City Orientation Walking Tour I (Self Guided), Vienna

Vienna is one of the most beautiful and important cities in Europe. It contains some of the richest examples of Austrian history. Vienna attracts a large amount of tourists because of its wonderful parks, beautiful architecture and historic sites. This Vienna City Orientation Tour will show you the most interesting places the city has to offer.
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City Orientation Walking Tour I Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walking Tour I
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna (See other walking tours in Vienna)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 18
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Rathaus (City Hall)
  • Rathauspark
  • Burgtheater
  • Volksgarten
  • Neue Burg
  • Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury)
  • Hofburgkapelle
  • Spanish Riding School
  • Hofburg
  • Michaelerplatz
  • Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
  • Albertina Museum
  • Graben Street
  • Peterskirche
  • Stephansplatz
  • Stephansdom
  • Haas House
  • Kärntner Straße
1
Rathaus (City Hall)

1) Rathaus (City Hall) (must see)

The Rathaus is the building in Vienna that holds the local city government. The mayor of the city as well as the city council, all have offices there. This same location also serves as the state headquarters for the government of the State of Austria, called the Landtag.

This building got its start in 1872 and was designed by the noted architect Friedrich von Schmidt. Lovers of architecture will note the classic Gothic design of the building, including the large tower. A large city park is located just across the way. The famous Rathskeller restaurant is also located in the building.

It will take a visitor 331 steps to reach the top of the tower. However, the watchtower portion is only 256 steps up, which is more easily managed by people wanting to get a view of the city from here.

Why You Should Visit:
Here you can learn interesting, amazing and bizarre facts about Vienna City Hall and 150 years of the Ringstrasse.
The place is always used for outdoor activities; Christmas market, skating in winter, and lots of concerts in summer.
The building itself looks like it's made from sugar and when all lit up at night – like a fairytale castle.

Tip:
There is a free German-speaking guided tour every Mon/Wed/Fri at 1pm where they also provide audio guide devices in a number of languages. You'll just need to give up your passport as deposit.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Rathauspark

2) Rathauspark (must see)

The Rathauspark is one of the most visited parks by Viennese locals. Designed in 1863 as a public park, it has been used and loved by local families and visitors alike since then. Its large open grassy spaces are perfect for a picnic or for finding a sunny spot to read a book. In the evenings, street vendors turn the park into an impromptu outdoor café and there is usually entertainment courtesy of street performers.

The park has a large square which is used for public gatherings such as the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) during the Christmas season. After the New Year the square is used for ice skating and in the warm summer months, this area is the site of films, concerts and festivals. Public restrooms make the area very user-friendly and the area is handicapped-accessible.

On either side of the square are large grassy areas that are home to a whole host of trees and shrubs. Some of these are rather exotic such as the Gingko biloba trees and the umbrella trees. There are paths that wander through the park and it is a great way to get a bit of exercise before going to a concert in the evening or walk off some of the street vendors' foods.

Why You Should Visit:
To experience a lovely getaway from Vienna's busy streets.
Lots of benches to while away a summer afternoon.

Tip:
It's like a fairytale in winter!
3
Burgtheater

3) Burgtheater (must see)

The Burgtheater is the national theater of Austria. It also serves as one of the most important German theaters in all the world. It was founded in the year 1741. The place received its name from the audiences that have come to see plays there for centuries now. It is located on Ring Boulevard.

It started out as the home for the theatrical troupe. In 1888, though, the group moved to a new location that was procured by Gottfried Semper and C. von Hasenauer. Since that time, the current location has been just the theater itself.

This location also sports one of the largest performing stages in the world. The depth of the platform is a full 13 meters deep. This large venue lends itself well to the type of plays performed there.

The local company of actors has received worldwide fame and renowned for its interpretation of German writers and playwrights. There is also a rather unique speech and style to the plays that any local would recognize. Many tickets can be purchased for as little as 25 Euro. If you call the day of any play, any leftover tickets will also be on sale for 50 percent off.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am–5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Volksgarten

4) Volksgarten (must see)

The Volksgarten – or, roughly, "people's park" – is one of the most beautiful public outdoor places in all of Vienna. Located in the Innere Stadt, it was built over the top of the part of the city that was destroyed during the reign of Napoleon. The facility was finished and first opened to the general public in 1820.

