Last year I woke up in Bratislava and the very same day headed to Austria and stayed in Vienna for 4 days. We were coming from a Christmas Route Trip around central Europe
and we were super tired after 10 days visiting the lovely (and cold) places this continent offers. Vienna is the biggest city we visited but also the coldest one so we didn't really do and see half of the things it offers. However we enjoyed being together and do some sightseeing and local eating ;)
So for those of you who are planning to visit the capital of Austria in the coming months here are some things for your trip:
Fan of Sisi?
Our friend Gemma was obsessed with the most famous empress in Europe. Many places are reminders of the monarchs in Vienna. Feel in the times of the Habsburg family, visiting the palaces or going around the Ring Boulevard. Get a glimpse of how the life in the old empire was when visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Spanish Riding School… The two residences you can visit are Schönbrunn Palace and Imperial Palace.
Imperial Palace: this is now the official seat of the Austrian President. Here are many collections of international standing, apart from all the restaurants, parks and cafés around. The Imperial Apartments are now open to public, so you can see where the emperor and empress lived. We didn't go inside but it is crazy how in the middle of the city such a Palace stands out with all its highness and superiority.
Schönbrunn Palace: Sisi’s former summer residence. The baroque complex has a gorgeous park, Palm House, Gloriette and a zoo. You can spend a whole day there, visiting all the rooms and gardens. This place is one of the most impressive palace complexes in Europe. The place is now UNESCO cultural heritage due to its historic importance, and furnishings. We entered here and be prepared for long queues to get the tickets for the tours and then more queues once you get inside the Palace, even if you have a scheduled tour. We spent some time outside watching the food and souvenir stands and when the cold hit stronger we waited inside until we could visit the rooms of this palace.
Sightseeing around the center: RINGSTRASSE
The Ringstrasse is 5 km long, with many monumental buildings, built between 1860-1890. Today you can see all of these buildings from the Opera to the Museum of Fine Arts. Back in the times, nobles built great palaces along the Ringstrasse. Many of these are still worth a picture, due to their style and architecture. The best buildings are not the palaces but rather bigger buildings such as the Opera, the Parliament, City Hall, Burghtheater, University, and Votive Church.
The first day we tried to go and visit everything accordingly but honestly we were super tired and the weather was killing us, we found ourselves entering “warm places” (read the theatre, shops, Starbucks, etc.) every 10 minutes! It was impossible to be out on the street. So, what to do when all of you are deadly tired and cold that you are not even talking to each other but still want to see buildings…? Yes, tram! We took tram number 1 which goes around the center and is a good solution if you want to see the buildings from the outside.
A friend of mine suggested trying Vapiano and it was great! A bit busy and crowded but food was delicious and prices were very affordable (everything in Vienna is quite expensive). Other days we tried to eat whatever was available when we were hungry, pretzels stuffed with cheese, ham, or whatever we asked for; another day we went to a Japanese restaurant near our Airbnb apartment… BUT lots of people recommend The Vienna Bistro, a typical dining place which is traditional and cozy. Classic Viennese bistros have a big bar, with wine and beer and dark wood, simple tables and chairs and lots of people. Traditional food means soup with dumplings, schnitzel, goulash and pastries.
We entered stores mostly escaping from the cold weather and I only remember buying some necklace in Forever21, and a charm from Pandora store. But Vienna has a big and great city center full of shops. But for those of you who want to buy gifts from Vienna or some special souvenirs, there are many options out there (especially around Christmas time). Glass art by Lobmeyr is unique and attractive, from stemware services to flower vases. Elegant silver, since the Vienna Silver Factory still makes many designs of silverware. Augarten porcelain: typical gifts have this, hand made and painted, a popular souvenir is the melon service by Josef Hoffman. Sisi stars, jewellers make editions of Sisi’s diamond stars as brooches or hairpins. The ones with Swarovski crystals are more affordable though, and available in many forsm in the Sisi Museum. Snow Globes, of course! These are famous around the world and you can find many designs and sizes. Viennese Delicacies in miniature: confectionery, small and hand-made packaged in gorgeous containers with classic designs. Also very xmasy.
Stopping for a coffee: very necessary, especially under -6 degrees. The Viennese coffee house world is known everywhere. Traditional cafés have a wide range of drinks and sweet pastries. The traditional caffé culture belonged to the UNESCO cultural heritage! The specialties (cake, pies…) are the icing on Vienna’s dolce vita in Sachertorte (yum!). You can find many of these traditional cafés around the Old City.
Definitely a city lots of people love and visit every year, though we were not very lucky and apart from the cold weather we had to face some misunderstandings with our apartment host, crazy schedules and I was feeling quite under the weather until I found out I had caught a cold (read temperature, close to death, no lau at all). I guess it would have been different had we visited the place in spring... but we survived! (-with difficulties).