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To the casual observer, Vienna is a city abundant with beauty, elegance and culture. Typical of its collective humour - known as "Schmaeh" - the Viennese smirks mischievously with a twinkle in his eye as he indulges in the sensual pleasures of food, music and flirtation, conscious of the kitsch but indulgent in it for the sake of theatre. The summers are mellow and languorous; afternoons sodden with local white wine, and a tendency for people to sink comfortably into the moment, reflecting passively on the past and thinking not of the future and its associated uncertainties. The winters are cosy and homely despite the wind that blows in off the Hungarian plains, glancing off the hills to the west and wrapping itself around the city, beer, hearty food and good company acting as a blanket against the cold.
But beneath the joie-de-vivre and the tongue-in-cheek humour is a city that is silently schizophrenic. A deep set melancholy lurks beneath the Jugendstil buildings and the lush municipal parks. Elsewhere, Vienna has been described as spectre wearing a beautiful mask over a decaying skull. For this is a janusian city of simultaneous opposites: liberal yet conservative; vibrant yet deathly; laughing whilst crying - and its history is at once tragic and inspiring to this extent.
Founded as Vindabona by the Romans - a legacy which can be felt from viewpoints in the hills and in the echoes of subterranean ruins - Vienna has always straddled the divide between west and east. Despite the joke that "the Austrians are Swiss who wandered too far east", Vienna itself was shaped by the cross-border influences that passed through it from when it was a provincial outpost to when it was the capital of an empire spanning from the Gulf of Trieste to the furthest reaches of Galicia. And although the Viennese have vacillated historically over whether they are in fact German, the character of the city is fundamentally cosmopolitan. Prior to 1938 - the year in which they made a fatal decision regarding their identity - the plethora of talent that had been attracted to the city since 1848 pioneered radical new boundaries in art, music, philosophy, law, physics, sociology, economics, architecture, cinema, psychology and language. With the exception of psychoanalysis and music, the contemporary influence of Viennese thinkers may not be immediately obvious; but it is because these ideas have become so engrained in western thought, especially in America, that we forget their origins.
All of this was due to the cultural liberalism of the Habsburg (later the Austro-Hungarian) Empire. Having emerged from the evolving character of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg realm was an autocracy. Democracy did not exist in any meaningful way. The monarchy and imperial bureaucracy (the character of which is evoked in the angst-ridden atmosphere of Franz Kafka's writings) pursued expansionist policies of subsuming new territories into the empire's quasi-federal structure through political settlements and royal marriages. Procedure, inefficiency and corruption - "Schlamperei" - reigned, with its centre in the administrative buildings of Vienna. But for all of its disadvantages, the empire was culturally enlightened. Although German was the language of government, cultural, linguistic and religious freedoms were permitted. The ruling classes and, in Vienna, the indigenous Catholic population may have been conservative, but the monarchy acknowledged the high-risk advantages in allowing the pursuit of liberal intellectualism with minimal censorship.
This benevolent authoritarianism, combined with the indulgent lifestyle enjoyed by the bourgeoisie in the coffeehouses and taverns, ensured that the maxim coined by Karl Marx - that philosophers have sought to interpret the world when the point is to change it - bypassed the Viennese, whose revolutionary culture was resolutely centred on progressive ideas. In 1919, as the European empires collapsed and communist revolutions swept large parts of the continent, the Viennese effort flashed and died. Action was not part of their cultural vocabulary. The security that the empire consistently offered for a century made them comfortable and suspicious of change. That systemic complacency frustrated nearly every great thinker who lived in the city. Similarly, the conservative culture that begrudgingly tolerated the avant-garde dismissed and disdained every new breakthrough as indulgent trash. Indeed, the post-war playwright, Thomas Bernhard, wrote that Vienna was "the largest cemetery of fantasies and ideas" where "a thousand times more geniuses decayed, shrivelled up and were annihilated than ever emerged" - yet the Freuds, Wittgensteins and Klimts could never bring themselves to leave voluntarily.
Today, Vienna retains much of its superficial charm. But the sadness remains, albeit in a different way overall to how the great minds of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries experienced it. When the political and economic pressures of the interwar years culminated in the "rump state" of Austria semi-voluntarily submitting to union with the Third Reich in 1938, Vienna was sterilised culturally, giving the conservative establishment got what it always wanted. Principle and identity were, perhaps understandably in certain respects, traded for economic gain. Besides, the Austrians concluded, they were German really - and even though the Nazis were 'Piefke' (Prussian), it was easy for the party to reach out across the political spectrum and offer consolatory trinkets to socialists, conservatives and nationalists alike.
Many Viennese writers - especially exiled Jews - have written nostalgically of the city that was lost. When the Nazis annexed Austria, within months Vienna lost ten percent of its population, as Jews fled the country or embarked on a nightmare that led from the brutal pogroms that accompanied the annexation to the industrialised slaughter that found its apotheosis the gas chambers. Political dissidents and undesirables suffered the same fate. The forces that had shaped the Viennese identity over the century were eradicated. Ever since then, the journalist Thomas Weyr wrote, Vienna has been a setting pearl. In emerging from the war and grasping the scale of its destruction, the Viennese have reified the culture that themselves were complicit in the annihilation of. Although Nazism never sat comfortably with the Viennese after the initial giddiness that saw over 99% of the population vote "ja!" to annexation, they have never fully come to terms with their role in the holocaust that changed their city forever. It is a subject that, due to a combination of guilt and indignance, many still dare not broach. They are a product of "Waldheim's Vienna", the Vienna that snapped angrily over accusations in 1986 that its president, Kurt Waldheim, had known of mass killings whilst serving in Yugoslavia during the war; the Vienna that sweeps the unsavoury side of its past under the carpet, into its collective subconscious.
Following the war, the worry was that Vienna was becoming a provincial capital. The reification of the past, and the tourism that accompanies it, has seen Vienna become a city looking longingly backward rather than fearfully forwards. The first district, in particular, is a museum housing many museums. The restoration of the culture is warm and loving. Few cities surpass Vienna in terms of the sheer eclecticism of the culture available. But as the past is obsessively rendered, and Europe evolves, that underlying sense of decay is omnipresent. In 'The World According to Garp', John Irving - who lived in Vienna - explains through the medium of his alter-ego Garp, "A more real city might not have suited me so well. But Vienna was in its death phase; it lay still and let me look at it, and think about it, and look again. In a living city, I could never have noticed so much. Living cities don't hold still".
This is the tragic magic of Vienna, and what makes it such a compelling place to visit. To some extent, the pace of its decay has been mitigated by the disintegration of the USSR, and Austria's entry into the European Union, the structure of which retains an unmistakable continuity with the old empire. The opening up of the country's borders, and the dominance of its banking sector in the eastern bloc, has re-established Vienna as a gateway city, even if its political importance remains diminished. The inflow of immigrants from the old empire and beyond has proven controversial, and bred right-wing populism before it emerged in coherent forms elsewhere in Europe. Turkey remains a spectre which summons Ottoman demons from the deepest reaches of the Viennese psyche: "There have been two Turkish floods," a local told me, referring to the Ottoman sieges in 1529 and 1683; "Now we have the third flood," he muttered.
