36 Hours in Vienna
The 150 year old majestic Ringstrasse is only one reason to visit a city where virtually any activity, from strolling through a museum to sipping coffee, leaves one feeling pampered. Video: New York Times
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For the eighth year in a row, Austria's beautiful capital has been named the world's most liveable city. Here are 20 reasons you need to visit.
1 VISIT THE MOST LIVABLE CITY
This year Vienna was voted most livable city in the world for the eighth consecutive time by international consulting firm Mercer. The study assesses quality of life in 230 cities around the world by comparing political, environmental, social and economic conditions as well as looking at medical care, education, infrastructure, public transport and recreation. That's a pretty good reason to visit.
** 2 MOVE BEYOND THE SCHNITZEL
Take a class at the Wrenkh brothers' restaurant and kochsalon in Bauernmarkt. Karl and Leo Wrenkh are rising stars on the Austrian cooking scene for their thoughtful vegetarian dishes. Austria, cooking and vegetarian in one sentence might seem like an oxymoron but there is life beyond the wiener schnitzel. The kitchen is bright and well thought out and so is the food. Who knew fried teriyaki pumpkin could taste so good? See wrenkh-wien.at
3 WALK THROUGH NASCHMARKT
Take a walk through the multicultural bustle of the Naschmarkt, Vienna's main food market. Even if you don't buy anything, it's a great place to stop and admire the surrounding art nouveau buildings. There's a flea market early on Saturday morning where you can buy all the things you didn't know you didn't need. See naschmarkt-vienna.com
4 EAT AT CAFE DRECHSLER
While at the Naschmarkt, take a moment to get a bite to eat in Cafe Drechsler nearby. It's been a Viennese institution since 1919 and is most definitely not a tourist hangout. Want to look like a local? Order a melange and a couple of semmeln with marmelade. A cappuccino and two rolls to thee and me. The marmalade will be apricot, trust me. See cafedrechsler.at/en/home.php
** 5 ADMIRE THE KUNSTKAMMER
The palatial Kunsthistorisches Museum on the Ringstrasse was built by order of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary and opened in 1891. It is, as you would expect, replete with stupid amounts of marble and gold-leaf and the like. Forget the rest and visit the amazing Kunstkammer rooms. The big attraction here is the Cellini Salt Cellar but the rest of this witty and curious collection is just as amazing – and has some spectacular sculptural examples of the pronounced mandibular prognathism of the Hapsburgs family (underbite, that is). See khm.at
6 HEAR THE HOUSE OF MUSIC
The House of Music in the centre of Vienna is an interactive museum devoted to sound and music in this most musical of cities. It's also, wonderfully and incongruously, known as Das Klangmuseum. It opened in 2000 and is set out over five floors of the former Palais of Archduke Charles. Here you'll find the Museum of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, several rooms devoted to classical composers and exhibits looking at sound itself. See hausdermusik.com/en
7 WORSHIP ST STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL
A bit of a no-brainer, and if you're lucky you might arrive in time for a service that includes a Mozart Requiem. Gets very, very busy in summer, and the costumed touts selling concert tickets outside can be irritating. Check out the large 05 number etched into the stone to the right of the front door – it's the code of the Austrian resistance movement during World War II.0 stands for O and 5 stands for E, the fifth letter of the alphabet. OE was code for Osterreich, a name forbidden during the Third Reich. See stephanskirche.at
8 CYCLE RINGSTRASSE
The Ringstrasse is the grand boulevard which circles the old part of Vienna. It's a big wide road with plenty of room and lots of cycle paths – and touches on pretty much every building of historical interest. A quick cycle around it will give you a good idea of the geography of the city and, at just 5.6 kilometres, it's short enough not to be too intimidating. There is an official Ring Boulevard Cycle Route, too. See wien.info/en/sightseeing/ringstrasse
See also: Cycling the world's most liveable city
9 DON'T WAIT AT SCHONBRUNN PALACE
On the outskirts of the city, the baroque beauty of Schonbrunn Palace (the summer residence of the Hapsburgs and their jutting jaws) is rightly famous but with that popularity comes the double-edged sword of tourists – and lots of them. Buy your tickets ahead of time online to save waiting, and waiting, in line on the day. See schoenbrunn.at/en
