Discover Vienna with Emerald Waterways

Elegant, eclectic and entrenched in the arts – Vienna is a masterstroke of heritage and culture, with some of Europe’s finest coffee houses thrown in for good measure.

Dissected by the winding Danube River, Vienna has long been a centre for artistic and cultural excellence. The Austrian capital is historically renowned for its contribution to theatre, opera, classical music and the fine arts – and this rich culture is still sewn into the streets and waterways of the city.

Vienna has been a site of continuous habitation for more than 2,500 years, with changing architectural standards and styles creating a unique and eclectic atmosphere. The city proudly boasts some of the world’s foremost examples of Baroque, Rococo, Romanesque, Classicist and Modern architecture – creating one of Europe’s most beautiful and captivating capitals.

Ahead of your Danube river cruise, discover Vienna’s must-sees and mainstays in our in-depth guide to the city.

Architectural highlights

Imperial palaces rub shoulders with Baroque and Rococo townhouses in the Austrian capital, providing a vivid timeline of Europe’s changing architectural styles. Here, we take a look at the buildings you have to see in Vienna.

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace from a hillside
The former imperial summer residence, the impressive Schönbrunn Palace houses 1,441 rooms in a stunning Baroque building. With over 300 years of history between its walls, the building is one of the most important cultural monuments in the whole of Austria. Perhaps the highlight of the palace is the selection of 32 stunning sculptures in the Schönbrunn Garden – representing 32 different deities and virtues. With Emerald Waterways, you’ll have the opportunity to take a guided tour of Schönbrunn, hearing tales of its illustrious past from a local expert – including its associations with Mozart, who performed at the palace on several occasions in the 18th century.

Stadtpark

Stadtpark in the sun
One of the largest parks in the city, Stadtpark is dedicated to Vienna’s greatest musical triumphs. With busts of Schubert, Bruckner and Lehár dotted throughout the park, it also plays host to the beautifully-finished statue of Johann Strauss. The park was designed and established in the 1860s by Rudolf Siebeck and Joseph Selleny, and it has since been developed and expanded with new landscaped features and illustrious architectural installations. Whichever way you approach the park – be it from the city centre or Vienna’s charming Third District – you’ll encounter different elements and aspects, including the Art Nouveau railway pavilions and the famous ‘Kursalon’ building.

Café Central

Central cafe in Vienna
Established in 1876, Café Central marked the starting point for Vienna’s love affair with cafes and coffee culture – a passion which endures today. As their official site extols ‘there are coffeehouses, and there’s Café Central’, with this 19th-century gem being the crème de la crème of Viennese cafés. Leon Trotsky, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Polgar and Peter Altenberg are thought to have been regulars at the café, with hundreds of other poets, artists and philosophers having walked its floors over the years. Today, it’s considered Vienna’s most attractive coffeehouse, and the perfect place to soak up the charming atmosphere and delightful patisserie of one of Europe’s oldest and proudest cafés.

Cultural features

Music, art, theatre and coffee may be the cornerstones of cultural life in Vienna. Countless iconic artists and composers have called the city home over the last four centuries, and this, coupled with its world-famous café culture, make Vienna a compelling proposition on a Danube river cruise.

The Ringstrasse and the historic centre

Front entrance to the Ringstrasse
A city rich with so much history, the centre of Vienna provides exceptional views and settings whichever way you face. To take it all in, a stroll through the historic centre is an absolute must, particularly the Ringstrasse – an opulent inner-city ring road which houses some of Vienna’s foremost architecture. The centre is awash with Baroque castles, lush gardens, ancient buildings and poignant monuments, including the Vienna State Opera House, Burgtheater, Spanish Riding School and the Flemish Gothic Parliament. A guided tour provides fascinating insights into the development of the city, however, Vienna’s architectural splendour is such that you may want to go at your own pace with an independent exploration.

Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace entrance
The Hofburg Palace is the former imperial palace of Austria, located in the centre of Vienna. Still serving as the residence and workplace of the President of Austria, the site has been home to figures of politics and monarchy for almost 600 years, with some parts of the estate dating from the 13th century. The hugely impressive building includes the Austrian National Library, the Natural History Museum, a centre for congress, a theatre and a Spanish Riding School. The approach to the palace is dominated by a huge statue of the Archduke Charles on horseback, and up until 1918, it served the Imperial Palace of the Habsburgs, one of the most powerful feudal families in European history.

Zoo Vienna

Panda eating leaves in Vienna Zoo
Officially known as Tiergarten Schönbrunn, the Viennese zoo is located in the gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace and remains the oldest zoo in the world. Still hugely popular today, the zoo has hit the headlines over the centuries – not least when it became the home of the first elephant born in captivity in 1906. Since then, the zoo has earned a reputation as one of Europe’s foremost animal reserves, helping to fund conservation efforts while setting the standard for its humane and spacious enclosures. In recent years, several new arrivals have seen the zoo return to the spotlight, including panda bear and polar bear cubs.

Food and drink

There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about eating and drinking in Vienna. From its time-honoured and traditionally Austrian food to its beloved coffeehouses and wine taverns, exploring the city’s food and drink is always a joy. Discover a handful of its foodie highlights below.

Wiener schnitzel

Weiner schintzel served on a plate

Hailing from Vienna, the Wiener schnitzel is a large, breaded piece of meat, traditionally served with a side of roast potatoes, lemon and occasionally, sauerkraut. While schnitzel is enjoyed across Austria, Germany and elsewhere, the Viennese version is different in that it’s made exclusively from veal, opposed to the customary pork. This makes the dish richer and more flavour intense, and it’s delicious enjoyed with a refreshing glass of Austrian Sekt.

Where to try it: Skopik & Lohn – Leopoldsgasse 17, 1020 Wien, Austria

Sachertorte

Chocolate cake served with cream

Symbolic of Vienna’s thriving café culture, the sachertorte is a dense, rich chocolate sponge cake, elevated by delicate layers of apricot jam and topped with a firm chocolate icing. The sweet was created at the Sacher Hotel, one of the most luxurious hotels of Imperial Vienna, but it is now served in many of the city’s famed coffeeshops. Make sure you leave room for a slither.#

Where to try it: Café Central – Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien, Austria

Viennese wine

Vineyard on hillside in Vienna

Did you know that Vienna is one of the few cities in the world where Old World grape vines continue to grow within the city limits? The Austrian capital is home to some 700 hectares of vineyards, and the city’s winemaking heritage dates back to Roman times. The city is best known for its white wines, with the signature Wiener Gemischter Satz being one of the best-loved vintages produced in the city. There’s nowhere better to enjoy a glass of local Viennese wine than at one of the city’s heuriger – a historic wine tavern.

Where to try it: Heuriger Sirbu – Kahlenberger Str. 210, 1190 Wien, Austria

Discover Vienna with Emerald Waterways

Captivated by Vienna and its exemplary culture and heritage? Join us on the waters of the River Danube and look forward to an immersive experience in the heart of this remarkable city. For a full collection of our upcoming boutique river cruises, visit the homepage or call 0808 250 9178.