Perhaps an underlying conservatism is the inevitable result of being a city situated at a crossing point. Vienna has not changed in this sense. And the culture that one experiences on visiting is an idealised (and often commoditised) picture of the world that the Viennese are frightened of losing. It's undeniably seductive, and it's impossible not to miss it when away. Few things beat sitting in a coffeehouse with a newspaper whilst absorbing the surrounding buzz and exchanging barbs with the waiters in the local dialect. Gloomy jazz clubs evoke their own ethereal, fin-de-siecle atmosphere. Elsewhere, the taverns - 'Heurigen' - are the final destination (and ultimate incentive) of a lazy Sunday afternoon summer sojourn into the outer reaches of the city. The Saturday flea market - full of eccentrics - where rifling through vintage trinkets (likely belonging to the dead, knowing Vienna) with a mouth full of kebab is a staple guilty pleasure. Ambles through the innumerable variety of municipal parks; the imperial buildings converted into galleries; the unique socialist apartment complexes - it's a place where chewing the fat is a local pastime.
Despite its tangle of complexities, the city also has an undeniable purity and this consists in its immediate proximity to nature. Although it is a metropolis, one can stand in one of the industrial districts and glance the northern backdrop of the hills. The Danube, though hardly blue, is never far away, the old segment in particular now an oxbow lake in which one can take a dip in the summer. In his 1941 memoir 'The World of Yesterday', Stefan Zweig encapsulates the dynamic between nature and civilisation perfectly: "One hardly sensed where nature began and where the city: one melted into the other without opposition, without contradiction. Within, however, one felt that the city had grown like a tree that adds ring upon ring, and instead of the old fortification walls the Ringstrasse encircled the treasured core with its splendid houses". My cousin, remembering the seasonal floods which came within a few hundred yards of her childhood apartment, said that she dreamed that the river would consume the whole district, and it would be like living in (an industrial) Venice.
Perhaps it is the nostalgia that saturates Vienna which makes it a place of introspection more than anything else. This is partly because it's easy to feel like an outsider. Whether or not one is a native, there's a sense of friendly alienation. Although one enjoys Viennese comforts and ideas, there's an awareness of not quite belonging. The melancholy and "therapeutic nihilism" invoked are in themselves guilty pleasures; at once unpleasant and somehow gratifying. It's easy, whether with people or without, to drift into a reverie, reminiscing on the past and analysing it silently.
But for all of its contradictions and idiosyncrasies, and the undying interplay between illusion and reality, the fact is that Vienna is a very easy place to live. It may have taken its obsession with the past to fetishised levels, allowing cities such as Berlin to overtake it in terms of 'cutting edge' potential, but this is a city which allows one to relish its small luxuries at the same time as being completely aware of its failings. Loath as I am to finish on a personal note, Vienna is a place with which I have a complicated relationship. But it's the relationship one has with a place that really defines it on a personal level. As a tourist destination, Vienna is uniformly described as beautiful, elegant and laid back despite an aura of order. But the sheer depth of its character is taken for granted, even if the pearl has set and the former imperial capital's death knell has sounded for the umpteenth time.
Vienna, Austria and the Past -- recommended English-language reading (list by yours truly):
A Xenophobe's Guide to the Viennese: How to Masquerade (Badly) as a Native
- Disdain the provincialism of the rest of the country - but go there on holiday.
- Maintain that you speak High German: "i' spreccch a' Hoch Daaatsch!"
- Maintain a healthy scepticism of anything new or popular.
- Laugh with one eye; cry with the other.
- Give yourself a title and address everyone else by theirs, e.g. "Herr Doktor", "Herr Professor", "Herr Kellner".
- Put a negative (i.e. realistic) spin on everything: e.g. if someone comments on the wind that has cleared the humid summer air, point out that it's knocked the heads off the roses.
- Get a dog and let it crap liberally in public spaces - don't clean it up.
- Complain but take no action - you do it because it makes you feel better.
- Never venture east of the Danube - even though your ancestors were probably Czech.
- Don't praise anyone - unless they're dead.
- Erase any knowledge of 'The Sound of Music' - you don't know what it is but for some reason foreigners keep raising it.
- Learn to gossip.
- Never let your expectations get too high.
I really like Vienna, I lived there for 6 months whilst at university and I've been back since on a work trip and look forward to going there again in the future.
Vienna is about a 2 hour flight from London so perfect for a weekend break. It can be pretty hot in the summer and pretty cold in the winter so unless you don't mind this I'd recomment spring or autumn for a temperate visit.
Vienna is a beautiful city with lovely architecture, great cakes shops, and plenty of cultural sights to kep you interested such as museums and places of interest.
The places I would recomment to visit (in no particular order) are;
1. Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral)
Located in the main tourist/shopping district in Vienna this is a beautiful cathedral with stunning architecture. Even if you don't want to go up to the top (if you're scared of heights this might not be wise!) you can have a good look round the outside and this makes a great base to explore from
2. Hundertwasserhaus museum
This is a quirky, brightly coloured house/museum designed by the artist and architect Hundertwasser and is a cross between Dali and Gaudi. you want to go to the museum (not the houses) which is located near Schwedenplatz and combines paintings, designs, a gift shop and a nice little cafe. A slightly surreal but very interesting place to visit and sits well against the more refined setting of the old fashioned viennese building presenting a nice splash of colour if you're bored of the traditional
3. Gerstner (off Kaertner Strasse near the main Stephansplatz - platz means square)
Well this isn't a sight rather a cakes shop and although traditionally you'll be told to go to Demel or Hotel Sacher who both claim to have invented the famous Sachertorte (a rich chocolate cake with apricot glaze and chocolate icing) I like Gerstner. You can sit outside in the sun (hopefully) and watch the pace of life in Vienna and have a coffee and some cake. Coffee and cake is an institution in Vienna and with the variety on offer here, it would be rude not to. Try a slice of Dobostorte, a sponge and chocolate ganache cake with a crisp caramel topping with a Melange, a coffee and milk cappucino style drink
4. The Hofburg Palace
The former Imperial residence with parts dating back to the 13th century the Hofburg Palace is an impressive building with a lovely park perfect for sitting outside in the sun. Infamous as the place where Hitler gave a speech from the balcony it is a majestic presence in the impressive grounds. You can also visit the SilberKammer (silver collections) and Sisi museum and see how the real rich used to live. There's a vast collection of Silverware and you can see the Kaiser apartments in all their finery. a must if you like visiting stately homes and the like and imagining what it would have been like to live there for real.
There are numerous other things to do in Vienna, but these are my highlights. A note that the Fiakers (horse drawn carriages) are expensive so be warned unless you're feeling flush. Additionally the Sachertorte (chocolate cakes) sold in the sweet shops around the main sqare are of poor quality, dry, mass produced and best avoided unless intended as a present for someone you don't really like!
I visited Vienna in April 2009. I arrived in Vienna having flown into Bratislava (Slovakia) and taking the train between the two cities. I had spent three days in Bratislava before taking the train over to Vienna. No budget airlines currently fly to Vienna airport and there are few cheap options to fly directly into Vienna. Based on my experience, I would certainly recommend using Bratislava airport and perhaps spending a day in Bratislava before going through to Vienna.
Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capital cities in the world being only 70 kilometers apart and the train journey across is both rapid (60 minutes) and cheap (9 Euros). On flying into Bratislava there is a public bus service (the number 61) which drops you right at the main railway station and the trains go pretty much every 90 minutes between the cities.
