Today’s recap will pick up right where my Budapest recap left off: me, BF and my parents taking a train from Budapest to Vienna. We spent four and a half days in Vienna before BF and I headed back to Paris and my parents went home to the US.
Day 1: MAK and sausage
The train arrived in Vienna around 4 pm, giving us enough time to take a cab to the apartment we were renting and head off for some initial explorations of the city. Our first stop was MAK, Vienna’s museum of applied arts. Everyone in my family really loves art and design and this museum didn’t disappoint. As a bonus, the museum is free on Wednesday nights, so we didn’t even have to pay!
After the museum we headed off in search of one of the best sausage stands in Vienna. I know, its pretty gourmet stuff. I feel strongly that it is important to not only enjoy the fine cuisine that is part of a culture, but also the “street food.” We got some sausages and beers to go and enjoyed them from a park bench before calling it a night.
Day 2: Ringstrasse walking tour and the symphony
Day 2 began with a self-guiding walking tour care of Rick Steves. In researching for our trip, my mom discovered that Rick Steves offers a free iPhone app and free audio guides for walking tours in a bunch of different cities. We did the Ringstrasse tour, which guided us around the ring road that surrounds Vienna. Along our route we saw some beautiful gardens, the main university in Vienna, the city hall and the parliament building. The architecture in Vienna is incredibly beautiful. Nearly every building you pass looks like a work of art!
We ended our walking tour at the opera house, where we took a short guided tour. The building was spectacular. I especially enjoyed that we got to see backstage. The Vienna opera puts on a different performance each night (as many as 60 performances in a year!) so they have the scene changes down to an art form.
From the opera we headed to Hotel Sacher to taste the original sacher torte. It was a bit dry for my taste, but still delicious. It’s kinda hard to mess up cake! We then headed over to St. Stephen’s Cathedral to enjoy yet more beautiful architecture. I especially enjoyed the tile work on the roof. It’s a unique feature that I have not seen on churches outside of Austria and Hungary.
For dinner, we tried tradition veal schnitzel, which was delicious. We also enjoyed some Austrian wine. After dinner it was off to the symphony! Unfortunately the main symphony in Vienna was out of town while we were there, but luckily there are many symphonies in Vienna. We saw the Vienna Mozart Orchestra perform. They performed several Mozart pieces, including some of his well-known works. And they did so wearing full period costume, which was a fun if silly touch.
Day 3: The Naschmarkt and Hofburg Palace
Our third day started with a metro ride across town to view the Secession Pavillion (maybe only fun for the architecture nerds of the world) and explore the Naschmarkt. It was a lot of fun to wander the market and try out different Austrian cheeses and snacks. We even picked up a few things for lunch and had a little picnic in a nearby park.
After lunch it was time to visit the Hofburg Palace, the primary winter residence of the Hapsburg dynasty. We toured the Silver Collection, the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments. It was amazing to see the opulence of life in the palace. This was particularly well illustrated by the Silver Collection, which included room after room full of beautifully crafted china, silver platters, flatware and candlesticks. The Imperial Apartments were also fun to see, although I was disappointed that only a small portion of the palace was open to visitors. The tour showed where the important family members lived, but neglected to show how all of the behind the scenes work to keep such a house running were accommodated. I would have loved to see the kitchens and the endless maids’ quarters which I’m sure were necessary in a house of this size.
Since BF is something of a brewing fanatic, we decided to have dinner at a local brewery called Salm Brau. We tried several of their special brews (BF actually tried them all!) and also enjoyed some great food. The atmosphere was very fun and casual. We finished the evening off with some ice cream on the walk home. I don’t know who Zanoni is, but he sure makes great ice cream!
Day 4: Schonbrunn Palace and a wine garden
Being rulers of such a large empire, as they were, the Hapsburgs surely could not have just one palace. We spent our fourth day in Vienna visiting their summer home, Schonbrunn Palace. Schonbrunn is a bit outside of Vienna’s center, but it was easy to access it via the subway. We toured the palace apartments (again only a small portion of the palace is open to the public) as well as the beautifully landscaped grounds. A highlight of the visit was the view from the “glorietta” looking out on the whole of Vienna below.
A fun attraction at Schonbrunn Palace is the Strudel Show, where for a small entry fee you get a slice of amazing strudel, a hot beverage, and a demonstration of how the strudel is made. The demonstration was particularly impressive. The baker would say something in German, then say the same thing in English, switching off seamlessly throughout the demonstration. She was also able to make the pastry so thin that you could read a piece of paper through it! We were so impressed that my mom purchased a strudel cloth so that we can attempt to make our own strudel at home.
Our day ended at another traditional Austrian venue: a wine garden. We again ventured outside of the city center to visit Heuriger Schübel-Auer. This wine garden consisted of an incredibly charming courtyard filled with locals, including couples and families with kids. They serve only homemade wines and have a buffet of food options to choose from. It was a perfect way to spend our last evening in Vienna.
Day 5: Wamp Market and home
Day 5 was a short day as we had a mid-afternoon flight to catch. We spent the morning at the monthly design fair held at the Museum Quarter, called the Wamp Market. Local artists and craftspeople set up little booths to sell their wares. We came away with a few unique gifts and souvenirs. We followed up the market with a last schnitzel for lunch before taking the extremely efficient City Airport Train to the airport for our flight.
As I mentioned in my Budapest trip recap, my parents covered most of the expenses during our time in Vienna. For that reason I will not include a detailed expense breakdown in this post.
For those considering travelling to Vienna, I would say that it is more expensive than Budapest and roughly equivalent in cost to Paris. The metro and tram system is very efficient, so that is a good way to save money on transportation. Restaurants are not cheap, but inexpensive street food such as bratwurst is abundant and delicious. Attractions, such as museums and palaces, come with €5 to €15 price tags; however, museums in Vienna seem to have more free days than museums in other cities.
Overall, we found Vienna to be an incredibly beautiful and well-maintained city. If you haven’t been, I would highly recommend a visit!
Have you ever been to Vienna? What was your favorite thing that you did/saw there?