Vienna is an overwhelmingly beautiful and grandiose city; a feast for the eyes, ears, and soul. Known as the City of Music, it was home to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Shubert from 1750 – 1825, four of the most famous classical composers of all time. This already gives you a hint that the city miiiiiggggghhht consider itself something of a status symbol. Vienna feels formal – and how can it not, overrun with grand castles, monuments, churches, the Spanish riding school, Gustav Klimt’s most famous work “The Kiss”, many many museums, the famous Vienna Opera House. . . just to name a few. A simple walk around the city treats you to beautiful architectural contrasts – Baroque, Romanesque, Art Nouveau, and modern. So dive in and be prepared to get classy.
Hotel: Austria Trend Hotel Messe Wien. Although it`s not directly in the city center there is easy subway access. The hotel sits beside a lovely green space, rooms are immaculate, and the breakfast buffet is extensive and super fresh.
How to not look like a tourist:Ditch the running shoes and stretchy pants. People would gasp at you. Here comfort has a different meaning – a nice wool coat, non-ripped jeans, some flat boots.
Customs to abide by:Like the Germans, Austrians are a tad stoic. And a little structured. No friendly banter or smiling at random strangers. Keep your eyes to yourself, know your order when the waiter comes, and be on time for EVERYTHING.
A little walking tour: Start off wandering the streets in the city center just to enjoy the architecture. Stroll to the Nachsmarkt, an outdoor food market with purveyors selling everything under the sun, including lovely local honeys, jams, cheese, charcuterie, fruit. . . you name it.
Head over to the Belveder park where the Belvedere museum and Kilmt´s “The Kiss” waits for you. The Belvedere is a former castle built under Prince Eugen, a sight to behold indeed. It houses a huge collection of works by Gustav Klimt, one of my favorite artists, along with many other masterpieces.
Continue towards the Vienna Operahouse, and if you can handle another museum, the Albertina next door is wonderful.
Tickets to buy in advance: The Opera House and the Spanish Riding school. To see a performance at the Opera House is a once-in-a-lifetime sorta thing. I watched a performance of the ballet Anna Karenina and wouldn`t trade a single moment. Watch out for the seating charts online though – the levels are extremely steep and angled, leaving some seats completely blocked from the stage. A handy little icon on the website shows you which ones.
For the Spanish riding school, there are two options. Visit during morning rehearsals and training, where for a fraction of the cost of the evening show, you can see the behind-the-scenes hiccups and obstacles the riders and animals disguise during the show. However, if you want the flashy lights and polished performance at night, fork out some more dough and you will not be disappointed.
Beer or Wine: Beer. My preference is a dark hefeweizen.
The Local Cuisine: There is OODLES of good food in Austria. Known for hearty cuisine, a lot of traditional dishes are meat and starch based. You cannot leave without trying the famous schnitzel – pork or veal pounded until thin, breaded, and fried until crispy. For those with a sweet tooth the apple strudels are not to be missed.
If you´re lucky enough to visit during the Christmas markets, warm up with a steaming bowl of goulash soup or fried potato pancakes served with applesauce, very similar options to what you will find at German Christmas markets (posts here and here).
Recommended Restaurant: Though it`s very touristy, a Vienna trip is not complete without trying the famous Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher. The hotel is as luxurious and beautiful as you would expect. If you can get a seat on the patio, head out into the (hopeful) sunshine for a strong cappuccino and “most famous cake in the world since 1832”. Sacher torte is a heavy chocolate cake, spread with a layer of apricot jam in the middle, covered in chocolate icing, and served with whipped cream. I bet now you are wishing you could wear your stretchy pants without judgement 🙂
If you want to top off your trip in a truly gourmet way, head to Steirereck, rated the 9th best restaurant in the world in 2016. Chef Heinz Reitbauer reinvents classic Austrian dishes, incorporating produce from his own farm and the utmost attention to ingredient quality.
Vienna makes for a great long weekend trip, and is perfect for those with a thirst for art, architecture, music, history, and sweets.