Traveling soothes the soul, the mind, the body. It refreshes the way we see the world; it broadens our horizons and it surely helps us relax. Even if we travel for one day or a weekend, the stimulation we gain from experiencing a new environment is enough to fill our days with beautiful memories.
I had the pleasure to discover one of Europe’s prettiest and most praised cities: Vienna. Last week I was pleased to see that it was ranked the city with the highest quality of life! And I can tell you that they have earned it. During four days (three and a half to be precise), I had the opportunity to explore this unique city. Vienna has so much to offer that it is very hard to choose where to go. However, with good planning and precious advice (uhhm mine of course) a short trip can be very fulfilling.
[This post reflects my experience in Vienna and intends to inform and help prospective travelers.]
First of all, Vienna has a lot to offer in terms of Art. There is art everywhere! All the old palaces are now galleries you can visit, with exhibitions that change throughout the year. Some of them are permanent all year long. I decided to start with art, because it was also one of our main goals of our visit there. Later I will focus on food (yeeees) and where to go for drinks. Some extra handy details will also be included.
A nice way to discover the Viennese atmosphere is to start by visiting its palaces. Since they are quite a lot, you better choose beforehand what looks more interesting to you. Also, don’t forget that all the palaces have entrance fees, so a careful budget will save you from unexpected costs. Nowadays, many of those palaces function as museums (Albertina, Belvedere), others are used by the government (Hofburg), while many share multiple functions. The famous Schönbrunn palace, for example, that used to be the summer imperial residence, now attracts millions of tourists for its architecture, interior design, gardens, but also its classical concerts. We visited the famous Albertina and the Belvedere palaces.
Albertina was built in 1744 for Count Emanuel Teles Silva-Tarouca and since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt throughout the years. It underwent a complete renovation in 2000 that lasted for three years. The famous Habsburg Staterooms were restored, while four new art exhibition rooms were created. We enormously enjoyed the permanent Impressionist and early 20th-century art. Monet and Picasso are the main figures of this exhibition, while we saw French Baroque and Rococo drawings from Poussin, Fragonard, Lorrain and David. The contemporary art section was super fun to see, such as the tribute exhibition of Austrian Markus Prachensky with his dynamic red compositions. The last room includes works from Andy Warhol to Anselm Kiefer and many other contemporary artists. My favorite part of this palace was undoubtedly the ground floor collection, the Film Stills! It contained unpublished film stills from iconic films of the 20th century: Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, Persona, The Great Dictator, Kino-Eye, Breathless, 8 ½, and many more (check the gallery below)! Unfortunately, this exhibition was temporary, but Albertina always includes new ones devoted to photography or film! Check the current exhibitions here.
Belvedere is a much smaller and compact museum, but with an extraordinary view. Before we arrived, it had heavily snowed, so you could see from its windows the misty white atmosphere covering the city. The part we focused on was the Upper Belvedere houses, where they have a massive collection of Austrian art, dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. This museum’s main focus is the permenet Gustav Klimt’s exhibition, but also Tina Blau’s. Its temporary exhibitions vary throughout the year. You can check what is coming here. Thankfully, we visited the museums on separate days, otherwise the art overdose could prove fatal!
I am not an art historian and my general art knowledge for the ones who know me is quite limited. Nevertheless, I enjoy art enormously, as much as I enjoy watching art films. When you look at beyond the obvious, the stated, the ordinary, it can transform your whole experience. Having said that, it is time to move on to my favorite place: The Art History Museum. It is big, diverse and perfect for beginners.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is located just behind the Natural History Museum (Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010) and it is probably the greatest art history museum ever (yes too excited). It contains an immense amount of art on its two floors, that covers the course of more than 2000 years of human history. The ground floor starts with Ancient Egypt, followed by ancient Greek/Roman statues and objects. The care with which all the antiquities are exhibited is evident from beginning to end. As a Greek, it was heartwarming to see how beautifully they have put everything together. The first floor consists of Flemish, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish paintings, from Breugel to Dürer and from Velázquez to Titian, all European masterpieces of the 16th and 17th century.
