Culture is to Vienna what romance is to Paris. Both shroud their chosen metropolis in a velvety cloak so proficiently, that even those who’ve never stepped foot outside the Hofburg Palace or along the banks of the Seine, can instantly relate to these iconic labels. So, rather than run away from what makes Vienna one of the best weekend escapes out there, we’re here to embrace it; With our top 5 cultural ‘must dos’ when on a Vienna city break:
Go to the Opera
Yes, really. Vienna’s State Opera House is the place to see an opera and with the option of bagging standing tickets for just €3, there’s no excuse not to give it a go. Indeed, even if you make a bolt for it after the first act, you’ve got fantastic value for money…
Do it: Standing tickets are open to all and go on display 80 minutes before the start of the performance. Take a scarf to save your spot in the theatre and make sure you wait until the interval to wander the grand reception rooms opened to theatre goers (and don’t forget your camera).
Attend a Ball
Should your trip to Vienna fall between Christmas and Lent (Fasching) you’ll be in with a chance of taking in one of the top sights in Vienna, their balls. Lavish and steeped in history, these events are the highlight of the Viennese social calendar and offer a spotlight on traditional Viennese customs. Tickets for the most splendid aren’t cheap, however, once in you’ll be treated to an evening of ceremony, dance, music and laughter… as well as some serious people watching.
Do it: The ball held in the Vienna State Opera House is the most decadent however; following hotly on its well-polished heels is the Coffee House Owners Ball which you may find more accessible. The ball is held in the impressive Hofburg Palace and tickets are available online or over the phone.
Head for a Coffee
If you haven’t heard about Vienna’s Coffee Shops you need to listen up. An integral part of city life, and Vienna culture, café’s and coffee shops sprung up some 300 years ago and haven’t waned in popularity since. Once a meeting place for poets, writers and intellectuals to sip and procrastinate, today they are a great way of enjoying some of Vienna’s most delectable treats.
Do it: Coffee Shops in Vienna are abundant and you are encouraged to sit and take your time. Popular haunts include Café Central and Café Demel, the latter requires you to select your cake at the counter before taking a ticket to your seat for service. The former is table service. Both offer up some seriously delectable cakes.
Visit St Stephan’s Cathedral & Climb the South Tower
Architecture in Vienna is a huge part of the city’s allure. Palaces are sprinkled throughout the streets with their facades adding grandeur difficult to match in modern glass creations. While touring the palaces could take you a weekend on their own, visiting the cathedral, and climbing its south tower can easily be fitted into a morning. There are 343 steps to contend with – but the views at the top make it (just about) worth it.
Do it: Go early as the winding staircase doesn’t lend itself to crowds. Also, make sure you take your camera to capture Vienna’s skyline (with or without the snow…)
Hit the Shops
Shopping in itself may not sound like a very cultural activity; however, it depends on what you shop for. Head out to the city’s long-running Naschmarkt and surround yourself with local arts, crafts and homemade treats. This market is Vienna’s largest and it starts early with stalls springing up from 6am. Loden Plankl is another good cultural treat as this family run business sells traditional Austrian attire from Dirndl dresses to Lederhosen and everything in between. Downstairs you’ll also find a collection of scarfs and socks – perfect if your trip happens to coincide with the coldest winter in 16 years…
Do it: Vienna shopping is all about the local treats. As well as crafts and clothing, chocolates are another shopping must. Café Demel have a fine selection on display for purchase, including the popular ‘langue de chats’ (or cat tongues), which incidentally don’t actually contain anything feline. But will not doubt get you licking your lips…
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