Vienna gives London, Paris, and Rome a run for their tourism market, with a cohesive architectural presence and a cultural legacy dating back to the Austro-Hungarian empire. It’s now known (after the discovery of an early fertility figurine in 1906) that the city’s site on the Danube river has been inhabited since the Stone Age.
New buildings in the city are architecturally streamlined and very functional; much of Vienna today features the same kind of neutral modernism you're likely to find in postwar Berlin or Frankfurt. In addition to the architecture, though, Vienna offers the perfect blend of nightlife, culinary attractions, shopping, and top-class musical entertainment. Once you arrive by private jet, your vacation is sure to be one to remember.
Must see: Belvedere Palace, a complex of two buildings constructed between 1717 and 1722, is one of the most magnificent pieces of baroque architecture in Europe, and both buildings feature museums of Austrian paintings. Also be sure to visit the Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury), which houses such priceless artifacts as the Imperial Crown.
Lodging: For a high-design experience as much as a restful night’s sleep, stay at the Hotel Topazz. The hotel is decorated in the Wiener Werkstatte style, which was popular in Vienna in the early 1900s, and features oval window openings, prominent patterns, and a cool, calm palette.
Cuisine: Visit the Steirereck, a venue widely considered one of the world’s fifty best restaurants. The traditional schnitzel and kraut are old history here, with popular dishes now including delicate smoked catfish, or char in beeswax. A selection of over 120 cheeses helps round out the meal here; be prepared to spend at least 3 hours on a culinary adventure!
Ground Transportation: While the public transportation system, the Wiener Linien, is very extensive and efficient, it’s also worth noting that Vienna is adding bike paths every year. As with most picturesque European cities, riding a bike is a sure way to see the sights.
Packing Tip: It’s a good idea to check the weather a day or two before you leave, and pack accordingly. Either way, bring a good rain jacket and a pair of waterproof shoes.
Recommended Books: Check out the radio plays and poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann and, of course, the works of Franz Kafka. Better yet, read while you’re listening to Mozart or Beethoven, as both composers were nurtured in this great artistic city.
Currency: The Euro is the local currency.
Calling Code Austria: 43
Best Travel Dates: In a cultural sense, high season in Vienna is May, June, and September, when festivals, marathons, concerts, and operas are in full swing (many Viennese leave the city in July and August). Many balls are scheduled for December through February and the Christmas markets attract crowds from all over the world.