So thats a cheap flying option for you. Luckily for me, my hotel was to be a freebie in Vienna. My wife was on a business trip and had a double room in her hotel so it was easy enough for me to stop there. The cost of accomodation in Vienna is notoriously high so this was great for me. In terms of the hotel more of it later but one to avoid! On arriving in Vienna and having spoken to my wife who advised that Vienna is stunning I was initially disappointed. The Slovakian trains stop at Sudbahnof station which in itself is nice enough. The walk though from the station to the U-Bahn line is disappointing and reminiscent of Wolverhampton. This was not helped by the fact that engineering works appeared to be taking place in the area to make the connectiion from rail to U-Bahn more efficient going forward.
I had taken the first train of the morning from Bratislava (7am) and was not due to meet up with my wife until 2pm so I had my bags with me. The station has excellent left luggage facilities and for 2 Euros you can safely leave your bags for up to 24 hours. From Sudtiroler Platz U-Bahn stop (the closest to the station) it is only three stops to get to Stephansplatz and the massive Stephansdom (St Stephen's Cathedral). Stephansplatz is the spritual heart of Vienna and the place of greatest activity and energy.
The square is dominated by (in my opinion) the ugly Stephansdom, a massive Gothic hulk. Whilst the sheer scale of the Cathedral is immense and the roof with the sun hitting it very grand, to me it is over the top. I have never been a great fan of the Gothic style but whilst Prague does it well, Stephansdom seems to be over the top and cluttered. All just my opinion of course, the Cathedral is revered around Vienna.
Inside the Cathedral was again, to be honest, disappointing and fairly barren. The only really interesting piece inside is the Gothic Stone Pulpit which looks eerie and is very photogenic. The main nave of the Cathedral is free to visit. The catacombs cost 4 Euros and to climb the tower 3 Euros. Both well worth the cost.
Whilst I was disappointed by Stephansdom, Vienna does have a number of spectacular and infinitely prettier churches. 200 meters to the south of Stephanplatz is Franziskanerkirche (the Franciscan Church) which, from the outside, is a modest church but inside is absolutely stunning. Rammed full of marble, gold and amazing chandelliers this is a real gem. Look out for the eerie coffins along the sides of the nave.
If this is not to your liking then 200 meters to the east of Stephanplatz is Dominikanerkirche (the Dominican Church) which is an amazing baroque church.In my opinion this is again bettered by another baroque church, Peterskirche (St Peters), 100 meters West of Stephanplatz, but that enough about the amazing churches. I would suggest that you plan some time to visit at least a couple of Vienna's places of worship.
Peterskirche is just of the main tourist and shopping strees of Graben which links Stephanplatz up with Vienna's must see sights. From Graben turning left onto Kohlmakrt you are greeted with an amazing building which marks the start of around half a mile of incredibly opulent and stunningly beautiful buildings. The building directly infront of you around Michaelerplatz is the home of the Spanish Riding School.
Seeing the Lipzzaner stallions perform was the only thing that I had left on my must see list. Tickets for the shows themselves sell out months in advance and costing around £120 for the cheap seats were well out of budget. It is possible though for 20 Euros to watch them train and at least get to see the oppulent surroundings that these horses perform in. I made do with peering through a glass wall to the stables to at least see the horses.
Walking through the arch and past the Spanish riding school and out through another arch brings you to the front of the Hofburg Palace. On its own this would be a knock out building but spinning 360 degrees you see that every building in the area is immense. The wealth and power of the Habsburgs laid out in what has to be the grandest square anywhere in the world.
To the north you have the Rathaus (Town Hall) and the Burgtheater both very different but both stunning buildings. To the north west is the Greek styled Parlament building, home to the seat of Austrian power and to the west the incedible Maria Theresien Platz with its indentical twin buildings facing each other. This place is like nowhere else I have ever been. London, Paris, Rome or Madrid have nothing anyehere near this scale of grandness. With horses and carts completing the atmosphere, this is a photographers delight. Every building worthy of a snap.
It is possible to see the inside of Hofburg and the Kaiserappartments but I omitted these two trips. Of greater interest to me was to Schatzkammer (Royal Treasury - 12 Euros), which is part of the Hofburg complex. The highlights of the treasury include a 492-carat aquamarine and a 2860-carat emerald that are both incredible. Also on display are the coronation crowns of the Habsburgs and regal robes. Perhaps the highlights though are the religious pieces, a solid agate plate once believed to be 'the Holy Grail', a nail from the cruxifiction of Christ and a piece of the cross. To be honest, having travelled and been to numerous Cathedrals across Europe, I must have seen just about every piece of the cross now but the agate dish is an amazing piece.
The next part of Imperial Vienna that interested me was Kaisergruft (8 Euros), the final resting place of most of the Habsburg royal family. I say most in both terms. Not all the Habsburgs are in the tomb but also as was the right of the Habsburgs after death there innards were removed and distributed over the kingdom. The tomb itself, to be honest, is an expensive visit but is interesting if only to view the massive and highly decorative caskets. I would have perhaps got more from this visit had I been more clued up on the Habsburg dynasty.
From here it was time to meet up with my wife and her colleagues and so off I went to the hotel via the left luggage lockers. So for the hotel then and my freebie. I shouldn't complain really...but here goes. The first thing that hits you about the Airo hotel (20 minutes from the centre of town via trams and the U-Bahn) is the smell. Built next door to a large and (I was told) famous spa it has a heavy smell of sulphar. For those of you not sure of the smell of sulphur think eggy! Then the lifts. Only three for such a big hotel, which meant waiting around in the lobby (never ideal but espcially not great if you are not a bonafide paying guest!)
The rooms to be fair, in their day, were probably pretty good. Ample size, good size bathroom, comfortable bed. However the curtains were old and didn't close properly, the shower head was broken and the bed linen tired looking. A sign on the wall gives the prices for this hotel as 135 Euros a night! For that price I would expect better. For what I paid though, happy days! If you are looking to stay in Vienna, in my opinion, dont use the Airo hotel, I am sure you can find better and more central for around the price they ask.
At this point I should mention Vienna's transport system. To get to the hotel we have to get the U-Bhan to the end of line U1 (Reumanplatz) and from there a tram to the end of the tram line 67 (Oberlaa). On every occasion this trip was effortless and extremely efficient. No broken down tubes, no long waits. The transport system of Vienna has to be one of the best anywhere I have been.
I must have travelled on just about every U-Bahn line and spent so long on the tram system all without any hassle or problems. It makes you wonder why London is so bad? Another thing that differs from London is that the whole system works on trust. There are no barriers at the stations and very little station staff about. Yet despite (or perhaps because of) the trust system everyone pays. It is a very Austrian thing but discipline and intergrity are evidently high on their agenda. In London this would never work.
That said, for anyone looking to save a few pounds, firstly a 72 hour travel card is only 12 Euros and secondly on the spot fines are issued if caught without a ticket! 12 Euros is an absolute bargain for such a quality service.
We then went for an amazing meal at the Beer Klinik, a typical Austrian Keller which is only 2 minutes from Stephenplatz, and the food was amazing. Even better though was the beer. The beer in Vienna was the equal and possibly even better than that in Belgium. Both the Weissbier (white beer) and the Dunkel (thick dark beer) were both dangerously drinkable. That said, because of the quality of the alcohol and the lack or chemicals in them having drunk until (at the earliest) 2am on each of my Vienna nights I woke with no hangover!