Volksgarten's fame comes from the gardens located within, especially the rose section. There is also a very famous temple here, called the Theseus. It is a replica of the famous Greek version by that same name. Peter von Nobile built the monument in 1823 as a tribute to Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Much of the park as it is known today was built at a second addition to the place in 1857 when more of the city was turned over to this use. A famous coffeehouse was also located here for a while, which ultimately became a venue for concerts from the likes of Straub and Lanner, two very famous Austrian composers. Many concerts are performed in the park to this day.

Why You Should Visit:
A park to rival any with its rich tree canopy, rose gardens and benches placed throughout.
Very cozy and lovely place to sit down and have a rest or to have a little picnic.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-10pm (Apr-Oct); 7am-5:30pm (Nov-Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Neue Burg

5) Neue Burg (must see)

Neue Burg, or New Château, was an incredible addition to the Hofburg Imperial Palace. Its construction began toward the end of 19th century and concluded at the beginning of the 20th. The Neue Hofburg palace was the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Today it houses a number of museums (the Ephesos Museum, the Collection of Arms and Armour, the Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments, and the Museum of Ethnology) as well as some reading rooms of the national library. The Hofburg Congress Centre is also located here.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury)

6) Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury) (must see)

The Schatzkammer holds what is considered the greatest treasury collection in the world. It is located in the Hofburg complex, so it can be visited at the same time you visit other locations there. Most days, you can get in a good visit in about an hour and a half. The entrance is located at the Swiss Courtyard.

In that hour of time, you can tour the treasures of the Habsburg Empire, which reaches back over one thousand years. The items on display have a long history of movement over time: Napoleon's conquests, the decline of the Roman Empire, the Nazis, and the wars fought against Prussia. As such, over the years, the items on display have moved back and forth from Vienna to Nuremberg. The current structure of the complex has been in place since 1983.

Among the beautiful items here is a sword that was believed to belong to Charlemagne, the crown of the old Holy Roman Empire and even the legendary Agate Bowl, which for centuries was tied to the story of Arthur’s court and the legend of the Holy Grail.

Why You Should Visit:
Fantastic embroidery, religious relics, and pieces of royal jewelry, all in one place – and an incredible blend of Austrian history with just enough "wow" factor to keep you interested.

Tip:
Get the audio guides – otherwise, you won't get much from the printed text underneath the objects or on the walls.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 9am-5:30p
Closed on Tuesdays
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Hofburgkapelle

7) Hofburgkapelle (must see)

The Hofburgkapelle is a chapel that was essentially swallowed up by the Imperial castle. In fact at one point only the apse was visible externally. The chapel has been a part of church life in Vienna since at least 1424. While the castle around the chapel has been added to and ownership divided amongst various royalty, the chapel remained open for the use of all the peoples of Vienna.

Today, from September to April, the Vienna Boys Choir and members of the Vienna State Opera orchestra perform here at Sunday Mass. The music is absolutely phenomenal so be sure to book tickets as soon as travel dates are known. One can also stand outside the chapel in the narthex and here the choir if tickets were unavailable. The choir was originally 1492 to provide music for the liturgy. Although the choir has changed immensely over the centuries, it is enchanting to hear the boys sing with the incredible musicians as they were originally designed.

Inside the chapel are pillars that represent the Saints from around the time of Fredrick III who ruled throughout most of the 1800s. These pillars were refurbished in the 1970s to their original state. The chapel has been added to and redone so many times; it is nice to see parts of it being reverted back to its original splendor.
8
Spanish Riding School

8) Spanish Riding School (must see)

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna is famous the world over. Many of their troops actually perform in other countries. In fact, one of their largest fan populations lives in the U.S. The place is famous for the Lipizzaner horses which have been raised there. The facility provides instruction in the famous military tactics that the horses were famous for since the time of Napoleon. They are also a formal dressage school. The group offers public performances, which include the famous Winter Riding School, and also give classes to locals on occasion.

