The Ringstraße or Ringstrass is the ring road of Vienna, but not just a piece of road this is also a part of the heart of the city with many of the most important buildings and sights on it. Take a trip around the road on a tram or even a horse drawn carriage to experience some of the splendor that is Vienna.
Forming a circle around the city center with Stephanplatz in the centre of a rough circle, and with the Donau-kanal forming one side where the road changes name to Franz-Josephs-Kai, and the Stadpark on another, the road encompasses all you need to know for a quick introduction to the city.
Where the road stands today was the location of a 13th century city wall which lasted until Franz Joseph I ordered it demolished in 1857. A grand boulevard was created in its place in the manner of other great European cities, but as a ring rather than a straight path. This helped to connect all parts of the city and became a showcase of the might and grandeur of the Empire.
The majority of the buildings seen today were built soon after the road itself and include the State Opera, the Fine Arts Academy, Justizplast, Rathaus and of course Votivkirche, the neo-gothic cathedral.
A few more modern buildings such as the 1950s Kärtnerhof, the Ringturm from the same period and the Korso or Korso from the 1990s.
The Nashmarkt is only minutes walk away from the Ringstrass, the market itself is outside the ring hence walking towards Stephanplatz is the direction to go. Exit the Naschmarkt at the Karlsplatz end and walk towards the Opera which is the first and closest major building on the part of the ring nearby.
Take tram line No. 1 or No. 2 to explore the ring, if you stay on the tram for the whole while it will take about 30 minutes to see all out of the window, but of course it is best to stop and enjoy the various sights. Take the trip at least twice, once in the day time and once at night to see the lights of the buildings as the atmosphere is quite different. Buy a day ticket for the best value, but take care as these trams also go to other parts of the city so ensure you are boarding a tram going in the correct direction.
Of course the absolute best time to see it is during November when the Christmas decorations and fairs make the whole city light up like a tree ornaments. But also in the summer the smell of the flowers in the many parks and the green of the trees makes it one of the greenest and most comfortable city centers in all the world.
For a trip with commentary try one of the HopOnOff tour bus available anywhere along the route. Starting at the State Opera the Red line bus goes around the ring 24 hours a day and costs only 14 Euros per adult, half price for children, and includes commentary in many different languages from English to Chinese.
Or hire a bike and see the city like a local! Much of the route includes cycle paths and even where not the roads are very bike friendly as using bicycles for transport is very common in the city.
Hofburg, the former Imperial Palace, City Hall or Rathaus , the Parliament or Hohes Haus and of course the National Museum along with shops of all types.