OK, I’ll be honest about my thoughts on Vienna! When I think of Vienna, I think of an old fashioned, classic, a bit boring city. I have a vision of Vienna being the perfect city trip destination for old(er) people. So, when I get the chance to go on a promotional trip to visit Vienna, I accept. And I am so glad I accepted this opportunity, because Vienna is anything but an old fashioned, boring city!
Day 1: From Amsterdam to Vienna
The invitation for this trip came from Sunair (city trip specialist in the Netherlands) and Austrian Airlines, with whom we fly from Schiphol/Amsterdam to Vienna. It is November and me and the rest of the group of travel agents is warmly dressed. The temperature on board however is quite high, so we take of our coats and sweaters. The flight is on time, flight time is less than 2 hours, we get a lovely snack on board and are excited and looking forward to our stay in Vienna. Once we arrive at Vienna International Airport, we quickly collect our luggage and head to our transfer bus. Since we are on a promo trip, we have our own bus, but from the airport you can easily take the train to the centre of Vienna. The trains depart frequently and the ride is short, something I love when going on a city trip. And of course, you can also take a taxi! On our way to the hotel we already get to see a bit of this beautiful city and slowly it is getting ready for Christmas.
We arrive at Hotel Regina, where we will be staying the next 2 nights. The hotel is owned by the Kremslehner family (who also own Hotel Royal and Hotel Graben). It is a beautiful 4-star hotel, centrally located next to Votivpark with its Votivkirche at the Ringstraße and Vienna University. The hotel has Viennese art nouveau hotel rooms, which are lovely (you feel right at home) and there is a restaurant with Viennese and Austria cuisine. What a great place to stay and the staff is friendly. At the hotel the temperature is nice and warm (just like on board of the airplane; I guess the Austrians do not want to feel cold).
We have lunch at the hotel and we receive a Vienna Card; the perfect gift for this city trip. The card will help us save money while we discover Vienna. With this card we do not only get discount on tickets for museums, etc, but you can travel for free for 72 hours on all forms of public transport in city. Of course, in city centre you will end up walking, since it is the best way to explore, but if you want to do and see a lot in a short period of time, the card for sure is useful.https://www.wien.info/en/travel-info/vienna-city-card
After lunch, guide Gabriela awaits us in the hotel lobby for a first introduction to Vienna on foot. Our first stop is the Christmas market on the Rathausplatz. Vienna looks amazing during Christmas time, everything is beautifully decorated, you can hear music everywhere and you cannot help but getting in the Christmas atmosphere. At the market there are lots of stalls with gifts, food and drinks. And a stop at a Christmas market is not complete without drinking a glass of glühwein (mulled wine). So, we have to have one 🙂
We continue our walk and pass by all kinds of beautiful buildings. Gabriela tells us what the buildings are, explains a bit about Viennese history and yes… the city looks classical, baroque… but not old fashioned, just beautiful really. We pass by Michaelerplatz, Hofburg, the Imperial Treasury, palaces and churches before we stop at the Albertina Museum. We visit the Picasso Exposition and have to get inspired by his paintings, for next on the program is a painting workshop in the museum. We get drawing paper and make sketches before we go downstairs to a “class room” where we start to paint. How cool and how much fun is that?! We paint our own Picasso and once it is dried, we get to take it home with us. Now we were inspired by Picasso, for sure mine did not turn into a Picasso, so I will just give it a spot a home. A beautiful reminder of this museum visit and of the Vienna trip.
In the evening we go to Restaurant Mayer am Pfarrplatz for dinner. By the way: in 1817, Ludwig van Beethoven lived in the romantic listed suburban home on Pfarrplatz. During his time in Heiligenstadt he worked on his greatest creation: Symphony No. 9. The restaurant is a typical and extremely cozy Viennese restaurant where we listen to Austrian folk music and eat typical appetizers such as black pudding and lard. But there are plenty of other tasty dishes and I enjoy my dinner very much as well as the wine! The first day has come to an end and content we go back to hotel Regina where we enjoy a good night sleep in comfortable hotel.