From the meal we walked back through the Hofburg Palace (which at night is lit up and looks even grander under the lights) through to the Leopold museum which has a fantastic rooftop bar (Cafe Leopold). Not only does it have all those great beers but it has good DJ's (without being too loud so conversation is easy) and also great views out over theMuseumquartier. A taxi back to the hotel was only about 12 Euros which is amazingly cheap.
Day two in Vienna then and what better place to start again than the walk from Stephanplatz to the Hofberg Palaces. From here I took a quick amble around some of Vienna's great parks with my favourite being Stadtpark. Late in the morning I again met up with my wife and collegues for another amazing meal. The name of the resteraunt unfortunately escapes me but it was a vegetarian restrauant which faced across to Jesuitkirche. The food was as a good as I can remember was the flavours tasting amazingly clean and fresh.
At this point it seems apt to discuss the food as a whole. My preconception before going to Vienna was that it was going to be expensive. Well this is in part wrong. The only part of a trip to Vienna that can be expensive is the accomodation. Once you have the flights sorted (cheaper to Bratislava and across) Vienna is actually a cheap city in which to eat really well. I never paid more that say 15 Euros for a meal or 3.50 Euros for a beer. Considering the food and beer was of expcetional quality and all in central locations this is a cheap city to eat. Even given the weakness of the pound every meal was great value for money.
From here we wanted to take in a gallery. Vienna is jammed full of galleries but the one we choose was the most revered. The Kunsthisoriches museum (12 Euros) is said to be one of the world's great museums. Firstly the building itself in Maria Theresien Platz from the outside is maybe the best looking building in Vienna. Opposite it is its identical twin, Naturhistoriches museum (the National History Museum). It really is a stunning sight.
Inside the Kunsthistoriches the oppulence continues with marble pretty much everywhere and stunning ceilings and grand halls throughout the museum. For me the star of the museum was the building itself.
It terms of the art, well I am no expert, but am a veteran of the National Gallery, London, the Uffizi, Florence, the Prado, Madrid and the Louvre, Paris to name drop a few, and would have to say that I was disappointed with the collection. It was rammed full of Bruegels, Durers, Rubens, Caravaggios and Titians to again name but a few. Whilst some of the art was good, none of it was jaw dropping. The building and the quality of the display rooms though made up for this. As did the cafe!
Possibly the best place in Vienna to stop for coffee and cake - certainly the most oppulent place I have ever had a latte. The views out are amazing and the cakes and strudels are absolutly stunning. The service too was impressive in every bar, cafe and resterant in Vienna. The cost for coffee and cake in these surroundings, less than 5 Euros. For anyone that has ever had a coffee within a square mile of the Vatican in Rome, this was cheap and less than half the price in equally stunning surroundings.
Interesting fact about Vienna and coffee for you. Vienna was the first place in Europe to dabble with coffee, not, as you would expect, Spain or Italy. As part of the terms of the ending of the siege of Vienna and subsequent retreat by thr Turks, the Turks had to supply Vienna with coffee, thus in the 16th century this made Vienna the first to get to grips with the new taste from the orient.
The workers had meetings in the afternoon so that gave me a few hours to explore before our date with opera, more of that later. One place that had been recommended to me was the Naschmarkt (central market) to really get a flavour of Vienna and its people. This meant a quick U-Bahn ride to Karlsplatz. Karlsplatz in itself is an experience. In this area there seems to be a much higher tolerance to drugs and drug dealing and the whole area has shifty looking people (and in some cases completely wrecked looking people) all over it.
The market is a short walk from this square, just in front of the grand looking Secession Museum corwned with a massive golden sphere. The market itself was a real let down. Much smaller than I was expecting and with no real atmosphere. For market fans out there Barcalona central market is the place to go for your market kicks.
Close to Karlsplatz to the south is another of Vienna's great palaces, the Oberes Belvedere. Itself a gallery now, its real attraction for me was again the building itself. The first building you come to walking from Karlsplatz is the Unteres Belvedere, which on any other stage would be the headline. Walking through the gateway of this building though you get a view of the massive baroque palace of Oberes Belvedere. The gardens between the two, this being April, were still in their growing phases but from the designs this area will look amazing in late summer.
Another amazing palace and another beautiful building in Vienna then but I had still to see the most amazing palace, that of Schonobrunner Palace. The next building I wanted to see was a short tram ride ride to Wien Mitte and then a quick walk to the edge of the Danube canal. The Danube in Vienna to my surprise doesn't really play much of a part in the city. Unlike in London with the Thames or Paris with the Siene, the Danube is left pretty much on the periphery of the city.
The house I had came to see though was the Hundertwasser Haus which is very different to almost everything else in Vienna. The building, basically a block of rental flats, was created by Hundertwasser who was in many ways Vienna's Dali. Whilst perhaps not as refined as the buildings of Barcalona, this building looks great with its uneven surface, bright colours and pillars sticking out at odd angles. Definitely worth the trip to see a different side to Viennese architecture.
From here it was time to meet up again with my wife and go the opera, as you do! Having never been to the opera before and in truth having little interest in it, coupled with the fact I speak very basic German a night at the opera was not high on my list. Having said that I am so glad I did it - what an experience! Having not packed any smart clothes (ie a suit) I was concerned that I would not be allowed in. Not the case. I turned up in a pair of jeans and jumper and was allowed into the standing area with no questions or raised eyebrows.
The opera we went to see was Die Tote State (The Dead City) which was in the Staatsoper opera house. The Staatsoper Opera is Vienna's premiere opera house and looks amazing both from the outside but also inside. If you are in Vienna I would recommend you 100% to try and get tickets. At only 4 Euros for last minute standing ones, they are an absolute bargain and the performance and setting are both incredible.
So to my final day in Vienna. I had the whole day to myself. The first place I headed was the Schonbrunner Palace which I had read was comparable to the Palace of Versailles. Well I can confrim that it is probably better. I went on a dull grey day and the palace and gardens still looked amazing. The palace itself is massive. I took the Grand Tour of the palace for 12 Euros and can honestly say I have never seen anything so decadent. The chandeliers, the gold, the stucco the marble. This is an amazing building. I would suggest that you give at least 4 hours over to exploring the rooms and grounds.
The back garden is also stunning. With the statue of Neptune and the Gloriette. The views either to the palace or to the Gloriette, even on a grey day, are some of the finest on earth. This is an immense building.
From the Schonbrunner palace in the South West of the city I took the U-Bahn and tram to the south east of the city and another massive site. The zentralfroedhof (central cemetry) is one of the biggest in the world. So big it even has 3 tram stops to it. The famous are buried at gate 2. The likes of Strauss (3 generations), Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert are all buried near the central church. Mozart has a cemetry spot but is not buried at the site. His last resting spot was an unmarked grave away from Vienna. Also buried here is Falco the Austrain king of pop and his song was firmly and annoying lodged in my head as soon as I read his name. The graves show just about every style from the simple and small to one near gate 1 that is the size of a small home.
Right rapdily running out of time now. Another must see sight in Vienna is the Risenrad, a giant and ancient ferris wheel which gives amazing views over Vienna. Built in 1897 costing 9 Euros a spin this gives both great views but also the thrill of Alton Towers listenning to the creeking wheel and knowing how old the thing is. The Risenrad is at the enterance of a large looking amusement park so if you are visiting Vienna with children head for Praterstern on the U-Bahn.
