The beautifully preserved city of Vienna is truly one of those cities where you can happily spend weeks on end marvelling at the stunning architecture, stumbling upon historical sites and hidden away cultural haunts.
But if you had only a fleeting 48 hours in Austria’s stunning capital, what experiences can you not afford to miss?
Breakfast at Cafe Central
Breakfast is a historic affair in the beautiful surrounds of Cafe Central. Just an easy stroll from the central gardens, known as the Heldenplatz, Cafe Central has stood for well over a century. First opened in 1876, these walls have seen illustrious visitors from Sigmund Freud to Peter Altenberg and Leon Trotsky come to ponder.
Nibble on breakfast a la carte and Viennese specialty coffee as you admire the honey-coloured stone interior with its columns and vintage touches.
Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
Once you’ve had your fill of delicious breakfast, make your way across to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral through the broad boulevard of Graben, which will take you past the slightly smaller, but no less beautiful church of Saint Peter’s its dome.
As you walk up to the Cathedral, take a second to appreciate the incredible intricacy of its Gothic architecture, which has stood in various guises since the Middle Ages. Wander through the main hall of the church, where light filters through the stained glass window. Cast your eyes skyward – just 343 steps away is the soaring height of the Tower Room, giving you an unparalleled view over the city.
National Library and Kunsthistorisches Museum
Take the slick Vienna underground, known as the U-Bahn, from Stephansplatz two stops on the orange U3 line to Volkstheater. You’ll alight a few steps from the scenic grounds surrounding the Natural History Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum opposite.
Meander through the Maria Theresien Platz, situated in the centre of the gardens, and take a relaxed picnic lunch on the lawn after a wander through these insightful museums.
Walk through the archway south of the Maria Theresien Platz and you’ll find yourself in the conveniently located Museum Quarter. From here, you can take your pick of some amazing world-class museums, one of which is the dynamic Leopold Museum.
This minimalist cube structure holds a true treasury of modern and contemporary works by Viennese artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Towards the top storey, you’ll find the Cafe Leopold, offering a welcome respite after a day on your feet, with a great view over the quarter to boot. The Museum is open daily until 6 p.m., but stays open a little later until 9 p.m. on Thursdays, when its cafe turns into a trendy bar.
Spanish Riding School
Start your day off with a trip to the city’s historic centre, passing through the meticulously preserved Hofburg Palace, once home to the Habsburgs in the Imperial Apartments. In addition to being a museum, the opulent building houses the world-famous Spanish Riding School.
Operating for almost 450 years, the school is one of the few places in the world where the Haute Ecole traditional skills are taught in a style barely altered since the Renaissance. Catch a glimpse of some of the finest Lipizzaner stallions you’ll ever see, their riders just as nimble and precise as the highly trained horses themselves.
Eat a Mozart Ball
You can’t visit this city without sampling one of its Mozartkugeln, or Mozart Balls. Named for the musical genius who was born in Salzburg, 1756, the first Mozart Balls are thought to have been made back in 1890 by Paul Furst.
You’ll find them in souvenir and confectionery shops around the city, wrapped in foil with a portrait of everyone’s favourite composer. Biting into one, you’ll taste a praline cream coated marzipan centre encased in chocolate. Perfect with a coffee, or to take back as souvenirs.
Put aside the rest of your day to explore the wonderful Schonbrunn Palace, just out of the city centre. You can reach it via the U-Bahn’s green U4 line, by jumping off at the Schonbrunn stop.
Originally intended as a Baroque-inspired hunting lodge in the late 1600s, the palace became the hub of the Viennese court during the reign of Maria Theresa, and has retained its magnificent rooms and grounds to this day. As this is a popular site amongst visitors, a good time to go is just after midday.
Mozart and Strauss Concert
There’s simply no excuse not to experience one of the city’s cultural triumphs, a classical music performance by the Salonorchester Alt Wien at the utterly romantic Kursalon building. Let your ears rejoice to the Sound of Vienna concert, featuring beloved works by Mozart and Strauss, while your eyes delight in the beautiful Rococo interior and the guest ballet performance.