Vienna’s history dates back to around about the first century AD, when the Romans established the military camp Vindobona. Today’s cityscape is characterised by the abundance of baroque buildings created mostly under the rule of Empress Maria Theresia and Emperor Franz Joseph, who was largely responsible for the monumental architecture round the Ringstraße.
Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence, is one of Vienna's most popular sights. The sumptuous palace with its beautifully tended formal gardens, the Gloriette monument, Palm House and zoo attracts hordes of visitors each year. Then there is the huge Hofburg (Imperial Palace), which was the base of the Habsburgs for over six centuries.
The splendid baroque Belvedere Palace today houses the Österreichische Galerie (Austrian Gallery), displaying the largest collection of works by Klimt and Kokoschka, as well as famous paintings by Schiele. Vienna’s prime landmarks are the gothic Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), the giant big wheel in the Prater (Vienna’s old recreational park), and the Spanish Riding School with its famous Lipizzaner horses. In the heart of Vienna, 200m from the State Opera, you'll find a unique, tropical oasis - the Imperial Butterfly House. In one of the world's most beautiful Art Noveau palm houses you can admire around 400 live, free flying butterflies all year round. Absorb the colours and grace with which they float through the air, past waterfalls and exotic plants, in an environment as true to nature as possible.
Vienna has more museums and galleries of international reputation than you can shake a stick at. Take, for example, the Museum of Fine Arts with the world’s largest collection of Bruegel paintings, MuseumsQuartier with the Leopold Museum, the Museum Moderner Kunst (Museum of Modern Art), Architekturzentrum (Architectural Center) and the Kunsthalle, all ranking among the city's most important cultural venues.
Vienna owes much of its international fame to the many celebrated composers who lived and worked here, including Strauß, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the world’s best, the State Opera amongst the leading opera houses, not to forget the famous Vienna Boys’ Choir.
In Vienna, the old coffee house culture and rustic wine taverns stand alongside top restaurants and shops, and time-honored events alternate with internationally-acclaimed extravaganzas such as the Life Ball to create a unique and very special ambiance. All of this, plus plenty of greenspace and recreational areas including the Wienerwald, the Prater and the Danube Island make Vienna a very special city to visit.
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