Perhaps for its beauty, its upper class culture full of operas or the Spanish Riding School, or even for its great juxtaposition between lively bars and quiet streets, Vienna proves increasingly popular and with none more so than guests of escorted river cruise holidays.
Here we offer the river cruiser’s guide to Vienna, a thorough account of things not to miss and attractions you may not have considered before.
Cuisine and fine wine
Vienna is well regarded for its delicious cuisine, with the famed Wiener Schnitzel and Sachertorte prized the world over, but you may not be all too familiar with their own special take of France’s Champagne.
Schlumberger is the brand behind Austria’s oldest sparkling wine sellers and, as such, offers a fascinating insight into sparkling wine itself, its history and its place in Austria. Schlumberger’s founder Robert Alwin Schlumberger learnt the technique at the oldest Champagne house in France before imparting his wisdom and setting up his own sparkling wine manufacturer in 1842.
Tours of the cellars are available in addition to tasting menus so that visitors can get a real taste for this special wine.
‘Schlumberger, as the most traditional Austrian sparkling wine company, is also known as “the Austrian answer to champagne” and therefore definitely worth a trip for every tourist interested in wine and history in general.
Since 1842 we are producing according to the method champenoise, but using only high quality Austrian grapes. More than 2km of cellar vaults, more than 300 years of age within Austria’s capital Vienna. Taste the sparkle and learn more about disgorgement, dosage and the champagne method.’
The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is regarded the world over. Having practiced for close to 450 years, the Spanish Riding School is the oldest practicing institution of its kind in the world. Their famed Lipizzaner horses stand, or trot as the case may be, as an icon of the school and Vienna itself, and you can even support through adoption through the Spanish Riding School’s adoption pages. The school tours much of Europe under the name of the Spanish Riding School Live and offers an insight into what spectators can expect upon a visit to the school’s home in Vienna. See this video for a preview.
Here is what the prestigious Spanish Riding School in Vienna had to say about why Emerald Waterways’ guests should visit their esteemed institution.
“The Spanish Riding School, a significant part of Austria’s cultural heritage, is not only the oldest riding academy in the world, it is also the only one where the High School of Classical Horsemanship has been cherished and maintained for nearly 450 years. The Spanish Riding School is one of the most important institutions representing the “Imperial Vienna” addressing the main target group of river cruise.”
- The Spanish Riding School in Vienna
Museums and culture
If the Spanish Riding School weren’t enough Viennese culture, then there is plenty more to explore in the city.
The Schloss Belvedere palace and museum is one of the true highlights of Vienna. Consisting of not one, but two palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere) it is regarded as one of the most exquisite palaces and buildings in all of Vienna. The palaces were built in the 18th century and now stand as a stunning attraction in themselves in addition to housing some of the most prized artwork in the world in its museum, as well as hosting regular exhibitions.
‘Prince Eugene of Savoy’s former residence with its magnificent gardens is one of the most stunning Baroque landmarks and a must-see attraction. The Upper Belvedere houses the world’s largest collection of Klimt’s paintings, including the Art Nouveau icons Kiss and Judith, masterpieces
by Schiele, Kokoschka, Waldmüller, Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh, as well as outstanding collections from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Baroque and Medieval art. After extensive adaptations in 2007, a continuous program of excellent temporary exhibitions has been shown at the Lower Belvedere and Orangery.’
- The Belvedere
Vienna is well known for its rich musical heritage. Having born the likes of Johann Strauss and Arnold Schoenberg, it is no wonder that it continues to encourage musical talent in both its residents and visitors on couples’ river cruises in Europe. The Haus der Musik institution is a fantastic example of this, where it makes the musical experience interactive and a joy for each and every visitor, even those who are tone-deaf!
‘Haus der Musik in Vienna is a modern interactive museum in the historic city centre. Five floors are dedicated to the presentation of the fascinating world of music and sound. It’s the only one of its kind in the world.
Test your own musical talent on the conductor’s virtual rostrum, experience the original Viennese New Year’s concert in our specially conceived concert hall on the 1st floor, compose your own waltz with the interactive Waltz Dice Game, find out everything about Mozart, Strauß or Beethoven, and experiment with pitch, sounds and musical instruments in the Haus der Musik.’
- Haus der Musik
From the city’s musical talent to that of its architecture, the stilwerk by architect Jean Nouvel stands as an impressive display of Viennese creativity on the Danube’s canal banks. This architectural highlight of Europe houses 30 shops and two restaurants over four levels, and encompasses 6,000 square metres.
The concept was founded by Hamburger entrepreneur Bernhard Garbe in the 1990s and meant that for the first time, customers could find a comprehensive range of exclusive designs and brands under one roof. In addition to the shopping experience that can be had by visitors there is a programme of cultural events, cafés and restaurants. In 1996 the first stilwerk was established in Hamburg, followed by the second house, which opened three years later in Berlin and stilwerk Düsseldorf that opened in 2000.
‘Exclusive interior design, design products and lifestyle accessories are presented just under one roof. Moreover it offers competent advisory service and costumer care. A visit at stilwerk is not only shopping but more a design experience.’
From the experts
In addition to these great sights of Vienna we asked the experts their recommendations for river cruise guests looking to experience more of this great city.
Here the Vienna Tourist Board gave us their recommendation of what you must see in Vienna in 2015.
‘Vienna's most beautiful boulevard - the Ringstrasse - will turn 150 years in 2015 and the whole city will celebrate it. More information can be found on this website: www.ringstrasse2015.info.’
- Vienna Tourist Board
The Austrian National Tourist Office and the Austrian Holiday Service also provided their recommendations for a trip to Vienna.
‘A must is of course visiting the historic centre with St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In addition to visiting the interior, you can also climb the Southern Tower for some great views over the city centre. Or take the elevator to see the “Pummerin”, Austria’s biggest church bell.
Then just wander around in the small streets of the centre – there are many traditional coffee houses to take a break. Try also some of the famous Austrian pastry there – e.g. a Sachertorte (chocolate cake) or an Apfelstrudel (traditional pastry filled with apples).
Another highlight is visiting the Hofburg - the former palace of the Habsburg emperors. It is a real attraction from the outside, but there are also many things to visit in the interior e.g. the Spanish Riding School, the Sisi museum, the National Library or the Habsburg treasury.
Another must is exploring the Ringstrasse - a circular boulevard surrounding the centre where the most beautiful buildings of Vienna are located - you can explore it on foot or by taking the tram. The most important buildings along this street are the State Opera, the Hofburg, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) and Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History), the Parliament, the Town Hall and the Votiv church.
Also don’t miss out on visiting Schönbrunn - the summer palace of the Habsburgs. The interior is worth a visit, but the main attraction is the gardens. There is also a zoo, which is the oldest still existing in the world.
Further attractions in the city are the Naschmarkt street market, the St. Charles Church at Karlsplatz and the Belvedere palace with its gardens.
To get to know a different side of Vienna, we recommend going up the Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg – from up these hills you can enjoy marvelous views over the Danube and the whole city of Vienna. You can take the bus up and hike back down through the vineyards. End the excursion with a visit to a “Heuriger” - one of Vienna’s traditional wine taverns.’
- Austrian National Tourist Office
To find out more from the Austrian National Tourist Office ahead of a river cruise to Vienna, visit their website www.austria.info/uk , email or Freephone on 00800 400 200 00.
Image Credit: Schlumberger
This content was written by Angela Sloan. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.