Vienna is the capital of Austria, located on the banks of the Danube. Austria's climate is generally moderate and mild and reliably follows the four distinct seasons. Average summer temperatures range from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius; with winter average temperatures at around 0 degrees. The language spoken is German and the currency is the Euro.
Even Pinocchio loves Vienna - Image: Elaine de Wet
Vienna is a romantically imperial city - perfect for anyone with a romantic streak or an interest in history. Sightseeing opportunities are to be found in abundance. Visitors can wander along narrow, medieval alleyways or across imperial squares; view Schönbrunn Palace or the Imperial Palace.
The beautiful, elegant city of Vienna is truly a city of culture, possessing a lively and vast array of cultural attractions. Whether you're interested in classical or theatre, film or dance festivals, opera, exhibitions or concerts, Vienna has something for you to discover.
We knew we had definitely arrived! Image: Elaine de Wet
Vienna is definitely a city of music and was home to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Johann Strauss. This outstanding musical heritage has been preserved right to the present day. The Wiener Philharmoniker is one of the world's top orchestras, the Vienna Boys' Choir is triumphantly successful wherever it tours and the Vienna Conservatorium has produced a multitude of international award-winners in all musical disciplines. If you're a lover of music, Vienna is THE place to visit.
St Stephens Cathedral is a focal point in Vienna - Image: Elaine de Wet
The centre of Vienna is known as the 1st District, and is in the shape of a circle and in the very middle of the circle is the focal point of Vienna, St. Stephen's Cathedral. Within the 1st District, visitors will find heaps of restaurants, cafes, museums, shops as well as residential apartments.
Our first tour of Vienna took us to the St. Stephens Cathedral. The first church at this site dates back to the fourth century but the oldest parts of today's St. Stephens Cathedral - the towers of the front facade - go back to the thirteenth century, when the existing Romanesque church from the 12th Century, was expanded.
More than two hundred thousand glazed tiles adorn the roof of the Cathedral - Image: Elaine de Wet
The roof of the Cathedral is decorated with more than two hundred thousand glazed tiles. They form enormous mosaics depicting a double headed eagle - symbol of the Holy Roman Empire and the coat of arms of Vienna and Austria. The nave of the Cathedral is 108 metres long with a very impressive Gothic vaulted ceiling.
Interior of the Liechtenstein Palace - Images: Elaine de Wet
No visit to Vienna would really be complete without visiting one of Vienna's many musical venues. This is where our second memorable experience in Vienna came in - we were treated to a private concert by the Viennese Imperial Orchestra at the Lichtenstein City Palace, which is owned by the princely family of Liechtenstein. This was truly a memorable one-hour event!
Our entertainment at the Liechtenstein City Palace - Images: Elaine de Wet
Upon arrival at the City Palace, we were welcomed with a drink in the reception room. In an intimate room off the reception area, we were entertained by the Viennese Imperial Orchestra performing twelve of Mozart's famous pieces. Passionate vocal soloists, some of them trained at the Vienna conservatories were a further highlight of the evening. The real treat for the evening was the Children's Choir. Today Vienna and Austria are famous for their singing children - boys and girls - and to listen to these beautifully trained voices was truly an honour. Whether you're a lover of Opera music or not, this was definitely a worthwhile experience.
The rear of the Schönbrunn Palace, it was the only spot I could take a pic without too many tourists - Image: Elaine de Wet
The Schönbrunn Palace with its surrounding buildings and huge park is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Austria. The castle was built to rival French Versailles in Baroque beauty and importance, but due to a lack of funds, never managed to outdo its rivalling nation France. This was the next stop on our tour of Vienna.
Maria Theresia, an influential leader, who still had time to have 16 children - Image: Elaine de Wet
Schönbrunn Palace was the summer palace of the Habsburg family, who ruled much of Europe for over six hundred years. The most influential leader to live at the Schönbrunn Palace was the famous Maria Theresia with her husband and sixteen children. Now, that displays excellent time-management - who has time to have so many children?
The huge parklands around the Schönbrunn Palace are magnificent - Images: Elaine de Wet
One must remember that this was only their summer residence from May until September, which meant that every year the whole of their residence in Vienna was packed up and carted by horse and carriage and unpacked at the Schönbrunn Palace. A summer residence with 1441 rooms just to accommodate a family of eighteen members! Needless to say, they required approximately two thousand staff just to attend to them in this huge summer residence.
The Schönbrunn Palace is also where Mozart, as a six year old, played to the Empress; where John F. Kennedy met Khrushchev during the Cold War and where Andre Rieu has performed.
The pink sculpture of the Hare is a giant interpretation of the famous painting - Image: Elaine de Wet
Whilst travelling through Vienna, look out for the Pink Rabbit, which is actually a Hare. The first 'Young Hare' was painted by a German artist, Albrecht Durer, who came from Nuremberg. The original piece of art is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of observational art and is housed in the Albertina Museum in Vienna.
A few extra things you might like to do in Vienna during your free time:
The Vienna Naschmarkt
Naschmarkt - a great place to shop - Images: Elaine de Wet
The Naschmarkt has been in existence since the 16th Century when mainly milk bottles were sold - as milk bottles were made out of Ash trees (Asch in German). This led to the name 'Aschenmarkt'. From 1793 onwards, all fruits and vegetables bought to Vienna with carts had to be sold here, while goods arriving on the Danube were sold elsewhere. Today, you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, exotic herbs, cheese, baked goods, Kaiser Rolls, meat and seafood.
There were so many tourists, I only managed to get a pic of the famous Albertina's stairs - Image: Elaine de Wet
The Albertina has the largest and most valuable graphical collections in the world. Famous paintings such as Durer's 'Hare" - see my story about the Pink Rabbit above - and masterpieces by Picasso and other great artists are displayed in the rotating exhibitions.
The 'Schatzkammer' shows a collection of one thousand years of treasures compiled by the Imperial House of Habsburg, including the medieval Imperial Regalia. On display are various valuable gems including one of the world's largest emeralds.
Praterpark is an amusement park - a place of nostalgic dreams and an oasis of greenery and the location for one of Vienna's most famous symbols - the Giant Ferris Wheel.
As we only had one and a half days to spend in Vienna on our whirlwind trip of Europe, we unfortunately never had time to visit these attractions, but they're on our 'to-do' list for next time. So, next time you're wondering 'where to next', consider Vienna, it is a remarkable, lively city enriched with history and bubbling with life - well worth a visit.
A big PS - Vienna has just been voted the second most liveable city in the world, after Melbourne