Top 10 things to do in Vienna, Austria

Monday, May 28, 2018

The ruling image of what Europe is like (courtesy of Instagram) is made up of quaint alleyways, charming little streets and cosy houses. And a majority of the cities we visited (such as SalzburgRothenbergAmsterdam to name a few) matched this description to the tee. But when we set foot in Vienna, I saw a whole new dimension to European charm, and it was truly intoxicating. 

While other cities evoked a sense of a time gone by, Vienna seemed to still be proudly thriving in the 20th century, and I mean this as a compliment. You instantly felt like fixing your posture, walking a little taller and speaking a little softer when you stepped into this elegant European capital. And I think at least part of this has to do with Vienna's ultimate muse – Empress Sisi, whose presence continues to dominate the city years after her death.  

The people you see on the streets in this part of Austria looked ready for the runway and the way they carried themselves was unlike any other city I've seen. So, don't been surprised if a man or two addresses you as "my lady" every now and again.  

We spent five days in town and here's what we did, when in Vienna...

Do the ring tour – If you're not in the mood to walk (in freezing temperatures, we certainly weren't) and want a convenient and warm way to see the major sights in town, hop on the city's ring tram. It's bright yellow so the chances of missing it are very slim. It covers all the top places to see including the state opera, parliament building, city hall, Burgtheater, and several palaces along the boulevard. The trip will take you around 25 minutes and you'll get a brief history of the buildings in 8 languages on board. There's also the option of hopping off and exploring all that the streets have to offer. Keep a special lookout for Vienna's favourite creative – Gustav Klimt.  I was aware of the artists' work and appreciated it before, but when you see reproductions of his gold-foiled masterpieces in Vienna's every corner, you realise that only a city like this could have given birth to that. By the way, do try the roast potatoes from one of the stands, perfect to warm you up!

Visit Schonbrunn Palace –  The murdered Empress Elisabeth's or Sisi's allure of eternal youth, beauty and romance continues to permeate the Viennese culture. She's there in the museums and the chocolates and the posters but her grace is also a fundamental part of the city's atmosphere. Fascinated with the city's Sisi hangover, we investigated further by visiting her summer palace — the Schonbrunn Palace. Although it worked as a summer holiday house, in winter, the stunning palace was just as beautiful. The grand ballrooms and intricately decorated parlours were also a refreshing change from the imposing castle and fort we visited across Bavaria earlier in the trip. The palace was a leading venue for influential statesmen to visit and its design and architecture are certainly created to impress. We recommend keeping an entire day for the visit as you have to catch a train from Vienna. 

Hofburg palace — Okay, I'm calling it now, this 13th century imperial palace is going to be your photo op spot for the trip to Vienna. The intricate architecture is hard to miss, especially with the bright green dome standing out at the end of surrounding alleyways. The horse-carriages that go past regularly only add to the charming view.  

Visit St Stephen's Cathedral – Vienna's 700-year-old St Stephen's was the last cathedral we saw on our trip to Europe. You might think that after seeing so many churches, perhaps the novelty would be lost but that's certainly not the case. The church is beautiful and gives you the chance to climb up to the top and get a panoramic view of Vienna.  

Visit the opera – This one's a given. After reading my spiel above about how elegant the city is, it's natural to see the opera. Something about dressing up for a night at the opera seems so naturally Viennese. But here's the thing – the travel companies know this and you are bound to bump into charming men selling you tickets to the opera at every corner you turn. This isn't a bad thing, as long as you temper your expectations. Majority of the opera shows you'll see selling in Vienna are fairly intimate gatherings. If you go in anticipating a grand bonanza, you're bound to be dejected. So, we recommend walking in, expecting what feels quite like a private show for a small audience by a talented bunch of artists. We went to Palais Auersperg and enjoyed a charming evening.  

Try Vienna's famous coffee culture – Apart from the opera and the impeccably dressed people on the streets, Vienna is renowned for its coffee houses. Unlike the groovy cafes of Amsterdam or even Sydney, coffee houses in Vienna, much like everything else, are grandiose establishments. We chose Café Central, for its posh interiors and its long list of famous patrons – including Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky to name a few. We tried some traditional Viennese coffee (very bitter!!!) along with some delicious chestnut soup. 

Try Austrian Apple Strudel – After giving its German counterpart a try, we also wanted to try the Austrian variety of Apple Strudel. It certainly didn't dissappoint and it's clear why the sweet is a such a prominent part of Austrian cuisine.  
Sachertorte – Speaking of iconic parts of the cuisine, you can't skip trying sachertorte – a delicious rich mud cake that was created in the region. A culture so rich deserves a cake that matches! 

Try vegetarian Schnitzel – Before coming to Europe, I had a slight misconception that I might have to sacrifice trying all the savoury specialities as the cuisine is dominated by meat. I'm happy to report this wasn't the case, and Vienna in particular, had an abundance of vegan restaurants. We headed for a quaint one called Bio Bar and tried vegan variations of schnitzel, goulash  and cevapcici (grilled sausages).  
Try Almdudler – If you make a trip to one of the grocery stores, do pick up a bottle of Austria's most popular fizzy drink – Almdudler. To describe the taste in a nutshell – it's like a herby apple juice.   

While we got up to plenty in Vienna, there are few spots that we missed that deserve an honourable mention. On our walks, we explored the Museum Quartier, Belvedere Palace and Austrian National Library from the outside, but owing to time constraints and a jam-packed itinerary, we resisted the temptation of exploring them in depth. For art and culture lovers who have the time, it's certainly worth checking them out!  

Links à la Mode, June 14th, 2018

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  1. Oh my gosh - Vienna looks absolutely beautiful! Definitely adding this to the list of places to visit, it just looks beautiful!

    Layla x

  2. Your pics are absolutely stunning! Made me really want to visit!!! Thanks for all the great tips! You look so chic too! xx

  3. Amazing post and photos !
    LOve it <3