Horseman on horse sculpture in Vienna, Austria

A stroll through Vienna's Inner City
Be amazed by the sights and have a coffee

Vienna/Austria (2012). – Vienna is cool, let’s start with that. Actually very cool. "Wien" as the Austrians and Germans call Austria's capital or as the locals say "Wean" is not just another major city in Europe, it's a leading one and on top of it it's a city where it is a privilege to live in. I am not just saying that because I am a native Austrian with the need to be proud of my country. The fact of the matter is, I was born and raised in the west of the country and grew up with the understanding that the east of Austria is different, including the capital – different not in a good way. Having visited Vienna countless times in the meanwhile and explored more than one corner of the city I can confirm, Vienna indeed is different but in a good way. A very good way. Today I would even go further and say: Vienna is not only one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe, but it's also one of the most interesting ones. Think about the history, the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the Habsburg Monarchy. What's left of it, Vienna shows it every day on each and every corner. Or how about art and culture? Let's talk about music. Vienna is worldwide highly regarded as the "City of Music" most of all because of its musical legacy. The best of the best in classical music lived and worked in Vienna, great composers like Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven and not to forget the sons of the city, Schubert, Mahler or Strauss father as well as the "Walz King", Strauss son.
It became a decade long tradition to broadcast the "New Year's Concert" of the Vienna Philharmonic live on TV from Vienna into the whole world – an estimated audience of about 50 million people in about 90 countries watch it year for year on the 1st day of the new year.
Traditional Austrian Kaffeehaus in Vienna at Christmas time
The "Hub to the East" has a great international reputation
To really explore the 7th-largest city in Europe requires a lot of time or multiple visits. Not because the city is humongous but because there is so much to see. For Austrian standards, a lot of people live in Vienna, almost a third of the country's population. 2.6 million people, to be more precise. For a long time, Vienna was the largest German-speaking city in the world (today Germany's Berlin ranks number one before Vienna). Vienna is a vibrant city with lots of students from abroad, enjoying for the most part free education on one of the many universities. And there are also countless business people contributing to the daily pulsating life in the city. Speaking of it, Vienna is an important location for Europe's economy, especially because the city is very close to Budapest/Hungary, Bratislava/Slovakia and Prague/Czech Republic. The "Hub to the East" is a valued business venue for many global players, especially the ones dealing with eastern countries or Asia. Vienna has a great international reputation and is next to many others also home to the international organizations United Nations and OPEC. Vienna is also one of the leading destinations for international congresses and conventions. In some years the city was even named the world's number one in this field. 

Walking through the "Inner City" is like walking through a history book
Getting around in Vienna with public transportation is fairly easy thanks to the Viennese subway system called "U-Bahn". But the question remains, where to start and what to see? You can't go wrong if you start out your first tour through Vienna with exploring the "Inner City", the 1. District. It's like opening your eyes and seeing the beautiful Christmas tree. Believe me, the city will amaze you every step of the way. For example with its very rich and incredible architecture, representing many periods and styles, from baroque to the twentieth century. Wherever you walk within the "1. Bezirk" as the locals call the "Inner City", you will be incredibly busy turning your head left and right and up and down to not miss anything that the city offers you. And you will always be reminded that you walk in the footprints of the royals who once called Vienna also their home. You'll see, walking through the city is like walking through a history book.

The sights in Vienna are a major tourist attraction and will blow you away
The wish to have a home here will overcome you during a visit. Something you share with many people, trust me. Mostly because the Austrian capital is very well known for its high life quality and also international top ranked for it. Vienna is multicultural like most of Europe's big cities, something which adds to the flair, the chic and the shine. Besides the locals, the "real Viennese", people from many countries in the world live, study or work in Vienna or have a second home here. Also, almost all religions are represented in Vienna, about half of the population are Roman Catholics, another third is without any religion, about 10 percent are Muslims. Walking at the boulevard ("Ringstrasse") and passing the beautiful town hall ("Rathaus"), the "Burgtheater", the University and the Austrian Parliament will win you over so fast that you don't even have time to think about something else. And it will give you a hint of how impressive Vienna really is. The opera ("Staatsoper"), of course also the "Hofburg" and the great Dom of Vienna, the "Stephansdom", will blow you away as will all the other sights in the city. Every single one is a major tourist attraction. But keep in mind, talking about Vienna, so far we only touched the surface of the "Inner City".

The Viennese are the pioneers of coffee filtering
One thing not a lot of people know about Vienna, I just have to tell you: Vienna is very proud of its coffee tradition and that for a good reason. Viennese cafés have very long and well-known history, dating back a long time, in fact, centuries. Old traditional coffee houses are still existing today and they are to the locals almost something like an extension to their homes. Most of them have their "real" breakfast there or their "mandatory" afternoon coffee on a regular basis. It's where they drink their coffee and read their newspaper "in quiet and peace". And no one ever has to disturb this almost sacred act. It's like you're not supposed to laugh out loud in church. And in fact, it is respected pretty much, even today. The coffee is served in countless variations – some of them you might never have heard of – the "Melange" for example. By the way: there are many coffee shops around – even Starbucks – where the only goal can get accomplished easily, to get a coffee, even in a to-go cup. So who's not really into this Viennese coffee house tradition can get the coffee in one of these. 

And one more thing: It's been told since ever that it was the Viennese cafés which invented the process of filtering coffee. The story goes like that: when the invading Turks (1863) left Vienna, they abandoned lots of coffee, countless sacks of beans. Part of this coffee was given to a Viennese man who started to make coffee by grinding the beans and filtering them with hot water.

There are two famous coffee houses in the "Inner City" known worldwide for their great tradition and reputation, the "Sacher" and the "Demel". If you want to experience Vienna the right way you just have to take a break and have a coffee and a cake in either one. But be aware of the fact that in high season you might have to line up for a long time to get seated inside. 

Last but not least, as the capital of Austria, Vienna is of course also famous for original Austrian food. In several more or less famous restaurants, the menus read like a true Austrian feast you would want to have. But take in account that if you plan on having one you might want to make reservations - at least in the well-known restaurants in the "Inner City" – if you prefer not to sit next to the restroom door.
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