The Ringstraße is a grand 3-mile route around Vienna’s old city.

Much like a vintage jewelry box, the outside is ornate beauty, while the inside is full of invaluable treasures.

Take a tour of the Ringstraße once for the architecture and another time for the quiet retreats along the way.

ringstrasse

An architectural merry-go-round

The Ringstraße is a boulevard of architecturally impressive museums, hotels, government buildings and palace after palace. The ritzy adornment of this boulevard is no accident. The Ringstraße was constructed by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1857 and shortly thereafter nobles rushed to build their lavish residences along the road, showcasing both wealth and power, according to the Vienna Tourist Board’s official website. The 19th century architectural elegance that came about in those 30 years after the Ringstraße’s construction has come to symbolize the atmosphere of the city. The route is now home to parliament, city hall and a number of museums.

You’re likely to get dizzy going round the Ringstraße, not from the constant right turns, but because of the myriad references to centuries of architectural history interpreted by decadent nobles. Many of these buildings have taken on a variety of architectural styles – the Vienna State Opera is a testament to neo-renaissance; the city hall is Flemish gothic; and the Burgtheater is new Baroque, according to the Vienna Tourist Board. These facades are enough to make a trip to Vienna memorable.

Palais-Lieben-Auspitz

Life outside the state house

While the Ringstraße’s most famous attractions are its public spaces, Vienna’s official tourist website reminds visitors that the street was once a place for the lively upper set to work and mingle. Perhaps most emblematic of that culture is the Palais Lieben-Auspitz. Now the house of Cafe Landtmann, it used to be the home of a literary salon. On most days, but especially the summer, parts of Vienna’s Ringstraße are still energetic hubs of activity, and highlights of Austria tours. At the State Opera House, locals gather at a famed food stand that offers some of the city’s best sausages, from Kasekrainer to curry wurst. Stage actors, meanwhile, try to solicit the bustling tourists to come see a show.

Stadtpark

Green spaces and coffee shops

Other great stops along the road are the green spaces around town, from City Park to Stadtpark. The latter is an especially good place for a picnic or a light stroll. For travelers looking for something a little grander, however, there is the Belvedere Palace, just a few more blocks outside the Ringstraße. The two-tiered estate has a gorgeous sprawling view up a slope of symmetrical fountains, hedges, paths and flowers.

Whether you’ve taken a trolley or walked around the Ringstraße, probably the best way to enjoy a trip to Vienna is to have a leisurely cup of coffee. Café Central is famous for having hosted the likes of Tolstoy and other great thinkers and literati, and if you go there you will be summarily greeted by the likes of a bunch of tired looking tourists. However, for a truly great cup of coffee go to Café Sperl, a pool hall coffee shop with large windows, plush window nook seats and a host of newspapers for idling the afternoon away. Half the tables are often reserved for locals who like to get their morning meal and news there.