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Hofburg Place illuminated in the evening, Vienna, Austria
22 November, 20215 minute read

Spotlight on Vienna

Elegant Vienna is often a highlight of Danube river cruises. Its streets are lined with baroque architecture and opulent palaces, its museums are filled with priceless works of art, and its café windows are chock-full of delicate patisserie, sugar-dusted apple strudel and slices of rich sachertorte. It’s incredibly green, too – woods, wetlands, vineyards, not to mention hundreds of leafy parks to stroll through.

We usually devote a whole day to this photogenic city on our river cruises, starting with an introductory tour and a coffee-and-cake stop, followed by a free afternoon to explore. Optional extras give you the chance to experience a little Viennese culture, too, whether that’s a waltz lesson or a classical concert. Not sure where to begin? We’ve selected some of our favourite things to do in Vienna to get you started…

Drive along Ringstrasse

This 5.3-kilometre boulevard circles the ‘old’ city and is edged with some of Vienna’s most beautiful buildings. On our introductory city tours, we’ll drive you along the Ringstrasse, allowing you to admire the neo-Gothic City Hall, the Museum of Art History (a spectacular neo-classical palace housing fine art by the likes of Rubens and Raphael), and the suitably grand State Opera House.

Explore the Imperial Palace complex

Red tram outside the Imperial Court theatre on the Ringstrasse, Vienna, Austria

One of the biggest palace complexes in the world, the Hofburg Palace was home to the Habsburg emperors for more than 600 years. Step inside the Imperial Apartments to see how Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth lived in luxury; gawp at the treasures in the Imperial Silver Collection; or see the diverse collections displayed in the MuseumsQuartier, once the palace stables.

Visit Schönbrunn Palace

The Habsburg’s summer residence, UNESCO-listed Schönbrunn Palace is well worth visiting on a free afternoon. It’s just outside the city centre, but easily reached by bus, tram or underground. Inside, you can glimpse the rococo splendour of the state apartments; out in the manicured gardens, wander among lawns and landscaped flower beds. Our Danube Christmas cruise offers you the chance to spend Christmas Day afternoon here – a wonderful way to enjoy the big day (fingers crossed for snow!).

Scale St Stephen’s Cathedral

Schonbrunn Palace and gardens, Vienna, Austria

This glorious Gothic building sits in the heart of the city, looming over coffee houses and cobbled streets (where opera ticket sellers roam, dressed in their finest Mozart costumes). As well as admiring the richly decorated interior, scale the 343 steps up to the top of the south tower. From here, you’ll have a close-up of the cathedral’s multi-coloured roof (the mosaic tiles depict a double-headed eagle and Vienna’s coat of arms), as well as sweeping views across the city.

Experience coffee house culture

The Viennese take coffee and cake to a whole new level. Forget an Americano-to-go and plastic-topped tables – here, historic coffee houses serve tall glasses of cream-capped coffee at marble tables beneath gilded mirrors, while suited-and-booted waiters carry slices of sachertorte (a fudgy chocolate cake) across parquet floors. Our river cruise city tours always include a stop off somewhere for a sip and a slice of something indulgent. Study the menu before you order; Vienna prides itself on its speciality coffees.

Learn the Viennese waltz

Coffee and cake at cafe in Vienna

The oldest form of ballroom dancing, Viennese waltzing emerged in the mid-18th century, adapted from local folk dances. Characterised by sweeping turns and graceful glides, it’s a beautiful dance to watch – but why not try learning it for yourself? Most of our Danube river cruises include a dance lesson with a local teacher while the ship’s docked in Vienna. It’s entirely optional, but what a wonderful place to practise your own Viennese whirl!

Immerse yourself in Vienna’s musical heritage

Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert – Vienna has long been a favourite for classical musicians. Experiencing a concert or recital live is a great way to immerse yourself in the city’s musical legacy. Most of our Danube cruises offer you the chance to do just that, with an optional excursion to a concert of Mozart or Strauss melodies. The icing on the cake? The concerts take place in the atmospheric surrounds of a Viennese palace.

Browse our Danube river cruises to find your perfect itinerary.

Man plays a violin in a Classical music concert, Vienna, Austria

Image of blog author Laura Weeden

Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.

Laura | About the author

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