Day 2: Schönbrunn
The next morning, we have a tasty breakfast; lots of various food to choose from. We leave hotel Regina to visit hotels Royal and Graben. The entire group of travel agents, including myself, book these hotels quite often for our clients and it is always good to see the hotels and the rooms for ourselves. The Kremslehner family is doing a great job, in all their hotels and restaurants. At the Graben we visit the roof top and we have a wonderful view over the city. After work is done, we get offered a cup of tea or coffee, before we take a short walk through city center. We pass by the Stephansdom and walk over Graben and Goldschmiedgasse. In Vienna you can shop till you drop for sure!
We take the underground to Schloss Schönbrunn. You cannot go to Vienna without visiting Schönbrunn and of course you have seen all the Sissi movies (whether you wanted or not), so… Schönbrunn is a must see! Schönbrunn Palace is one of Austria’s most important cultural assets, and since the 1960s it has been one of Vienna’s major tourist attractions, having millions of visitors each year. In 1996 Schönbrunn Palace was put on the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites, and it deserves to be on this list! The palace and its gardens, a unique Baroque ensemble, are of great importance. From the palace I can see the beautiful gardens, but it is winter and I hardly see people outside. We do not have time to visit the gardens, but I hope to come someday during spring!
We walk through the palace where Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Sissi lived. Gabriela takes us on a tour and tells us beautiful and amazing stories. But even without a guide it appeals to the imagination and if you want to you can have an audio guide in your choice of language (about 12 to choose from). But I love to have a real guide when visiting places likes this. They just know a lot and tell with passion and you can ask them questions. An audio guide does not answer! Apart from visiting the palace and the gardens you can book tickets for different kind of performances held at the palace. Be on time is my advice. By the way… (here comes a spoiler, skip reading a few lines in case you want to keep on believing in the beautiful Sissy fairytale)… The story of Sissy and her husband is not as romantic as shown in the famous movies. They were not so happy and naughty Franz Joseph had quite a few mistresses. Many groups visit the hotel in the morning, but in the afternoon, it is quieter. Make sure you have a few hours, as there is a lot to see.https://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/
We leave the palace and take the underground back to city centre to have lunch in trendy café-restaurant Halle. Now this is what I meant when I said I was so wrong thinking Vienna is not hip and trendy, because it really is and it has lots of amazing places to prove it! The food is really delicious, I eat trout with walnuts and have tiramisu as dessert. Halle is located on Museumsplatz 1 and is a real hot spot.
The rest of the afternoon we have nothing on the program. We do however get a list of hotels we should visit in small groups, but the visit does not take too much time since we use our Vienna Card to quickly get from one place to another. We visit hotel Das Triest, a modern and trendy 5-star design hotel. We also visit 3-star Carlton Opera and 3-star hotel Admiral, both in city centre. We walk around the city for a while, admiring the beautiful building before walking towards Marie-Theresian-Platz where we meet the rest of the group in in front of the Museum of Natural History. At the square there is another Christmas Market creating a wonderful atmosphere.
We go into the Kunsthistorisches Museum / Art History Museum, which lies opposite of the Naturhistorisches Museum / Museum of National History. The interior is absolute stunning, very richly decorated, overwhelming maybe… I am not sure if it is my kind of place, but I am happy to have been inside. We go to the roof terrace which offers a truly spectacular view of the city. We get to enjoy a hot drink and are grateful since it is cold out here. A visit to the roof terrace can only be booked through the museum; it is normally not accessible.
