A charming mix of the old and new, Austria is a breathtakingly beautiful country that looks like it came straight out of a children’s fairy tale. From majestic mountains and enchanting lakes to lavish imperial palaces and magnificent museums, this country has everything you could ever want for in a peaceful holiday destination ?.
What makes it even better is that there is actually a thriving Muslim population in Austria; which makes finding prayer spaces and halal food much easier than you would expect! So, if you’d like to learn more on what there is to see, do, and eat in this gorgeous country, just keep on reading this article on A Muslim Traveller’s First-Time Guide to Austria.
1. The Imperial Palace
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Known as the Hofburg, Vienna’s Imperial Palace is definitely one of the must-see attractions when you visit Austria for the first time. One of the largest palace complexes in the world, it reflects over 700 years of architectural history; with nearly every Austrian ruler making additions or alterations to the palace’s structure since the year 1275 ?!
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From Gothic to Renaissance, Baroque to Rococo and with a sprinkle of Classicism thrown in for good measure, the palace’s design will leave you stunned; regardless if you’re an architectural buff or not.
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In addition, visitors will also be able to tour different parts of the palace, such as the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and the Silver Collection (do take note that each section can be toured individually if you’re short of time or together as a set).
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If you’re one of those people who enjoy touring galleries and museums, then you’re going to absolutely love visiting the Museumsquartier (MQ). Located in Vienna’s 7th district and spanning an area of over 90,000 sq metres, the MQ is dedicated to everything that has to do with lifestyle, fashion, art and architecture ?.
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Formerly the site of the Imperial Stables (designed by Fischer von Erlach), it had undergone renovations in April 1998 in order to become one of the world’s most ambitious cultural hubs. You don’t even have to be an artist to appreciate the sheer harmony and beauty of seeing classic Baroque buildings intermixing perfectly with modern structures.
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Within the MQ, you will also be able to find an extraordinary ensemble of museums, artist studios, cultural facilities and event spaces; with some notable examples being the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna (MUMOK), the Leopold Museum, the Kunsthalle Wien, the ZOOM Kindermuseum, the Tanzquartier and the Architekturzentrum Wien ?.
3. Kunsthistorisches Museum
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If you don’t have the time to visit all the museums in the MQ or if you’d like to save on your budget but would still like to visit at least one of Austria’s famous museums, then might we suggest paying the Kunsthistorisches Museum (‘Museum of Art History’, also often referred to as the ‘Museum of Fine Arts’ ?) located in Ringstraße a visit.
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Built between the years 1871 and 1891, the plans for the Kunsthistorisches Museum was drawn up by Austrian architect Baron Karl von Hasenauer and German architect Gottfried Semper. Housed in a grand building with a facade made out of sandstone and crowned with a 60-meter high octagonal dome, the Kunsthistorisches Museum is the largest art museum in the country.
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First opened in 1891 by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary, the interior of the museum is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco embellishments, gold-leaf, and a truly formidable art collection. Some notable artworks include pieces by artists such as Rembrandt: Self Portrait (1652), Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting (1665–66) and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: The Crowning with Thorns (c. 1602–04), Madonna of the Rosary (1606–07) and David with the Head of Goliath (1605-1610).
4. Schönbrunn Palace
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If you’d like to learn more about the Habsburg Dynasty (Austria’s royal family) then you might want to consider visiting the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace (also known as the Schloss Schönbrunn) that is conveniently located just a few kilometres west of the Vienna city centre. Built in the early 18th century in a dreamy, park-like setting, the Baroque style Schönbrunn Palace as well as its surrounding park and garden was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
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With a history that dates all the way back to 1569, the palace is one one of Austria’s most prized attractions; featuring 1,441 rooms made up of imperial apartments, magnificent staterooms and residential suites that once housed Austria’s monarchy. There are several tours that you can book in order to explore the many rooms of the palace; each one sporting some sort of fascinating story that has spanned over three centuries ?.
