Vienna, Where Christmas is Special

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If you are wondering about the best destination to visit at Advent time, your answer is: Vienna, capital of Austria, population two million. Its general atmosphere is one of peace and respite, with tasteful and elegant decorations infusing the streets with Christmas spirit without overdoing the tacky glitter.

Food stands are offering everything from fast-foods and desserts to requisite eggnog, typically served in cups with an imprint of the Vienna Cathedral. Once you have finished your eggnog, you can keep the cup as a souvenir or memento, or you can simply walk up to another stand and have it refilled.

Having a cup of coffee, trying some of authentic Viennese cakes, walking along the luxurious Kärntner Strasse or passing through the Hofburg Castle returns you to the long-past times of the imperial Vienna, times when its citizens drove around in carriages instead of automobiles, and life went on at a much slower pace than today.

Schönbrunn, one of Europe’s biggest and most famous castles, is another thing that brings a breath of the past back to life. Built as the summer residence of the Hapsburgs, it has exactly 1441 rooms, and its numerous gardens and fountains are visited by more than two million people every year. It has also been known to feature in many famous movies.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is another one of Vienna’s symbols. Originally built in 1160, the cathedral was reconstructed many times over the years and shows both romantic and gothic influences. The south tower, nicknamed “the Steffl” by the Viennese, was completed in 1433. At 136 meters, its top is often obscured by the fog in winter.

Vienna’s most famous street, the Ring or the Wiener Ringstrasse, makes a circle around the town’s old center. Its construction began in 1857 under Emperor Franz Josef as a part of the city expansion plan. Old defensive walls and forts were brought down to be replaced with a new road, 57 meters wide and 6.5 kilometers long, where a number of monumental structures, including the parliament building, the academy, museums, the university, and the national opera, gradually sprung up over time.

The Prater Amusement Park is definitely another sight worth seeing. Its many attractions are going to keep you entertained for hours, and the most amazing among them is the Giant Ferris Wheel or the Riesenrad, with its breath-taking panoramic view of the entire city.

There are only three other UN seats in the world in addition to New York, and few people know that one of them, the Vienna International Centre, is located in none other than the Austrian capital. Built in 1979 next to the Danube River, it soon developed into another one of the city’s sights. Around 5,000 people are working there today.

Its numerous attractions earned Vienna a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2001. Try as we might to mention all the sights and attractions of this magical city, there will always be something else that we forgot. Art buffs might be surprised to find no mention of the Albertina Museum, known for paintings by Rubens, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, and many others here, and architecture buffs will wonder why the Friedensreich Hundertwasser was left out, but this is simply what Vienna is like, there is something there for everyone, and you just have to go there and find what works for you!

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