The German expression "Es weihnachtet sehr" (It's getting very Christmassy) fits the mood in Vienna as Austria's capital decks itself out in style for the holiday season.
The centre of the old Habsburg empire treats locals and visitors to quaint Christmas markets featuring crafts and decorations, hot punch and baked goods in all the city's main squares.
Consistently voted the world's most liveable city, Vienna goes all out for the season. Christmas markets are open daily from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They close on Dec. 24 at 5 p.m.
BREAKFAST, LUNCH & DINNER
The Ottoman Turkish sieges of Vienna in the 16th and 17th centuries never managed to overwhelm the city but did leave behind a cafe culture that still thrives. Every Viennese has their own favourite for coffee and a leisurely klatsch about the day's events.
Try the Landtmann across from City Hall - once Sigmund Freud's regular haunt - or the Cafe Central, and watch the heads of society-conscious locals snap up to see who has just walked in with whom.
A stroll through the Naschmarkt, the 1.5-km-long (1-mile) open-air market with food stalls that first opened in the 16th century, offers more international variety.
Cheese fans shouldn not miss Poehl's.
Restaurants don't offer just meat and potatoes, exemplified by the renowned breaded and fried veal dish known as Wienerschnitzel.
Steiereck in Stadtpark (City Park) is a foodie magnet that often books out weeks in advance. Figlmueller is known for Wienerschnitzels too big for the average plate to hold.
For people ready for a jaunt on Vienna's excellent public transport, head out to the 19th District to a heuriger, the often rustic taverns featuring local wines.
ARTS & CULTURE
Austria is filled with grandiose castles and palaces, and three of the best are in Vienna. The Hofburg, inside the elegant ring road that encircles the city centre, used to be the imperial residence and was built up with ever more majestic additions by a series of emperors from the 14th to the 20th centuries, each striving to outdo his or her predecessors. Today, it's the official residence of the Austrian president but most sections are open to visitors. The complex includes the Spanish Riding School, where the famous Lippizan horses are put through their paces in balletic displays. For a double dose of schmaltz, the Spanish Riding School is teaming up on a few selected dates until June 2014 with the