From here it was time to meet up with my wife and colloeauge again for one final meal. For this we choose the Twelve Apostles (Zwolf Apostelkeller) which has been a tarvern since the 11 century. Amazing! The food here is great, the service as good as it gets and the atmosphere in the basement three floors underground, unique. Saving the best til last though - the beers here and amazing and cheap. This is the place to head for great food and beer if you are in Vienna. Sorry that I cannot remember the address but it is central near Stephansplatz and if you are stuggling just ask a local, they will all know it.
One tip for you which goes for just about any holiday, travelling or city break you are going on. Buy the Lonely Planet guide to Vienna or wherever it is you are going. In Vienna it is invaluable and gives you information on attractions and places of interest that you would never kbow about with the book.
So Vienna then. Amazing transport, food, beer, incredible churches, incredible palaces and so much to do. So why then, are you asking, have I only given it 4 stars? In truth I don't acutally know. My head says Vienna is a 5 star city break but for some reason my heart says not. To me it isn't in the same league as San Francisco, Stockholm or Madrid in my heart and I really don't know why. In the recent Lonely Planet Cities book it was voted 40th best city by readers after such cities as Krakow, Venice and Florence which seems wrong to me. Vienna is an immense city.
I went to Vienna in October 2001 and spent a week there with some friends who showed me some local bars and made me promise not to tell anyone about them so they arent spoiled. I can honestly say that it is one of the nicest cities I have ever been to. Combining the efficiency with warmth and hospitality, every street radiates an atmosphere of culture and good living. So here are the things they let me disclose to the outside world. If you are a fan of architecture, then you will love Vienna, fortunately the war did not do too much damage and there are many buildings dating back to its glory days of the centre of the Austro Hungarian empire. Of course you must see the Schönbrunn palace. The summer residence of the old imperial family, it is an enormous place, comprising a huge palace (two different tours available, fairly reasonable price with audioguide included), beautiful gardens, an enormous fountain and, at the top of the hill to the back of the palace and gardens, the Gloriette, a fine triumphal arch-type affair. The 10-15 minute walk is well worth the effort especially on a clear day as the view of the palace and the city is tremendous. Also here is a large zoo, palm house and various other features, all of which you must pay to get into. Highly recommended; allow a day to give it full justice. Other historical locations that I particularly enjoyed in Vienna include St. Stephens Cathedral (Stephansdom), Hofburg Palace, the winter residences of the Hapsburgs, and the Kunsthistorische art museum. There is also a newly opened ( at that time ) music museum Haus der Musik that is fabulous if your tastes are so inclined - everything from rooms dedicated to Brahms, Mozart and of course Beethoven and a few others to interactive exhibits with lots of hardware - you can conduct your own orchestra and get applause or sour looks from the orchestra ! The food is, well, somewhat Germanic, and the Hungari
an influence was less than we had recalled. As in Germany, street vendors sell a deliciously spicy "Doner Kebap," a Turkish wrap filled with spicy meat or vegetables. One of the best places to buy one is the Nasch Markt where there are two blocks of food stalls great for eating. Coffee houses aren't always that cheap, and indeed for a large coffee that won't break the bank you are better off going to McDonalds, but you can watch the world go by, write some postcards, or leaf through the selection of newspapers that are provided, and relax. A coffee shop with ambience beats a tackily themed bar any day of the week. Even if you dont like coffee ( and I dont ) a hot chocolate is always a more than pleasant alternative. The public transportation system is fabulous (try to avoid rush hours) with several major U-Bahn routes and convenient connections to street cars ("Strassenbahnen") and buses (routes marked with an "A"). Hourly, daily, weekly and more travel pass tickets are available at good prices. I stayed at a hotel in a village just outside Vienna called Gablintz but never felt isolated with the bus service which connected to the metro. Some people complain of too many tourists, to them I have a simple suggestion. Stay Home, one less tourist ! The city has it all. A veritable culture-fest, which is easy to get around in, and has plenty of things to occupy you. When (not if) I go back, it'll be for at least a week. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
Vienna - the capital of Austria and the home of the Habsberg empire - was not my first choice as a holiday destination. In fact we got there a little by mistake. We wanted to go to Venice but my dyslexia got the better of the travel agent and we wound up there. We were so glad. It truly is a magnificent city. Vienna was the headquarters of Europes longest lasting Empire. The Habsbergs ruled over the Hungarian Austrian empire for 600 years and finally lost Austria to the republicans early in the 20th century. Why am I telling you this, well the Habsbergs admired beauty, music and architecture and that is what Virnna is all about. The first thing that strikes you is the architecture. Vienna is the home of Baroque and Rococco styles of building and was largely spared (or restored after)by countless wars over the centuries and walking through the city fills you with a deep sense of awe at the buildings, statues and squares that dominate this city. The centre is dominated by St Stephens cathedral and in the Kaisirplatz -the opera house. Even the modern quarters are filled with fine and elegant terraces, Sigmund Frued's house is a fine example. London eye? Think nothing of it Vienna hosts a similar ferris wheel that has stood for over 100 yaers and was featured in Graeme Greene's "39 steps" film. Getting around Vienna is easy. Like most European cities it is concentrated into a relatively small area and walking is by far the best way to get around. But to get out of the centre there is a simple bus tram and tube system that is covered by a daily or three day travel card that costs about £3 or £9 respectively. It is worth spending a day out of Vienna in the Emperor's palace at Schottenhorn (? spelling - apologies) where Austria's own tragic princess lived her life in regal exile. Emperoress Sissy was everything Diana was, the world's most beautiful woman of her time, and desperately unhappy as an emperoress.
Vienese food I thought was all wiener schnitzel and saurkraut, that it maybe, but Vienna's proximity to Italy certainly adds to the palate and the coffee a legacy of 100 years seige by Turkey, is to die for. The people are relaxed, move slowly and are extremely friendly. They all seem to speak English, even the well dressed beggars and put us monolinguists to shame. Music dancing The Spannish Riding School and opera all will fill several days and every tourist attraction is reasonably priced. Talking of prices we found Vienna as a tourist was cheaper than London as a local. We loved Vienna. We have been to Venice before and neither my wife nor I regretted my stupidity in the travel agents. Spend a few days there, get waltzed up, eat the ice cream and sit in one of the many street cafes and watch the world go by. All in all you will have a brilliant stay and have one of the best European city holidays you can have.
