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Vienna, nestled in the state of North-East Austria that bears the same name, is a hotbed of history, culture and intrigue. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, the city holds a striking contrast between its modern and historical influences, with imperial palaces and glass sky-rises prominent throughout its confines. Modern art galleries, traditional coffeehouses and trendy restaurants are littered across Vienna, with designer shopping and traditional markets on every corner. With every turn, you will not fail to notice the Austrian capital's famous prancing horses, stylish waltzes and presence of Mozart-influenced sights and attractions.
Read more information on this destination in the AA Spiral Guide to Vienna.
The history of Vienna
In the 1st to the 4th centuries AD, Roman Vindobona grew up and flourished in what is now Vienna's Inner City (Innenstadt) and the Roman emperor Probus encouraged the planting of vineyards in the Vienna Woods in the 3rd century. In the middle ages it was the seat of the Bavarian Babenbergs, from whom it received its city charter in 1221, and the Hapsburg dynasties followed. Under their reign, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, Vienna became a city renowned for culture and music. It thrived, too, as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, hosting the world fair in 1873. Incorporated into Germany under Hitler, liberated by Soviet troops in 1945 and occupied by allies until 1955, during the Cold War years Vienna was a hotbed of intrigue.
With its baroque architecture, fabulous palaces, brilliant museums, sinuous art nouveau buildings and the great Ringstrasse - a broad boulevard encircling an Old Town so rich it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Vienna has a foot in the past. But look across the River Danube at the concrete and glass UNO-city, or at the exciting Museums Quartier, and you will soon see that Vienna embraces the 21st century too. Alongside narrow streets, elegant squares and ornate facades are big, tranquil parks perfumed with flowers. The Vienna Woods lie just a tram ride away. The 100-year-old Ferris wheel made famous in The Third Man defines the Prater amusement park, a former Hapsburg hunting ground. Mozart composed The Marriage of Figaro here, and today the city has fabulous opera, great concerts, theatre, jazz and clubs.