Walking through Vienna is like walking through the pages of a fairy tale. Horses and carriages trot past you as you walk through Vienna’s history and gloriously ornate architecture. If Vienna has a downfall, it is its love of decadence. The streets are filled with music. The gilded trimmings and decorations. It is indescribable, the feeling you get walking through it all. It is possible to fill yourself up on the city’s history, culture and sachertorte in only a few days.
Where We Stayed
We chose this hotel because of it’s location. It is away from the city center so it was more affordable and closer to a more authentic Vienna. The hotel was lovely. Comfortable beds. Close to public transport. The Prater amusement park can be seen from our room.
I loved the security of it as well. You needed your room card to enter the building and go up the elevator. Guest services was friendly and accommodating to our travel needs, offering us wake up calls, city maps, to discount cabs to the airport. The hotel offered a beautiful breakfast, but as this was our last city we skipped it for local fare.
What We Saw
Vienna State Opera House
Lovers of the arts cannot miss a visit to the State Opera House. Take a peek inside during the day when you can so see the gorgeous lights and pavilions.
I had every intention of returning in the evening to get in line for discounted on call tickets. By evening however we were exhausted and went back to the hotel after dinner. I really regret not going, so promise me you will go! If I ever return to Vienna, I will not make the same mistake again. A classic performance by the talented Viennese opera or ballet is an opportunity not to be missed.
Castle Park (Burggarten)
Vienna doesn’t consist just of streets and grey concrete. If fact you will find many beautiful parks and gardens. Burggarten is more or less dedicated to the musician Mozart. The park is in the English style with colourful flowers that seem to invite you to relax. The Historic centre of Vienna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Saint Stephen’s Church (Stephansdom)
A cathedral built and completed in 1263. Looking at the church today, you can still see the original Gothic towers. The cathedral has amazing stain glass windows which are the only ones in the church to survive WWII.
The most iconic thing about the cathedral is the South Tower which towers over Vienna and the brightly colored and patterned ceramic tiled roof. The whole church is a hodgepodge of Gothic, modern and traditional.
Kärntner Strasse is a famous shopping street in Vienna. One way up the street takes you to the State Opera and the other direction takes you to St. Stephan’s Cathedral. You can also walk by the original Sacher Hotel where the world famous sachertorte was created.
The street is pedestrian only, so it makes for a very nice walk! There’s a little bit of everything there. We spent a few hours shopping for gifts and trying some street food.
Schönbrunn was once a hunting lodge owned by the Habsburg family since 1569. Empress Maria Theresa redesigned the building into a grand palace. The grounds sit on 435 acres of gardens with: formal gardens, parkland, the worlds oldest zoo, an Orangery, Botanic Gardens, a Palm House, as well as it’s own 18th century fake Roman ruins and a maze.
You can spend all day just walking the gardens. We didn’t go inside, but you can tour the palace.
Directly in front of the palace is the Great Parterre, with swirls of flowers.
At the end is the Neptune Fountain, which shows Neptune surrounded by sea gods colorful and half-man/half-fish creatures. Overlooking the gardens is the the Gloriette sitting high up on a hill. It’s no wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (two in the same city).
The whole place is beautiful. Schonbrunn is a wonderful place to walk around, enjoying the same views and regal atmosphere as the Habsburg’s once did. A visit to the palace is the best way to get in touch with the incredible history of this royal destination.
Tickets: Entrance to the Schönbrunn Palace gardens is free. Standard Imperial Palace tickets: €13.30 or €16.40 for the longer Grand Tour.
Vienna has a great selection of museums, but with entry fees around €20 per person the costs can add up. If you are limited on time, I would recommend the Belvedere which is the home to the Klimt collection as well as other beauties from Danhauser to Monet.
Away from the city centre is the Danube Tower, the tallest structure in Austria. We took to observation deck for gorgeous panoramic views of the city and the Danube River.
Austrian National Library
The most beautiful library I have ever seen! Take a walk through the gorgeous baroque State Hall and leave in awe. The ceiling paintings are so detailed and among some of the best in the world.
Tickets: 7€ for State Hall; 4€ the Papyrus or the Globe Room
Spanish Riding School
This can be kind of pricey. Seats for performances can range from €50 to €217. We opted for the cheaper option of watching the morning exercise at 10am–12pm for €15.
You can also view the horses in their stalls throughout the day. They are lovely creatures.
Michael’s Square & Hofburg Palace
Michael’s Square has a rich ancient history. In Roman times that area of Vienna sat on a road which linked major Roman camps together. The road crossed another major one developing an important trade intersection that helped grow the area.
Vienna continued to expand over the centuries as well as the Hofburg Palace. Today the square as well as the Palace are an enduring part of Vienna’s history.
The Prater started out as a hunting ground for the Emperors of Austria until Emperor Josef II decreed the land a public recreation area. Prater developed out of collected cafes and restaurants. It is the oldest amusement park in the world. The giant Ferris Wheel with the carriages was built in 1897 and for awhile was the tallest one in the world.
The Prater is pay per ride. We ate some snacks and took the Ferris Wheel up to enjoy the sunset views of the city.
What We Ate
Restaurants in the busy central area of Vienna can be expensive, but you can save on eating out by eating away from the city centre and in the cheaper areas like Josefstadt.
You can’t leave Vienna without visiting a traditional café for a cup of tea and sachertorte. The most famous cafés can be expensive but the decadence and atmosphere makes it unlike anyplace else. There is no hurry. You can sit there for a lazy afternoon conversation and enjoy.
Good traditional food and reasonable prices. Nothing fancy, just straight-forward beer and food. The owner was very friendly and provided an English menu. Had a few beers and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!
After visiting Schönbrunn Palace you must make a special trip to Cafe Landtmann which is about an hour outside of the city center and a traditional Viennese coffee house since 1873. Come in and try the authentic Viennese Apfelstrudel. Never in my life had I tasted such a delicious pastry.