fifteenaday guide to….. Vienna!
The Place: Vienna is the capital city of Austria, and is known for Mozart, classical art and music and alongside Budapest, being the capital city of the old Hapsburg Empire. And you’ll find stacks of evidence of all of these things, added in with excellent museums, world class galleries, impressive architecture, great coffee, better cake, excellent cycling paths, good night life, brilliant street parties, funky markets…. ok, is it clear that I like this place??? Old mate Bill Bryson said that if aliens landed in Vienna, they’d definitely think it was the capital of the planet, and I agree.
The Glorietta at Schloss Schoenbrunn – where Bill Bryson thinks the rulers of the world have their morning tea??
The Sightseeing Route: Check out the Ringstrasse. Ring roads don’t seem to have good connotations for those living in the UK, where they’re often industrial roads bypassing city centres. Well, Vienna is built on a series of Rings and each time the city was expanded, a long story short is that it happened in a ring format. The main Ring is where you’ll the Opera house, the Natural HIstory and Art History museums, the Houses of Parliament, the library, the main theatre…. all built by the same King who I reckon got drunk and let loose on the country’s wallet. You can walk around the Ring, detouring to see Stephan’s Dom right in the heart of the city.
Those with wheels, money for public transport or ambitious feet should venture outside of the the Ring, other must sees area elegant Schloss Belvedere (not far out at all) and striking Schloss Schonbrunn. The Prater is a crazy massive park with a Coney Island-esque theme park inside, and Danube Island is an oddity and evidence of what can happen when a city decides it wants to have a seaside village next to a dirty river. But I love it.
Back of the Hofburg… one of the many attractions on the Ring in Vienna. The front is more impressive. Sold?
Get around baby, I get around: As with almost every place we’ve visited, it’s best to get around Vienna by bike. Ask at the tourist office for how to subscribe to the city’s cool City-Bike system. You can buy a card at Karlsplatz u-Bahn station and go from there, as unfortunately they don’t work with credit cards.
Should it be raining or you don’t have access, it’s by foot when you’re in the inner town or the city’s comprehensive u-Bahn network, switching to s-Bahn sometimes. What’s the difference? Best way to remember it is the s-Bahn is the Street train, and u-Bahn the underground. Single journeys cost 2 euro.
Cycling – (yet again) the best way to get around in Vienna. Cycle paths, good views,kind drivers… Backpack optional.
As with Graz, €3 will pick you up a pretty decent slice of pizza, a doenner kebab or a kaeserkrainer (or other wuerst of your choice). Should you fancy something healthier/more interesting, hit the Naschmarkt. Vienna’s pantry has a fascinating blend of Asian, turkish and European foods. Tea up with two or three others and you can easily pick up a bread, a few meats, some cheeses and something fab like stuffed peppers for a fiver each.
Food, glorious Food! Wuerst, Olives and Hoummous! Now we’re in the mood, we’re off to the StadtPark! (Oh lordy I hope you know Oliver the Musical).
The Picnic Spots:
After hitting up the Naschmarkt, take your purchases to the Stadtpark and eat and people watch to your heart’s content. You can also try the Donau Insel, the Prater park or any of the little inner city parks on the Ring.
The bad weather alternatives:
Art freaks on fifteenaday will be heart broken, the galleries are incredible and if you do hit the city up on a rainy day, you should definitely just fork out to pay for an entry, which is usually about €8, so chose wisely. One in Museums Quartier or perhaps Belvedere is your best bet, but it’s all about what you’re into. Come rain or shine, you should wait for standing tickets at the opera. Find out more about how to do this, here
In wet weather the Naschmarkt is still a good bet, and if it’s pouring do as the Viennese do and hit the coffee houses: Go traditional with Sacher Torte somewhere in the inner town, or get young and funky and hit up Moebel on Burggasse – all the furniture is for sale.
And when you got cash:
Hit up a beer or wine stuebl for an epic Wiener Schnitzel, go clubbing in Volksgarten and do some of the galleries and museums proud.
Vienna is a city where I feel like everyone is an artist, or at least more creative than me. Not difficult, I know, you’ve seen my photography! And the two representatives of Vienna definitely fit into this bracket. Kitzi’s a psychiatrist by day, musician by night, and her songs are beautiful. Her friend Lisa had us over for dinner on the first night I arrived. Lisa works as a curator at the Westlicht Gallery (a must for photography nerds, it’s more of a photography museum than a gallery) where she showed me around a little the next day. Both are in the know about what’s going on in the city and between us we found a street party with loads of amazing music, a cool buskers’ festival under the Karlsplatz cathedral and an awesome image market. Not bad effort, team! Such lovely people.
LIsa and Kitzi: Good hosts, good people, good chat. Bad hangovers.
Vienna’s got ore free WIFI than even a WIFI addict like myself could need. Most of the museums have it, so if you need a fix you can hang out in the entrances. Alternatively, you can visit freewave.at
for a comprehensive list of every cafe and hotspot that has free wifi. The tourist information centre at the back of the opera house is meant to have it too, but it was broken at the time of visiting. They did, however, give me a leaflet with all of the spots that freeware offer. Vienna wins again.
The perfect fifteenaday:
Get up in the morning and go for an early run/walk at Schloss Schonbrunn. The tour busses arrive at 9 and you should try get there before then, grabbing some fruit and a croissant for breakfast somewhere en route at a local Billa (€2). Then head into the Ring for an hour or two’s sightseeing, finishing up in Museums Quartier so you can wander down to the Naschmarkt, pick up your picnic lunch (€5) and eat it in Stadt Park before finishing up your adventure in the Ring with Schloss Belvedere and Stephansdom.
If you’re a speedy sightseer, you might have time for a cycle (register for city bikes at Karlsplatz) down to Prater, but make sure you’re at the opera house by five thirty ish to get inline for the standing tickets. There’s more info on the process here: but at six thirty they’ll let you in. Reserve your spot with your scarf and cruise outside to pick up a Kaiserkrainer from a street stall AND some beers from a supermarket. The beers are not for the opera. In summer, students gather in the Museums Quartier (just across the street, really) and drink and get merry. The atmosphere rocks.