10 GIDDY-UP AT SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL
As synonymous with Vienna as Sigmund Freud – but much prettier. To watch these astonishingly beautiful horses being put through their paces is to watch poetry in action. Guided tours and regular events should be booked in advance. Seats at the majestic evening performances are not cheap but you can get standing room tickets for $36. See srs.at/en_US/start-en
11 HAVE A WALTZ
Go to a waltz concert. Austrians are waltz mad. When fireworks ring in the New Year at midnight on December 31 all the radio stations put on a waltz (usually Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube) and they start waltzing wherever they are – and, given that there are about 400-500 balls in the city annually, they don't stop pretty much all year. See viennaticketoffice.com/walzer_en.php
12 MAKE THE WURST OF A WURSTEL HUT
You haven't visited Vienna until you have spilled mustard down your front while eating a creamy kase krainer (a cheese, pork and beef sausage) at a wurstelhut. These little boxes can be found all over the city and are cheap and cheerful places to fill up. The Bitzinger Wurstelstand by the Opera is said to be one of the best. See wien.info/en/lifestyle-scene/in-places/hot-dog-stands
13 TAKE IN THE MUSEUM QUARTER
Like your art? Then take time to visit the Museumsquartier (MQ) and, especially, the Leopold Museum with its Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt collections. The MQ also houses MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art), the Kunsthalle Wien and festivals such as the Wiener Festwochen, an annual summer event. See mqw.at/en
14 ENJOY A SACHERTORTE
Austrians love their sachertorte, a chocolate sponge covered with chocolate icing, filled with a layer of apricot jam and served with cream. December 5, believe it or not, is National Sachertorte Day. But where to eat the "original"? Really, legal battles have been fought over it. The two main contenders for best sachertorte are the Demel Cafe and Hotel Sacher. I say split the difference; eat at both. You can always waltz off those extra kilos. See demel.at and sacher.com/hotel-sacher-wien
** 15 VISIT HUNDERTSWASSER VILLAGE
A little bit of Gaudi in Vienna, the Hundertwasser Village in Kegelgasse is a former tyre factory reimagined by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser to hold social housing, shops, cafes and a rooftop forest. It's a fantastically colourful and slightly surreal mash-up of architecture and nature in the middle of the city. It opened in 1990 and about 30 trees protrude from various nooks and crannies. See hundertwasser-village.com/en
16 STROLL IN STADTPARK
The 11-hectare City Park (Stadtpark) is popular with locals for a lunchtime stroll or an early morning jog. Check it out for statues of Johann Strauss II, Emil Jakob Schindler, Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner. The Kursalon on one side is a popular venue for waltz concerts. See wien.gv.at/english
17 RIDE BUS 38 TO VIENNA WOODS
Not a destination in itself, of course, but bus 38 will take you to Kahlenberg in the Vienna Woods. This 484-metre hill has great views of the city, especially from the Stefaniewarte, a 22-metre-tall viewing tower built in 1887. There is also a hiking trail that will get you there in about four hours. Get the bus there and walk back.
18 HAVE SOME WINE AT A HEURIGEN
Spend an evening eating and drinking at one of the many heurigen around Vienna. Essentially rustic wine taverns with gardens, the heurigen are a Viennese favourite. One of the more famous is the Heuriger Wieninger at Stammersdorfer Strasse 78 but pretty much any one will do. See wien.info/en/shopping-wining-dining/wine/heurige-2 and heuriger-wieninger.at/en/welcome
See also: Six of the best places to eat in Vienna
19 SHOP AT KARTNERSTRASSE
Follow the pedestrianised Kartnerstrasse from Stephansplatz to the State Opera House at Karlsplatz. This is the place to shop until you drop in all the top-class shops and boutiques. If you're lucky you might be able to snap up a T-shirt which says: "Austria – no kangaroos". See city-walks.info/Vienna/Kaerntnerstrasse.html
20 BE A SPY AT PRATERPARK
Ride the Wiener Riesenrad ferris wheel in Praterpark. Imagine you're Joseph Cotten or Orson Welles in the 1949 movie The Third Man. One of Vienna's most popular tourist attractions, it was built in 1897 and remained the world's tallest ferris wheel until 1985. Great for views of the city. See wienerriesenrad.com/en.
Keith Austin was a guest of Avalon Waterways.
See also: The 17 cities you need to visit in 2017
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