Vienna – The Definition of Elegance

Beautiful and elegant city of Vienna

Vienna is the Audrey Hepburn of capital cities: elegant, sophisticated, beautiful and glamorous.

Commonly associated with opera and imperial history, few places compare with its grand museums, art nouveau architecture, open courtyards, cobbled streets and alabaster buildings glimmering with gold.

Vienna is incredibly easy on the eye, almost like the whole city was built by one architect overnight (bar the whimsical Hunderwasserhaus building). It has a preserved-like quality, in a way that makes you feel like you’re walking inside an open air museum. Perhaps that’s true when catching sight of the lavish and organic ornamentation found on building after building in the name of Art Nouveau.


Art Nouveau

Secession Building in Vienna

The movement blossomed in Vienna at the turn of the 20th Century, with influential Austrian architects Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos making significant architectural contributions that helped shape the city’s current skyline.

The hallmark of Art Nouveau’s beauty reaches its pinnacle at the Secession Building. Sadly, I didn’t have time to go inside to see work from the Secession artists led most notably by Gustav Klimt. For a true feast of Klimt you could admire his frescoes in the Burgtheatre or catch The Kiss in the Upper Belvedere palace.

Instead, I opted for Mumok, Vienna’s leading contemporary art museum. It showcases many of the Secession artists alongside current artists like Gerhard Richter and Maria Lassnig. As is such with modern art museums, the building itself is a break away from classical architecture. With a black, stone-cladded exterior, Mumok is unquestionably elegant in its own unique way, it reminded me somewhat of the Black Diamond Library in Copenhagen.

Once you’ve had your fill at the Secession or Mumok, it’s time for some free sight-seeing. For the best of Vienna’s elegance, make it an Otto Wagner themed walk. Admire the apartment facades at Number 38 and 40 Linke Wienzeile. If you’ve strolled down Alberta Street in Riga, it’ll give you an idea of what to expect – facades dripping with beautiful motifs and shiny, decorative tiles.



State Hall inside the National Library of Vienna

Book lovers will not be disappointed with a visit to the National Library, with the State Hall stealing all worthy attention. Easily one of the world’s most beautiful libraries and officially the biggest Baroque library in Europe, it certainly leaves a lasting impression. The impressive ceremonial room of the library is almost 80 m long and 20 m high and is crowned by a dome decorated with frescoes by Daniel Gran. If money were no object, I’d want a room – possibly on a slightly smaller scale – like this in my house. Keep dreaming, Shing, keep dreaming!


Viennese Cakes

Sachertorte cake in Vienna

Whilst I find the savoury food overall a bit stodgy, the desserts are another story…

Whether it’s the rich, chocolatey taste of Sachertorte, or seeing the elegant precision of the eight separate layers of sponge and cream that makes up a Dobostorte – one thing is for sure – the Viennese have turned their desserts into an art form.


Oh, the palaces!

Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna

Finally, saving the summit of Vienna’s elegance until last is a visit to Schonbrunn Palace. With its exquisite neoclassical exterior, lavish interior and beautifully preserved gardens with Baroque sculptures and fountains, it deserves a whole day of exploration. Music fans might like to know that Mozart once gave a private performance for the empress – Maria Theresa – inside the Mirror Room.

Though as spectacular as the building is from the inside, it’s no comparison to the feeling of sprawling out inside the Palace’s Botanical garden on a sunny day to catch some vitamin D!

Botanical gardens at Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna

If you have more time, there’s also the Belvedere, a Baroque palace home to a wide range of Austrian artwork, including Klimt and the achingly beautiful, Egon Schiele.


Have you been to Vienna before? What are your thoughts?

A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.

'Vienna – The Definition of Elegance' have 8 comments

  1. August 14, 2017 @ 4:11 am Aagot j e g

    I came on a Viking River Cruise, and absolutely Loved Vienna (including “the Wedding of Figaro”), and the whole cruise !!


    • August 27, 2017 @ 7:42 am Shing Yoong

      A night at the Opera in Vienna is something I’d love to experience – so that gives me a reason to return! 😀 Glad you loved the city too!


  2. August 14, 2017 @ 7:33 am Megan

    I feel horrible that I have never connected with Vienna. I thought it was such a stunning city, but I’ve never really had enough time to explore the offbeat neighborhoods and locations outside of the palaces and ornate buildings! I must go back and see it again 🙂 Great thoughts and recap of your travels there!


    • August 27, 2017 @ 8:36 am Shing Yoong

      I thought I would feel the same way as you Megan, but I ended up loving it! But I am a sucker for for museums as you know haha….


  3. August 14, 2017 @ 11:18 am misty

    Beautiful pics-I’m always a sucker for a gorgeous library.


  4. August 14, 2017 @ 3:03 pm April

    Vienna truly is a beautiful city. The National Library was beyond stunning (amazing photo!). The real treat I had when exploring the city was visiting all the sites that were used in the filming of the classic movie, The Third Man, and then catching a screening of that movie at the Burg Kino. But my favorite memory – savoring a Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher. Scrumptious!


  5. August 16, 2017 @ 11:47 am Victoria @The British Berliner

    Oh absolutely! Vienna is simply excellent! My husband and I went in March (a belated birthday present) and had a most wonderful time.
    ‘Nice one Shing!


  6. September 3, 2017 @ 10:47 am MirrorSoi

    First I thought – oh, the library is my the right place for me. Then, the cakes – oh, may be, but I prefer the library after all 🙂 And then… the gardens – oh, really!? Then I’ll grab all the books I can carry with me, and put my self in one of these heavenly gardens! 🙂


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