Travel Journal: Vienna
Well friends, we are to the last stop on our European adventure from September! I've been trying to stretch it out as far as it could go, so that I could keep reliving it, but we've come to our last and final city, Vienna.
When I studied abroad through school eight years ago, Vienna was our home-base. We spent the first week in London and the last week in Italy, but all those weeks in between was spent living in a Schloss (castle) in Vienna. It was quite the experience. Vienna is such a gorgeous city, full of history, music, art, luxury and coffee. Being the capital city of Austria, it is not only a step up in class, but also a destination for all ages, especially those wishing to study music. With Beetoven and Mozart being residents of Vienna.
Vienna has a very upscale vibe with government buildings, cathedrals, universities, and not to mention all the royal homes and palaces.
By the time we got to Vienna though, we were exhausted. We had ran ourselves ragged in London, Paris, and Berlin and were ready for some rest. We definitely had places we wanted to see, and I had many places I wanted to take Caleb, but we were also staying with some good college friends who we hadn't seen in five years, so we were also ready to spend time with them and experience the city with their expertise.
We arrived in Vienna in the afternoon and set out straight for our friend's home in the western part, past the Danube river. We were greeted with hugs, coffee and pumpkin cheesecake! Yum!! It's like they knew we needed some home-cooked comfort food after a long day of traveling.
We unloaded our things, put in a few loads of laundry and caught up while the kids were napping. After everyone had woken up, we were ready to hit the town for dinner and we took the ubahn into the city.
We had to stop by the University of Vienna to take pictures. While I studied abroad, it was "the thing" to go buy Universitat Wien apparel. I brought a ton of tshirts and sweatshirts back eight years ago as souvenirs for friends and family. I still wear mine often!
We strolled around the streets on our way to dinner and everything started feeling so familiar. We stopped by a festival they were having at Rathaus (City hall) and Caleb has his very first Kasekrainer. It's a Austrian cheese sausage stuck in a baguette, and it changed his life. lol I lived off these things when I studied abroad. They were delicious, cheap and almost every street vendor sold them.
Our friends took us to Einstein's for dinner, where we filled up on wiener schnitzel and an Austrian potato dish. We got to experience our friends speaking german, which was really cool and also made friends with their adorable children.
After dinner, we said goodbye to our friends and went exploring. Vienna at night is absolutely beautiful. We walked by parliament and the ring and then on to Stephensplatz, which is one of the most popular stops in Vienna. It's a strip full of cafes, restaurants and shopping. A three story H&M is there!! *All the heart eyes*
Stephansdom is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. The church is very impressive with it's tiled roofs and gothic architecture. It towers over the skyline. Inside, it houses priceless altar pieces and other religious relics. You can tour the cathedral itself, each of the towers, and the catacombs underneath the church.
Tonight we just walked by it and took pictures. Our real mission was to get some sugary goodness at Zanoni & Zanoni gelateria.
Whew, you can tell how tired I am, but this place basically sustained our entire study aboard group while in Vienna. We would frequent it sometimes twice a day for it's gelato and desserts. Our goal as a group was to try every flavor, and I'm sure we did. They also have really good hot chocolate, while you're savoring their tiramisu.
With tired eyes and bellys full of ice cream we then turned in for the night.
The next morning we woke up and our friends took us to the cutest and yummiest cafe for breakfast! Cafe Little Britain. Now Vienna is know for it's coffee houses and coffee culture in general. They are everywhere and most all of them are really good!
The Vienna coffee house is described: "where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill." Amen to that!
The coffee was big and the breakfast was delicious, and we were ready to face the pouring rain to go tour the Belvedere museum.
The Belvedere is a palace complex that the Hapsburg dynasty lived in for a period of time, and now it houses the largest collection of Gustav Klimt's paintings, as well as the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day.
The palace itself is gorgeous and the gardens were amazing. They were created by Dominique Girard, who had trained in the gardens of Versailles.
The rain hadn't stopped, so we spent as much time in the Belvedere as possible, strolling from room to room, taking in each painting and sculpture. Then when we couldn't stall any longer, we set out into the rain for our catacomb tour at Stephansdom. The tour is really cool. It's definitely creepy, but you also learn a lot of history about Vienna and the cathedral. I didn't take any pictures from the tour, so if you go to Vienna, you'll have to take the tour and experience it for yourself!
It's only about a thirty minute tour, so it's definitely worthwhile. Just check the schedules and head inside the church about fifteen to twenty minutes beforehand. Go to the middle left-hand side, where there are stairs leading underground. There you wait for the tour guide to come get you and take you on the tour. Payment and a tip is due at the end of the tour.
After the tour, we did some souvenir shopping the Manner store and stopped by Pizza Bizi for old time sake. I would not suggest going here for a meal, unless you want something cheap and easy.
Do you remember when you were a poor college kid and had a place that you would always eat, and at the time thought it was the "best ever" until you got a real job and started eating at more sophisticated places??? Pizza Bizi was that place for my study abroad group. About halfway into the summer, we each started craving a favorite restaurant or fast food place from the States. Mine was chickfila and mcalister's sweet tea. But all we could find that brought us back to good ol' cheap American food was Pizza Bizi. And we frequented the place for the cheapest, largest pizza slices you would get.
So Caleb and I shared one, and then we went to eat a Doner Kebab at Turki's.
