Few European capitals can boast of such historical and cultural significance as Vienna. Its reputation as one of the world’s most livable cities was hard earned; few cities have been subjected to conquest as often as Vienna.

Invaders in Vienna


Vienna changed hands many times before the Babenbergs took control in the 13th century.

Settlement in the area dates back 2100 years to the times of the Romans and Celts, when trading posts were set up along the Danube. The first real settlement of the area was established slowly thereafter; it wasn’t until the start of the third century that a small but bustling town already surrounded by vineyards.

The city’s history has been anything but uneventful. For centuries Vienna was passed from one rung of nobility to another, until the Babenbergs gained control in the 1200s. They held court for some 300 years, until the city was passed to the Habsburgs in the 1500s. Throughout the Middle Ages, invaders from the east, most notably the Turks, unleashed medieval hell on Vienna. They laid siege to the city in 1529, and might have forced its surrender, had it not been for the oncoming winter. They tried again in 1683, but this forced Christian forces to mobilize and hold them off for another 50 years or so.

Did You Know…?

The first official mentioning of Wenia, as it was then known, dates back to 880 AD.

See for Yourself

Two must-see European capitals on one magnificent trip—why not? Start: Prague—a boho-chic playground where resplendence is the rule, not the exception. End: Vienna—Austria’s handsome jewel along the Danube. Getting there really is half the fun.

Detailed Itinerary

A World at War and A Return to Glory


Napoleon receives the keys to Vienna.

The Turks were not the only ones to devastate Vienna, however, as both the Reformation and counter Reformation—not to mention the plague—laid waste to the city in the 15th and 16th centuries. As if that weren’t bad enough, Napoleon twice rode in on his white horse, first in 1805 and again in 1809, occupying the city.

The city saw its greatest period of growth and stability between 1814 and 1900, when many architectural and cultural additions made Vienna the place to be at the time. At the outset of the First World War, Vienna had a population of more than two million, making it one of the world’s five largest cities at the time. Unfortunately, heavy losses in both the First and Second World Wars devastated the city, setting it down a rebuilding path in a question to regain its former glory.

As any recent visitor to Vienna can tell you, the city has done a fantastic job.

About the Author


B&R’s self-proclaimed “once-scruffy” Director of Operations and Planning Chris Mark is something of a hybrid himself: he oversees trip planners in selecting new and exciting regions to ride, and bike mechanics in ensuring the ride is as smooth as possible.

Banner image: Bgabel

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