Two Days in Vienna, Austria

img_0007On our Eurotrip this spring, we spent two days in Vienna! From Zagreb, Croatia, we took the early train (and the only one of the day) arriving in the afternoon and headed to our hotel first. We stayed along the Danube river, a little ways out of the city center but right on the metro, the U, which worked out really nicely as Vienna had one of the best public transit systems I’ve seen! So after getting settled in, we bought 72-hour U passes and headed to the Ring, the nickname for Vienna’s city center.

Coming out of the U once we arrived, we walked right up into St. Stephen’s square facing the cathedral! After taking a quick look inside the church, our first order of business was finding the Vienna Tourist Office, just a couple blocks away. We stopped in to pick up some brochures and a map, and ask some questions of the helpful staff, and then headed across the street to Mozart’s café for drinks and dessert and to figure out our game plan for the next couple of days. Then, tired from traveling all day we called it a night and headed back to our hotel.

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I’ve already written about some of the palaces we visited and some musical must-sees we did, here’s how we fit it all (and more!) into two days in the city!

Day 1:

After breakfast at our hotel, we headed into the Ring and started our day at the morning exercises at the Spanish Riding School, watching the horses and their riders during their daily training session.

Then we went right across the square to the Hofburg Palace, the winter palace of the Habsburgs, the Austrian royal family until the early 1900s. We spent a couple hours doing an audio guided tour through the imperial apartments and the Sisi Museum, a whole exhibit focused on Empress Elisabeth, who was married to Franz Joseph, the longest reigning emperor of Austria. More on the Hofburg in this post about Vienna’s palaces!

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When we left the Hofburg palace, it had started to rain, so we hurried to the next thing on our agenda, a hop-on-hop-off bus. We took the route that went around the Ring. I usually really like hop-on-hop-off buses but this one did not have near as much commentary as I usually like. But at least it got us out of the rain for a little bit!

It was mid-afternoon by the time we had ridden the bus around the whole city center loop, so we got off at the Vienna State Opera building, just in time for the 3pm tour!

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After the tour, we headed to dinner at a Vienna wine garden! We went out of the city to the suburb of Grinzing, just a U-ride and bus-ride away (both included in our 72-hour pass), and got dinner at a wine garden called Muellers Heuriger. In addition to trying a couple of wines, we had a buffet dinner of pork, dumplings, goulash, quiche and bread with a couple different spreads. But it wasn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet like we’re used to – it was mix-and-match but you still paid for each portion individually. The Austrian way is to order family style, so that’s what we did so we could all try a bunch of different foods! After dinner at Muellers, we got dessert and another glass of wine at another wine garden down the street, Rudolfshof, before heading back to our hotel for the night.

Day 2:

On our second morning, we got up bright and early to try to beat the crowds and get to the Schonbronn Palace right when it opened! We spent the morning touring the summer palace of the Habsburgs (another great audio tour!) and then wandered around the gardens.

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Then we took the hop-on-hop-off bus back into the city center (we had gotten 2-day passes). We wanted to take a walking tour but had a couple hours before it started so we explored the Ring for a while. We found Mozart’s apartment, saw the church where the Habsburgs’ bodies are buried, and got coffee and cake at a shop called Aida.

Next was the walking tour that came with the hop-on-hop-off ticket, making up for the not-so-great audio on the bus, the walking tour was great! It started at the opera building and went all around the Ring, past more of the buildings with the Hofburg palace, along the high-end shops on the coal market street, and by the plague fountain that was built as a memorial for the plague epidemic in the 1670s.

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After the walking tour, we went back to our hotel to get ready and then headed to dinner at Figmueller in the Ring – had to get our schnitzel while in Vienna!

Then we went to a concert at the Vienna Kursalon featuring an orchestra playing music from Strauss and Mozart, accompanied by ballet dancers and opera singers. We had bought tickets outside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral on our first night, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but we really enjoyed it, more on the concert in this post!

After the concert, wanting to check out the nightlife in Vienna, we found the Bermuda Triangle – an area in the city center with a bunch of bars that was definitely hopping on Saturday night!

And that wrapped up our two days in Vienna!

The Palaces of Vienna, Austria

img_0006In our two days in Vienna, we noticed that there are two things you hear about a lot, the first was music, which I wrote about in my previous post. And the second is the Habsburgs, the last royal family of Austria, who ruled until the early 1900s.

All over the city, you’ll hear about how they were connected to different places, like how when they passed away their remains were not just buried at one place, but were actually split between 3 different churches in the city! I mean they were literally split – their intestines were buried at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, their hearts at a chapel at the Hofburg Palace and the rest of them in the imperial crypt beneath the Capuchin Church! But the most noteworthy Habsburg sites were the palaces.

The first of the palaces we visited was the Hofburg Palace. Located right in the center of the city, it was once the winter home of the Habsburg family. The Hofburg was originally built in the 1400s and was expanded in the centuries following. The Spanish Riding School is a part of the complex so after we went to the morning exercises, we went right across the way to the Sisi Museum and the imperial apartments in the palace. We did the audio tour, which was really interesting, we learned all about Empress Elisabeth, aka Sisi, who the museum focused on. She was the wife of Franz Joseph, the emperor of Austria who ruled from 1848-1916. The tour took us through exhibits about Sisi’s life and the way she and her family lived.