(for more information click the links on every museum/palace)
Vienna is worldwide famous for its coffee houses (Wiener Kaffeehaus). They are a vital part of the Viennese culture and attract thousands of tourists. Many of those coffee houses are constantly full and they offer a high quality of service and of course coffee! The famous Café Central was unfortunately closed during our visit, but we did enjoy a luxurious lunch and coffee at the Landtmann (Freud’s favorite). Its location is ideal since it is close to most of the famous museums (Universitätsring 4). We also visited Café Diglas and Stadtcafe, both located at the center of the city (check the photo gallery below). Some of the famous coffee houses can be a bit expensive, but they offer great quality service and superb food. Their coffee though is of a reasonable price and it is always accompanied with a glass of water. Waiters are constantly at your service; the way they dress and behave makes you feel like you are one of the many 19th century intellectuals visiting their coffee house! The atmosphere and vibe of those coffee houses are unique.
Now we need to seriously talk about food. A fantastic place we visited was the Vollpension lunch café, extremely popular for its granny dishes – literally they have old ladies cooking for you – and its vintage atmosphere. It can be very very busy so you better reserve, as it is not as spacious as the typical Viennese coffee house! For the price of 8, 90 we had the breakfast that offered bread with homemade spreads, two types of cheese, fruit and vegetables accompanied by a boiled egg. It was delicious! Don’t forget to try their cakes, you won’t regret it.
What you need to try, at least once, is the famous Viennese schnitzel! Lugeck is one of those restaurants that combine classical culinary traditions in a new and modern way. They offer the best schnitzel in town, served with cranberry sauce and potato salad. The Cuvee wine they had was superb! You will immediately feel the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant with its minimalistic environment. If you are looking for something more international, you should try the Medusa restaurant. They offer amazing dishes of the Italian cuisine. I had the pleasure to enjoy tagliatelle with salmon and extra parmesan! (pictures that will make you drool follow). And again, the wine I tried was magnificent – a local one whose name I forgot! If you feel like enjoying more drinks, a walk to the 25hours rooftop bar in the MuseumQuartier is ideal. You can meet people from around the world here (it is part of a hotel), while enjoying the breathtaking view with your favorite drink at hand.
One of the greatest experiences in Vienna was certainly going to the Opera. I have never visited an opera before, so the whole evening was quite special. The Vienna State Opera House is a majestic building that hosts every week different opera plays. We had the pleasure to watch Puccini’s “Tosca”, a story set in Rome at the time of Napoleon’s advance on the city. It was a moving and extraordinary experience. It lasted approximately 3 hours with two breaks in between. During the breaks, you can buy drinks or enjoy the small appetizers they offer. What made an impression on me was that the wine was the same price as the water, so better carry a water bottle, since paying more than 3 euros for water is quite extreme. I highly recommend for you to visit the opera, even if you don’t consider yourself a fan! You will be surprised by how intense it could be. The ticket prices vary: the higher you are, the cheaper it is.
The weather in Vienna was surprisingly ok. It had snowed just before we arrived and the snow started melting away through the weekend. It was quite rainy during our last day, so having an umbrella with you is advisable. From now on the weather will only get better, so dressing up in layers is wise. If you arrive by airplane, there is a bus service going every 30 minutes from the airport to central points, including the train station. It costs 8 euros and is extremely useful. The ride lasts approximately 40 minutes (from the airport to Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz for example, close to the center). It is recommended to stay close to the center, since it is a very large city. We stayed at CH wellness apartments, which we booked online. You can find any type of hotel or apartment in the city on varying prices.
Beauty combined with culture, great food and amazing sightseeing is what Vienna means for me. Hopefully this article has been informative enough for any prospective traveler! Because traveling is what makes the world go around.
Let me know at the comments below about your experience and if you still have questions about traveling to Vienna, don’t hesitate to contact me!
Click on the links to check the places online.
This post is not a promotion for any of the businesses mentioned above.
(Photos: Canon EOS 1000D, edited via Lightroom with VscoCam & Samsung A5 2016.)