The rain ended up being a little too much for us to handle once evening came, so we decided to grab some to-go tiramisu and another cone of gelato from Zanoni's and we headed back to our friend's house for the rest of the night. And we ordered in Indian food and played Mario Kart into the night.
Our last day in Vienna, we were greeted with the most beautiful day we had the entire trip. It was sunny and warm. Blue skies and calm weather. And I'm so glad, because we saved the best for last. Schonbrunn palace.
But first, we needed some breakfast and coffee for our last day. Our friends suggested Jonas Reindl for a good grab and go coffee, but we liked the environment so much that we stayed and sipped our coffee while we planned out our day.
It is right across from the University, so there were many students studying and meeting for coffee inside. It's a small, cozy shop. I had a latte, and Caleb had a chemex and we split the banana bread, which was out of this world!
Then, we took the ubahn all the way to Schonbrunn. I forgot how far it was from the city center, but even then it was only about 45 minutes on the ubahn.
We got to the palace and bought tickets and took pictures before our tour. I would suggest when you get there to immediately get in line for tickets. There are plenty of things to do without tickets, but if you intend to go into the palace for the tour, if the line doesn't look long, do it! People come in waves, especially on nice days.
Schonbrunn is the former summer residence of the Hapsburg family. It's a 1,441 room baroque palace. Yeah.. that's a crazy amount of rooms! You probably only go through about thirty if you do the whole tour, which I would definitely recommend. In the late 1500's the location was a hunting lodge and ground for all types of animals that the emperor had put there. Then the palace in its present form was built and remodeled during the 1740–50s during the reign of empress Maria Theresa.
The rooms inside are absolutely gorgeous! It's definitely worth a look inside!
After your tour of the inside, take a few hours and explore the gardens! These aren't any old gardens...they literally contain a maze, several "hidden" restaurants, a variety of sculptures, fountains, gazebos, and areas that you can sit and take it all in.
After strolling around in the gardens, enjoying the sunshine and beautiful weather, we decided to find a little "hidden" outdoor cafe that our friend had told us about. So with a map of the gardens in hand, we set out to find it. And find it, we did!
If you get a nice day in Vienna, go to this restaurant!! The portions were huge, the food was fantastic, and the view was incredible. I got a salad in a mason jar and Caleb got shrimp crepe enchiladas with a side salad!
After we had walked as such as we wanted to around the gardens - wear good shoes to Shonbrunn, we made our last stop to meet up with our friends at the famous ferris wheel at Prater park. It was the world's tallest extant Ferris wheel from 1920 to 1985. It was constructed to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef 1 and was one of the earliest Ferris wheels ever built. It's built with gondolas instead of the umbrella cars.
We walked through Prater Park, grabbed a coffee and enjoyed the weather.
Then it was time for our last dinner in Vienna at Ulrich's.
Ulrich's was delicious! We shared dry ribs for an appetizer. Then I got the pork chop and Caleb got the mushroom risotto. It was fantastic!! The restaurant itself was really cool and a little bit hidden, in this alleyway that it shared with a small church. Definitely make a reservation if you are wanting to go!
After dinner, we walked along the streets one more time, then took the ubahn back to our friends house. Vienna said goodbye with a beautiful sunset as we rode on the ubahn.
We were up bright and early the next morning for a day of flights and connections back home.
You need way more than two and a half days to experience all that Vienna has to offer. You seriously could spent a month there and not see everything, so you really have to pick and choose what is important to you to see. Vienna has some of the best historical museums, which we didn't even touch, as well as a crazy amount of beautiful churches and cathedrals. If you go in the summertime, the parks are fabulous, and the danube river is fun. In the winter time the Christmas markets look absolutely amazing. So any season you go, it will be wonderful and use your time wisely and don't think that you'll see everything in just a few days.
I feel really good about what we did and saw in Vienna, but I also had the privilege of spending almost a month in the city. I wish Caleb could have seen more of the city.
You also have to make due with the weather you were given. It rained the entire second day, and it wasn't just drizzle like in London, it was an all out down pour at times. We were soaked and cold and my shoes didn't dry out until we got home! But we made the most of it! We still saw all that we could see and didn't let it stop us from enjoying our time, until we were too cold and wet in the evening ( ;
Things we would see next time:
- I would spend a whole day going to the different history museums
- Go to see the Philharmonic or the Opera
- Experience the Spanish Riding school
- I would have loved to go to one of the vineyards along the Vienna woods
- I also would have gone to way more coffee houses
Sources from Post:
- Einstein's - everything is good, but their Austrian potato dish is fantastic
- Cafe Little Britian - breakfast and pastries
- Zanoni's - all the gelato you can imagine
- Turki's - their kebab was really good for lunch
- Jonas Reindl - coffee shop
- Jausen Station - fantastic lunch menu
- Ulrich - dinner reservation
Sights/Things we would Recommend:
- Belvedere Museum
- Stephensdom - catacomb tour
- Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens
- Step inside the Manner store for some Mozart balls and manner cookies, you won't be dissapointed
- Stroll down Stephensplatz
- Take one of the old tstreet cars. They are phasing them out, but they have so much character.
- Prater park
- Do the Rick Steves self-guided tram tour or walk from the Ringstrasse all the way to Stephensdom