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Vienna Introduction Walk II (Self Guided), Vienna

The former capital of the once mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire and the second largest city in the German-speaking world after Berlin, today's Vienna is still much revered for its great historic and cultural past, as well as present. The abundance of imperial palaces, diverse museums and historic churches attracts millions of international guests to Vienna each year. This introduction walk, part II will take you to St. Stephen's Cathedral, House of Music, St. Charles' Church and the beautiful Belvedere Palace.
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Vienna Introduction Walk II Map

Guide Name: Vienna Introduction Walk II
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna (See other walking tours in Vienna)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: alexei
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Stephansplatz (St. Stephen's Square)
  • Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral)
  • Haas Haus
  • Karntner Straße (Carinthian Street)
  • Haus der Musik (House of Music)
  • Karlskirche (St. Charles' Church)
  • Belvedere Gardens
  • Belvedere Palace
1
Stephansplatz (St. Stephen's Square)

1) Stephansplatz (St. Stephen's Square) (must see)

Stephansplatz is a square at the geographical center of Vienna. It is named after its most prominent building – the Stephansdom – Vienna's main 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 der Graben (literally the "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 medieval cathedral and a 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 local cafes does provide for world-class people watching in a prime historic location. With the Stephansdom dominating the scene, you can't go wrong.

Tip:
While in Stephansplatz, walk around the side of the Stephansdom to see a miniature thereof. It's quite fun to see it tiny!
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral)

2) Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) (must see)

With its intricately patterned tiled roof, the imposing Gothic cathedral of St. Stephen's (Stephansdom) is a prime landmark inside Vienna's old city center, having stood watch over the place for nearly 700 years. Its distinctive south tower rises to an impressive 445 feet and previously has served as the main observation and command post for the city's walled defense, for which purpose it even contained an apartment for watchmen who, until 1955, manned the tower at night and rang the bells if a fire was spotted. There was to be a twin north tower, but for several reasons, it ended up being just half the size and of a different design.

The views from the Watch Room, at the top, are surely worth climbing the 343 steps, otherwise you can take a lift up to a viewing platform on the shorter tower, home to the massive Pummerin ("Boomer") Bell – the largest in Austria, originally cast from melted-down cannons abandoned by the Turks while fleeing Vienna in 1683.

High points of the interior are the gorgeous vaulting of the Albertine Chapel, the stone pulpit (a masterwork of late Gothic sculpture), canopies or baldachins over many of the side altars, and a most spectacular Renaissance work – Friedrich III's tomb. You also won't want to miss the 14th century catacombs and the treasury where some of the cathedral's most valuable objects are displayed. Some of them can only be seen on a guided tour, such as a red marble sepulcher sculpted in 1467-1513, the 16th-century pulpit, a Gothic winged altar from the 1440s, and the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy dated 1754.

Visit St. Stephen's Cathedral and you'll be standing in the same church in which Joseph Haydn once sang as a choir boy until his voice broke, and where Johann Strauss married both of his wives, Henrietta Treffz and Angelika Dittrich. A memorial tablet gives a detailed account of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's relationship with the cathedral, including that of him being appointed an adjunct music director here shortly before his death. This was his parish church when he lived at the Figaro House and he was married here; two of his children were also baptized at St. Stephen's, and his funeral was held in the Chapel of the Cross inside.

Why You Should Visit:
While incredible architecture is rather commonplace in Vienna, this majestic Roman-Gothic masterpiece is absolutely unmistakable and not to be missed.

Tip:
Be sure to make a loop around the structure as there are many interesting details still visible on the outside walls.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 6am-10pm; Sun: 7am-10pm
3
Haas Haus

3) Haas Haus

Placing a modern style edifice directly opposite the Gothic Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) was a difficult task with which the city entrusted one of Austria's leading Postmodernist architects, Hans Hollein, author of several uncompromising jewelry stores along der Graben and Kohlmarkt streets, each of which is a minor masterpiece in its own right. The result was the iconic 1990 Haas Haus, a shining, partly mirrored structure of glass, steel and blue-green marble that curves elegantly into the street, successfully blending into the colors, shapes, and grandeur of downtown Vienna.

The building looks pleasingly asymmetrical, replete with decorative elements, such as lopsided cubes of marble attached to the facade, a protruding structure high up resembling a diving board, and a Japanese-style bridge inside. The architecture proved an intelligent alternative to the demands of Historicism on the one hand and aggressive modernism on the other, presenting a futuristic, respectful challenge to the nearby Cathedral's soaring spires, reflected in the mirrored facade. Along with the office spaces, the Haas Haus atrium accommodates cafes, shops, a restaurant, and the upmarket DO & CO Hotel.

Tip:
Take a ride to the top of the building to check out the coffee house, and enjoy the view of the old Cathedral with a nice cup of coffee in hand.
Alternatively, visit the HAAS & HAAS TEAHOUSE (Mon-Sat: 8am–8pm; Sun/Holidays: 9am–6pm) located just outside the Cathedral.
4
Karntner Straße (Carinthian Street)

4) Karntner Straße (Carinthian Street)

Kärntner Straße (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 – this street used to link the downtown area to the city wall. Only a handful of historic buildings from that period still remain, having survived WWII.

