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Vienna: Architectural Highlights

Whether in the historic city centre, in the traditional wine taverns or on the other side of the Danube: Vienna is full of architectural highlights. In this city, contemporary and historic buildings coexist in a strikingly innovative manner.

State Opera Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Viennaslide

If you take an early-morning stroll along Vienna’s Danube Canal, you not only enjoy the first rays of sun; you also gain a strong sense of the unique coexistence of nature, youthful creativity and the legacy of Vienna’s most important architect. On the left the waters of the canal murmur softly on their way to the Black Sea, while on the right the colourful graffiti on the stone retaining walls glows in the morning sun. And along this path you also make your first acquaintance with the legacy of the famous Jugendstil architect Otto Wagner: the Rossauer Lände and Friedensbrücke underground stations were built at the beginning of the twentieth century according to designs by this famous city planner. They also ensure quick access to the city centre.

In Vienna tradition and modernity exist side-by-side
Vienna’s historic downtown is remarkable for its harmonious coexistence of traditional and modern architecture: here historic buildings and contemporary structures blend together to create an impressive, inimitable cityscape. A good example of this is the Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which directly faces the modern, glass-and-steel Haas Haus building. Then there is the Hofburg Palace, the splendid former seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: right across the square is the Looshaus, completed in 1911 and a landmark of modern Viennese architecture. Not far from here is also the world-famous Vienna State Opera, whose neighbouring buildings include the Albertina. This museum not only boasts one of the world’s largest collection of graphic art; it is also striking for its Soravia Wing, a remarkable glass-and-steel structure that serves as a fly roof.

An urban living room – right in the middle of Vienna
The imperial past is still palpable when one strolls past the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) and the Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History) on the way to the nearby MuseumsQuartier, which represents a very special combination of history and zeitgeist. Contemporary architecture has filled this complex, which 100 years ago was still used as the court stables, with new life. Now the courtyard has the feeling of a modern, urban living room, ringed by historic and modern buildings such as the Leopold Museum and the Museum Moderner Kunst. All of this has made the MuseumsQuartier one of the liveliest spots in all of Vienna, drawing locals as well as visitors who come here to relax, chat and enjoy the evening sun.

Melting pot of a wide variety of building cultures
The area around Karlsplatz is a melting pot of various building cultures: the Secession, situated on the Wienzeile, is the city’s most important Jugendstil buildings, while the Baroque Karlskirche, located directly on Karlsplatz, provides a fascinating stylistic contrast to the Neoclassical architecture of the world-famous Musikverein, right across the road. 

The fact that Vienna is the meeting place of so many different cultures can be explained by the city’s glorious history. Many grand buildings are the legacy of the Habsburg Empire, including two particularly imposing palaces.

Schönbrunn Palace served as the summer residence of emperors, and Empress Sisi in particular was fond of strolling through the splendid palace grounds. The gardens of the Baroque Belvedere Palace, built as the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, are striking for their tiered fountains and sculptures.

Ending the day with a glass of authentic Viennese wine
Those who prefer more contemporary architecture will want to head across the river to the Donau City, also known as "Vienna DC". The architecture of this new neighbourhood is characterized by glass-and-steel towers jutting high into the sky.

At the end of a long tour of cultural sights, one looks forward to spending a relaxing evening enjoying a glass of wine. And there is no better place for this than Vienna, which has the privilege of having its very own vineyards and thus also its very own wines, made at wine estates boasting some of the city’s most innovative architecture.

The last stop on our tour is thus Vienna’s Floridsdorf district, which can claim two award-winning winemakers: the Christ Winery and the Wieninger Winery. The perfect way to end a perfect day might be with a glass of the typically Austrian Grüner Veltliner or a glass of the Viennese wine speciality known as the "Gemischter Satz".