Modern Vienna is divided into 23 Bezirke or districts. The first district, known locally as Innere Stadt and encircled by Ringstrasse, comprises what before 1850 was virtually all of Austria’s capital. Within this area are many of the finest attractions of one of Europe’s grandest cities. But there are others elsewhere that offer equally exciting things to do.
Parlament offers an outstanding example of the official architecture of the late 19th century and remains a working Federal building for the legislature. Rathaus, roughly translated as ‘Council House’, is another. In Vienna, even politics has style.
But for the style that made the city famous take place in Hofburg, the Imperial Palace. The Hapsburg summer residence for generations, it is now a series of museums the like of which can not be found elsewhere. Equally grand is the Schonbrunn Palace which also offers the oldest zoo in the world. As with so many things in Vienna, both houses works of art while being works of art. Belvedere Palace is yet another example and, while smaller, is no less deserving of a visit.
For art lovers, though, the best possible choice if time is limited is the Kunsthistorisches Art Museum. Time shouldn’t be too limited, however, because it’s possible to spend days enjoying this fascinating collection created by the Hapsburg over centuries.
Across the street is still one more instance of a museum that is a work of art: the Naturhistorisches Museum. Built in the 19th century in the same Italian Renaissance style of the Art History museum listed above, the contents are creations of nature, with a little help from mankind. Along with ancient bears and bees, the museum houses the world’s largest meteorite collection.
If insects sitting on rocks are what you seek, though, experience some live ones at Schmetterlinghaus, the Butterfly House. Offering hundreds of the tiny creatures fluttering around freely, this 19th-century greenhouse is alone worth the visit.
For larger animals, but ones just as lovely, check out the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School. For centuries these magnificent horses have worked with their riders to demonstrate the finest classical riding in the world. Make sure to make time to visit the museum across the street, housed in the former Imperial Pharmacy.
Get slightly away from the downtown area by taking a trip to the Lainzer Tiergarten (Lainzer Deer Garden). This park is like none other in the world, with free-roaming wild boar amid unfettered tourists. Or, have a park experience minus the animals by strolling through the Burggarten where the only creatures are sculpted hedges.
For something even a little further out, but still close by, enjoy some of Vienna’s Heurigen (Wine Taverns). To get even farther away take one of the many Danube River cruises available.
When you get back, be sure to visit some of Vienna’s world-class shops and pick up some items you won’t find in New York or Paris. When you do, you won’t need a Strauss composition to waltz all the way home.