1: Imperial Palace (Hofburg)
Nowadays the official seat of the Austrian president, the Imperial Palace has been a place of great importance since the 13th century. What began as one building grew into a vast compound as the Habsburg dynasty expanded their wealth and power, and the present configuration includes the Imperial Treasury, the Austrian National Library, and the Imperial Horse Stables. Lose yourself in the splendor of one of Europe’s greatest empires when you visit the state rooms and apartments, and walk in the footsteps of Napoleon, Mozart, and other famous guests.
2: Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn)
This palace is easily one of the most recognizable sights in Vienna. It was the summer home of the Habsburgs, and the grandest palace in Austria. Marvel at the opulence of the 1,441room palace, and then move on to the massive Imperial Garden. Here you’ll find the Gloriette, a summer house set atop a modest hill, commemorating the power of the mighty Habsburgs. You’ll also find the Roman Ruins, a deliberate sculpture emulating similar authentic ruins elsewhere in Europe. It is thought that these artificial ruins were meant to symbolize that great empires remain great even when their buildings fall to ruins.
3: Belvedere Palace & Museum (Schloss Belvedere)
Made up of two palaces, Upper and Lower, Belvedere is yet another property built by the Habsburgs during their extensive reign. It is widely regarded as the finest Baroque landmark in the world. Besides the two palaces, the grounds contain the Palace Gardens, the Palace Stable, and the Orangery, a type of building similar to a greenhouse which was all the rage amongst the aristocracy at the time.
4: Hundertwasser House (Hundertwasserhaus)
Friedensreich Hundertwasser first conceived of the idea to build houses that harmonize with nature in the early 1950s. He imagined structures with forested roofs, houses built into hillsides that resembled eyelids, and this house is the culmination of these imaginings. The exterior itself is a patchwork of colors, almost resembling a child’s drawing of an apartment building. Trees billow out of the top, and upon entry into the house, you learn that they grow throughout the inside of the building as well. Hundertwasser favored irregularities, including the undulating floor.
See the Hundertwasser House with a ride on the Hop on Hop off bus tour’s Blue Line with free city walking tours in English.
5: St. Michael’s Square (Michaelerplatz Square)
This is Vienna’s most famous square, most likely because it lies directly next to the Imperial Palace. From this square, you can enter the Hofburg through the Michaelertor, a monumental neoBaroque gate, which leads into the Michaelertrakt, or St. Michael wing of the Palace. Across from the Hofburg lies the Looshaus, a modern building designed by Adolf Loos which was reviled at the time of its construction for its stark contrast to the more classic Baroque architecture dominating Vienna. Take a coffee at Café Central, or explore Michaelerkirche, which was the parish of the Austrian monarchy.
6: Austrian Parliament Building (Parlament)
Currently home to the two branches of the Austrian legislature, the Parliament building lies on the Ringstraße, the ring road that encircles inner Vienna. The building was constructed in the classical style asan homage to ancient Greece and the ideals of democracy. A statue of battledressed Athena stands guard at the front, with a spear in one hand and Nike, the goddess of victory, in the other. Inside, take a peek at the Hall of Pillars, featuring 24 Corinthian pillars each weighing in at about 16 tons.
See the Parliament building and much more on a Vienna Hop on Hop off bus tour.
7: Viennese Giant Ferris Wheel
At nearly 65m (212 ft), this ferris wheel certainly lives up to its name. In fact, from 19201985, it was the tallest ferris wheel in the world. Originally built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I, the Wiener Riesenrad (as it is also known) escaped a brush with fate when a permit for its demolition was granted in 1916. Due to a lack of funds, the demolition could not be completed, and the Riesenrad survived. It has since endured both world wars to become a beloved addition to the city skyline.
Enjoy an evening at the Viennese Wine Tavern Serenade including a ride on the Ferris Wheel.
8: MuseumsQuartier (MQ)
As the name implies, the MuseumsQuartier is a vast cultural space, the eighth largest of its kind in the world. Here, you will find MUMOK, the Viennese museum of modern art, as well as the Leopold Museum, containing master works of the Viennese Secessionist Movement and other prized pieces of Austrian art. The Architekturzentrum Wien exhibits architectural works and facilitates the education of patrons in the culture of architecture. Dschungel Wien aims to engage slightly younger audiences, while Zoom Kindermuseum is geared for small children.
An urban oasis, learn how you could tour two museums with this duo ticket.
9: St. Stephens´s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
This grand gothic cathedral actually stands on the ruins of two other churches dating back to the 12th century. You will instantly recognize Stephansdom by its zigzagpatterned rooftop, if you somehow happen to have missed the massive south tower piercing Vienna’s skyline. This tower, nicknamed “Steffl”, was supposed to have an equally imposing northern twin, but construction was halted before it could be finished. The base of the tower remains, but its hasty conclusion is evident in the tiny “cap” that was placed on top.
10: Schönbrunn Zoo
This zoo began as an imperial menagerie in 1752, and is now the oldest zoo in the world. Its contemporary mission is the conservation of species with a focus on education. The zoo keeps giant pandas, one of only a few zoos in the world to do so, some of which have even successfully bred in captivity. Visitors can wander through a simulated Amazon rainforest and catch a glimpse of the variety of fish species in the aquarium before walking through the desert house. The zoo’s proximity to Schloss Schönbrunn makes it a convenient addition to the itinerary.