1. Christmas Season: It seems like there’s always a reason to celebrate or be festive in Vienna, especially around Christmas season. It might just happen to be my very favorite part of the year here. As the days start to get shorter, the city becomes brighter with the amount of lights and decorations everywhere. There’s no reason not to go out into the city during a dark evening and gaze at the light arrangements while drinking a Glühwein (spiced mulled wine) and eating Maroni (roasted chestnuts). Christmas markets are a must, and they can be found every ten feet or so. For a more authentic experience, check out the smaller off-the-radar markets, like at Spittelberg.
|Festive Decorations in the First District|
2. Architecture: While it’s clear that Vienna boasts lots of baroque style architecture, there are lots of eye-catchers here and there. I cannot go more than a few streets without having to stop and marvel at the amount of fine detail on things as simple as apartment buildings. A real treat is to visit the Hundertwasserhaus, and yes—people actually live in that building.
3. The First District: One of my favorite things to do is to wander the narrow streets in the first district, Vienna’s Altstadt, or old town. It’s easy to lose track of time admiring the old buildings, unique shops and cafes, all while trying not to get run over by a Fiaker.
4. Art and Culture: Okay, so I’m really not that cultured. However, living in Vienna has kind of forced art and culture upon me with the vast array of free events and exhibits, for instance the summer Vienna Film Festival in front of the Rathaus. For reasonably-priced events, go for standing-room Restkarten at the Staatsoper (Opera house) or Volksoper. If you’re in the mood for art, and something more “Austrian”, check out the Leopold Museum in Museumsquartier for the largest collection of Egon Schiele, as well as works of Gustav Klimt.
|Vienna Rathaus Film Festival|
5. Vineyards, Heuriger, and Breweries: Located on the outskirts of Vienna, and still within city limits, one can enjoy fresh food and wine at one of Vienna’s many Heuriger on the rolling hills overlooking the city. If you’re more of a brewski fan, there are plenty of large- and small-scale breweries that offer decent Austrian beer (i.e. the Ottakringer Brewery), or Salmbräu.
|Picture taken from the web, I couldn't find my own|
6. Coffee and tortes: I think any list about Vienna’s awesomeness is required to mention a traditional Viennese café. The city has a long and rich history with coffee, and it is engraved in the culture here, with its own coffee vocabulary. One of the benefits of visiting a café is that you can sit there as long as you want and no-one will bother you. Most café interiors look old and vintage, and many of the waiters are required to wear tuxedos. Some of the most decadent tortes and cakes can be found at Demmel in the first district. Luxus pur.For an unconventional, and a special favorite of mine, check out Café Neko, a cat-lover’s café in the first district with real cats to pet while you sip coffee.
7. Summer at MQ: What isn’t more enticing than sitting on a hard chunk of plastic in the heart of Museumsquartier, basking in the sun, drinking a wine spritzer and people watching? Best place ever.
|Picture courtesy of Google|
8. Running: I love running in Vienna. For longer distances, I head out to Prater, the “Central Park” of Vienna, and enjoy a variety of terrain and paths. Other interesting routes include the gardens of Schloss Schönbrunn (running like a Habsburg), Turkenschanz and, for the best views in town, around the Ring in the city center.
|Running at Schönbrunn|
9. Festivals: There’s almost always some sort of festival taking place, most free. The Donauinselfest is Europe’s largest free open-air concert, and takes place on Vienna’s man-made island that stretches 21 km. Other festivals, to name a few, highlight Austrian cuisine and harvest (Erntendankfest); celebrate street performers (Buskersfest); and showcase the different states within Austria.
10. Markets: There are tons of fresh markets in Vienna. The most popular and touristy market is the Naschmarkt, where I would argue the best hummus in Vienna can be found (Dr.Falafel). Not only can one find a huge selection of fresh produce, herbs, and spices, but Naschmarkt also offers lots of cafes and restaurants. It’s one of my favorite places to grab a bubbly drink during the warmer months. For a less-touristy market, check out the Brunnenmarkt, the Soho-market of Vienna.