We go for dinner in restaurant Palmenhaus (behind the Albertina Museum), which is less than a 5-minute walk from the museum. Again, I am surprised and so is the rest of the group. Here is a bit more history: in 1822 a 128-meter-long greenhouse was erected, in the Hofburg palace gardens, incorporating part of the old city wall. And in 1901 the architect Friedrich Ohman was commissioned to build this splendid Jugendstil palm house which stands on the site today and replaced the original structure. It took quite a few years (5 actually) to build the Palmenhaus and it is now a major tourist attraction. People say it is probably the most beautiful Jugendstil greenhouse ever built. The building houses plants and to have dinner here in this beautiful setting is just amazing. The food is delicious. I have a sauerkraut soup, fillet mignon and Choco Mousse as dessert. Yum, yum and yum! We are not in a rush to leave this place. At some point we have though and we are content, a bit tired, it is cold outside and we take the underground back to Hotel Regina.
Day 3: Hundertwasser House, Spanish Riding School and a lesson in how to make apfelstrudel!
After breakfast we check out of our rooms and place our luggage in the luggage room. We have free time and team up in little groups to do some sight-seeing. Some go shopping, some just want to relax and go for a coffee. I team up with a group that wants to go to the Hundertwasser House. The Hundertwasser Haus is an apartment building, built after the idea and concept of controversial Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser together with architect Joseph Krawina as a co-creator. Opposite lies the Museum Hundertwasser in Kunst Haus Wien. This unique museum upholds the philosophical and creative principles this famous and exceptional artist. I love the exterior of the Hundertwasser Haus, so colourful and playful. A lot of cities are filled with grey and need more colour! We visit the Hundertwasser village as well, I buy myself a poster at the museum and then we move on to the next stop.
We go back to the centre of the city to visit the Spanische Reitschule / Spanish Riding School. I have always loved horses and horse-riding. As a young girl I spent all my free time at the local horse-riding school and was in awe whenever I saw something on tv about the Spanish Riding School. We cannot attend a show today, but on certain days and times there is the possibility to visit the training (which is almost every morning). The building that houses the riding Spanish Riding School is beautiful; the Lipizzaner horses and their riders however are magical. I have been to one of their shows while they were on tour through Europe, so I have seen what the horses and their riders can do. Today we see young studs who are grey and still have to get their white colour and are at the beginning of their training. I sit down for a while, but could easily spend a few hours watching. We are not allowed to take photographs (understandable), If you want to book for a show, you need to book ahead in time (not days in advance, but weeks or even months)!
The rest of my group has to come and get me; I do not want to leave the riding school. But we do not have a lot of free time left. We sit down at the Spanish Riding School café for a warm drink and a piece of Sachertorte. Seriously, you cannot go to Vienna without having a piece of this famous cake and actually we should go to Hotel Sacher for this! But there is no time. Around lunchtime the entire group meets at Café Schottenring for lunch (OMG, we just had a piece of Sachertorte). Lunch is delicious and I am full. But I need to find more room in my tummy because we get a demonstration on how to make apfelstrudel / Apple Strudel. It is a lot of fun to see and do and you have to eat your own product. Thankfully I do not have to eat the whole thing and just have a taste, but it does taste pretty good!
Around 4pm we walk back to hotel Regina where we sit down and chat about Vienna, the hotels and the amazing places we have seen and things we have done. It is always good to exchange experiences, especially since today little groups went different directions. By the end of the afternoon we go back to the airport; this 3 days Vienna trip has come to an end. Our flight back to Amsterdam is just as comfortable (and warm) as the outward journey and before I know we are back at Schiphol!
I will definitely go back to Vienna someday. I have to see a show at the Spanish Riding School once, I have to visit the Sissi Museum and the famous wine village Grinzing. I want to go to the Prater and see an opera! Vienna is a very impressive baroque city with a high K&K (Königlich und Kaiserlich / royal) content. The city is one large imperial monument. Vienna is also the city of (classical) music; who has not seen a New Year’s concert from the Musikverein on television?! But Vienna has so much more to offer, it is a comfortable and friendly city, for young and old, families, singles, romantic couples, but also for a group of friends who want to take a break.
Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller
November 25, 2010