Big Brother, his wife, a friend and I had a city break this last weekend in Vienna. It all started on a very exciting note when we nearly landed on another plane on the runway! It was quite fun, in retrospect (of course!), because we went from descending quite fast and steeply, to suddenly and immediately accelerating and climbing – it made me realise again that those engines are amazing things, packed with more power than one expects, and really rather impressive when the pilot has to give it stick! But, not an experience I would choose to repeat. We arrived in Vienna quite late (due to heightened security measures at the airports and a late Buzz plane) and so missed the last train into the city and had to take a taxi. We had thought a taxi would be a smoother, easier experience, but naturally it wasn’t. our German-speaking, Turkish-looking, leprechaun-jacketed madman of a driver escorted us to his Mercedes e-series (anyone with pretensions to Mercedes status take a deep breath now) which is the bog-standard taxi vehicle in Germany and Austria. He then gave us a tour of the grottier side of Vienna, zooming us past chemical plants, factories and other industrial complexes, all glittering in the rain in a dark-satanic-mill kinda way. I had the privilege of being in the front with the driver and so was privy to his extraordinary ability to drive without keeping his hands on the wheel or his eyes on the road, but managing all the time to keep a heavy foot on the accelerator. It was raining, and the windscreen kept fogging up so he kept turning the heat up – I wanted to suggest that maybe it was sweating from the humidity, but he was too busy talking on his mobile, switching the cd in the sound system and fiddling with complicated knobs and buttons. His taste in music was pretty good though: Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones and Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull being my particular favourites amongst a good selection of rock classics. I am
not sure that good musical accompaniment is a standard service on a nightmare Viennese taxi ride. He dropped us, after much u-turning etc, at the wrong hotel – a very zazzy one called the Hotel Rathauspark. Alas, no park for us, just the Hotel Rathaus! Despite the name (which apparently is ‘rat’ for advice, so means something like townhall), this hotel was very comfy, very clean (despite the pervy german toilet (ask me in private)) and had a full-steam-ahead shower and an endless supply of bread and REALLY strong coffee for breakfast. (36 Langestrasse – recommended by Frommers.) So, our hotel found, we headed off in search of food, only to discover that Vienna goes to bed before midnight on a Friday night – we eventually found a restaurant that would feed us, but only if we all ate the same thing. We lucked out, though, and had a lovely meal complete and replete with a litre of beer each and a banana schnapps on the house (which made an interesting taste mix with the beer). Saturday morning was spent in the Kunshistoriche Museum, a purpose built twin of the Naturhistoriche museum commissioned by Emperor Franz Josef who basically re-designed Vienna. Today, the old fortified city wall is the Ringstrasse and Schubertringstrasse. (The number 1 and 2 trams run around the ring endlessly, one going clockwise, the anti-clockwise. Trams are the U-bahn and are the red line on a map. Trains are the S-bahn and are the blue line. Go down into an S-bahn station and sidle up to a ticket machine, and for 60 schillings you can buy a 24 hour card that will get you onto any train or tram and around the major areas of the city – excellent! Just remember to validate the card in the blue punch-card type machine either going through a style to a train, or when getting on a tram or bus.) The museum has a magnificent collection, the atrium decorated by various painters, including some nifty, sultry ladies in the arch
way corners painted by Gustav Klimt. There was a fabulous Durer depicting a massacre of innocents, painted in the style of a scene from Dante’s Inferno, but in brilliant colour, and a Velazquez portrait of Philip II of Spain’s son the Infant Philip Prosper, who was a sickly child and died aged four. Velazquez. paints the boy brilliantly, giving a milky-blue hue to his skin, and adding all the amulets and charms hung over the child to ward off illness. The little boy’s right arm is extended, and rests, at the limp wrist, on the back of the chair. There is a remarkable tenderness in this portrait – Velazquez must have felt for the boy, because he communicates such love and sorrow through the portrait of this exhausted and tragic little figure, draped in court finery and religious charms. There was a wealth of classical, renaissance, and baroque painting, and each of us liked different things in particular. I whipped around most of it, and headed for the Breughel room. I have now seen most, together with what I saw in Brussels, of Pieter Breughel the Elder’s extant paintings. I love them all. He is so clever with composition and colour – his paintings are grand, sweeping narratives, and yet are richly detailed as well. The one I spent the most time looking at is a depiction of the battle between Carnival and Lent (Shrove Tuesday revelries and Ash Wednesday rituals depicted together). On the left is a tavern, revellers spilling out, and on the right is a church, fasting, pious devotees emerging: the two groups meet in the middle, spearheaded by a fat harlequin on a barrel with a mop, jousting with a nun on a chair with an oar. The harlequin is all excess and colour, and the nun is starving and grey and exhausted. That makes it sound, though, as if Breughel was approving of carnival and maligning Lent – he wasn’t: when you look at each of the two hundred plus figures included in the picture, you realise that he is giving yo
u a comprehensive representation of all the activities, behaviours and characters involved in each side of the battle. It is impossible to describe the picture in detail, but I was almost lost in it – it is fecund and torturous. I had my first piece of Viennese cake in the gallery café – haustorte – a nice, light chocolate moussey cake with a crispy bottom chocolate covered wafer layer. The best I had, in retrospect. The cakes in Vienna were a little disappointing, most of them factory made and looking amazing but tasting basically similar. Big Brother had a yummy sachertorte in the Belvedere gallery café (more about that later), and I enjoyed my esterhazytorte in a genuine Viennese coffeehouse (Café Schwarzkopf, around the corner from the Staatsoper (National Opera)) just before we had to leave for the airport, but it was a little synthetic. My companions were patient in my search for the Viennese cake and coffee experience – sadly, I think it is no longer obtainable except as a touristy event (yes, I know I was a tourist, but I wanted to have homemade cake and a real Kaiser melange (wiener mischang coffee with a shot of rum and topped with cream that has a raw egg yolk beaten into it (they don’t do this anymore because of the risk of salmonella!))). The best food I had was a warm beef consommé with a big liver and onion dumpling that looked grey and dead and decomposing, but that tasted wonderfully rich and meaty (that was in the Viennese equivalent of a pub, a beisl). We went on with the sightseeing, wandering through the Emperor’s city palace, the Hofburg, down to the Staatsoper and then across to the main cathedral, the Stephansdom, which has a multicoloured roof and holds the entrails of the Hapsburgs in urns in the crypt. There are also catacombs where thousands of people were buried, but we didn’t really have time for me to go wandering around down there. I was a bit disappointed in the opera house
because they were only performing Peter Pan – is it too much to expect that the state opera in Vienna might put on, on a Saturday night, something like Beethoven’s Fidelio or Mozart’s The Magic Flute? Hmmm?! Oh well – c’est la pooh la vie. I did hear a snatch of Viennese music every now and then, and it added a whole other dimension to the experience of being in Vienna – the whole city seemed to lift onto its toes, to become lightened and a little brighter. The Hofburg was littered, and the whole of Vienna, actually, with statues of titanic, muscles-rippling kinda men all wrestling with other big men, or beating centaurs senseless with great big clubs. Even the few women in the sculptures/statues were engaged in strenuous or distressing physical interaction – it was all a little disturbing, but I suppose it is the inevitable decoration of the onetime capital of a martial empire. Around the back end of the Stephansdom’s Stephansplatz is Figarohaus, where Mozart once rented some rooms and wrote The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, I think. By that time Mozart was a bit cash-strapped, so the haus is suitably sordid and dingy. I loved it! Very little has been done to preserve it, which is rather fitting. The place is filthy, and the stairs are so worn at the edges that a great big sign is emblazoned across the entrance depicting a stick figure man losing his footing and falling upwards into the air, like cartoon characters do. There were smelly rubbish bins, there was flaking plaster and dripping water, moss and mould and very little light in the inner court. People stilled lived there, which just made it even more special. Considering the way Mozart burnt his life away, that he was buried in an unmarked paupers grave, it is only fitting that a place where he lived should be allowed to go to wrack and ruin and be effectively anonymous (on the usual scale of museums and memorials). Just one block from our ho
tel was a house Beethoven lived in during the winter of 1819/20 and where he wrote the credo of his Missa Solemnis. The problem with these composers was that they moved around so much, so it is difficult to divine any sense of their presence in these places. The Beethoven-haus was definitely underwhelming, but I liked the Figarohaus. Saturday night supper was spent in The Bermuda Triangle, although we managed to emerge from this area without disappearing mysteriously. All on the side of a hill, the triangle showed that Vienna has many districts, each distinctly different (got there by tram – get off at Schwedenplatz). By Sunday I was beginning to realise this, especially as I had only then begun to get a handle on the layout of the city, how to get around it, what was where, its character etc. Two nights was definitely not quite enough time to come to grips with Vienna, but we did our damndest. Sunday morning we headed out to the Belvedere, once the country palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy, and now a modernish gallery famous for its Klimt collection. The Klimt was fantastic, but there were a lot of other interesting things, some of the artists totally unknown to me. There were two rooms in particular that I liked, where the pictures were in conversation with classical mythology and each a bit archetypal in its own way. Difficult to describe here, though, sorry. So, back to the hotel to collect luggage, back to the airport by train (a somewhat fraught search for the right train – your guide book might well tell you it goes from the central station (Wien-Mitte), not so as of the 1st July 2001! Take the S7 from Sudbahnhof – remember to purchase a 21 schilling extension to your 24 hour card (or a ticket) because your tickets will be checked on the train), then more delays at both airports, but very little airborne excitement. All in all, I enjoyed my weekend in Vienna, BUT I realised we needed to spend more time ther
e to get to know it better, AND I think they should re-instate the Kaiser melange coffee experience!