The location of the riding school is in a building that was erected in 1729 and has not changed terribly since that time. In fact, one can even still see the royal box that has been used by the likes of Charles VI.

The famous horses are moved for the months of July and August to a resting place in southern Austria – you may want to be aware of this if you are traveling to Vienna in the summer.

Why You Should Visit:
Even you aren't fond of horse shows, a guided tour (EG/DE) through the stabling and the riding arena with background information & details about their history and the complex breeding system is worth a visit anytime.

Tip:
If you want to see the jumps, go for the actual show. If you like horses, it's great to see them train in the morning.
If you drop into the (not too expensive) on-site café for a coffee, drink or snack, you can go out to the terrace, adjacent to which there is a wooden enclosure in which you can see the horses and their riders practice before the show - and that actually won't cost anything.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-4pm (Jan-Feb); Mon-Sun: 9am-4pm (Mar-Dec)
Fridays, in case of an evening show: 9am-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Hofburg

9) Hofburg (must see)

The Hofburg, for many centuries, was the official home of the Habsburg Empire. Each successive Emperor has added to the opulence of the place. The famous family used to make this their winter home. In more modern times, this is now the official home of the President of Austria. This place can trace its history all the way back to 1279, as the official seat of one government or another. The overall complex now includes official state rooms for the President, museums of various sorts that are all easily reached from here, and various living areas (called apartments by the locals). However, they are unlike most apartments anyone could ever imagine. There is also a chapel built into the complex, which is open to the public. If you come for Sunday Mass, you will also be able to listen to the famous Vienna Boys Choir, which performs here regularly.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Michaelerplatz

10) Michaelerplatz (must see)

Michaelplatz is a very famous section of old Vienna. It is essentially the entrance into Hofburg. As you first enter the area, you will notice perhaps the most famous part of the place, which is the Michaelertor gate. It is designed in classic neo Baroque style.

The oldest building in this area is the Michaelerkirche. This used to be the official church of the Emperors for years. The center of the square is dominated by ancient Roman remains of a house. There are also some old Medieval walls to be seen here. The remnants of the old Burg Theatre are viewable too.

In stark contrast, the location also houses one of the most modern buildings in all of Vienna. It is called the Looshaus. During its building in 1911, it was considered an eye sore. Now though, the place is very famous. Its owner and designer loved the simple, yet elegant design of many of the world’s skyscrapers, and tried to incorporate that design into his building.

The Palais Herberstin sits across from the Looshaus. It was built in 1896, and replaced an older building that was famous for the young writers and artisans that used to be found there. That old café, called the Griensteidl, has been rebuilt in the structure, though much of the artisans have moved to the Café Central.
11
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

11) Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (must see)

The Austrian National Library is the single biggest institution of its kind in all of Austria. Currently located in the Hofburg Palace, it houses over 7 million items in its collection, including many very old books, globes, maps, and musical scripts. The library also houses one of the world’s largest collections of autographs.

The State Hall located in the building is probably the most stunning part of a trip to this place. It was designed and commissioned by Emperor Charles VI. It was intended to be the location for his court library. The project was completed in 1726, and the ceiling frescoes were finished by 1730.

Today, the State Hall contains over 200,000 items for display, among which books from the period of 1520 until 1850. Prince Eugene of Savoy’s collection of antique books is also now on display in this location.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most picturesque libraries in the world, and reminiscent of 'Beauty and the Beast' with its Baroque style.

