Vienna, an extremely attractive Austrian city located on the eastern banks of the Danube River, was once known as Vindobona many centuries ago. Since the 15th century, the Celts and the Romans used it as a key trading center due to its location. Even though the city can be quickly skimmed over during a brief visit, the baroque streetscapes, magnificent palaces, imperial architecture, a collection of museums, enrichment in the arts and music, gastronomic delights, and the Viennese coffee culture merit much more than just a few days.
In fact, I agree with the Hungarian writer and journalist – Sándor Márai on his sentiment about this city.
“Vienna wasn’t just a city, it was a tone that either one carries forever in one’s soul or one does not. It was the most beautiful thing…”Sándor Márai
The rich cultural heritage of Vienna is the summation of an eminent past, that dates back to the era of early Celtic and Roman settlements, then to a medieval and baroque city of an Austro-Hungarian empire. The city was made capital in 1156, under the Babenburg monarch, a Bavarian Ostmark which gradually branched out their influence from Danube to the outskirts of the northeastern southern and much of northern parts of Austria : The Bavarian East March.
Two decades before the Habsburg dynasty came into power Vienna was granted its charter, achieving the status of a city. Towards the latter part of the 12th century it became a significant trading capital and in 1273 Rudolph von Habsburg was elected king of the Holy Roman Empire.
Two decades later(14th century), Vienna faced many calamities and natural disasters such as the locusts plague and black deaths. Having stood the test of time, in the 17th century this city suffered (again) immensely as the Turks attempted to take over the capital. Having survived the 16th – 17th century high renaissance and early baroque periods, Vienna was later led to a Golden Age by the Habsburg rulers.
Between the latter half of the 18th and former of the 19th century, Vienna witnessed a blossoming musical era with many noteworthy musicians such as Christopher Williams, Mozart, Beethoven, Franz Schubert making Vienna there homely abode.
In the 18th century, Maria Theresia ascended the throne as the Habsburg dynasty failed to deliver a male heir to rule the Habsburgs. The first and the last empress of Austria, made the famous Schonbrunn her residential palace and later expanded it with exuberantly decorative rococo style.
Beautiful Schonbrunn Palace – Exterior View
In 1854, Maria Theresia’s successor Franz Joseph married the Bavarian princess Elizabeth, fondly known by the locals as ‘Sisi’ who was later assassined by an Italian anarchist in Geneva, Switzerland.
It is important to gain some insight of the city’s history so that everything you see in Vienna could be the unraveled visual of a narrative your mind has already woven.
Just navigate by the Ringstrasse which was instigated by the Emperor Franz Joseph in 1857, connecting the suburbs of Vienna to the hub of imperial power. History suggests the construction of the Ringstrasse lasted for more than half a century and the masterly urban city planning, makes it one of the best boulevards in the world.
Adorn the grandeur of Schonbrunn, Belvedere and Hofburg Palaces. Let your mind wander through the glory days of a lustrous past of the empire, and walk in the footsteps of the Habsburgs. The Hofburg Palace (aka the Imperial Palace) built by the Babenburgs and later expanded during the reign of the Habsburg is currently the official residence of the Austrian President. In fact, it is one of the predominant palace complexes in the world, housing many museums, monuments and gardens (etc.).
Get yourself a single ticket that would grant access to the apprehensive life of the Habsburg Empress, at the Sisi Museum, private and official chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth in the imperial apartments and court dining culture of the former imperial dynasty at the Imperial Silver Collection.
Besides the grandeur of the imperial palaces, there is much to be admired of the architectural style and element of larger buildings such as the State Opera House, The Parliament City Hall, the Burgtheater, the Vienna university, the Museum for Applied Art, which were all constructed in the second half of the 19th century.
Vienna has a noteworthy public transport system, however, I suggest you conquer this city by foot or bicycle. While you are at it, make sure to stop by and savor some Viennese delicacies such as:
Sachertorte: a chocolate cake with apricot filing garnished with gooey chocolate ontop
Schnitzel: veal coated in breadcrumbs and fried ( however some restaurants offer pork or chicken options for those who may not fancy veal )
Apple strudel: a soft pastry with sweet apple filing with a touch of cinnamon
Finger Sandwiches: if you wish to take a break from the crowds of Stephansplatz head towards Trzesniewski for some quick lunch or even an afternoon snack.
Besides the above, swing by the numerous cafes and bistros to appease the Viennese coffee culture. Demel’s cafe and bakery is considered the Emperors’ favorite back in the day, and hence is subliminaly considered a one of the city’s finest. Been able to get a closer look of the food been cooked adds to the uniqueness of the Demel’s experience.
There is much to be learnt, loved and appreciated about the journey of this city as it is transformed from Vindobona to the present day Vienna, that topped the world’s most liveable city list for the ninth consecutive year.
The congress of Vienna assembly held in 1814-1815, after the final defeat of Napoleon, is believed to have shaped and stabilized the 19th century Europe and the much adorned romantic image of Vienna has been established since.
Having visited Vienna twice already, I could profoundly state that this remarkable city has cloaked me with a new perspective, like a new found love it has stolen my heart, giving me butterflies but keeping me sane enough to cherish its allure.