Table of Contents
- Explore the National Library Hall
- Enjoy a Carriage Ride
- Pay Respects at the Imperial Crypt
- Visit the Mozart House
- Wander by the St. Stephen’s Cathedral
- See the Monument to the Plague Victims
- Relax at the Schmetterlinghaus
- Take a Look at the Roman Ruins
- Pass by the Hungarian House
- Visit the Vienna State Opera
Explore the National Library Hall
The biggest Baroque library in the whole of Europe, the State Hall of the National Austrian Library is almost 80m long and 20m high. The dome is magnificently decorated with frescoes by the court painter Daniel Gran, and the shelves contain more than 200,000 volumes, including the comprehensive library of Prince Eugene of Savoy as well as one of the largest collections of Martin Luther’s writings from the Reformation Era.
Ordered by Emperor Karl VI, the former Court Library was created in the first half of the 18th century as a private wing of the Hofburg imperial residence. It was built by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach according to plans of his father, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.
Enjoy a Carriage Ride
One thing you will always see in Vienna are horse-drawn carriages taking people across the city. At the end of the 19th century, the carriage business began to boom: more than a thousand fiakers (how the carriages are called by the locals) were on the road in Vienna between 1860 and 1900.
The drivers used to be very famous characters from the city, and also sometimes performed as singers. They were also known for their discretion, and not sharing with anyone what happens inside the carriages. It is safe to say that the experience is very similar to that of the gondolas in Venice.
Pay Respects at the Imperial Crypt
Below the humble church and monastery of the Order of the Capuchin Friars, the mortal remains of the rulers of the Habsburg empire are laid to rest. Walking through the Capuchins’ Crypt takes you through 400 years of Austrian and European history, from the Thirty Years’ War to revolutions and the first ideas for a united Europe.
Each sarcophagi was designed and built individually by the greatest artists of the time, in order to sybolize the life of the royal who has passed away. Signs of transience and faith reflect personal trust in God and humility before their Creator. Today, the mortal remains of 150 Habsburgs rest in the Capuchins’ Crypt.
Visit the Mozart House
Mozart, the famous pianist, moved to Vienna in the early years of his life. There he often performed as a pianist, notably in a competition before the Emperor with Muzio Clementi, a competition that would established him as the finest keyboard player in Vienna. Today a museum, you can visit the house where he lived while he furthered his pianist career in Vienna.
Wander by the St. Stephen’s Cathedral
In the middle of the 12th century, Vienna was starting to become one of the most important centers of the German civilization. And the four little churches that existed there were no longer sufficient to cover the religious needs of the demanding population.
The current Romanesque and Gothic form of the cathedral, seen today in the Stephansplatz, was largely initiated by Duke Rudolf IV and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches. Today, it is the most important religious building in the city, having been witness to many turns in Habsburg and Austrian history.
See the Monument to the Plague Victims
Vienna, being a trade cross-road during the 17th century, was the perfect place for a large epidemic. During the Great Plague of Vienna, it is believed that between 12.000 and 75.000 people have been killed by the hands of the Bulbonic plague.
Unlike in the previous plague outbreak, when people were simply ostracized and left untouched, this one got taken care by the Church. A religious organization known as the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity created special plague hospitals to take care of the victims.
The current monument was built in 1693, in the place of a simpler column erected during the plague by the Brotherhood. The figures at the very base represent the triumph of faith over disease, while the middle of the sculpture is dedicated to coats of arms and a praying figure of Emperor Leopold I, and at the very top one can find golden cherubs and other religious figures.
Relax at the Schmetterlinghaus
At the heart of Vienna you will find a unique, tropical oasis of relaxation: the butterfly house. In one of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in the world, you will enter a fantastic world dedicated to the most tender and colorful animals, the butterflies.
The place itself is a massive greenhouse with tropical fauna and flora, emphasis on the 500 butterflies living there, each displaying beautiful and invididual color patterns. It is quite warm and humid so be prepared to sweat a little if you visit it during the winter. Make sure to climb the stairs inside of the giant tree trunk, so you get a view of the entire place from above.
Take a Look at the Roman Ruins
Where Vienna now stands used to be the Roman military camp of Vindobona. The asymmetrical layout of this military camp, which deviates from the classical standardised Roman encampments, is still recognisable in Vienna’s street plan: Graben, Naglergasse, Tiefer Graben, Salzgries, Rabensteig, Rotenturmstraße.
Apart from that, many of the ancient buildings from the camp are still visible throughout the city. The most notable places where you can see these ruins are at the Schönbrunn Palace Park and right on the street in front of the Hofburg Palace.
Pass by the Hungarian House
For those who do not know Elizabeth Báthory, she is believed to be the most successful female murderer of all time, having tortured and killed over 600 virgin women in order to drink and bathe on their blood. All this to fulfill her belief that doing so would keep her eternally young.
At the turn of the 17th century, the ‘Blood Countess’ lived in this very house at 12 Augustinerstrasse, where she began her ‘career’. The city’s nearby markets served as a hunting ground for her servant Ficzkó, who was instrumental in providing a steady stream of young Viennese maids for the countess.
The place is not really open to the public, so all you can do is take a look at the facade and imagine what sort of thing happened inside this horrific place.
Visit the Vienna State Opera
The Vienna State Opera is a Renaissance Revival building with as many as 1.709 seats, being the first major building on the Vienna Ring Road. It is closely linked to the Vienna Philharmonic, which is an incorporated society of its own, but whose members are recruited from the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera.
The Wiener Staatsoper is one of the busiest opera houses in the world producing around 50 operas per year and 10 ballet productions in more than 350 performances. Make sure you see the building at night, as the lights outside make for an unforgettable sight.