Rick Steves

How to Enjoy the Good Life in Vienna

Imperial, grand, and lively are just a few words that often come to mind when thinking about Austria's capital city of Vienna. And it's all about good living there, as travel expert Rick Steves demonstrates.

In this episode of "Rick Steves Europe," he tours Vienna and the nearby Danube River Valley to show us the best spots to take in the area's awe-inspiring architecture, gardens, fine arts, and music. For a glimpse of Vienna's fine living, check out the suggested worthwhile sights from the program.

Plan your trip to Vienna from the full episode above, and don't forget to tune in for more travel tips Monday through Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m.

Impressive Architecture

Since Vienna was once the center of the Habsburg Empire, remnants of its imperial past can still be seen everywhere, especially in its grand architecture. The perfect place to start your Viennese sightseeing adventures is the Schönbrunn Palace. Once the Habsburgs' winter home, Schönbrunn is one of Europe's most elaborate palaces. And it's BIG; visitors get access to 40 of its 1,400 rooms and are free to roam its elegant gardens. You can't visit Vienna without stopping here.

A stroll through the city's grand streets is a great way to continue taking in its beautiful buildings. Examples of Jugendstil -- Vienna's own colorful brand of the Art Nouveau style -- are all over town. Other valuable sightseeing stops include St. Stephen's Cathedral, The Belvedere Palace, Charles Church, and more.

World-class Art

There's no shortage of top-notch art collections in Vienna. The Kunsthistorisches Museum, for example, showcases work from some of Europe's finest artists, all from the Habsburg family's private collection. The Belvedere Palace (mentioned above) is also home to Austria's first great public art gallery. There, you can view 19th- and 20th- century artwork by Austrian romantics Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.

Food and Drink

One of Vienna's many claims to fame is its café scene. For a peek at 19th century Viennese coffee house culture, check out Café Sperl located on Gumpendorfer StraÃ?e. This charming and welcoming café was established in 1880, and is still furnished exactly as it has been since opening day. Enjoy a fresh coffee with a homemade pastry, live music, and a garden.

Wine taverns, called Heurigen, both in and outside the city are wonderful places to taste some of the area's local wines and simple dishes. Austrian wine is often sweet, but if you prefer drier whites, Steves suggests giving Veltliner a try. Wine gardens like these ones provide a homey atmosphere to just kick back and enjoy Vienna's good life.

Rich Musical History

Though great composer Beethoven called Vienna home, the city has a strong musical tradition that goes back long before that. At the Hofburg estate, located in the town center, you can see the Habsburg family's fine collection of musical instruments and hear them being played with an audio guide.

The Vienna State Opera house is the pride of the city. It hosts about 300 performances a year by the opera and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. If you're unable to make to an actual show, you can always take a guided tour of its impressive interior. Or, during the summer months, you join locals and tourists outside City Hall to enjoy free concert broadcasts on a big screen. It's the place to be on summer evenings.

Splendid Landscapes

For a more scenic and romantic experience, Steves explores Vienna's surrounding Danube River Valley. The nearby town of Melk offers a charming and traffic-free town center, and its visit-worthy Baroque Melk Abbey. Additionally, the stretch between Melk and Vienna is blanketed with vineyards, cute villages, and beautiful landscapes -- the perfect recipe for a memorable bike ride or Danube River cruise.

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Schönbrunn Palace | Photo: Gabriele Diwald/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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