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Vienna - Out and About

Vienna, Austria’s capital city, has 1,533,000 inhabitants and stands on the right bank of the Danube, at the foot of the Wienervald hills.

Originally referred to as Vindobona, the city had already gained notable importance by the period of the Roman Empire. From the 13th century to the end of the First World War, the country was under the rule of the Augsburg family.

Nearly all the city’s sights and major attractions are located within a small area and are easily reached on foot. Vienna is divided into districts (Bezirke). District number 1 (Inneren Stadt) is the centre of the city and contains the largest number of monuments, all of which are indicated with a red and white sign. The Ringstrasse is the visitor’s first indication of Imperial Vienna. The Ring Vienna’s most important street, is a wide, tree- lined road, that runs for 6 kilometres forming a ring around the city centre. The Ring, built on the orders of the Emperor Francesco Giuseppe, encloses the Graben, Vienna’s Salon, a long bustling square, with elegant shops and lined by marvellous wonderful buildings. The Hofburg, the imperial palace and, for seven centuries, the Augsburg family home, is located along the Kohlmarkt to the south-west of the Graben. The palace is a vast complex of buildings dating back to different periods of history. The Josefsplatz is located behind the palace’s stable block. This is one of the city’s most elegant squares, lined with 17th century buildings including the National Library, built in 1723 and the Albertina Palace, built on a spur of land,, originally the site of ancient ramparts. The palace was built in 1871 for the Archduke Alberto and houses the Museum of Cinema and the National Library musical collection. The city centre is the site of the Stephansdom, Austria’s finest example of a Gothic church, with pointed steeple and multi-coloured roof. The area comprising Seitenstettstr, from Rabensteig and Fleischmarkt, forms the Jewish district of the city. This area, known as Bermudadreick, houses taverns, restaurants and English bookshops. The Karntnerstrasse, flanked by historic hotels, elegant shops and art galleries is the nerve point of the city. The square is dominated by the majestic San Carlo Borromeo Church, the finest expression of Viennese Baroque architecture.

The old suburbs of the city are located between the two ring roads; The Ring and the Gurtel. The Prater, located in the second district, is a green corner of nature, with woods and lawns, which was once the imperial hunting reserve and, which under Joseph II in 1766, was opened to the public. The Prater contains numerous sporting clubs and associations and is also the site of the Wurstelprater, an enormous theme park with rides, attractions and a miniature train which crosses the park. The third district houses the Belvedere Castle, originally the home of Prince Eugene of Savoia. It comprises two buildings, linked by a splendid garden and terrace and houses a collection of Austrian art.

The main road running to the south- west of the city is the Mariahilferstrasse, which connects the ring to the Schonbrunn Castle. This building, the finest example of an imperial Austrian palace, Was the summer residence of the Augsburg.

Vienna has four metropolitan lines, a bus and tram service,together with an express tram service (Schnelbahn), that connects the centre to the suburbs. Thirty tram lines in total, cross the city. It is advisable to purchase a travel pass (Dreitagekarte), which allows unlimited travel on any public transport. The traditional horse-drawn carriages are a novel way to visit the city, however it is advisable to agree the fare beforehand. There is a barge service, which operates from mid April until the end of September, that connects the city with the towns of Krems, Link and Passau.

Vienna - Not to be missed

Those wishing to visit a museum, should go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, housed in a splendid building in the Ring, with one of the largest picture galleries in the world. The paintings include work from Egypt, Greece, Medieval Rome and the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

The Natural History Museum has a rich botanical and zoological section and the museum’s didactic approach is greatly appreciated by the visitor.

The Academy of Figurative Art, houses notable collections of Dutch painters, paintings from the Italian School including Botticelli, Tiziano and Gentile da Fabriano and a gallery dedicated to the triptychs of Bosch. In addition to the museum’s paintings there is the fine Albertina drawing collection, with works from the Italian, French and English Schools of the 15th and 17th century, 40,000 drawings and almost 1 million lytographies, prints and engravings.

Vienna - Walks and tours

The interesting village Heiligenstadt is located in the northern outskirts of the city. The village’s central square houses the S. Jakob Roman church and the house of Beethoven, a 16th century rustic construction with a picturesque courtyard, where the composer lived around 1817. Continuing north for a few kilometres, the road arrives at Grinzing, an old wine-producing village, famous for its “Heuriger”, quaint bars, where the newly produced wine is served, accompanied by dancing and singing to the sounds of a traditional Viennese Quartet. A further 3km takes the visitor to the Kahlenberg hills, where at the 483 metre summit, it is possible to obtain a magnificent view over the city of Vienna and the meandering Danube.

The Wiener Wald tour (total distance 77km) is a trip of great interest, in a region rich both in natural beauty and historic and artistic monuments. Travelling south, one arrives at Baden, an important hydromineral station. From here travelling north-west, there is the possibility of visiting Mayerling, a chapel that commemorates the site, where in 1889 the Achduke Rodolfo, son of the Emperor Francesco Giuseppe and the only heir to the Austrian throne, took his life, together with the Baroness Maria Vetsera.

From here travelling north east it is possible to visit Heiligenkreuz, site of the famous Cistercian abbey founded in 1155.The town of Modling, located a short distance to the east, is the site of the BlackTower (Schwarzer Turm) and the Liechtenstein Castle, both romantic reconstructions of ancient medieval fortresses.

Vienna - The traveller's notebook

Currency : Euro

Electric supply: 220 volts, with a round two-pinned plug.

Climate : continental with cold winters and warm summers with moderate rainfall. The best time to visit is May- June, September-October.

Language : German

Opening hours : the city operates a flexible opening time programme. Usually the shops are open from Monday to Friday until 7:30 pm and Saturday until 5pm. The banks have a large number of cash point machines.

Telephones : to telephone to Austria the country code is 0043 followed by the area code without the initial zero.

Vienna - A pocket guide

The principle shopping centres are located among the narrow streets around S. Stephen, the Mariahilferstr and the Favoritenstr. The majority of them are now pedestrianized and bustling with all kinds of shops.

Sample traditional Viennese food in one of the city’s Beisel. These characteristic places offer good food at reasonable prices. The Beisels are concentrated around Bermudadreieck,in the old part of the city between Seitenstettengasse, Ruprechtskirche and Rabensteig. The Imbibstuben, snack bar and Stehbeisel are always appreciated by the tourist. The locals frequent the Statdheurigen, city taverns, situated in the cellars of the old part of the city. Generally the restaurants serve lunch from 12 to 2pm and dinner from 6pm to 10pm. Many offer a fixed price menu. A mid-day snack can be taken in one of the many kiosks dotted around the city. The Wurstelstande offers hot sausages, sardines and boiled eggs.

 

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