Today Kärntner Straße extends from Stephansplatz to Karlsplatz, and is chockablock with old-time houses, traditional shops and stylish flagship stores of popular and luxury international retail brands, some of which are hidden in the side streets. En route, the street abounds in historical gems, such as the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene and Neuermarkt. The Maltese Church seemed like an anachronism in the face of modern retail shops surrounding it and, of course, at the end of Kärntner, the majestic Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera House). In 1974, the street was made fully pedestrian, much to the delight of local residents and tourists, who flock here regularly to shop, stroll, and generally enjoy themselves.

Why You Should Visit:
Great for shopping, people-watching, and admiring Vienna's baroque architecture.

Tip:
Can get pretty crowded, especially during peak tourist season.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Haus der Musik (House of Music)

5) Haus der Musik (House of Music) (must see)

Haus der Musik (The House of Music) is a modern, hands-on museum designed to enable visitors to interact with the displays at all levels. Spread over five floors, this is one of a kind museum fully dedicated to the fascinating world of music and sound.

The 5,000 sq. meter facility has won numerous awards for the innovative way of presenting the exhibits. Among them are numerous musical inventions vividly illustrating the diversity of our perception of what exactly constitutes music. The variety is astounding. Here you can conduct the Vienna Philharmonic yourself, compose your own music, have your name written in music in Mozart's hand, and see the Vienna Philharmonic in action in videos of the New Year's and summer concerts.

Another interesting tidbit about this place is that it is located in the former Palace of Archduke Charles where in the mid 19th century lived Otto Nicolai, founder of the Vienna Philharmonic and author of the now famous musical piece “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. This classic comedic opera is also subject of a display here. In modern times, the museum has become an official repository of the history of the Vienna Philharmonic. Whenever you're in Vienna, do make plans to visit this extraordinary place.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a feel for the magnificence of the composers who once blessed Vienna with their presence.
To test your own musical talent on the Virtual Conductor, enjoy a short version of the famous New Year's Concert, compose your own waltz with the interactive Waltz Dice Game, learn more about Mozart, Strauss or Beethoven and experiment with pitch, sounds and musical instruments.
A good mix of information on the science of sound, the composition of music and famous composers.
Well worth a visit, particularly with kids.

Operation hours: Daily 10 am - 10 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Karlskirche (St. Charles' Church)

6) Karlskirche (St. Charles' Church) (must see)

Vienna's Karlskirche (St. Charles' Church) is located in the eponymous Karlsplatz (St. Charles' Square), about 200 meters away from Ringstrasse, and is one of the finest examples of Baroque religious architecture in the city. Among its prominent features are the impressive oval high ceiling dome topping the structure, the elongated form of the building, and the exterior columns modeled on the famous analogues in Rome dedicated to the Emperor Trajan. The Viennese columns celebrate the life of St Charles Borromeo (to whom the church is dedicated) and the vast power of the Hapsburgs, symbolizing the Pillars of Hercules. Another interesting feature are the two spheres with metallic reflective sides allowing viewers to observe more details of the interior.

In recent times, the location has become a very popular tourist attraction, in large part due to its peculiar style, starkly contrasting that of other buildings nearby. St. Charles' is run by a local Catholic order and remains a parish church. It is also seat of the Catholic student ministry of the Vienna University of Technology and thus, apart from being an architectural marvel, is a functional institution.

Erected to celebrate the emergence from black plague that struck Vienna hard in the early 18th century, the Karlskirche is virtually a monument to St Charles Borromeo who was renowned for ministering to the needs of plague victims. History tells that Emperor Charles VI made a vow to God that he would build a church and name it after St. Charles Borromeo, if God relieved the city of the disease. God did, and so did the Emperor.

*****Johann Strauss Walk*****

On May 28, 1878 Strauss married his second wife, a young singer named Angelika Dittrich, at St. Charles' Church. Unfortunately, Dittrich was not a supporter of his music and their marriage ended in divorce in 1882.

Tip:
You have to pay to get in (students get a discount), but it's well worth it for the lovely interior.
There is a lift inside that can take you close to the murals on the dome ceiling. From up there, you can also enjoy a spectacular view of the city from the dome window.
7
Belvedere Gardens

7) Belvedere Gardens

Bookended on both sides by the Lower and Upper Belvedere Palaces, the Belvedere Gardens are a link between the two, sometimes jokingly described as the “extra crunchy peanut butter layer between two palatial slices” or a splash of color contrasting the stoically Baroque white-walled architecture.

While the gardens are in Vienna, they have a very much Versailles feel to it, spread across three large terraces, though on a much lesser scale than its French counterpart. The gardens were laid out in traditional French style by Dominique Girard, who had received formal training in Versailles, and were the first part of the Belvedere complex whose construction started in 1700 right after Prince Eugene had purchased the land. The gardens weren’t completed until the 1720s however, largely because the man who put in the foundations for the main fountain left early on a Friday with a promise to come back the following week to finish things off, but never did.

