So what crosses your mind when I speak of Vienna? Quality coffee and gorgeous cafés, Mozart and music, Weiner sausages and schnitzels, apple strudels, countless museums, larger-than-life palaces, the list can go on and on. The city, that oozes out culture and elegance on every corner, can easily be called the melting pot of western Europe.
I took a trip to Vienna this Easter weekend (2017).
I was desperate to plan my easter weekend. I wanted to visit a European city that wouldn’t go batshit crazy during the holidays. So I took a chance and decided to check out Vienna. I must admit that I visited this city with zero expectations as none of my friends went gaga about it. However, I was pleasantly surprised!
Getting to Vienna
I actually took a flight from Berlin to the Bratislava airport and then took a Flixbus from the airport to Vienna Erdberg station.
Tip: At times, it can be cheaper to fly to Bratislava (Slovakia) than Vienna. Easter round trip flight to Vienna from Berlin would have cost me almost €150. However, I only paid around €38 for my round trip flight to Bratislava and around €15 for the round-trip bus ticket to Vienna. So, I still saved a significant amount.
Tip: Prebooking bus connection to Vienna is recommended. I did not find any shuttle or bus booking offices at the airport. Most shops were closed too. I arrived at 5:20 pm.
The Bratislava airport is tiny yet based in a spectacular space. It is guarded by hills on one side. The bus ride was amazing. Bratislava seems like a nice city. Some parts seem fairly modernized with flashy buildings yet some are old, offering a nice contrast. While passing through the city, I got a fine glimpse of the Bratislava castle.
Tip: As there is a Flixbus stop right under the castle, a tour of the Bratislava castle can easily be accommodated in your trip to Vienna.
From Vienna Erdberg station, I hopped on the local metro system “u-Bahn” to reach my accommodation.
Caution: Google transit (maps or directions) doesn’t have complete records of the Vienna transit system. Thus it’s pretty much useless in giving any local transit directions whatsoever. Keeping a transit map is highly recommended!
Where I stayed
I had booked a bed at the girl’s dorm in one of the best hostels in Vienna, Wombats Hostel. The hostel has a great vibe. The reception and common area are tasteful and nicely designed. The staff is great and all procedures are super simple. However, I did feel that their rooms could use a bit of a revamp. Nevertheless, it’s a no-nonsense hostel and I met some great people there.
Having woken up early in the morning, I got out of my hostel at 7 am and walked towards the “Ring”.
The ring road in Vienna is a collection of several sections that combine to make a ring namely Schottenring, Universitätsring, Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring, Burgring, Opernring, Kärntner Ring, Schubertring, Parkring, and Stubenring.
Tip: As the ring road contains a majority of the Viennese tourist attractions, this is a good place to start exploring Vienna.
Here is a list of attractions that I visited while talking a stroll along the Ring road:
- Karlskirche: Located near Karlsplatz, also known as St. Charles church, Karlskirche is indeed one of the most impressive buildings in Vienna. Built in 1751, it’s baroque architecture is a fine example of the famous Austrian Baroque architect, Johann Fischer von Erlach.
- Burggarten: Situated right behind the Neue Burg section of the Hofburg palace complex is the relaxing park space called Burggarten. It’s a great place to unwind and relax. It also holds a statue of the famous Austrian composer, Mozart.
- Heldenplatz: This is a public square in front of the Neue Burg section of the Hofburg palace complex. This part of the Neue Burg section also houses the largest and perhaps the most beautiful library in Austria, the Austrian National Library. It houses many rare artifacts including original scores from famous music composers. How cool! Isn’t it? On the other side of the Heldenplatz is another nice garden called the Volksgarten (translated as People’s garden, my german lessons have been working 😀 ).
- Maria-Theresien-Platz: On the other side of the ring, opposite to the Heldenplatz is another square, Maria-Theresien-Platz. It contains the Museum of Natural History and Kunsthistorisches Museum. Both these museums are housed in identical palatial buildings with lavish interiors. If you are an avid museum goer, this is where your fun starts!
