is Hundertwasser House, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser in the 1980s. Whilst it is now one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions, it was met with a lot of resistance when it was first proposed, with the design dismissed as ugly. It is still quite divisive to this day.
2) Vienna has a significant history
The stunning imperial architecture of Vienna is a consequence of its royal past. Vienna was also a key city in the Holy Roman Empire.
Rudolf von Habsburg was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1273, which started the era of the Habsburgs, who remained in power until the 20th Century. The Habsburg dynasty gave Vienna unprecedented power, which is reflected in the stunningly grand architecture spread right across the city. After Friedrich III was elected Emperor, he persuaded the pope to make Vienna a bishopric in 1469 which made the city more powerful than ever.
Schonbrunn Palace was the summer residence of the Habsburg rulers. The palace has 1,441 rooms and its expansive grounds even contains a zoo which is home to over 750 species of animals. Because the zoo dates back to being a menagerie in 1752, it is the oldest zoo in the world.
In 1740 Maria Theresia became the first and only female Habsburg ruler and she expanded Schonbrunn Palace further, and painted it in its now distinctive yellow – her favourite colour. Maria Theresia is considered the greatest Habsburg ruler. Her rule ushered in a golden age for Vienna, and Austria overall which started to evolve into a modern nation-state.
In 1938, Austria was absorbed into Nazi Germany and was no longer a nation in its own right. The Russian Heroes Monument on Schwarzenbergplatz commemorates the liberation of Vienna by the Soviets in 1945.
3) The coffee is amazing
Vienna has an incredible coffeehouse culture. I had the best toffee and almond latte ever. I also had the best ground Americano ever. I also had the best flat white ever. In conclusion, I had some of the best coffee ever.
Plus, none of the various independent coffee houses I tried were guilty of that ‘let’s jack up the price for the ambiance’ thing that’s so common. The prices were fair in comparison to any other major European city.
If you don’t quite love coffee as much as a Gilmore Girl might, I’ve heard a rumour that Vienna also has some pretty neat wine bars.
4) The public transport is accessible
Frequent, fast and not that crowded; Vienna’s public transport system is both accessible and extensive. The main forms of transport is the tramway, subway, the local train and the bus.
The public transport system in Vienna largely relies on a system of honesty. There are no ticket barriers or formal ticket checks. Spot checks do take place though, and there are fines for traveling without a ticket.
Tickets can easily be bought from stations, and from some newsagents. You can also buy a travel card in advance.
On a similar wavelength, Vienna is also easily accessible by its own airport which is increasingly used by British budget carriers, as well as neighbouring Slovakia’s Bratislava airport. Bratislava is just a 30 minute bus ride from Vienna, and you can often get Flixbus fares for about 10 euros.
5) Helpful Locals
We’ve all been somewhere where the locals aren’t entirely approachable. Paris says hi. But all of the locals I spoke too in Vienna were all really friendly and helpful. They even indulged me attempting their language AND didn’t even laugh at me one bit.
I usually travel solo which means if I want a photo of myself other than a selfie, I have to ask for help. Most people are usually happy to oblige (of course, with varying degrees of competency). But in Vienna, everybody was super helpful with framing the shot well, where I should stand and they honestly wouldn’t leave me alone until I reassured them that I was happy with the end results. And I was insanely happy, I think I got the best photos of myself (because why the hell would you want to look at anything else??) to date on this trip.
Make Vienna your next city break (but dream now, travel later)
Everybody has heard of Vienna, but it’s not as visited as many other Western European capitals – last year it was only the eighth most visited city in Europe. It’s an incredible place to visit, and I wish I’d had more time to explore.