Originally, the gardens had wonderful geometric patterns mapped out by flower beds and the carefully-pruned ornamental conifers, plus an exquisite statuary. At some point, the prince added there a zoo. Most of the statuary has survived the centuries, but the intricately patterned flower beds haven't unfortunately. Eventually, the gardens have enjoyed a resurgence and are now neatly trimmed, although not fully recreating their formal outlook of the past days.

Still, they are beautifully-kept and have much to admire, even in winter. Thousands of plants are found here within the space of less than one acre, while the pools and graceful fountains give a glimmer of the original grandeur. The sculpted hedges and cherubic statues are all looking clean and tidy. The area also houses the Alpine garden and a garden of the University of Vienna. Free and open to the public, this area is an absolute must-see for those who love gardens.

Tip:
Particularly good in warmer seasons, in part because of the operating fountains.
There are plenty of hidden spaces to sit down and rest for a while – shaded, quiet and just what you need after a walk around the garden.
Most people focus on the terraced area between the two palaces, but go round the Upper Belvedere to find a small lake – the southernmost point is the place to take an iconic photo. The water reflects the front of the palace and looks particularly spectacular at night, even more so when the Christmas market occupies the palace forecourt.

Opening Hours:
Free entry. The gates open at 6:30am or 7:30am at the latest and close between 5:30pm and 9pm, depending on the season.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Belvedere Palace

8) Belvedere Palace (must see)

The Belvedere palaces were the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736). The ensemble was built in the early 18th century by the famous Baroque architect, Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, and comprises the Upper and Lower Belvedere, with the Orangery and Palace Stables, as well as extensive gardens. As one of Europe's most stunning Baroque landmarks, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today, the Belvedere houses the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, complemented by the works of international artists. At the Upper Belvedere, visitors can not only encounter artworks drawn from over 500 years of art history but also explore the magnificent staterooms.

The Belvedere's art collection presents an almost complete overview of the development of art in Austria and, thus, offers insight into the country's history. The world's largest collection of Gustav Klimt's paintings lies at the heart of the presentation of art around 1900 on show at the Upper Belvedere. Among the highlights are Klimt's “The Kiss” (1908/09) and “Judith” (1901), as well as works by Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. Key pieces of French Impressionism and the greatest collection of Viennese Biedermeier art are also among the main attractions of this museum.

Why You Should Visit:
As well as being home to some of Klimt's most famous creations, the collection, in general, is vast and the building itself is remarkable.
Not only is the building a sight to behold but the grounds are magnificently maintained too, just as you would expect them to be.

Tip:
To wait in a shorter line, purchase your tickets online in advance.
Make sure to leave the time to stroll through the gardens either on the way to or from this wonderful palace.

Opening Hours:
Sat-Thu: 9am-6pm; Fri: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Vienna, Austria

Create Your Own Walk in Vienna

Create Your Own Walk in Vienna

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.
Old Town Churches Walking Tour

Old Town Churches Walking Tour

Sacred buildings in Vienna impress visitors with their historic architecture and magnificent interiors. The remarkable Gothic Stephansdom, charming Baroque St Peter’s church, and other sacred buildings of Vienna provide not only a history of the city, but a refreshing look with truly beautiful architecture, as you will see on this self guided tour.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Famous Homes of Vienna

Famous Homes of Vienna

From creative artists to big thinkers, Vienna was the home residence for a number of celebrated people. Talented musicians, composers, architects, and even famous psychologist once resided in this beautiful city – once the capital of a great empire. Follow our self-guided walk to tour the former dwelling houses of Strauss, Mozart, Beethoven and Freud, now converted into museums which acquaint us...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Vienna's Art Nouveau Architecture Tour II

Vienna's Art Nouveau Architecture Tour II

Unlike any other architect, Otto Wagner (who was also an urban planner, furniture designer, and interior decorator) holds the key to Viennese turn-of-the-century architecture and design, which he helped drag away from the more historical styles and into Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) and beyond, combining aesthetics with functionality in his many building projects. As he's claimed himself,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Mozart Walking Tour

Mozart Walking Tour

Back in 1781, Mozart was summoned to Vienna, where his patron – the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg – was attending celebrations. He got into a big argument with the Archbishop until ultimately getting fired. The young man decided to stay in the city as a freelance composer, musician, and music teacher, and so a legendary partnership began: Mozart and Vienna. Follow our self-guided walk for a...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Vienna Introduction Walk I

Vienna Introduction Walk I

A city of green parks, opulent architecture and elegant shopping, crowded theatres and boulevards for leisurely sauntering—Vienna is rightfully regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The etymology of its name is subject to a debate in which some say it comes from vedunia ("forest stream"), which subsequently produced the Old High German “uuenia” (“wenia”), the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Old Town Chocolate Stores

Old Town Chocolate Stores

Vienna is famous for its mouth-watering confections. In its specialty shops and boutiques, usually located on the ground floors of historic buildings, you will find the best roasted coffee, high quality chocolates, sweets, wafers, cocoa and, of course, Mozartkugels. Don’t hesitate to visit the wonderful chocolate stores in the Old Town featured in this guide.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles

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