Worth getting out of bed for...
- It’s possible to climb up to the viewing platform in the spire of St Stephen’s Cathedral. If it’s the cathedral you want a view of, then the bar or restaurant of DO & CO hotel in the cubist Hans Hollein building opposite is the place to go. In the summer there are also great views from the Ferris wheel on Prater, an island on the Danube.
- Arts and culture
- The Imperial Palace, or Hofburg, is a vast neoclassical complex in the centre of the city. The former seat of the Hapsburgs, it now seems ludicrously oversized for the Austrian capital, but it’s also a reminder that prior to World War I this city was the centre of the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire. The über-kitsch Vienna Boys’ Choir put on regular performances at the Burgkapelle in the palace. Also, pay a visit to the wonderful Secession Building on Friedrichstrasse to see Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze.
- Something for nothing
- St Stephen’s Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece at the centre of the Old Town and is universally loved by the Viennese. Among its many treasures, the two most unexpected are either side of the main entrance: a small niche for checking the official size of loaves (how very Teutonic) is on the left, while the number ‘05’ – the symbol of the Austrian resistance in World War II – is written on the right. On Sunday nights in summer there are also popular free screenings of classical music concerts or operas in front of the town hall on Rathausplatz.
- The wine growing region of Krems is about 30 miles west of Vienna. Head for Langenlois where you can visit an unusual wine centre with extensive, underground cellar tour followed by lunch at the Loisium Hotel & Spa, literally a few metres up the vineyard slopes (www.loisiumhotel.com). South of the city, it’s possible to ski in the winter at Semmering, which is easy to reach by train from Südbahnhof.
- You can hire bikes from the stands on Ringstrasee to get you round the city, or for something a little more quirky, take a segway tour of the city (www.segway.at). The Danube is a bit disappointing having been straightened and contained by levees, but Alte Donau just beyond it is a stretch of the river as it once was and is a popular area for sunbathing and swimming in the summer. The Ferris wheel at the funfair in Prater is a symbol of the city, and it’s worth taking a spin just for the views. The wheel featured in Orson Welles’ The Third Man and it’s possible to take guided tour of the atmospheric locations in the film – ask at the tourist office for details. The Burgkino cinema on Opernring screens the film in English most weekends. For high-brow entertainment Vienna’s opera pedigree is second to none. If the more expensive tickets at the Staatsoper are not available it’s possible to get standing tickets for a few euros (www.wiener-staatsoper.at).
February The Opera Ball on the last Thursday before Shrove Tuesday is the most ostentatious event in the Viennese ball season which runs from November to late June. July The Vienna Jazz Festival features two weeks of concerts around the city (www.viennajazz.org). December Vienna’s Christmas markets are a traditionally festive experience filled with traditional toys and seasonal food – not a scruffy Santa in sight.