Austria has in recent years been seen as the other Germany. History shows it has been a rival of what has now become modern Germany for centuries. Destined to be one, Austria found itself at odds with its rivals, the Prussians, who would be the predecessors of modern Germany. Instead, with Vienna as its Capital, Austria looked east and south by growing its Austro-Hungarian Empire and solidifying its hold on Italy. With such ambitions, Vienna became rich and the center of intellectual thought.
Vienna’s most interesting history is that it is the city where Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud, and Stalin all lived at the same time (read more). It shows that the city is one of a very complex history. One could say even that Vienna shaped the 21st century, as without these minds the world would be quite a different place. In 2005, Vienna was ranked as the world’s most livable city. The boulevards and exquisite cafe culture show that much of the past still remains, making it a city of contrasts between old and new.
The old city is surrounded by the ring road, which was designed to be a world class avenue lined with world class buildings. Indeed on the ring is City Hall, Parliament, the Opera, Museum Quartier, the Hofburg, and dozens of museums and parks. Walking along the tree lined avenue affords the viewer with a multitude of city sights, while walking into the city center provides windy lanes and old brick roads. This shows that Vienna is a city of the summer, even though winter comes with numerous Christmas Markets.
One of the number one attractions is Schönbrunn Palace, which lies a bit out from the old city. This massive palace and gardens are relatively open to the public, while the tours inside come at a slight premium. This Palace was once the seat of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the home of the famed Maria Theresa. The palace, which once stood outside the city, is very much part of the urban landscape as the city grew around the palace and beyond.
Museum Quartier at the edge of the old city turns into a lively christmas market at night, while the wondrous city hall peaks in the nearby distance. Stephan’s Church caps the city at it’s heart and winding old alleys are worth exploring branching out from there. Outside of the old city is the Prater, which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. The large park grounds are filled with locals and tree lined streets. Nearby is also a new railway station, whose glass facade contrasts with the history in the area.
Vienna is a city rich with history both triumphant and turbulent, which makes any visit both captivating and perplexing.