For history buffs, Vienna would be the perfect destination as its steeped in history since 900 AD. The Imperial architecture, cobbled stone lanes, popular coffee houses existing since 1600s serving delicious cakes and well brewed coffee, concerts and Operas, majestic buildings, palaces, city squares and museums would keep you occupied for one or two days. Vienna is the birthplace of famous musicians like Mozart and Beethoven.
How to reach
Vienna central station is well connected by trains and you can easily reach the city from anywhere in Austria and the neighbouring countries. The trains have charging points and free wifi, so don’t worry if you are out of juice while in the train. We arrived at Vienna from Hallstat, another beautiful place to visit.
Where to stay
Vienna is not a very expensive city so finding reasonably priced accommodation is not difficult. Try to find a place that is close to the metro or tram station so that there is excellent connectivity to the city center and all the important tourist attractions. We stayed at Pension Lehrerhaus and it was a great stay. The rooms were really big, clean and with huge windows. The staff were also really polite.
Things to do
Buy a Vienna city pass for the duration of your stay. You can save good amount of money in transportation as all public transportation is covered with the card. There is excellent connectivity in Vienna so you are never too far from the city centre. There are metros covering the length and breadth of the city and the frequency is really good. You can buy the pass at the visitor centre in the central station.
Take a walking tour. The guides are experienced unlike the student/part time guides in other cities. The Vienna guides are required to take a two year course on Austrian history and pass a test to earn a license. The government has imposed strict restrictions on who can provide a guided tour so that you get the accurate information on Austrian history. We opted for Good Vienna tour and we would highly recommend doing this. The tour lasts about 3 hours and they take you through the popular monuments and streets of Vienna. During the tour, they explain the 1000 year old history of Vienna and suggest places to eat, drink etc… Instead of just looking at the buildings and taking photos, learning about the history and the culture of the place is much more interesting and fun. They cover St. Stephen’s cathedral, Hofburg Palace and many other important buildings.
You can also take the tram route 2 and see a lot of interesting architecture around the Vienna Ring Road. Viennese architecture is something that really left us awestruck. The majestic buildings definitely makes you wonder about how advanced this country and their people were at that age!
If you are interested in concerts and Operas, check out the philharmonic Orchestra and make reservations well ahead of your visit. We didn’t plan well and resorted to a concert performed by a mix of students and professionals but for our untrained ears, the music was good enough. They played the classical pieces of Mozart, Beethoven etc. If you are not the music types, you can skip this by all means as the tickets are not cheap. We paid around 70 euros for the two of us and got to listen to student performance. Watch out for the people dressed in traditional clothes around the main touristic destinations trying to sell these concert tickets. You can just say “No, Thank you” and continue enjoying your stay in Vienna.
The Opera house broadcasts their shows live just outside on a giant screen. They have even installed chairs for people to sit and watch the show. We thoroughly enjoyed the talented individuals act and sing their hearts out. It’s a good way to access if you are the Opera kind. Grab your dinner from one of the near by stalls / shops and have it while watching the Opera in open air right under the stars. It’s free of cost and probably one of the experiences you will remember for a long time!
The city slows down after 6 PM and it’s the best time to explore the historic monuments and take some nice shots. It’s a visual delight even if you are not into photography.
There are many beer gardens serving locally brewed beer. We had some amazing craft beers at a pub called 1516 and really enjoyed the beer. The pub was very different from an Irish pub that we are used to going here in Dublin and the open air seatings added to the experience.
We did some last minute research on wineries near Vienna and visited Nussdorf. Unfortunately the winery we visited (after a long hike) was open only to private parties so we ended up with much disappointment. We highly recommend calling up the winery before heading up so as to avoid any disappointment. Lesson learned. Our desire to visit a proper vineyard continues to be unfulfilled and hopefully we will find something when we visit Tuscany in Italy.!
Viennese coffee tradition:
Unlike the usual cafe’s around the world, in a typical Viennese coffee house, you can spend hours sipping your favourite coffee, read newspapers and watch the world go by. During the late 19th century, these coffee houses were frequented by writers and poets who would spend hours lingering and creating their work. Even though many coffee houses closed down in the late 1950’s due to people spending time watching television and indulging in other recreational activities, many of the coffee houses still exist. It’s one of the most visited attractions for a tourist visiting Vienna. We visited Demel coffee house and enjoyed an expensive cup of coffee and a cake.
If you are in Vienna around easter time (April), you should make sure that you don’t miss out the easter market. The one in front of the Schönbrunn Palace is considered to be one of the most romantic Easter market, and true to it’s name – it was fabulous. The beautifully and artfully decorated eggs, tasty nibbles & wine and traditional music made our evening. We had such a wonderful time roaming around the marking and checking out all the stalls.
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