- MuseumsQuartier: And the fun doesn’t end here! Parallel to the Maria-Theresien-Platz is the MuseumsQuartier. Plenty of impressive museums namely, Leopold Museum, Mumok, and Architekturzentrum inspirational Art galleries like Jan Arnold Gallerie and so much more, attract tourists and locals alike. Obviously, what not to like about a place with museums, art galleries, cafes, wineries, and restaurants? The old baroque architecture paired up with a hip vibe is a treat. I’m not much of a Museum-goer so that took a quick stroll through the quarter however, I can imagine Museum enthusiasts easily spending an entire day at this quarter.
Tip: Some museums offer free entries to people under 19 on certain days. Make sure to check their websites for further information.
- Austrian Parliament Building: Going further down the ring road is the Austrian Parliament Building. This neoclassical building, with the statue of Athena in the front, is surely one of the most beautiful parliament buildings in the world.
- Weiner Rathaus: This is the city hall of Vienna. The magnificent gothic structure is made up of about 30,000 bricks and hosts numerous events and markets. When I checked out this place, there were people preparing for an artificial golf course and beach baseball event.
- Café Landtmann: This was my last stop on the ring. Café Landtmann is an old traditional Viennese café dating 1873. Being one of the most famous cafes in Vienna, Landtmann has a history of serving famous artists and thinkers alike, namely, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Peter Altenberg, Felix Salten, and Emmerich Kálmán. I ordered a Cafe Mirage, Viennese sausage and Apple strudel with custard sauce. Mirage was ok. The sausage was delicious. Apple strudel was the best I’ve ever tasted! It was a nice upgrade from prepacked ones in Canada to the cold ones in german bakeries. It’s a bit on the expensive side but I totally recommend it.
So, it definitely looks like I covered a lot, which I did! The ring is so full of amazing structures that one can spend days going through museums, galleries, free tours, etc, which are totally worth it. I’m the sort of person who enjoys cityscape and nature a bit more than interiors. And the ring was an absolute treat for me.
After a blissful experience at the Ring road, I ventured into the Old town: an area encircled by the ring road. Also known as the Innere Stadt, this UNESCO heritage site dates back from the roman ages. I took a stroll through countless lanes with commendable architecture. I was absolutely amazed at how clean this city was as compared to the other places in Europe.
I moved on to walk along the banks of River Danube. Some of the best things about Vienna are the beautiful trails that run along the river. It’s a great place for locals to jog or dog walk their pets.
My next stop was a result of my yearning to see the cherry blossoms in Vienna. Hainburger straße, a street lined with pretty cherry blossom trees on either side, is a picture perfect spot for spring photos.
For lunch to took a shot at Mongolian cuisine at the Bais Mongolengrill. I’d say its worth a try, even though I have eaten at better Mongolian grills in Canada (I know that doesn’t prove authenticity in any way! lol). I guess I’ll have to talk a trip to Mongolia to verify the authenticity of my experiences. 😀
Post lunch, I was up for a splash of inspiration in the Hundertwasser House, a unique and colorful residential building by the famous Austrian artist, Hundertwasser. With forested rooftop and balconies, it is a perfect example of a wonderful effort to reconcile man with nature. If you have an eye for art and architecture, this is the place for you! There’s also a shop and a museum nearby.
Tip: Take a walk around the Hundertwasser House area, there are many other buildings painted by Hundertwasser, not as famous but equally impressive. They are easy to spot as the paint style is hard to miss!
I walked towards Leopoldstadt and discovered a pretty walking path near Prater Amusement Park. It’s lined with evergreen trees, a perfect spot for walkers, joggers, moms with kids alike. On a second thought, I always wondered why Vienna always tops the quality of living lists in Mercer reports. Now, I think I know why. This city offers ample spaces for locals to unwind and relax. I could easily imagine living in this wonderful city.
Back to the old town, I took a tour at the Mozart House. This apartment was one of the many apartments that Mozart lived in during this stay in Vienna. Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with the place. While it is nice to see the space where one of the greatest composers once lived (for 3 years to be exact), its a bit disappointing to see that the house does not display much stuff that is anywhere closely related to Mozart’s life. Most of the things are left to the visitor’s imagination.
Tip: One can’t take photos in the Mozart House.
As it had been a super long day, I decided to unwind myself at Cafe Museum at Karlsplatz. A traditional Viennese cafe, Cafe Museum dates from 1899 and was a former hangout for many geniuses like Klimt, Schiele, etc. The pastries here are served by Landtmann. I ordered house made melon-mint lemonade and some pastries. Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious! I totally recommend it.