I visited Vienna in March 2001 and have to say this was one of my most favourite places I have visited on a short City break. We flew with Buzz from Stansted that took about 1 hour 40 minutes flying time. The Airport is connected well to the City Centre with a twice-hourly service that takes about 20 minutes. We stayed in The Renaissance Penta hotel that I will recommend and Ive written a separate opinion on this lovely hotel. Vienna, which is the capital of Austria, is such a beautiful place, with its excellent breath taking architecture, which you can find, throughout the city. I find Vienna like an updated similar version of Prague, except that Vienna is a lot more expensive. Vienna is a city that I did feel threaten to be in. The people are friendly, the streets are clean and to be honest I had a totally stress free holiday St Stephens Cathedral This is in the centre of town and can be seen from nearly even where in Vienna due to its huge size. The nearest U-Bahn station is at Stephanplatz. This Cathedral is breath taking from both in and outside. You can enter for free to have a look round between 0600am and 1000pm, however donations are always welcome in boxes in the doorways. P.S. for a nice fairly priced restaurant in the area can I recommend Rosenberger, which is about five minutes walk. It?s a self-service place that serves nice beer (but limited collection) and wine. Schloss Belvedere This is the Belvedere Palace, and has recently been restored and is one of Vienna?s most important landmarks. This lovely Palace is in two sections Lower and Upper Belvedere and are about 10 minutes slow walk away from each other through the immaculate gardens and fountains in the grounds. Make sure you take a camera for the views and grounds themselves make for first class photography, if you can keep the tourists out the way!!. Camera and Bags have to be left at the entrance to the Upper Palace if you wa
nt to take a tour costing about 100ATS (Approx. £5) per person (I visited in low season so I can imagine they would hike the price when busy). This is a quiet nice place to visit and will take up an afternoon if you take your time looking around. The nearest station is the S Bahn at Rennwig, which is about 6 minutes walk. The Palaces are open Tuesday to Sunday between 10.00am and 5.00pm. These above where the only two buildings I actually entered, but I did enjoy walking around from the outside the following buildings and would recommend you not to miss them. Neus Rathaus - The New City Hall is on the ringstrasse and is again a fine building Burgthreater - Austria's national Theatre again on the ringstrasse Museum of Art History -again this is close to the ringstrasse and has gardens and fountains, which are worth a look. Spanish Riding School - Make sure you don?t miss a visit it. I did because I slept in with a hangover and now regret it. You need to be up early to get a ticket for the training sessions. Perhaps this is a reason to go back and visit Vienna again! Prater is the cities funpark. I would recommend a visit her to look at the huge Ferris wheel that gives good views over the city. I really enjoyed Vienna as its one of those city?s were there is loads to see by just walking around . It's not the cheapest of cities but you will always find that of capital cities. The transport is easy to understand and get around on. Wish I was still there! Bazza
DIARY Thursday 1st April 1999 We arrived in Vienna about an hour before midnight. The train was in fact delayed but this didn't matter, we weren't in a hurry to get anywhere. Finding a place to stay here proved considerably easier than Prague. On my Mum's vague advice we hung a left out of the station and after passing one four star hotel we came to a three star that proved reasonable. The room apart from being a bit small was fine and there was hot water 'a' plenty. Our first meal in Vienna proved somewhat disappointing as it was in Prague but all credit to the place we ate anyway for staying open until the hour it was. The Austrian's obviously don't take breakfast that seriously. Nothing wrong with the food it was just that the bowls and plate were so small I had to go up for fifths. The hotel manager was most helpful and provided us with maps and information. The thing to do in Vienna on your first day is to just walk around and soak it up like we did. Sod guided tours and all that there's just too much to take in. The Rathaus, Palace, countless museums and some great big old cathedral in the town centre. It was only when we had lunch that I made my decision that Vienna wasn't expensive but good value for money. Now my parents complained that it was a quid for a cup of coffee but it's the same in Pret a Manger here and that's a fairly mediocre cup. In Vienna you get a proper cup of coffee for a quid. The Danube isn't as impressive as the river that runs through Prague. For reasons unknown to me the river doesn't actually run through the middle of the city and seems to be the centre piece of a big park on the north side of the place. By now it was late afternoon and we'd pretty much learnt not to tread in the horse shit any more. We sat in the central pedestrianised area of Vienna for a while reciving and sending April Fools text messages about people's flats catchi
ng fire before Tauf decided that we were going to go to a concert and act cultured. I was fairly game for this so we barged into the tourist office near 5pm after finishing some of the best ice cream I'd ever had and demanded that the lady give us a concert. Apparently if we'd run to some ticket office we might have been able to get standing seats but instead we decided to sod it and hit an art exhibition. On the way however we were cornered by a guy in traditional dress who sold us tickets to a rather touristy Strauss concert. This was with hindsight probably the best option for acting cultured. We weren't exactly dressed for a full on concert, most art exhibitions were to prove a little too deep for the both of us and the light heartiness of the performance meant we weren't squirming in our chairs and thinking of dusting at the interval. My attempt to embarrass Tauf by acting like a seven year old in some of the audience participation sections of the performance only served to attract the attention of some fairly mediocre females sitting near us. The concert was all the same highly entertaining whilst at the same time being a good laugh. We finished up the evening in McDonalds, had a debate about the doablilty of a bird and what young people did in Vienna and then headed back to our hotel where we decided that Austrian porn was shit. Friday 2nd April 1999 ? Organisation The superior organisation of Vienna over Prague meant that if we had decided what we wanted to do the next day already we could just visit the tourist office and find out how. We started off by dropping our luggage at the station and finding out how to get to the airport. We then moved on into the centre of the city to do some shopping. Taufik bought cheese and posted some Absinthe off to America whilst I bought a kick ass lighter and some coffee. With shopping just about done we went to look at the Rapid Vienna stadium. Football isn't taken as
seriously in Austria as it is in England or even Malaysia for that matter but we only realised this after we found that we could enter the ground and run about the stands all we liked for free. Taufik really wasn't that impressed with the ground at all, I don't recall Rapid Vienna panning Arsenal recently so maybe he has a truly respectful allegiance to his London club. The last bit of culture we experienced was an art exhibition. Whilst I was quite respectful of some Andy W's work I think both me and Tauf failed really to see the meaningful side of it, we really are better off sticking to music as a whole instead of having it mixed in with art and films of two blokes snogging. After getting some dinner in the city we started to head back home. Vienna airport is all right. Tauf fell asleep, while I wore in my new trainers in by burning around the duty free. What was good was Austrian Airlines. Economy class again but the food really did look and taste like real salmon. The air stewardess served me as much alcohol as I wanted right until she had to sit down and the flight was 15 minutes early. The only complaint I would have was that neither of my bottles of Absinthe survived the flight back but the debate on whether Absinthe is illegal in Austria or not prevents me from writing a letter to salvage their unfortunate loss. REVIEW Seeing as Vienna was the main reason I went to Europe this Easter I think I was bound to enjoy it more. For a start I have an elementary knowledge of German but what really makes Vienna as a city is how sorted it is. The town centre being pedestrianised made it easy for dizzy tourists such as me and Tauf to wander round without getting hit by a car (something that nearly occurred a couple of times in Prague). It was also quite a tourist orientated city. Our hotel manager was obviously no stranger to young travellers and the number of concerts and exhibitions provide a similar amount of entertainment to Lo