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Alternatively, you can also freely take a stroll through the vast, green park of Schönbrunn Palace; which also features some special attractions, such as the Privy Garden, the Orangery Garden, the Maze as well as the Zoo. Do take note that while the park itself is free and open to the public, each of the special attractions, however, would require a small fee to enter.
5. Prater Amusement Park
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Had enough of museums and palaces? Need a little more excitement? We’ve got you covered. Located in Vienna’s 2nd district (known as Leopoldstadt) is a large public park called Wiener Prater which features a number of fun and interesting attractions such as the ‘Wurstelprater’; the world’s oldest amusement park, the Hauptallee (the main alley), the Krieau and the Praterstadium (Ernst Happel Stadium).
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The land that makes up Prater was actually donated to the people of Vienna by Emperor Josef the II in 1766, and following soon after that, all sorts of fun attractions started sprouting up such as bowling alleys, cinemas, cafés and merry-go-rounds ?.
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What makes ‘Wurstelprater’ (the amusement park) so cool is that the not only is it open 24 hours each day - 7 days a week, but the entrance into the amusement park itself is free. You only pay to go on the rides that you want; with fees for individual attractions varying between € 1,50 and € 5,00 depending on the kind of rides ?.
6. Mozart's Birthplace, Salzburg
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In this day and age, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If you don’t mind taking a little day trip, you can actually visit his birthplace by taking a train to Salzburg (which is located a mere 3 hours away from Vienna by train ?).
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Known as ‘Hagenauer House’ house No.9 in Getreidegasse is where Salzburg’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born (on the 27th of January 1756). The Mozart family actually lived in ‘Hagenauer House’ for 26 years, starting from 1747, (occupying an apartment on the third floor) before moving in 1773 to the house we now know today as the “Mozart Residence”, on Makartplatz Square.
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Whether you’re a Mozart’s fan, history buff or simply just in Austria to have a good time, this mini museum is an absolute must for every Salzburg visitor ?!
7. Dom Quartier, Salzburg
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Once the seat of power of the prince-archbishops, the Dom Quartier in Salzburg features a unique blend of classical architecture, secular beauty and sacred splendour that makes it a competence centre for baroque history north of the Alps ?.
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Here, you can tour through fifteen ornately decorated staterooms in the Residence; each one highlighting the art and architectural style of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism period. The Residence Gallery also displays a stunning collection of paintings from the time period between 16th to the 19th century. Besides that, you can also catch the gorgeous scenery of the Baroque heart of Salzburg old town via the Cathedral Archway Terrace.
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But hands down, the most interesting part of the Dom Quartier is the Cathedral Museum and the prince-archbishopric Cabinet of Art and Curiosities; which showcases a number of precious, historical artefacts and art treasures that spans over 1,300 years ?.
8. Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg
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Another major landmark that is not to be missed when visiting Salzburg is the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Located atop Festungsberg (a relatively small hill), this mighty 900-year-old castle towers above the rooftops of the Baroque city centre, and is the largest and best-preserved medieval castle in Central Europe ?.
[P.S. If you're a fan of castles, here are 5 castles you can actually afford to stay in!]
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Featuring attractions such as The Fortress Museum, the Marionette Museum, and the Museum of the Rainer Regiment, you could very well spend the whole day in Hohensalzburg Fortress and not get bored ?.
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Plus, the fortress also affords you with some of the most breath-taking views of the city that will be sure to make your Instagram followers green with envy!
[P.S. If you're planning to visit Austria via train across Europe, here's a guide on train trips in Europe to get you started!]
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You can’t call it a vacation if you don’t bring back souvenirs! One of the best places to shop in Austria is at Mariahilferstaße; the biggest, longest and most importantly, the most affordable shopping street in Vienna. Think of it as a mix of the Champ-Elysees in Paris and Convent Garden in London ?.
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Located on in Vienna’s 6th district, Mariahilferstaße is open daily from 9am to 6pm and is absolutely packed full of cafe’s, restaurants, interesting stores, luxury boutiques as well as some flagships stores for big international brands (like H&M, American Apparel, Zara, Gap, and Mango).
