Vienna is at once imperial in design, with its pedestrian-only streets and Hapsburg-era architecture, and increasingly contemporary. Cutting-edge restaurants and chic boutiques are rising up in the Second District, while modern hotels and young designers bloom in the Seventh District.
What to do in Vienna, whether you’re here for history or nouveau Austrian experiences, is start your first day with a cup of coffee. Caffeine culture here is incredibly important to locals, who have been frequenting kaffeehauses since 1685. The best ones feel like you’re inside a relative’s grand living room. Café Sperl, which dates back to 1880, starred in the film Before Sunrise (and is Chef Gutenbrunner-approved) while Café Braunerhof in the Fifth District is known for live musical performances on Saturdays.
Continue your Vienna tour by strolling around the public park, the Prater, which houses the oldest amusement park in the world. Here, you can take a ride on the Feisenrad, a Ferris wheel from the late 19th-century, and enjoy unique, evolving views of Vienna’s cityscape. It’s also, of course, one of the many fun things to do in Vienna.
Next, travel back in time by visiting the State Hall of the Austrian National Library. More than 200,000 books are contained here, some of which date back to 1500. Another imperial highlight is the Schönbronn Palace, easily recognized by its rococo décor and mazelike gardens.
Vienna is also an ideal destination for art-lovers, who can admire original Klimts at the Schloss Belvedere and Secession buildings. The Leopold also boasts one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary art.
If all these Vienna attractions have helped you work up an appetite, satisfy your hunger with a schnitzel: one of the most distinctly Austrian dishes you can find. Any traditional city tavern, or gasthaus, is likely to be serving this simple breaded-and-fried veal cutlet. Pair your order with a local white wine from a heuriger, or wine tavern, or go sample the work of one of the many great vineyards redefining Austria as a wine-region worth traveling for.