The next one was the Schonbronn Palace, which is the palace you have to see if you’re only going to visit one! It was once the summer residence of the Habsburgs, located further outside of the city center. Wanting to get ahead of the crowds we planned to get there right when it opened, and we headed right inside to start the audio tour (we liked the audio guide at the Hofburg so decided to do another one!).

The tour took us through the royal residences and described all the different generations of Habsburgs who lived there. It focused a lot on Maria Theresa, the empress during the 1700s who influenced a lot of the interior of the palace, as well as Franz Joseph, the longest ruling emperor of Austria (who Sisi was married to). It was fascinating to learn about the family and see where they lived! In hindsight, I wish I had learned more about the family tree before visiting because there were a lot of names to try to keep straight!

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After the tour of the interior, we walked through the gardens in the back of the Schonbronn and saw the huge Neptune Fountain.

Vienna is full of history and with only two days in the city, visiting these two palaces was a great way to learn about the Habsburgs and how important they were to the city and the country of Austria!

Visiting Vienna, Austria: A City of Music

The second leg of our Eurotrip took us to Vienna, Austria and if you spend any time in the city, you’ll quickly realize (if you didn’t already know) that it is a city of music! We only spent two full days in Vienna, but managed to fit in a few musical must-sees…

The first musical must-see that we did was take a tour of the Vienna State Opera. The opera house is in the center of the city along the Ring Road. Though it was built in the 1860s, a lot of the building was destroyed in World War II and then rebuilt in the 1950s so the interior was an interesting mix of rooms from the original design and ones with 1950s décor. According to our tour guide, they put on about 70 different shows and it changes each night – we even saw them switching out the set from the night before for that night’s performance!

Music can be found throughout the city, including during the morning exercises at the Spanish Riding School. Every morning at 10am, you can watch the Lipizzaner stallions (the famous “dancing horses”) train with their riders to classical Viennese music. It was really neat to see their practice, definitely something unique to Vienna!

While we were exploring the city center, we made sure to find Mozart’s apartment! It was in a building tucked on a side street that now been turned into a museum. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go inside.

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The last and probably the highlight of our musical must-do activities was to attend a concert. On the train from Zagreb, we met a woman from Vienna who told us that we should buy our tickets from one of the many men dressed up in old-fashioned costumes in any of the touristy spots in the city center. Sure enough, as soon as we walked out of the U station into the square of St. Stephen’s Cathedral on our first night in the city, there were at least a dozen of them. Worried it might be a scam, we asked at the Vienna tourist center and heard the same recommendation as the woman on the train. So we went back to St. Stephens and bought tickets for a show two nights later. We were unsure of what to expect but turns out the tickets were legit and we ended up really enjoying the show! It was in a concert hall in the Vienna Kursalon, right next to the city park (where we also saw the Johann Strauss monument), and featured an orchestra playing music by Strauss and Mozart, as well as opera singers and ballet dancers.

Music is hugely important to the city, but there’s obviously a lot more to do and see! Coming up next is a post about the palaces in Vienna!

Sneak Peek of Kim’s Eurotrip: Croatia & Vienna

I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my two weeks in Europe! We’ve already finished our time in Croatia and Vienna and are on our way to Budapest! I’ve been posting to our Instagram (@schmahlworld) and I’ll be sharing more details in future blog posts when I get home but thought I’d share some sneak peek pictures on the blog:

First, Croatia!

St. Marc’s Church in the old town in Zagreb, Croatia
Statue in Jelacic Square in the city center of Zagreb
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Wandering around the charming island of Trogir, Croatia
Morning view from the rooftop of our hotel in Trogir, Croatia
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View from the bell tower in Split, Croatia
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Hiking at Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park, Croatia

And then on to Vienna!

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
Woman feeding the pigeons outside of the Vienna State Opera
Tour of the Vienna State Opera
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Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

And that’s it for now, more to come on our time in Croatia and Vienna, but for now, I’m on to the next legs of my trip!

 

Kim’s Upcoming Adventure: Croatia, Budapest, Vienna & Venice

I am just about a week away from leaving for my next travel adventure and I could not be more excited! I will be traveling in Europe for two weeks with 3 of my best friends/roommates from college (at Ohio State – go bucks!). All 4 of us have traveled in Europe before so planning an itinerary of places that none of us have already been to was a fun challenge! Here’s what we have planned:

  • We’ll begin our trip with 3 days in Croatia – splitting our time between the capital city of Zagreb and Split, a coastal city (we are actually staying in Trogir, just outside of Split)
  • Next we’ll head to in Vienna, Austria for 3 days
  • Then we’ll spend 3 days in Budapest, Hungary
  • And finally we’ll spend our last 3 days in Venice, Italy before heading home

We’ve spent the last few months planning (via Skype since we’re living in different cities!) and have nailed down the logistics of the trip like lodging, transportation, etc. So now we are just down to the fun part – what we are going to see and do in each place!

That’s where you come in – like I said, none of us have traveled to these cities so we’d love any recommendations! Have you been to any of these places before? What are the must-sees and must-dos? Knowing that we only have a few days in each city, what are the things that we absolutely  should not miss? Is there anything that you wouldn’t recommend, anything that didn’t live up to its hype? We would love to hear any and all advice!