[P.S. Planning for a shopping trip in Europe? Here are the 7 best places in Europe for all your shopping needs!]
2. The Naschmarkt
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Another must-see shopping destination in Austria’s capital city is the famous outdoor market, the Naschmarkt. With a history that dates back to the 16th century, this lively market (which is located near the grand square at Karlsplatz) is the best place to shop for affordable souvenirs that you might want to bring back for the folks back home ?.
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With over 120 different stalls, there's definitely something for everybody at the Naschmarkt. It’s probably a good idea to reserve about a couple of hours just to wander around the market; taking in the sights and sounds as well as enjoying the general hustle and bustle of the crowd.
Disclaimer: In many European cities, many halal establishments are run by Muslims themselves and may not be certified by a central body. Some restaurants may also serve alcoholic drinks due to the local culture. We recommend that you check with the owners or staff before patronizing these establishments, and dine at your own discretion.
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Located in Hamburgerstraße, (near the famous Naschmarkt) is the Apadana Restaurant; a halal restaurant that serves delicious Middle Eastern and Persian cuisine. The service here is also fantastic with a friendly owner and attentive staff ?.
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Catering mainly to the lunch and dinner crowd, the restaurant not only has great food and ambience, but they also have a live traditional guitar performance that you can enjoy as you eat. Talk about dinner and a show!
Halal Status: Halal ingredients used. We advise that you dine here at your own discretion.
Address: Hamburgerstrasse 1 | U4 kettenbrückengasse, Vienna 1050, Austria (Margareten)
Opening Hours: 11.30 am -3 pm, 6 pm – 11 pm (Closed on Monday)
Contact: +43 1 5872431
2. Turkis - Oriental Food
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Next on our list is another halal eatery called the Turkis Palast which serves a mix of Mediterranean, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. The best thing about the Turkis Palast is that it’s actually a chain of restaurants and can be found in 16 locations all over the Austrian capital ?.
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Serving generous portions of sumptuous kebabs, delicious falafel and several other healthy and vegetarian/vegan-friendly dishes, your stomach will be well-taken care of! In addition, the servers are usually pretty friendly and attentive (though not many speak English so it’ll take some creativity for you to order your meals if you don’t speak German).
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In regards to the list of attractions we’ve mentioned above, you can find the restaurant in Mariahilferstaße, Favoritenstr, near the central station at Wein Hauptbahnhof, and even in Praterstern!
Halal Status: Halal ingredients used. Vegetarian/vegan options available. We advise that you dine here at your own discretion.
Address: Mariahilfer Str. 31, 1060 Wien, Austria
Opening Hours: 8 am – 12 am (Everyday)
Contact: +43 1 6410620
[P.S. Did you know that there are many Muslim-friendly cities across Europe with halal food? Here are 12 other cities you can check out]
3. Tawa Indian Restaurant
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If you get tired of kebabs and would like to have something a bit more familiar, then you should definitely drop by Tawa Indian Restaurant in Margaretenstrasse. It’s one of the best Indian restaurants in Wein and is located just 1.6km away from the Museumsquartier ?.
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Price wise, the restaurant is pretty affordable and worth every penny! With an amazing ambience, friendly servers and a variety of delicious halal meals available (and served in generous portions to boot!), you can’t help but feel right at home! But do take note that Tawa Indian Restaurant does serve alcohol on the premises but it’s not mixed in with the food.
Halal Status: Uses halal ingredients. Serves alcoholic drinks, separately from the food. We advise that you dine here at your own discretion.
Address: Margaretenstraße 102, 1050 Wien, Austria
Opening Hours: 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM (Monday – Friday), 12:00 PM - 11:00 PM (Saturday – Sunday)
Contact: +43 676 3374135
So, in summary, Austria is a pretty fun and interesting country to visit. Filled with palatial buildings steeped in history, avant-garde museums, spectacular scenery, lively shopping districts and easy access to halal food, it should definitely be on your travel bucket list! And if you’re planning on visiting Austria any time soon, hopefully this first timer’s guide has helped to assuage any worries that you might have ?!