A girlfriend and I went on a weekend trip to Vienna for a short holiday this past weekend. I really enjoyed Vienna. Even in the winter it is a beautiful city and I loved that there is so much to see and do. There are museums everywhere, tours galore, cafes at every turn and so much history contained in this city it is hard to run out of things to do.
Tried my first kangaroo burger at an Australian pub. At first I felt bad thinking about cute little kangaroo’s hopping around, but then my friend told me that they’re basically rodents there so I figured at that point I was helping with population control.
We went to a bar called 1516. It was an odd mixture of British/American flair with IPA’s and an assortment of English and American food items on their menu. The table next to us was leaving and one of the guys sitting there came up to us and asked if he could have one of our chicken wings. Yes, a random stranger came up to our table and wanted our food. He said he noticed we looked like we were done eating (which we were). I said ‘Sure, go ahead’ to see what he would do. Sure enough, he took that chicken wing and left.
Almost all of the tourist shops have shirts that say ‘No Kangaroos in Austria’. I’ve concluded that there must be people that book a trip to Austria thinking they’re going to Australia. I would love to meet someone who has done this. Coincidentally there are three Australian pubs that were listed on our city map. Maybe this goes both ways.
Free water with every drink! Not every drink, but when we ordered wine we were also served a small glass of water. Coming from a place that charges for all water this was a treat!
Where there is good there is bad. We encountered a few things that weren’t so great on our trip as well.
Vacationing to a city in the winter isn’t the smartest idea for the obvious reasons. Not only were we trudging through snow at times, we almost had near death experiences in the form of slipping and sliding on many occasions. No worries, we survived.
If the restaurant brings you bread, be prepared to pay for each piece of bread eaten. We noticed quickly that at many places they will automatically bring you bread. We just assumed it was free bread since they placed it on our table. Not so. They will charge you for how many pieces you eat. And it’s not cheap (like 1,50 for each piece of bread). Please note that I wrote they charge for how many pieces you eat and not by the basket itself. This kind of freaks me out. Do they re-serve the untouched bread to other tables?
Spanish horse Riding School. This was a huge disappointment. I had these grand images of horses doing synchronized acrobatics together, but sadly, none of that came to fruition. Instead, we paid 14 Euro a piece to watch a few horses come out and gallop around in no particular order. Sure they were pretty horses, but that’s about it. Save your money for the opera or wait until they are doing an actual show to go see them. We went for their morning practice which I thought would entail them doing at least something halfway interesting. I think we stayed for an hour then left because clearly that wasn’t going to happen. And, we weren’t allowed to take pictures either. And, sitting in a stadium in sub zero temperature is about as cold as you can imagine.
My friend and I went to Vienna not knowing a whole lot about the city. I posted on a Facebook expat group a few days beforehand asking if anyone had advice on things to see and do. I received quite a lot of feedback about the best cafes to visit and some of the good tours and places to check out. Of everything that was listed and that we researched, this is what we ended up doing and my personal recommendations as well.
Crypt Tour at the Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). This is a short tour that starts downtown right inside the Stephansdom. The church is situated in the heart of Vienna and is a place that should be visited when you’re there. The crypt tour itself was really interesting. It was a short tour (about 30 minutes) where they led you down many stairs into the catacombs. Once underground, the guide showed us rooms that housed tombs and huge jars filled with organs of various important people that date back centuries. There were also rooms filled to the brim with bones, one of which has between 800-1000 bodies that were placed as a mass grave from the bubonic plague. Overall there are remains of over 11,000 people in the catacombs.
These tours run every hour on the 30 and the last one starts at 4:30. They didn’t have tours on Saturday though because of mass. Be sure to be there on time, otherwise they will start without you! The tour starts inside the cathedral on the left toward the back. There is a small sign once you get there indicating that it’s the starting point for the tour. There is also an information desk inside in case you cannot find it.
Vienna Zoo (tiergarten Schönbrunn). I think my friend and I are kids at heart because we discovered that we both love going to the zoo. Who doesn’t like going to the zoo in the dead of winter in the snow? Exactly! We both decided happily that we wanted to visit the zoo one of the days we were there. This isn’t just any zoo though; it is the oldest zoo in the world dating back 240 years. It was founded by the Hapsburg monarchy in 1752 and opened for the first time in 1765. It is also at a historic palace, the Schönbrunn Palace. You can imagine just how beautiful and unique all the buildings are here. Without meaning to we ended up spending about five hours there and we hadn’t even seen everything. If you have extra time I recommend checking it out. There are also palace tours as well.
House of Music (Haus der Musik). We were very torn on whether to go to this place. Having heard nothing about it, we didn’t know if it would be worth the money. Well, if you aren’t a music buff (especially that of classical music) then this probably isn’t the place for you. I wouldn’t say it was the most interesting thing we did, but it was still pretty fun. I’d also never been to a museum quite like it. Some of the things to do were bland but they also had some interesting information and things to stimulate your senses through music. There were a lot of science based activities to do. If you love music this is somewhere you will want to check out. We went on a Sunday and they were open until 10pm (which is surprising for a European country).
Vienna State Opera – Tour. The Opera House is stunning from the outside and just as impressive when you walk in. We did a tour of the opera house and were guided through all the main areas as well as backstage. I thought it was interesting that this Opera House has a different performance each night. If you are an opera lover and are in Vienna for 3 nights, you could theoretically see three different operas.
Things I wish I would’ve seen
There were a few things I wanted to do but we didn’t have or make time for them. The next time I go to Vienna, which will be when it is much warmer by the way, this is what I would like to do:
Museum of Military History. I get burned out on museums pretty quickly, so after seeing about two or three on a trip I don’t really want to see much more. So, that’s probably why I didn’t make it to this one. However, many people recommended this museum to me and said it was worth checking out.
Sigmund Freud Museum or Sigmund Freud House. Just because it might be interesting and have interesting information and things to see.
The Giant Ferris Wheel, also known as the Wiener Riesenrad. It is a really old ferris wheel that was completed in 1897 to celebrate an emperor. In 1944 it was burned down, and then was rebuilt and in operation by 1947. This isn’t just another huge ferris wheel overlooking a city though, this one has much more. There are luxury cabins and hire cabins that offer dinners or a glass of champagne. There is even a dinner held in the Crystal Wagon that was specially designed by Swarovski. Another plus? Pets are welcome as well! These dinners aren’t cheap, but what a cool way to have dinner and see the city. I also heard that the waiters jump on and deliver your food then jump off before you escalate high into the sky. Sadly, this was closed when we were there so check the open times before you go.
More Info: http://www.wienerriesenrad.com/index.php
Going to an opera at the Opera House! While we toured the Opera House (Der Opera Haus), we didn’t actually go see an opera. Vienna is known for music and art so in hindsight it probably would’ve been smart to go see an opera. Similarly, I live in Stuttgart, Germany which is well known for the Ballet, yet I still haven’t actually been to one. I am thinking I need to see at least one before my husband gets home. I don’t think I could drag him to one if I tried, hah.
Below are some more pictures from our trip. As with nearly everywhere I've visited, I can't wait to go back!