Tip:
It is best to go there early in the morning or lunchtime so you don't have a lot of visitors obstructing your photographs.
Unlike some other historic libraries, you’re allowed to wander around taking photos without paying for a permit (just turn off your flash).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
Albertina Museum

12) Albertina Museum (must see)

Albertina Museum's claim to fame centers on its very large collection of old master prints and drawings. In fact, there are over 65,000 drawings in storage here. Apart from the graphics collection, the museum has recently acquired on permanent loan two significant collections of Impressionist and early 20th-century art, some of which will be on permanent display. The museum also houses temporary exhibitions.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful building with a fantastic selection of artworks and art styles. Easy to get in with an online ticket (no waiting time).
The open balcony area on the top floor is an excellent place for picture taking, as it faces many of the city's historical buildings.

Tip:
Make sure you have at least 2.5 hours on your hands to check everything.
The audio guide is for all the exhibitions, so it is worth spending some extra for it.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Tue: 9am-6pm; Wed, Fri: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
13
Graben Street

13) Graben Street (must see)

Der Graben is one of the most famous streets in all of Vienna. It dates back to Roman times and has been an integral part of the city that whole time. Even Richard the Lion-Hearted used this road to enter the city.

The name comes from an old trench that used to roughly follow the shape of the road. Eventually, it was filled in, which caused the Graben to be one of the first modern roads in the city.

You can start at Stock-im-Eisen-Platz and travel through some wonderful old buildings to the other end at Tuchlauben. On the way, you will see some wonderful sites like the Ankerhaus, which used to be the home of Otto Wagner. The Palais Bartolotti-Partenfeld is also located here. It was the favorite summer home of the famous Barons by those names.

You will also want to visit the Generalihof, which was built in the 1700s, and was at one point the famous music shop for Leopold Kozeluch. Moving down the road, you can see the Grabenhof, which was built on the historic site of the old Arkadenhof. This was the traditional residence of Sonnleithner, who founded the famous music society of Vienna.

No trip down der Graben would be complete without a stop to see the Erste Osterreichische Spar Casse. The current headquarters for this banking and financial group have been located here since 1835.
Sight description based on wikipedia
14
Peterskirche

14) Peterskirche (must see)

St. Peter’s Church sits atop one of the oldest known religious sites in all of Vienna. There has been a church on this site since the early 4th Century A.D. A much larger version of today's church was reportedly built here in 792 and was to have been founded by none other than Charlemagne himself.

In more modern times, Peterskirche takes up much less space, being crunched into what it occupies on Petersplatz. The overall architectural design is Baroque. In fact, this is one of the most decorated churches you will find anywhere, for any building designed in that style.

The outer color is white and a very light yellow. There are two towers that made up the classic outside look of the building. The turrets turn inward ever so slightly. It is said that the towers get their shape after the tent poles of the Turkish people who used to occupy this region in the late 1600s. You can also find a wonderful plaque on the outside of the building that tells of the legend of Charlemagne.

You will want to visit the inside also, as it contains some of the best paintings dating to the 1700s. Many of the wood carvings and alter pieces are also of that period. Currently, the structure is owned and operated by the Opus Dei.

Why You Should Visit:
Definitely a good place to marvel at sumptuous baroque architecture. Full of gold, marble, and finery!

Tip:
Each day from 3 till 3:30pm you can listen to live organ music for free (donation only). The most impressive way of admiring this church!
Choir performances at the church are also frequent, with for-fee events in the underground vaults.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-8pm; Sat-Sun: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
15
Stephansplatz

15) Stephansplatz (must see)

The Stephansplatz is a square at the geographical center of Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building, the Stephansdom, Vienna's cathedral and one of the tallest churches in the world. Before the 20th century, a row of houses separated Stephansplatz from Stock-im-Eisen-Platz, but since their destruction, the name Stephansplatz started to be used for the wider area covering both. To the west and south, respectively, run the exclusive shopping streets Graben (literally "ditch") and Kärntner Straße ("Kärnten" is the German for Carinthia). Opposite the Stephansdom is the Haas-Haus, a piece of striking modern architecture by Hans Hollein. Although public opinion was originally skeptical about the combination of the medieval cathedral and the glass and steel building, it is now considered an example of how old and new architecture can mix harmoniously.

