with Christina Pfeiffer
The Austrian capital boasts a pedigree of music, art and royal grandeur to rival any city in Europe.
1. Imperial past
The legacy of the Hapsburg emperors - rulers of mainland Europe's dominant 19th-century empire - provides Vienna with a regal pedigree. At the Imperial Palace, or Hofburg (below left, top; www.hofburg-wien.at), you can view the treasury, where the crown jewels are kept, the private rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph I (who ruled from 1848 to 1916) and those of Empress Elisabeth. Schonbrunn Palace (below left, centre; www.schoenbrunn.at), which was inspired by France's Palace of Versailles, was the summer home of the emperors. This palace is associated with a who's who of historic figures, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who performed at the age of six in the Hall of Mirrors; Empress Maria Theresa, who threw lavish banquets; and Napoleon Bonaparte, who occupied the palace in 1805 and 1809. The annual summer Mozart Festival is held at the Schlosstheater Schonbrunn, where Marie Antoinette once appeared on stage.
2. Dark side
Follow the route of Harry Lime from the classic film noir The Third Man. The tour starts with a descent into a dark tunnel deep beneath the streets of the old town and stops at shadowy locations from the film. You pop up for fresh air and a look around cobblestone lanes, with a pit stop for a glass of beer, zither music and a huge frankfurter in a backstreet cafe. For more information, see www.viennawalks.com.
3. Coffee and torte
According to legend, coffee first came to Vienna in the 17th century, when the Turks tried, unsuccessfully, to invade the city. In their hurry to retreat, the commanders left behind sacks of mysterious green beans, which the Viennese assumed was fodder for the Turkish camels. These turned out to be coffee beans and, today, Vienna's coffee houses are world famous. The Viennese are extremely fussy about the type of coffee they drink. Coffee menus are extensive; melange - half milk (usually steamed) and half coffee with an optional dollop of whipped cream - is at the top of the list. Many of the city's coffee houses retain a 19th-century ambience, with traditional decor and regular Strauss recitals. Treat yourself to a Sacher torte at the cafe in the Hotel Sacher (www.sacher.com), where the original rich chocolate cake was created.
4. Haus der Musik
Conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (right) or compose your own music at Haus der Musik. The US$55 million six-storey complex has a bewildering array of multimedia software that makes music heard, seen and felt throughout the 'experience zones'.
There are halls dedicated to celebrated composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss and Mahler. Even if you're not a fan of classical music you'll be amazed.
5. Sonatas and waltzes
Music is every-where in Vienna. Sip a glass of wine as you listen to a free outdoor Mozart concert or watch an opera on a giant outdoor screen. For a historic treat, attend a costumed orchestral performance by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra at the Musikverein Golden Hall. The musicians look like they've come straight from the pages of a history book. Nearby is the State Opera House (www.wiener-staatsoper.at), one of the world's greatest. It's also the venue for Vienna's annual Opera Ball, at which young debutantes, daughters of rich and titled Austrian families, make their entrance into Viennese society. It's a tradition Emperor Franz Josef I began in 1877.
If you see a spray of pine branches hanging outside the door of a drinking establishment, there's a good chance you've come across a traditional Viennese heurigen, or tavern. There are 700 hectares of vineyards around the city that provide wine to these heurigens. As with most other places in Vienna, music and singing are all part of the package.
7. Spanish Riding School (right)
The elegant, high-stepping, pirouetting performances of the Lipizzaner stallions (www.srs.at) at the Hofburg are famous worldwide. Dashing riders, dressed in jackets with sparkling gold buttons and black hats trimmed with gold braid, ride their beautiful white horses in step to the flowing tunes of Strauss. If you don't have time to attend a full performance, buy a ticket to watch the horses during their morning training routine or visit the museum devoted to the school.
8. The Albertina
Lose yourself in Vienna's premier gallery, the Albertina (www.albertina.at). It contains about 70,000 drawings and more than a million graphic prints, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gustav Klimt and Andy Warhol.
9. Football fever
Vienna is gearing up for the European Football Championship (www.uefa.com) in June next year. Numerous matches will be staged in the capital, with the rest taking place in seven other host cities around Austria and Switzerland.
10. Christmas cheer
From mid-November, Vienna is a magical wonderland of Christ-mas trees, lights, markets and street festivities. The most popular Christmas market is the annual fixture held at City Hall, which is adjacent to a park filled with gaily decorated trees. It's a good place to taste a traditional Viennese pancake filled with apricot jam, or a Kaiserschmarrn roll, rich with eggs and fruit. The market at Spittelberg is packed with stalls selling ceramics, silver, enamel and brass ornaments. The best places for Viennese sweets are the market in front of the Karlskirche and the Old Vienna Christmas Market in Freyung.