This was our second stop on our European adventure; arriving in Vienna in the early afternoon by bus from Prague and we were a little tired. However, it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed by dropping our bags off and enjoying a glass of wine on the balcony in our AirBnB. Austria has refreshing wines, tasty food, jaw-dropping sites and an overall incredible culture to enjoy. So take advantage like I did, and read on to see what makes Vienna, and particularly Viennese wine, so spectacular.
Things to see:
The grandest and most spectacular site to visit in all of Vienna has to be Schönbrunn Palace. The Palace opened in 1699 and was formerly the summer residence of the imperial family. These days it is a historical site full of tourist snapping photographs and taking selfies. The exquisite gardens surround the palace and hillside, along with a greenhouse, a labyrinth and a zoo.
The Danube River runs right through the heart of Vienna, splitting the city in two. It is possible to walk along the river at any time of day and admire the water, boats and landscapes. There are numerous riverside bars and restaurants to sit in and watch the boats and world pass by. Truly relaxing. The sunsets are spectacular, particularly because the sun disappears behind the hills.
There are also numerous Churches, Cathedrals, monuments and old buildings to admire when trundling around the city. However to get a better feel and understanding of the history be sure to follow my next tip… That way you won’t be saying, “old stuff.” “Old stuff.” “More old stuff.” …
Things to do:
Like most capital cities, Vienna has choices of tours of the city. We voted against the paid bus tour and opted for a free walking tour, no change there then. Our guide was an American lady who had a dry and almost none existent sense of humour, however, she quickly grew on us with her interesting facts and stories. She had studied architecture in Austria in her twenties, and spent the past 15 years living all over Europe before settling back in the Austrian capital. The tour swayed a little more towards Viennese buildings and their architecture, however it was surprisingly interesting and a welcomed change from the youthful tour guides we were used to who would usually cracked one too many poor jokes.
Our tour included St. Rupert’s – the oldest church in Vienna, St Micheal Square, the Plague Column and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We walked past The Old City Hall and the current parliament buildings, through to Heldenplatz – the open space in front of the Hofburg Palace where Hitler gave his powerful speech in March 1938 to win over the Austrian population. We learnt that Hitler throughout the then-current parliament and even locked up those who opposed him.
For a day out of the city, away from the hustle and bustle, buy a 10€ ticket and jump onto a train from Wien Mitte-Landstraße to Mödling. Mödling is a 25-minute/19km train ride south out of Vienna, and this charming little village looks to be lifted right out of a picturesque catalogue of Bavarian-themed villages. With limited tourist signs, and locals speaking few words of English, we were out on an adventure to explore the sites.
After buying a picnic for lunch from Lidl, we jumped on the bus for the 5- minute ride, instead of walking it all uphill – as the guide on TripAdvisor had instructed. We got off the bus and began the 30-minute walk to Seegrotte – an underground cave system which was a mine in the 1900s, and a secret Nazi aircraft factory during the second world war. There are mountains of information to read and hear about as you descend deeper into the mountainside, to a final boat tour of the stunning underground lakes and caverns. The temperature drops and drops and drops to around 5°C, an unwelcome change from the 33°C we were used to on the roadside!
Back outside in the open and fighting off any claustrophobic worries, this time we ventured further up and around the mountain in search of Burg Liechtenstein – Liechtenstein Castle. No don’t worry, the castle is in Austria and not the tiny country between Austria and Switzerland. This stunning ‘fairytale’ castle dominates the skyline for miles around and feels very powerful when stood at its base marvelling up at it. We ate our packed lunch on the castle’s former moat. Then descended back down the mountainside, via the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre, past what can be guessed are multi-million Euro mansions, and back into the quiet village of Mödling. We hopped back on the train to Vienna; 7 hours well spent.
Things to eat and drink:
Wine, wine the magical wine. The more you drink the more you… probably won’t remember the rest of the night.
The German name for Vienna is ‘Wien’. And the German for wine is ‘wein’. Coincidence? This is an urban myth for the naming of the Austrian capital city. However, it is sadly not true.
On a more serious note, Viennese wine is world-famous and it certainly did not disappoint. We opted for a wine tasting experience on the first evening and found ourselves in Leo Hillinger Wine Shop and Bar. The waitress helped us to pick three glasses of wine based on our tastes and then explained how to drink the wine meaning we could fully enjoy its taste. The price was very affordable, it was an enjoyable experience and it was easy to drink. But we had had our adventure here and decided to move on to look for the next adventure.
With its German heritage and neighbours, it is no surprise that Vienna has many pubs and bars offering great-tasting beers. Just like in Germany and much of Europe, the beer is lighter and more refreshing, much easier to drink than the crap they serve in England! Finding a refreshing pint in the sun wasn’t difficult, and the prices are generally very affordable.
It may not look it, but this was one of the tastiest meals I had on the entire holiday.
It is Hungarian Pörkölt served along with a side of Spätzle, a gnocchi-like substance made using flour, water and eggs. I had this in Budapest a few years earlier, and it was just as tasty as I can remember it.
Using TripAdvisor we found an edgy little apartment complete with awesome decorations and furniture, cooking facilities and a stunning view. There was also a balcony complete with chairs and a table on which, like I said before, it was enjoyable to sit in the sun and drink a glass of wine. Oh, and it was the 4th floor, which was enjoyable when staggering home after a couple of drinks during the early hours of the morning.
Our host, Andrei, left us handy places to visit, eat and see. It was very close to the riverside markets and the metro station, meaning it was convenient to get into the city centre quickly.
When to travel:
We arrived in Vienna by bus. However using SkyScanner, return flights from London start from £50 and from Manchester they’re up from £60 – if you’re flexible with flight days and book them in advance.
I hope you found my introduction to Vienna interesting and insightful, and perhaps take some of my adventures and experiences forward. Vienna is marvellous, filled to the brim with historical sites and many cultural opportunities to explore such, as one of the stunning opera houses.
This was the second stop on our European Adventure.
Part 1: Prague
Part 2: Vienna (on that post)
Part 3: Bratislava
Part 4: Budapest
62% of Austria’s total land area is covered by the Alps.
Alpine, or downhill, skiing has been the most popular sport in Austria for over 100 years.
On June 28th Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria attended a military review – but during the visit, he and his wife were killed by Gavrilo Princip, a nationalist that wanted the Austro-Hungarian Empire out of Bosnia. His murder was the immediate catalyst for the declarations of war that followed, and a series of mutual defence alliances made throughout Europe meant that if one country was attacked, another was likely to defend them, thus triggering the First World War.
Schönbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Habsburgs, has no less than 1,440 rooms.
Once the centre of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I.
Vienna has been voted the most liveable city in the world for the last 7 years in a row. Taking into account factors such as politics, social and economic climate, medical care, education, recreational opportunities, environmental conditions. Vienna consistently comes out on top.