Start in the heart of Vienna at (1) St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a city landmark dating back to the 12th century. You can go up on one of the towers and enjoy sweeping views of Vienna or descend into the vaults for an instructive guided tour on the history of the cathedral. In the Middle Ages, (2) Stephansplatz, the square in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, was occupied by a cemetery, but today is a popular meeting point both for tourists and locals. If you go down to the entrance of the U1 and U3 subway lines under the square, you will see the remains of the 13th-century Gothic chapel (3) Virgilkapelle. The chapel was uncovered during the construction of the underground tunnels.
On the corner of Stephansplatz square and (4) Kärntner Strasse, look for (5) Stock im Eisen, a piece of wood covered in nails and enclosed in a protective case. The wood is said to be a leftover from the Viennese Woods that once used to stretch as far as St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Continue along Kärtner Strasse, Vienna’s central shopping street and home to a number of cafés and restaurants. On the corner with Donnergasse turn right to (6) Neuer Markt, constructed in the 13th century, and for a period serving as a grain market. In the middle of Neuer Markt is the 18th-century Providentiabrunnen (fountain of providence). Facing the fountain, to your left you will see the 17th-century church (7) Kapuzinerkirche, the final resting place of the members of the Habsburg royal dynasty.
Go past the Kapuzinerkirche along Tegetthoffstrasse to (8) Albertina (www.albertina.at)—an 18th-century palace turned into an art gallery that boasts one of the world’s largest collections of graphic art. Across from Albertina, to your left is (9) Hotel Sacher (www.sacher.com), home to Vienna’s world-famous chocolate cake—the Sacher-Torte. But the café of Hotel Sacher offers much more than that, so do have a break for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and typical Viennese cakes. Across from Hotel Sacher is the renowned (10) Vienna State Opera (www.wiener-staatsoper.at/). You can visit it also by day—on a special guided tour. If after all the walking and sightseeing you need some serious refreshment, go around Albertina to the (11) Palmenhaus restaurant (www.palmenhaus.at) in an art nouveau greenhouse in the beautiful (12) Burggarten park that also has tables outside in summer. Next door is the (13) Schmetterlinghaus (www.schmetterlinghaus.at)—Vienna’s tropical butterfly house.
Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!