Vienna is the capital of Austria, but I might describe it as the cultural capital of Eastern Europe. I’ve never had such a culture-filled visit! There are so many amazing things to do and see in Vienna. The only downside is that it’s a pretty expensive city! The prices seemed especially daunting after visiting Budapest, where one euro is 300 Hungarian forint!
Vienna was so fun to visit! During my February holiday, I was traveling solo. However, I happened to overlap a day in Vienna with a friend who knew someone living in Wien so we met up for a nice lunch! We met in the city and rode the metro and a bus out to a Viennese “heurige” or wine tavern. Each of us got a different meal, and split a large bottle of white wine from the local vineyard. I chose to get Wiener Schnitzel, since I was in Wien after all! It was a lovely afternoon visiting. James’s friend Kelsey also gave me some really great advice on what to do in my remaining days in Vienna!
I stayed right in front of Naschmarkt, which is a huge market stretching for several blocks with more than 100 stalls selling food and other trinkets. It’s really cool to walk through, but beware of all the vendors who will no doubt yell at you to offer samples and try to get you to stop! Haggling is also accepted – I bought a tapestry and argued the starting price down almost 10 euros. 😛
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Construction for St. Stephen’s Cathedral began in the 12th century. I spent a lot of time at St. Stephan’s Cathedral during my first and second days in Vienna. There is a lot to do and see at this church!
There’s a lift up the North tower and a stairway up the taller South tower, but they each cost money. (City card’s are not accepted in the church!) Because I wanted to see the crypt as well, I went ahead and bought the combo ticket for all the church attractions – access to North and South towers, the crypt/catacombs, and the treasury museum with relics.
Surprisingly, I think the North tower with the lift was actually better than the South tower even though it is shorter! The North Tower has an outdoor platform, whereas the top of the South Tower is indoors and the only view is through windows. Despite being indoors, the 343 steps to the top of South Tower is still worth the view over the city.
As I had the pass for both, I chose to go up one tower at evening and watch the sun set over the city then went up the other tower at midday. They both have gorgeous views at any time of day!
Vienna doesn’t seem to have popular walking tour groups, compared to other big cities in Europe. Luckily, my hostel provided free walking tours! The walking tour was perfect because we walked around Ringstrasse and I got to hear a lot of the history of the city and Austria in general. Our tour guide was really a gem! She pointed out that the crosswalks in Vienna have inclusive stick figures – with elderly walkers, same sex couples, and other figures depicted.
Vienna State Opera
This Austrian Opera house was originally called the Vienna Court Opera. Built in the 1860s, the opera house is stunning both inside and out! My walking tour guide showed us where to go in the evening, a couple hours before performances at the Opera and get tickets for standing room for just 3,50 euros!!
Usually there is a performance of some type every night at the Opera. Apparently the week I was visiting, the Opera was going to have a ball and would be closed the three days beforehand to set up. Our guide showed us the sign describing the performance for that evening and made sure we knew that was the last performance of the week. That night there were two ballets with an intermission in between. I followed the instructions of our guide and got a ticket for the ballets that evening! The two ballets were Le Pavillon d’Armide and Le Sacre by John Neumier.
I was so giddy to get to watch these amazing performances for so cheap! The two ballets were extremely different – one with costumes and characters and a plot, then the following with everyone in a nude leotard more symbolizing part of a whole. I can’t quite put into words how it felt to watch each of them, but it was amazing! The orchestra was beyond fantastic and I got so wrapped up in the performance it seemed to pass so quickly. I’m so glad the guide told us we could do this!
Vienna has so many amazing museums to visit. As I chose to use one of my days to visit Bratislava, Slovakia I had to prioritize which museum I wanted to see most. I really wanted to see The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, so I decided to go to the Belvedere!
There is an upper level and lower level to the museum – each with a separate ticket. I visited the Upper Level Belvedere with the Klimt Collection. Even though the ticket was already 14 euros for entry, I paid the extra 4 or 5 euros for the audio guide. I’m glad I did, because I learned a lot about the various artists in the collection and a lot about Klimt! There was a whole room dedicated to him. I really enjoyed seeing The Kiss, and his other paintings are also really amazing! The Sunflower is a beautiful painting with a really similar composition to The Kiss. As photos aren’t allowed, they provide a fake painting to take selfies with. 😀
Belvedere is named such because it offers its namesake – a beautiful view! Outside of the amazing Klimt collection, the building itself is an amazing attraction. The Sala Terrana is on the entry floor with beautiful columns. Then as you go up the Grand Staircase, it opens up to The Marble Hall that takes up two stories. The architecture is stunning! In the Marble Hall, there are huge windows overlooking Vienna. There is also the beautiful two-story Palace Chapel.
Schönbrunn Palace is a Baroque Style palace from the 16th century. It was the beloved Empress Sisi’s summer residence! This palace is definitely a must-see. I didn’t pay to go inside, as it was really expensive, but it’s supposed to be beautiful.
I walked around the grounds and the gardens. In the castle grounds, the Gloriette is up-hill and overlooks the palace and the city behind. I’m not going to lie, I was huffing a little after the hike, but the view was worth it! Unfortunately, February isn’t the best time to see gardens. However, it was still very pleasant to walk around and explore the grounds.
Keep an eye out for my upcoming posts about my day trip to Slovakia and my last destination for my February holiday: Prague!