Well, let me start out by saying that this will be a very biased guide: I love Vienna.
Not only did I grow up in one of the most beautiful alpine countries in Europe but I also grew up in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. How lucky can one be? Vienna gets top ratings from all travelers that have ever set foot in this town and these ratings go way back -- even before we had ratings! Vienna used to be the center of the world and the capital of music. All famous musicians wanted to play here or study and write their music. It was the place to be seen and heard. If you couldn't make it here then you couldn't make it anywhere, way before there was a New York to make that claim. Not just musicians but also poets, writers and psychoanalysts claimed Vienna as their hometown. It was the place to be and it still is.
Vienna is divided into 23 districts and the first district is the most prestigious one. This is the very heart of Vienna where you find most of the important sights, spectacular buildings, expensive shops and restaurants. Best of all, everything lies within walking distance of each other. The "Ring," a very wide boulevard, circles the first district and if you take a streetcar (#1 or #2) around the Ring you can see a lot of sights for little money and in a very comfortable way. The streetcar will take you by the Parliament, City Hall, the National Theater, museums and the Opera House, so be sure to get a good window seat.
As you drive away from the center of town, you get to the greener, outer districts of Vienna and that's where I grew up, in the 22nd district. I loved it there and I still do. You really feel as if you've left the city because there are cornfields and a small forest and it starts to look a bit like the countryside. There was a pond just down the street where we would swim in the summer and ice skate on in the winter. As kids we used bikes to get around the neighborhood. Now, when I visit I put on my running shoes, instead, and jog through the nearby forest or rollerblade on the Neue Donau bicycle path, along the Danube.
Vienna has great places to see and fun things to do and everyone has their favorites, I am sure, but here are some of my favorites things to do and see: I love just strolling through the first district without a particular place in mind. There are so many neat little cobblestone streets and wonderful old buildings that tell stories of their own. When I walk through here I am almost set back in time and I am waiting for a horse carriage to come flying around the corner. Wandering around is so much fun because you find little antique shops, bookstores and small bakeries all tucked into these ancient walls. One of my favorite places to visit in the summer is the Schoenbrunn Palace. I love the setting of the Palace with its lush grounds. It's the perfect setting for long leisurely walks. There is also a zoo which is a great place for kids.