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Many expats notice that the lifestyle in Vienna has a distinctly laid-back feel to it. Rather than live to work, the Viennese tend to work to live – and the vast array of things to see and do here reflects that.
Though known as the classical-music capital of the world, Vienna also has a lot to offer in terms of food and entertainment. There is always time to linger and enjoy a good cup of coffee or spend an afternoon browsing a street market.
Shopping in Vienna
Expats who enjoy shopping will be pleased to learn that there are plenty of places in Vienna to indulge in a bit of retail therapy. Mariahilfer Strasse is one of the longest shopping streets in the city. All sorts of department stores can be found there, with smaller shops and quaint street cafes tucked away in between.
Another must-see shopping street is Kärntner Strasse, which has the notable distinction of hosting the flagship store of Swarovski, which was founded in Austria. Fashionistas will feel right at home in Kärntner Strasse, which has everything from designer labels to high-street fashion close at hand.
Markets in Vienna
Vienna is known for its food markets, most notably the Naschmarkt and Brunnenmarkt. The Naschmarkt is filled with unusual and tasty foods from every corner of the world and has plenty to offer expats and tourists alike. The Brunnenmarkt is located in a trendy art district and offers a wide selection of goods, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, exotic spices, and much else. Somewhat less touristy than the Naschmarkt, expats are more likely to meet and mingle with locals at the Brunnenmarkt.
Eating out in Vienna
Expats looking to eat out in Vienna will find it difficult to choose between the many international dishes and restaurants on offer. From classic Viennese fare to teppanyaki or modern vegan cuisine, expats in Vienna have access to a variety of global flavours.
Arts and culture in Vienna
Vienna is a lovely city to stroll through and is full of cultural pursuits. The Museumsquartier is a great place to start. It's home to several museums, including the Leopold Museum, which is a great introduction to some of Austria’s well-known artists. For those with kids, the whole family is sure to have a fun day out filled with activities at the ZOOM Kindermuseum.
Living up to its nickname of the City of Music, Vienna is of course bursting with high-class performance venues where a wide variety of musical talent can be found. The Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) is a must-see, and with an average of 50 operas a year, it's easy enough to find a performance that fits one's schedule.
See and do in Vienna
Expats in Vienna will find a spectacular and vibrant city with countless things to see and do on any day of the week. The city is a cultural and historical paradise, with many museums, architectural landmarks and entertainment possibilities on offer throughout the city.
St Stephen’s Cathedral
This impressive Catholic Church is located in Stephansplatz, right in the heart of Vienna. It is the most important and recognisable church in the Austrian capital. Thanks to its distinctly colourful roof, it can easily be spotted from just about anywhere in Vienna.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Vienna, Schönbrunn is a Rococo-style building which was once the summer palace of the Habsburg monarchy. The palace has more than 1,400 rooms and lovely gardens which can be enjoyed by visitors during the summer months.
Das Schmetterlinghaus (The Butterfly House)
Situated in the gardens of the Hofburg Palace, this special tropical butterfly house displays and breeds hundreds of live, free-flying butterflies from all over the world. Be aware that it is quite humid inside, as they have tried to replicate a natural rainforest environment for the butterflies.
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Art History Vienna)
This is regarded as one of the best art museums in the world and the scope of the works found here come close to the collections of the Louvre or the Prado. The museum is housed in a magnificent building which is located close to Hofburg Palace and holds an impressive collection of Egyptian and Greek art as well as many European pieces.
What's on in Vienna
There's plenty of fun things to do in Vienna throughout the year, especially in the summer months. Whether it’s a music or film festival, a fun market or an ice-skating spectacle, there is rarely a dull moment in this vibrant capital city.
The New Year’s Concert (January)
Kicking the year off with spirit is the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It is broadcast on television and radio all over the world – many tourists visit the Wiener Musikverein just to see the Golden Hall where it takes place. Tickets are sold out well in advance of this momentous annual event, so it's best to book early.
Ball Season (January to March)
The ball season in Vienna starts in January and consists of a range of small to extravagant balls that are organised throughout the city. These balls present a chance to dress up and dance the night away to a Wiener Waltz and other traditional dances. The most famous is the Opera Ball. Attracting Vienna’s elite, it takes place at the Vienna State Opera House.
The world's biggest free open-air music festival takes place in the summer along the banks of the River Donau. Vienna's residents and people from around the world come together to enjoy all kinds of music in the heart of the city.
Christmas Markets (November to December)
As the summer comes to an end, it’s not long before the eagerly awaited Christmas markets open in November. These can be found across the city, where visitors can warm themselves with Glühwein and do some gift shopping in the cold weeks leading up to Christmas.
Where to meet people and make friends in Vienna
Making friends in a new city can be intimidating. One of the best ways to start meeting likeminded people is to join a local club or meet-up group. Here are a few suggestions.
Vienna International Jitsu Club
One of the only English-speaking martial arts clubs in Vienna, the Vienna International Jitsu Club is a place where non-German speakers have a chance to learn a martial art while also meeting new people.
An online community for expats living in Vienna. Moderators of this community organise regular meet ups for expats in the city which include monthly meet and greets and summer barbecues.
For the more literary minded expat, Vienna has a few book clubs that can be joined. One popular club specifically for females is Literary Ladies, which holds monthly meet-ups.
Hiking and Mountaineering Club of the Vienna International Centre (VIC)
Expats wanting to explore nature while living in Vienna will find VIC a good club to join. This club has members of all ages from all over the world and is a great place to meet other expats.
►For more on what to expect of the Austrian lifestyle, see Culture Shock in Austria.
Are you an expat living in Vienna?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Vienna. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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