Vienna is Austria’s capital and largest city, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre. As the former home of the Hapsburg court and its various empires, the city still has the trappings of the imperial capital it once was, and the historic city centre is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Such a prestigious award is indicative of the city’s rich heritage, during the renaissance it grew to become the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and a cultural centre for arts and science, music and fine cuisine. In 1804, Vienna became capital of the Austrian Empire and played a major role in European and world politics throughout the 19th century, before playing host to many of the decisive moments in the epoch-defining European wars of the 20th Century.
Vienna is a city that prides itself on its culture, this is reflected in the habits of the local population; the Viennese's famous coffee culture, and despite incursions by Starbucks and Italian-style espresso bars, the Kaffeehauskultur is still the traditional way to drink a cup of coffee, read the newspaper and meet friends. There are several cultural delights to be savoured in the city amongst which the highlight is the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), one of the world's greatest art museums. The museum itself is a beautiful example of late 19th century Austrian architecture, Emperor Franz Joseph I commissioned the museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum to be constructed simultaneously, with both museums having identical exteriors and standing facing each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz. The Kunsthistorisches contains a world-class exhibit of the Habsburgs' art collection, including Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Bosch, and Brueghel.
In a city so evidently full of imperial history no trip to Vienna would be complete without a visit to one of the city's palaces and Schloss Schönbrunn is as good a choice as any. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996, it is not far from the city centre and served as the Hapsburg summer palace. It is comparable in grandeur to Versailles with expansive gardens and the world's oldest zoo (built for Maria Theresa's husband in 1752). The palace has also seen meetings between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khruschchev at the height of the Cold War.
A further sight worth a visit is the Karlskirche, the largest Baroque cathedral north of the Alps, designed by the famous architect Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. Within the cathedral there are frescos by Michael Rottmayr and paintings from the Italian Baroque painters Sebastiano Ricci and Giuseppe Antonio Pellegrini.
Vienna offers a complete range of hotels, concentrated in the central district (Vienna 1010), from where you can walk to most of Vienna's attractions. Vienna has a well-developed public transport network, including an underground system, meaning a hire car is not necessary.
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