Vienna, Austria – land of … well, I wasn’t really sure what it was the land of before we landed. Vague notions of Julie Andrews dancing in hills, sausages, Mozart … but we included 3 days there on our 2010 trip to Europe because we had 2 sets of friends who lived in the city, and it fitted in well geographically to the rest of our trip.

But Vienna is amazing! Land of deliciousness, architecture ranging from Baroque to modernism and beyond, palaces, culture and so much more. Vienna blew us away and makes a fabulous destination even if you don’t know anyone there. These are a few things that I loved – let me know if you agree or can add anything else to my list.

Stephansdom

The heart of central Vienna is dominated by Stephansdom, also known as St Stephens Cathedral. Quite Gothic in places, but what grabbed me was the amazing multicoloured roof. Granted, other parts of the exterior didn’t really have a fair chance as they were covered in scaffolding – which was in turn covered in images of what it was supposed to look like.

Beautiful inside as well, with huge columns, but my camera let me down so didn’t capture the interior well.

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is the former summer residence of the Austrian emperors past. A visit here takes at least a half day, but easily longer. The interiors are lavish as only the European royals can do, filled with gilded ballrooms and ornate furniture. No photography was allowed inside, but take a look at the “black and gold” room on their website – spectacular!

Once outside, you can of course stroll through the manicured formal gardens, complete with fountains and statues galore. One intriguing section housed Roman ruins – but not actual ruins, these were fake ruins commissioned by an Emperor to impress guests.

But that’s not all – if you allow extra time there is a zoo, a maze, other smaller buildings and pavilions, some of which have great views of Vienna – this was where I took the photo featured at the top of this post.

Hundertwasser

Barcelona has Gaudi, and Vienna had their own Modernist architect in Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser is described as an “opponent of the straight line” and his colourful, funky buildings can be found in numerous spots around the city. The most well-known and easily accessible is Hundertwasserhaus, which contains some arty shops on ground level. A little further out, the Spittelau waste incineration plant is environmentally awesome as well as visually unusual – it effectively turns the city’s waste into electrical power.

Eating in Vienna

When in Vienna … eat hotdogs, right? Well, we did plenty of that – I particularly recommend the Käsekrainer (cheesy sausage) served with yummy mustard from street stands.

Vienna’s other culinary claim to fame is the Sacher torte – dense, gooey slice of chocolate cake heaven. Made famous by Cafe Sacher, this cake can still be eaten at their upmarket and tourist-filled locations. But our friends and hosts were of the opinion that Cafe Sacher’s torte can be dry because they make it for shipping around the world – and they recommended rival cafe Aida. Aida’s torte was moist and delicious – and they were certainly less crowded than the Sacher cafe we walked past.

Sacher torte at Aida

We also visited Naschmarkt – the most well-known of Vienna’s markets, and a wonderful array of fresh foods and more, all beautifully displayed.

Vienna was so much more than we expected, and definitely deserves a stop on the way to Sound-of-Music-land in Salzburg or your ski trip in the Alps.

One last tip-without-photo: If, like us, you are a fan of the iconic Gustav Klimt painting “The Kiss”, be sure to visit the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere – two palaces filled with art, their large Klimt collection is the highlight.