Vienna owes its majestic antiquity to over two thousand years of history, in which the city has rose from humble Celtic origins to become one of the world’s preeminent destinations. Like many European capitals, the Romans helped to shape modern-day Vienna, establishing the frontier city of Vindobona here in 15 BC.
In 976, Vienna was embraced by the Eastern March, a district of the Danube established by Leopold I of Babenberg. The Babenberg Dynasty relocated to Vienna in 1145, and its lineage still exists in the city to today. By 1440 Vienna had grown to become the de facto capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and rapidly became a global centre for the arts, science, fine cuisine and, of course, music.
After the Ottoman Empire made several failed attempts to occupy the city in the 17th century, Vienna was proclaimed the capital of the Austrian Empire in 1804. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Vienna became world renowned for its classical music, and spawned the First Viennese School in the late 18th century - a nickname given to three of the city’s most famous composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Hampered minimally by the First World War, Vienna continued to expand and develop rapidly in the 19th century, and was seen as a centre for high culture and modernism in Europe. Following Germany’s defeat in the Second World War, Vienna was split into factions between the allies and Russia, but wasn’t subject to the same level of attrition as Berlin.
In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty was signed, beckoning in a new era of peace and prosperity in Vienna, and Austria more generally. Since then the city has flourished, and most of its illustrious architectural wonders have been rebuilt or restored to their former glory — providing a charming backdrop for today’s sightseers to enjoy.
There’s a reason Vienna is dubbed Europe’s cultural capital. The city drips heritage, history and intrigue, making it a wonderful place to visit whether you’re staying for two nights or a week.
Flanking Vienna’s historic Innere Stadt quarter, the Ringstraße is no ordinary ring road. Established in the 19th century, this ‘Lord of the ring roads’ is protected by UNESCO on account of its exquisite architectural beauty. The road passes many of Vienna’s most esteemed buildings, including the Vienna State Opera, Academy of Finer Arts and the opulent Palace of Justice, so it’s a great starting point on an all-encompassing tour of the city.
Arguably one of the most prestigious fine art galleries in the world, Kunsthistorische Museum boasts a vast roster of exquisite works from the likes of Rubens, Caravaggioo, Titian and Brueghel. If you aren’t partial to art spotting, the museum is worth visiting for its architecture alone, which is considered the finest example of 19th century design anywhere in Europe.
First opened in 1741, the Burgtheater remains one of the world’s most significant German-speaking theatres, and regularly hosts award-winning productions which feature prompts in English. Even if you don’t book seats for a show, the opulence of the building’s architecture makes it a must-see, and tours of the theatre’s majestic interior are also available.
Where to Shop
Culture isn’t the only thing on offer in the midst of Vienna’s charming boulevards. The city comes close to Paris in terms of high-end retail, and has cultivated a reputation for supplying exquisite handcrafted jewellery. Here we explore a handful of the best places to shop in Vienna.
Luxury shopping doesn’t come much better than Vienna’s Golden Quarter. Stretching for several blocks within the city’s iconic Old City, this illustrious neighbourhood contains a number of flagship stores, including Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani, Saint Laurent and Roberto Cavalli. For those serious about shopping, this is the place to be.
If jewellery is on your Viennese shopping list, make for the city’s prestigious shopping zone, Kohlmarket. Stretching from Hofburg Palace to Kärntner Strasse; Kohlmarket is home to Vienna’s jewellery crafting elite, including Wagner, Schullin and Bucherer. Recently, these traditional Viennese jewellers have been joined by a selection of other luxury brands from across the globe, including Cartier, Wellendorff, Chopard and Tiffany.
For those who prefer their shops to be all in one place, Mariahilfer Straße is the place to go. The street dissects the 6th and 7th districts of the city, and boasts a raft of stores — from cutting edge boutiques to high street names. There are also several high-end souvenir and gift shops, where it’s possible to pick up that most Viennese of items, the snow globe.
The heritage and charm of Vienna is best savoured as part of a luxury river cruise with Scenic. Aboard our 5-star Space-Ships, you’ll cruise through the heart of the city atop the Danube — experiencing first-hand, the beauty of this great city.
To browse our collection of handpicked Danube river cruises, visit the homepage or call us on 0808 278 7213.