If you’re looking to visit one of the most beautiful and culturally vibrant cities on earth, do not overlook Vienna, Austria. Known to the natives as Wien (pronounced with a “V”), this metropolitan city comprises 23 districts, radiating out from the first district at the center. The center districts are home to most of Vienna’s political and cultural structures, so if your stay in Vienna is short, concentrate your touring in this area. Here’s a look at some of the wonders of the heart of Vienna.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral
St. Stephan’s Cathedral (Stephanskirche or Stephansdom) is in the center of the first district. Founded in 1137, this icon was at one point in its history the tallest structure in Europe. It witnessed both the wedding and the funeral of the great musician Mozart. This cathedral has survived several fires and has been reconstructed to even greater glory after each rebuilding. The roof of the building is covered in multi-colored tiles, giving it a distinctive and eye-catching appearance.
The inside of this cathedral is just as beautiful. The baroque High Alter depicts the stoning of St. Stephen, the patron of the church. The Wiener Neustadt altarpiece is composed of two triptychs with gilded wooden figures depicting the Virgin Mary between St. Catherine and St. Barbara. The stone pulpit is unusually placed; instead of standing in the front of the church, it stands against a pillar out of the nave. This position made it easier for the congregation to hear the sermons.
As a historic music epicenter, you can’t overlook the sites of Vienna’s great musical heritage. Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler and Hayden all lived and worked in Vienna. The State Opera (Staatsoper) was built in the first district in 1869 in the Neo-Renaissance style. The halls and theater of the opera are lavishly decorated in red, gold and ivory. The theater houses an exquisite chandelier that is almost 23 feet in diameter. Pick up an opera schedule while you are visiting to see which opera or ballet is running. If you don’t mind standing throughout the show, inexpensive standing-room tickets are available, requiring only casual attire. Operas are performed in the original language, but translation screens are provided.
Two famous museums are located in Vienna’s seventh district in a region called Museum’s Quarter (Museumsquartier). Home to a wide range of museums, the two most recognizable buildings in this quarter are the Museum of Natural History (Naturhistorisches Museum) and the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum). The two museums are a pair; they have identical exteriors and face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz. Art and natural history lovers will find hours of entertainment in these two massive houses of history.
Traveling through Vienna to see these amazing sights will be even more convenient if you choose a car hire service. So, rent a car and get to sightseeing!