Overdose on culture, art, music, gastronomy and architecture in Vienna, Austria's thrilling capital city. Ever-more popular as a tourist destination, Vienna is a human-sized city packed with more museums, palaces, castles and concert halls than you could discover in a lifetime, let alone a short holiday. Relax, stroll down the Danube, and soak up the ambiance of modern Vienna, which waltzes proudly to its own distinctive tune.
Despite countless museums and galleries, locals will tell you that Vienna's best attractions are free: the magnificent architecture of its streets and squares. Join guided tours with Vienna Walks & Talks (www.viennawalks.com): themes include The Third Man and Jewish Vienna. One of Vienna's quaintest spots is Spittelberg, whose cobbled streets are lined with upmarket restaurants, cafés and boutiques. Nearby, take your pick of the MuseumsQuartier. Between contemporary art in Kunsthalle Wien (www.kunsthallewien.at) and Museum Moderner Kunst (www.mumok.at), art nouveau delights in the Leopold Museum (www.leopoldmuseum.org) and family attractions in ZOOM Kindermuseum (www.kindermuseum.at), you'll quickly have your fill of culture.
Find culture of a different flavour at Naschmarkt, Austria's largest flea and food market, with over 1.5 km of stalls selling everything from exotic fruits to Viennese tortes. If you're inspired by the market's offerings, pick up some authentic waffles at Manner (www.manner.com). With 120 years of experience, they've got the recipe just right! You can serve them back home with champagne in original crystal glasses: the dazzling flagship store of Austrian-born Swarovski (www.swarovski.com/wien) is on the shopping boulevard Kärntner Straße.
Indulge your sweet tooth with a genuine Sachertorte in red velvet Café Sacher (www.sacher.com/en-cafe-vienna.htm). You'll find the best apple strudel in beautiful old Cafe Landtmann (www.landtmann.at). (Freud and Mahler liked to share coffee and cake here, so you're in good company.) For Austrian fine dining, book a table at the tiny organic restaurant Weinbotschaft (www.weinbotschaft.at). Authentic little dishes are served at Santo Spirito (www.santospirito.at), where classical music and Baroque operas enhance the pleasure. A unique Vienna dining experience awaits you at Badeschiff (www.badeschiff.at), a permanently moored ship in the Danube with a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and summer beer garden on the quay.
When you've lined your stomach with hearty Austrian food, taste the city's nightlife. Start with a laidback drink at chic bar Motto am Fluss (www.motto.at/mottoamfluss). Move on to Grelle Forelle (www.grelleforelle.com), where DJs spin tracks on a state-of-the-art sound system to a party-loving crowd. If you're still going after midnight, carry on the party at Flex (www.flex.at), a popular underground nightclub. Fuel up for dancing with at one of Vienna's legendary sausage stands – such as Bitzinger near the Albertina – and try a typical Käsekrainer (a sausage made with small chunks of cheese).
Experience Vienna's twin aspects – tradition and innovation – in its famous annual events. On the traditional side is the televised New Year's Eve concert at Musikverein (www.wienerphilharmoniker.at), which always ends with a rousing, clap-along rendition of Strauss's Blue Danube and Radetzky March. On the innovative side is ImPulsTanz (www.impulstanz.com), a contemporary dance festival featuring incredible dance performances over July and August.