Vienna. The City of Music and past capital of the Hapsburg empire is still a huge cultural, architectural and historical hub. Though the weather got the best of us, we were still able to take in a few memorable experiences – taking in the palaces, a coffee house and a concert.
We took the big green bus from Munich to Vienna and a train to our accommodation. At least we thought we did. Going off the address that was emailed to us – we arrived at an empty block. I had emailed the land lord to let them know we would be there but had no wifi to receive a reply. After waiting for an hour I had to run into a nearby restaurant to get them to call the landlord to come and get him to lead us to the correct address.
The next day we struggled to find the motivation to head into town – it was pouring outside. We donned our rain coats and took the metro into the centre of town. Ascending the steps – we were greeted by the sight of the Vienna State Opera House. Out the front, men dressed in 18th century noble costumes were furiously hawking tickets to operas and concerts performing all of the greats: Wagner, Mozart, Strauss and many more. We were very nearly taken by the high pressure tactics until a passerby said it was cheaper to get them from the Tourist centre. Always be wary purchasing anything – especially tickets to shows and events – off the street – they will often be overpriced (that is if they are even real).
Heading east, we wandered through the park at the back of the enormous Hofburg, the palace from which the Holy Roman Empire and later the Austrian Empire were ruled, before stopping off at the tourist information centre to pick up a map and check out the main attractions of the city.
Free walking tours had not reached Vienna just yet – so we decided to do a self guided tour. While St. Stephen’s cathedral was unfortunately still undergoing restoration (with the obligatory “this is what you should see” curtain), heading to the front of the Hofburg and the Museum Quarter square was an impressive display in architecture. We found a great little stop for lunch and at this time, the weather took a turn for the worse for the afternoon so we called it a day and headed home.
After hearing about the operas and concerts I couldn’t resist – it seemed like the quintessential experience of Vienna – so we bought tickets for the following evening. There are lots of different options to suit everyone from the casual tourist – with short concerts and standing tickets to the opera – to classical music connoisseurs. Headed to the concert hall, I was impressed by the lavish decoration – marble floors, red carpet leading up the stairs and 5 great chandeliers hanging from the roof.
Not having seen many classical music performances I opted for a Mozart and Strauss concert and quite enjoyed it – hearing the classics augmented with opera singers and also ballet dancers was a great experience – definitely one to tick off the bucket list. It was refreshing to go to such a traditional musical performance – outside of Vienna these performances are much harder to find.
For our last day we had to check out of one of palaces – so we headed to the Schloss Schonbrunn – the summer palace of the Hapsburgs.
The grand Baroque palace extends as far as the eye can see you as you head through the eagle topped gates. Grabbing an imperial tour ticket (allows you to see 22 of the rooms inside, the gardens and entrance onto the grounds are free), we headed inside. The rooms are great – but it is the gardens that leave a lasting impression. A great avenue extends from the back of the palace to an enormous fountain with a statue of Neptune, set below a stunning arched Gloriette (elevated building in a garden) built in the same style as the palace. Exploring the garden further we were particularly struck by the one installation, set to imitate the decaying ruin of a Roman archway and pool.
Heading back into town – I had just enough time to get my hair done and take in a traditional Viennese coffee house. I picked one off the tourist track – the coffee house was hidden away behind the immense museum quarter – the cappucino was topped with a mountain of cream and the apple strudel was divine.
Next Stop: Budapest