On my way back to the hostel, I checked out Naschmarkt, the most famous market in Vienna. With almost 120 stands in place, Naschmarkt accommodates a variety of local vendors that sell anything from meat, vegetables, spices, baked goods and lots more plus a variety of restaurants that offer a varied culinary selection. Naschmarkt is a great place to start if you haven’t had any culinary experience in this city. It gets you in sync with what sorts of food might be offered around the city.
My second day started with a trip to the famous Schönbrunn Palace.
Tip: The U4 metro line stops near the palace.
Former summer imperial residence of the royal family of Vienna, the Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most charming palaces I’ve ever seen. One can easy spend half a day, looking at the intricate baroque architecture and walking through the exquisitely tended gardens. There is a beautiful café on top of a hill where one can drink coffee while enjoying the breathtaking views of the palace below.
Tip: If you are planning to see the palace’s interiors, please make sure to line up early in the morning. One of my roommates at the dorm lined up around 12 noon and couldn’t manage to get in until 2 pm!
After a blissful morning at the palace, it was time for some breakfast. I took a U4 metro back to Karlsplatz and checked into Café Imperial. Part of a five-star hotel, the café is an extremely high-end and sophisticated hangout. I ordered a cappuccino, small Weiner sausages, croissant and some sort of pastry. While the meal was simple, it was savory and delicious.
The old town or Innere Stadt is addictive. It was my second day in Vienna and I was venturing into it yet again. Even though I walked right into random streets, here’s a list of sites that I saw:
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral: Situated in the heart of Vienna, this stunning cathedral is one of the most important gothic builds in Austria. One can climb up to the top of the towers to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. The church houses the catacombs and their tour is totally recommended.
- Kaerntner Strasse: This is the main high-end shopping street in Vienna. It’s a shopper’s paradise with many high-end brands. My favorite shop was one with various items printed with Gustav Klimt’s imitations.
- Catholic Church of St. Peter: Not as huge as the one above, Catholic Church of St. Peter is a beauty in its own right. Its dome has a striking similarly to the one in the Vatican. The entrance is free and the interiors are stunning with gold being the dominant color. The daily organ concerts are a treat for the ears.
- Michaelerplatz: One of the busiest squares in Vienna, Michaelerplatz contains another part of the Hofburg palace complex. In the middle are the remaining ruins of the old town center.
- Figlmüller Wollzeile: This traditional Viennese restaurant is located in a pretty alley called Wollzeile. They serve the famous Weiner Schnitzel. And by the way, if you are expecting a fillet-sized schnitzel, you’ll be in for a surprise. The schnitzel as large as the plate! It’s served with mash potatoes. I loved my lunch here. Totally recommended!
On my last day, I took an early morning walk to the Belvedere Palace. The complex consists of two stunning baroque palaces converted into museums, one of them housing the famous painting by Gustav Klimt – “The Kiss”. The sprawling gardens are well maintained and are wonderful for a walk or a jog.
For my morning breakfast, I headed over to Cafe Sacher, the home to the famous Sacher Torte. After waiting in the line for around 20 minutes, I finally got a table at this intricately decorated restaurant. Ordering the Sacher Torte was an obvious choice. I paired it up with the Viennese mirage, toast, and omelet. The mirage was exceptional. The omelet was nothing out of the ordinary. The highlight of this visit, the Sacher Torte, was honestly a disappointment. It was dry and crumbly. I felt Landtmann’s pastries were way better; soft and moist. Nevertheless, I don’t regret that I gave it a try. 🙂
So, this was my trip to Vienna – every bit of it!
What I think of Vienna
There are not many cities in the world that I feel an immediate attachment with. Vienna was an exception. I knew on the very first day that if I ever get an opportunity to live in Vienna, I would grab it without a second thought. If your appreciation of life means to immerse yourself in history, enjoying a peaceful walk in the sprawling palatial gardens, enjoying coffee in the best cafes in the world, listening to some of the best traditional concerts, Vienna is for you. However, if you prefer edgy and hip locations, with a huge clubbing scene of sorts, Vienna might not be what you are looking for.
For me, it was a pleasant surprise!
My next stop is Budapest. Stay tuned. Until then,