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Vienna - Capital of Austria

The city of Vienna is Austria's largest with an estimated population of 2.3 million when including the suburbs which means that over 25% of the overall population are here.

Vienna has always been a international city with large organisations such as the United Nations and OPEC having their headquarters here.

History and culture are old and respected here as too is the arts, especially music. After all this is the home of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss and Brahms.

But the city is not one to stand still in time, embracing the modern with bistros, sushi bars and courtyard dining.

www.wien.info/en

Top 10 things to do in Vienna

Schönbrunn Palace

This top tourist attraction is the formal summer residence of successive Hapsburg (House of Austria) monarchs.

The palace is huge with many rooms and hallways all elaborately and ornately decorated. It even has it's own chapel sacred to Mary Magdalene which is one of the few rooms that has remained largely unchanged since 1728 from the earlier palace designed by Fischer von Erlach.

The surrounding gardens are equally as large and beautiful all year round with sculptures, an orangey, fountains and even a zoo.

This is at the very least a half-day trip. Longer if you really want to read up on the history and make the most of the gardens in the Austrian sunshine.

A top tip is to buy tickets on-line from the official website and print them off. You won't find cheaper tickets elsewhere and it will save you time queuing up behind all those pesky tourists.

www.schoenbrunn.at/en/

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Up until 1918 the Hofburg was the winter residence to some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the palace is now home to the President of Austria.

The Hofburg has been the documented seat of government since 1279 for Austria and has been expanded over the years to include a chapel, the Imperial Library, the treasury, the national theatre, two museums and a riding school.

Discounted entry to most venues with a Vienna Card.

www.hofburg.wien.info/

Belvedere Palace

If you can fit one more palace into your travel itinerary then Belvedere Palace is a worthwhile visit.

The baroque styled palace was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy in 1716. Originally envisioned as a garden villa with orangey and gallery it is now what is known as the Lower Belvedere.

In 1720-1723 the Upper Belvedere was built, originally intended as an end to the large garden from the lower complex but it wasn't long before it was enlarged to provide the main summer residence for Prince Eugene.

The large garden area has been undergoing restoration and should be completed by 2010.

The palace complex also houses the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum containing an art collection which includes masterpieces from the Middle Ages and Baroque until the 21st century, although it focuses primarily on Austrian painters.

www.belvedere.at/jart/prj3/belvedere/main.jart?rel=en

Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral)

This centrally located cathedral is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, OP.

The Gothic cathedral was first built in 1147 AD and its most recognizable characteristic, the diamond-patterned tile roof of ceramic tiles donated by Viennese, was added in 1952.

The north tower (Nordturm) was never finished to match its partner, but was given a Renaissance crown in 1529. The top of the tower can be reached by elevator and has an observation desk affording great panoramic views of Vienna city center.

Also at the top of this tower is the Pummerin bell, one of the largest bells in the world, cast from a cannon captured from the Turks in 1683. It rings out over the city on New Year's Eve.

This is an active cathedral with services daily from 6am to 10pm and there is no access to the nave during services.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Stephen's_Cathedral,_Vienna

Spanish Riding School

If you're looking for something more exciting than rooms filled with jewel encrusted treasures then The Spanish Riding School near the Hofburg is a great treat.

First commissioned in 1565, it wasn't until 1729 that Emperor Charles VI started building the white riding hall that is still used today.

The school is a centre for classical dressage and a popular tourist spot. It offers public performances as well as permitting public viewing of some training sessions. Guided tours are also available.

It is the only institution in the world where the classic equestrian skills (haute école) has been preserved and is still practiced in its original form.

www.srs.at/index.php?id=265

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Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)

Located in the heart of Vienna on Ringstraße, this imposing building was built at the behest of Emperor Franz Joseph I as part of his expansion of the city in 1858 and opened to the public in 1891.

The museum's primary collections are those of the Habsburgs (the Austrian monarchy), particularly from the portrait and armour collections of Ferdinand of Tirol, the collections of Emperor Rudolf II and the collection of paintings of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm.

In addition to the royal portraits the museum also has collection from Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities.

The museum directly faces the Naturhistorisches Museum across Maria-Theresien-Platz (square) which has an identical exterior, so make sure you know which museum your in before trying to find a particular collection!

www.khm.at/en/khm-home/

Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum)

Officially known as the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien or simply abbreviated on maps as NHMW, the museum has over 8,700 m² of collections and scientifically maintains over 20 million objects.

Located on one side of Maria-Theresien-Platz it faces it's identical architectural twin, Kunsthistorisches Museum.

The upper floor houses collections including precious stones, minerals, large dinosaur displays, rare fossils and prehistoric art.

The first floor is dedicated to species from the animal world, from protozoa to insects to highly developed mammals.

www.nhm-wien.ac.at/

Ferris Wheel

Situated at the entrance to the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, the Wiener Riesenrad (translated as Viennese Giant Wheel), was one of the earliest ferris wheels in the world, erected in

1897 to celebrate Emperor Franz Josef I's golden Jubilee.

Sitting at an overall height of 64.75m, with 15 gondolas, the ride is pleasant and gives a great view over the park and rooftops of Vienna.

When there, if it all looks familiar then you would be right as it featured in the 1987 James Bond film, The Living Daylights.

It's not the only ferris wheel in Vienna but is the largest. The second wheel can be found at Bohemian Prater amusement park on the edge of the city.

Again, buying tickets on-line and printing them out will save you time queuing for tickets especially in the busy summer time.

www.wienerriesenrad.com/index.php?lang=en

Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury)

This is the oldest part of the Hofburg palace dating back to the 13th century on display here are items such as the Emperor's Crown of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian Emperor's Crown.

It is a dizzying collection of jewels, relics and treasures of the Holy Roman Empire. From dazzling gem encrusted crowns, orbs and sceptres to a fantastical unicorn horn and indulgences, the Imperial Treasury is a must see.

Hand held audio guides offer an interesting, self paced tour.

www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/sights/imperial/treasury

Parliament House

Located at the Ringstraße, the Austrian Parliament Building, (formerly the Reichsratsgebäude), is where the two Houses of the Parliament of Austria conduct their sittings.

Covering over 13,500m² it is one of the largest structures on the Ringstraße.

Located behind the entrance atrium is the grand Hall of Pillars (Säulenhalle) . The hall is about 40m long and 23m broad. The 24 corinthian pillars are made out of Adnet marble, all of them monoliths weighing around 16 tons each.

The exterior of the Austrian Parliament and especially the statue and fountain of Athena, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Vienna.

Generally, there is no casual access to the interior, however, since October 2005 a visitors-centre has been built and opened. Visitors can enter the building now not from the old side-entrance, but from the front at ground level.

www.parlinkom.gv.at/

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