Okay, so I think we have established that I really like, if not love Austria. And at the heart of this profound attraction is the city of Vienna. Beautiful in all ways, from the exquisite buildings built by Emperor Franz Joseph I, the awe-inspiring Cathedrals, to the food culture, the people and the lifestyle. There is always something new to see and experience in this city. Parks to enjoy a walk in or go for your afternoon run in (or even 9 at night… alone), vineyards to walk through, breath-taking views to inspire you and a monster schnitzel to fill you.
I had a chance to visit, AGAIN, in March 2018 when I moved to Europe with Stew. It was great because I got a chance to spend time with family, and then some great friends of mine visited as well over the Easter weekend and we got to show them around as well. We being Stewart and I, because if anyone loves Vienna more than me, it’s him.
What to do in magical Vienna:
So on our adventures around the city, I realised there is so much to see, I should probably make a list! And so here are some of my Favourite things to do, see and experience in Vienna:
- Schönbrunn Palace: This is NUMBER 1. Yes, there may be plenty of tourists (in the summer and the winter). But, when you get there, you will understand why everyone wants to be there. The palace itself is beautiful, but it is when you see it with all its incredible additions that you truly appreciate its splendour. There are a number of breath-taking gardens surrounding the palace, including an orangery, a maze, palm house and Tiergarten (a zoo). The Princess Sissi LOVED the outdoors and animals, and so this was her favourite place to be when she wasn’t travelling of course. Opposite to the Palace, on a small hill is the Gloriette, a stunning building with huge glass windows overlooking the palace and Vienna. From on top of the hill, you are greeted with one of the greatest views of the palace imaginable! Not a bad place to have breakfast every morning as an Empress. You could spend a whole day in the gardens alone! So make sure you have plenty of time when you visit. Oh, and in the winter there is a wonderful Christmas Market in front of the palace. A great place to get some punch and wonder the gardens in the snow.
- Schloss Belvedere: Home of The Kiss of Gustav Klimt and a whole number of famous art collections, oh, and a priceless view of the city! There are 2 palaces here (yes, go see them both), Upper Belvedere which houses the largest Klimt collection in the world and is a museum of art and artefacts, and Lower Belvedere which was the residence of Prince Eugene.
- Hofburg: While we are talking Royal Palaces, when they weren’t in their summer paradise Schönbrunn Palace, the Royals would reside in their winter Royal Apartments in the city. The tour includes a display of more fine dining china than I would ever know what to do with, as well as the royal apartments. Even Sissi’s personal gym – yes, she was quite a fitness freak. And when you are done, don’t miss out on booking a viewing of the beautiful Lipizzaner’s at the Spanish Riding School across the way.
- Vienna Rathaus (City Hall): Vienna’s City Hall is honestly out of this world! It is one of the most spectacular buildings to behold in the city – in my opinion. It is also the most beautiful backdrop to epic events – Christmas markets, ice skating rinks, concerts, festivals, conferences and more! You don’t need to go inside, but simply walk the gardens in front of it and behold its beauty. There is a Starbucks nearby… so maybe grab a coffee before you take a stroll.
So on my latest visit to Vienna, this was number one on my list of things to see! If you haven’t seen pictures of the apartment block or museum before, it is definitely something to go check out. Designed by the controversial Austrian artist/architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, these buildings are full of colour and creative flow. He was tired of the same old buildings and decided to create something closer to nature, colourful, without the “unnatural” straight lines and shapes. They may not be huge buildings, but you do feel like you are stepping into another little world when you see it. Take a walk along the river when you are done visiting this masterpiece, and check out the street art along the walls as well. There are always a few really cool designs there as well.
- Stephen’s Cathedral: The symbol of Austria, and its most important Gothic structures. When you walk into the city to go see it, it is like a clash of 2 worlds! Modern shops and cafes that surround this huge timeless Cathedral. Walking inside, the few times I’ve been, I am never really sure where to look. There is just so much beauty to see. When you manage to block out some of the tourists, it is incredible to walk the aisles and wonder about how they must have built this masterpiece. How it withstood war – fun fact that Stew told me, in the one corner of the Cathedral (outside) you can see a cannonball still lodged into the wall. We managed to spot it on our last visit. My aunt and cousins and I did the catacomb tour, and I must say it was really interesting. Although there is sadness in the history, hearing the harsh truths of the past really makes you grateful for what we have now. You don’t have to pay to go into the Cathedral, but you do pay to go into the catacombs, and it can be closed off inside if they are preparing for a mass.
- Prater: Ah, the famous amusement park. I remember this well. This is where my sister Serena (with encouragement from my uncle) pressured me into going on the Sling Shot with her. Sure I feel a bit cool saying that I have done it before, but the experience at the time was not so fun… for me. Everyone else had the best time watching us on the live video playing and laughing their butts off. That being said, the rest of our time there was awesome! A great time out with the family, going on rides, eating cotton candy and just having a good laugh. Make sure you are laughing as well, and not just the cause of the laughter. Oh, and make sure you take a ride on the Vienna Ferris Wheel! It is magical!
- Museumsquartier: An incredible space where art is celebrated in all of its forms. Paintings, photographs, sculptures, architecture… the Museumsquartier is the perfect place to indulge your creative side. With lounge chairs in the courtyard, people from all walks of life gather to meet, chat, enjoy a coffee before and after enjoying the museums. There is even a children’s art centre where they can enjoy art activities to release their inner creative genius. It is in this square you will find the Leopold Museum which houses some great masterpieces like Flint, Picasso, Schiele and Baselitz pieces! Just across the way are the bigger museums, like the Natural History Museum. These buildings are absolutely breath-taking themselves. It’s like being in an outdoor museum of museums… if that makes sense. You can easily spend the entire day here… and perhaps return.
- Kahlenberg: Now this place has some special meaning to it for Stew and I. Not only is it the best place to get a full view of Vienna, but you can take long walks in the forest or through the vineyards and enjoy the surrounding landscape. Why is it special to us? Well because this is where he came to reflect when he was doing his 5-month internship in Vienna a few years ago. And, where he decided he wanted to marry me (Awwwwwww). YUP! I know! So when we came to visit in March, he brought me there to enjoy the view and to say a little thank you hehe.
- Time Travel: If you are looking for a fun way to get a breakdown of Vienna’s history, and a cool experience for kids, then Time Travel is the place to go. It takes you on a tour through time, using 5D cinema, animatronic shows, music and special effects. It will add some meaning and understanding to the sites you will see when touring Vienna. #worthit
- See a concert: So one thing I still have not done in Vienna (which is a crime I think) is going to see a concert. Vienna is known for it being a home of music. I think experiencing a Mozart concert in the Golden Hall would be seriously enchanting.
- Mozart’s House: And on the topic of music, why not pop by Mozart’s house and see where the genius lived? take a peek after visiting Stephansplatz.
This list is probably not even HALF of what there is to do in Vienna. I know that I am not done exploring the city yet, and I have been here 3 times already haha. That is the beauty of it… there is just so much to do and see and experience. I can’t wait to go back (which will be in September – YAY), and just explore some more!
I think it is worth a spot on everyone’s travel lists, even if it is just for a day or two. Let it win you over like it did me!