The Austrian capital officially offers the highest quality of life on the planet. Even if you don’t live there, here’s how to make the most of a visit
Vienna’s majestic opera house
It’s no surprise that Vienna tops the Mercer Quality of Life index worldwide. Glorious history, access to mountains (take the cog railway up the Schneeberg, 90 minutes away), decent cafes and Franz Ferdinand’s bullet-riddled car: what more do you want? I first met Vienna on a five-hour train layover en route to Budapest and was immediately impressed. Here are five recommendations for anyone visiting the city.
Vienna’s facade portrays a conservative, bourgeois city where public belching is illegal. But in the Narrenturm, an 18th-century tower filled with wax casts of deformed disease victims from previous centuries, I had an epiphany: Vienna clutches at tradition and conformity because chaos is bubbling away underneath. This weird musuem of human suffering captures the very essence of the place: orderly, systematic and utterly eccentric.
The Third Man tour
The film got it exactly right in the scene with Orson Welles in the sewer – it’s possibly the best performance Vienna has given (it should have won the Oscar). I recommend the Third Man museum – totally lovable and a bit potty – and the sewer tour with local expert Gerhard Strassgschwandtner.
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, one of the famous works on display at theKunsthistorisches Museum.
Vienna is not a place to visit if you want to lose weight. I am rarely defeated by platefuls of grub, but one fiaker goulash with wiener sausages almost killed me. Government offices have cafeterias where they will pop your waistcoat buttons with all kinds of goodies. Try the justice ministry cafe for the fabulous view over the palaces, but there are loads more. Some of the tourist-orientated cafes are too tight-laced, but Café Hawelka is a favourite.
Cheap seats are issued every day 80 minutes before performances – queue at the side office in Operngasse. For popular shows, allow a few hours. It’s worth it.
A world-class collection that features Rembrandt, Brueghel and so on. It is Arcimboldo’s wacky yet formal portraits that really embody the spirit of the city. via theguardian.com