Visitors spend most of their time in the city center, and many of Vienna's hotels and restaurants are conveniently located in or just outside the 1st District. In this section, we profile the Inner City, or Innere Stadt, and the districts that immediately surround it.
Innere Stadt (1st District) As we mentioned earlier, this compact area, bounded on all sides by the legendary Ring, is at the center of Viennese life. The Inner City has dozens of streets devoted exclusively to pedestrian traffic, including Kärntnerstrasse, which bypasses the Vienna State Opera House, and the nearby Graben, which backs up to Stephansplatz, home to the famous cathedral. Competing with both the cathedral and the Opera House as the district's most famous building is the Hofburg, the Habsburg palace that's now a showcase of tourist attractions, including the National Library, the Spanish Riding School, and six museums. Other significant landmarks include the Rathaus (City Hall), Parlament (Parliament), the Universität (University of Vienna), the Naturhistorisches (Natural History), and the Kunsthistorisches (Art History) museums, and Stadtpark.
Leopoldstadt (2nd District) Once inhabited by Balkan traders, this area doesn't physically border the Ringstrasse, but lies on the eastern side of the Danube Canal, just a short subway ride (U1) from the Inner City. Here you'll find the massive Prater Park, which boasts an amusement park, miles of tree-lined walking paths, and numerous sports facilities, including a large stadium. Vienna's renowned trade-fair exhibition site is also in this district, which has seen a spree of development along the canal in recent years.
Landstrasse (3rd District) The bucolic Stadtpark spreads into this district, where you'll see more of Vienna's imperial charm. Streets are dotted with churches, monuments, and palaces, such as the grand Schwarzenberg Palace and the looming Konzerthaus (concert house). However, the top attraction remains Prince Eugene Savoy's Belvedere Palace, an exquisite example of baroque architecture. Several embassies are in a small section of Landstrasse that's known as Vienna's diplomatic quarter. The Wien Mitte rail station and the City Air Terminal are also here.
Wieden (4th District) This small neighborhood extends south from Opernring and Kärtnering, and it's just as fashionable as the 1st District. Most activity centers on Karlsplatz, a historic square with its domed namesake, Karlskirche. Also nearby are Vienna's Technical University and the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna. Kärnerstrasse, the main boulevard of the city center, turns into Wiedner-Hauptstrasse as it enters this district, and the Südbahnhof, one of the two main train stations, lies at its southern tip.
Margareten (5th District) Southwest of the 4th District, Wieden, this area does not border the Ring and thus lies a bit farther from the Inner City. You'll start to see more residential neighborhoods, representing the continual growth of Vienna's middle class. The historic homes of composers Franz Schubert and Christoph Gluck still stand here among modern apartment complexes and industrial centers.
Mariahilf (6th District) One of Vienna's busiest shopping streets, Mariahilferstrasse, runs through this bustling neighborhood. The sprawling, lively Naschmarkt (produce market), selling fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, cheeses, and more, is ideal for people-watching. On Saturdays, the adjacent Flohmarkt (flea market) adds to the lively but sometimes seedy atmosphere as vendors sell antiques and junk. The surrounding streets are packed with beisls (small eateries), theaters, cafes, and pubs. Farther from the city center, you'll find that the landscape becomes more residential.
Neubau (7th District) Bordering the expansive Museum Quarter of the Inner City, this is an ideal place to stay, as it's easily accessible by public transportation. The picturesque and once neglected Spittelberg quarter lies atop a hill just beyond Vienna's most famous museums. The vibrant cultural community is popular with both young and old visitors. The old Spittelberg houses have been renovated into boutiques, restaurants, theaters, and art galleries -- a perfect backdrop for an afternoon stroll.
Josefstadt (8th District) The smallest of Vienna's 23 districts is named after Habsburg Emperor Joseph II and was once home to Vienna's civil servants. Like Neubau, this quiet, friendly neighborhood sits behind the City Hall and the adjacent grand museums of the Ringstrasse. Here you'll find secluded parks, charming cafes, and elaborate monuments and churches. Vienna's oldest and most intimate theater, Josefstadt Theater, has stood here since 1788. Josefstadt's shops and restaurants have a varied clientele, from City Hall lawmakers to university students.
Alsergrund (9th District) This area is often referred to as the Academic Quarter, not just because of nearby University of Vienna, but also because of its many hospitals and clinics. This is Freud territory, and you can visit his home, now the Freud Museum, on Berggasse. Here you'll also stumble upon the Liechtenstein Palace, one of Vienna's biggest and brightest, which today houses the federal Museum of Modern Art. At the northern end of Alsergrund is the Franz-Josef Bahnhof, an excellent depot for excursions to Lower Austria.