Why You Should Visit:
While this might not be the best location for a gourmet meal, sitting in one of the cafés does provide world-class people watching in a prime historic location. With Stephansdom dominating the scene, you can't go wrong.

Tip:
While in Stephansplatz walk around the side of Stephansdom to see a miniature thereof. It's fun to see it tiny!
Sight description based on wikipedia
16
Stephansdom

16) Stephansdom (must see)

Stephansdom or St. Stephen’s Cathedral is an amazing work of art and a testament to one city’s love for their church. It is the home church of the Archbishop of Vienna. The large building can be seen from most of Vienna with its distinctive south tower that rises an impressive 445 feet in height. In fact, this tower was manned by a night watchman until 1955, and his duty was to ring the “fire bell” if any fires broke out in the city at night. There was to be a twin north tower, but due to several factors, it is considerably shorter and different in design than the impressive south tower.

The inside of the massive church contains several smaller chapels in addition to the main sanctuary. This huge portion of the edifice has 18 alters, but the most amazing alter is the high one. It is carved in marble and is a representation of the stoning of St. Stephen, the church’s namesake. The Wiener Neustädter alter is also a breathtaking work of art.

The Cathedral's bells are an important part of life in Vienna. While the oldest of the 23 bells are not rung anymore, several are and they all have a special meaning. One of the most special is the St. Mary bell. The original bell was made from the captured Muslim invaders cannons. The bell was badly damaged when it crashed to the floor during a fire; however, part of the damaged bell was used when casting the new bell.

The outside of the cathedral is also as distinctive. The incredible tile roof is covered by almost 250,000 tiles. The steep pitch of the roof keeps it fairly free of debris. The walls also have interesting features including the rods used as standard dry goods measure for drapes and linen cloth. Be sure to allow enough time to see this entire amazing Cathedral.

Why You Should Visit:
While incredible architecture can be witnessed anywhere in Vienna, this majestic Roman-Gothic masterpiece is absolutely unmistakable.

Tip:
Visit the crypt (really interesting, although a bit macabre) and either the South Tower (if you can manage 350 steps!) or the North Tower (by taking the lift up).

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 6am-10pm; Sun: 7am-10pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
17
Haas House

17) Haas House (must see)

The Haas House of Vienna is a very modern example of architecture in a town where there is a premium of buildings done in a conservative manner. In fact, the project to build this structure was highly debated and contested. It almost didn’t happen at all. The architect of record was Haus Hollein.

The issue surrounds the fact that the modern style building, made of concrete and lots of glass, sits next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Such a change in style was considered to detract from the classic beauty of the old Catholic house of worship.

The facade of the location is round, and is reminiscent of the old Vindobona. This style of home can be found all across the First District of the City. Newer homes were built on top of the old Roman structures underneath, and tried to use some of the those structures to anchor newer buildings. In a similar way, the Haas project tried to use these principles to have the building blend into the architecture of old. Take a ride to the top of the building, to the coffee house, and enjoy the view of the old Cathedral, along with a lovely cup of coffee.
Sight description based on wikipedia
18
Kärntner Straße

18) Kärntner Straße

Kärntner Straße (English: Carinthian Street) is Vienna's main shopping thoroughfare, in place since the Roman era. Originally known as Strata Carinthianorum – the first record of it dates back to 1257 – it used to link the center to the city wall. Only a handful of historic buildings from that period remain in place, having survived WWII. Today the street extends from Stephansplatz to the Vienna State Opera House in Karlsplatz on Ringstraße and is chockablock with old-time houses, traditional shops and stylish flagship stores of international brands. In 1974 Kärntner Straße was made fully pedestrian much to the delight of the local residents and tourists who flock here regularly to shop, stroll, and generally enjoy themselves.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Vienna, Austria

Create Your Own Walk in Vienna

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Vienna is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Alsergrund & Josefstadt Tour

Alsergrund & Josefstadt Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Landstraße Attractions Walking Tour

Landstraße Attractions Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles
Old Town Palaces

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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Nightlife Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Old Town West Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
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Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles

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