ndon. Backpackers don't seem to regard Vienna as the ideal destination. The one we saw on the train seemed to be just passing through bound for destination he felt was easier on the pocket. I wouldn't really regard this as the right attitude to have. Up front yes you would pay the same amount for a cup of coffee as in London but you would get a seriously decent cup of coffee and it was pretty much the same with everything we sampled. There was culture for all. The concert we went to was incredibly light hearted and just what we needed. The art exhibition thought was a bit too much and should be left to more appreciative people. For the second time on the trip we were treated views of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. For the first couple of hours in the city we were wondering whether the historic architecture so apparent in the centre of the city was actually the way Austrian's built their cities anyway. Although a trip to the suburbs soon made us realise that it was really a normal place. Embarrassingly I don't really have much more to say about the place that would be of any use. Sure I could rave on about how sorted I thought the place was but I believe a second opinion is required here to give a seriously practical opinion. Whilst I said I wouldn't go back to Prague for a while I would go back to Vienna tomorrow I think like most developed cities in Europe it provides a very attractive break away from London providing that certain Je ne sais quoi that England's capital lacks.
This was one of the infamous literary salons of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and was reknowned for being filled with the leading luminaries of the day. The original Griensteidl closed in 1907 under a cloud, and the present day Griensteidl opened in 1990. Unfortunately it now has a very clinical air to the place, and whilst it is comfortable and a good place to while away an hour or two over a couple of expensive coffees, there is very little atmosphere to speak of now. The service is the usual for Vienna - slighty begruding, and with the waiters expecting a tip.
Having recently spent a couple of days in Vienna in the course of a tour of Europe, I can honestly say that it is one of the nicest cities I have ever been to. Combining the efficiency and good sense of Germany with Italian warmth and hospitality, every street radiates an atmosphere of culture and good living. The main shopping street, the Kärnter Straße, is a case in point. Completely cobbled and pedestrianised, it leads from the cathedral square, Stephansplatz, down to the Staatsoper, the state opera house. There are hundreds of little cafés in the street where you can gorge yourself on Viennese cakes, and always there is some sort of music playing - we had two men in black tie playing the violin. The range of shops is great and the atmosphere is relaxed and happy - we twice went out of our way just so we could walk down this street again. As for the sights, they are many and varied. The cathedral, St. Stephans, is fairly impressive but you have to pay to get into most of it. The imperial palace, the Hofburg, in the centre of town is very large and splendid, reflecting the past grandeur of Austria and Austria-Hungary. You can get a tour of some of the state rooms for what is actually a reasonable price; also in the complex are many museums, such as the modern art museum, and a museum of musical instruments; also here are the crown jewels and treasury, which are well worth a visit. We didn't have time to see the Lipizzaner riding school, but they train from 10am to 12am most days and are supposed to be excellent. Of course the other thing you should do is see the Schönbrunn palace. The summer residence of the old imperial family, it is an enormous place, comprising a huge palace (two different tours available, fairly reasonable price with audioguide included), beautiful gardens, an enormous fountain and, at the top of the hill to the back of the palace and gardens, the Gloriette, a fine triumphal arch-type affair. Also here is a larg
e zoo, palm house and various other features, all of which you must pay to get into. Highly recommended; allow a day to give it full justice. Getting around is easy as long as you can work out the metro system, as, being extremely well-connected, it should take you everywhere you want to go. Hourly, daily, weekly and more tickets are available at good prices. We also visited a clock museum (free entry on Friday mornings), a Dali museum, and managed to get standing room tickets at the Staatsoper for £1.50. We stayed at the youth hostel, easy to get to by metro; like most youth hostels, it was basic but comfortable enough, and it did very cheap meals. The city has it all. A veritable culture-fest, which is easy to get around in, and has plenty of things to occupy you. When (not if) I go back, it'll be for at least a week. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
Vienna is a beautiful city. The inner district (Innere Stadt) is the city centre and many of the marvellous buildings are there. Walk through the pedestrian zone and enjoy the mood of the capital of waltz. If you are into good food, you must go for a dinner to Steirereck, probably the best restaurant in Vienna. It is affordable! In the summer time visit the Donauinsel, an island in the Danube, less than 10 min by underground from the city centre.
We visited Vienna and thought it was incredibly beautiful. WE were staying with friends and so it gave us an opportunity to expereince life at a Vienesse pace. The Vieneese people take lunch seriously and its worth going into one of the places that the locals eat as they're fantastic, plenty of different dishes to choose from and they have a saying (which I cant remember), but it basically mean the enjoyment fo life. In other words slow down, dont rush it. Lunch is a time to sit and enjoy in Vienna. The city itself is beautiful and the buildings superb. It has a fabulous art gallery which is well worth a visit. The way to get around is definitley by the U-Bahn. Similar to our subways, maps are located on all the stations, but make sure you get the correct ticket as some trains go into the suberbs and you needs to have a seperate ticket if you go outside the city zone. In the city one punch gets you around all day so you can jump on and off the U-bahn and go to wherever you want.
Just one visit to Vienna is all you need to realise that so much history has taken place there. The country we know today as Austria has seen many forms over the centuries but it has always been something of a meeting place between Eastern and Western Europe and its buildings and culture reflect that. Architecturally, it is a treasure trove and a short stroll around its centre reveals a great many historic buildings. Although a capital city, it has the feel of a largish town and its many coffee houses and eating places provide a very friendly introduction to this splendid place.
Innere Stadt, or the old city, is where the historic sights are concentrated at. Vienna is the city to head for, if you are looking for astounding architecture, museums, and an enviable musical tradition. Vienna is also a haven for coffee houses and wine taverns, and also a good city to party through the night! I remember vividly the beautiful Gothic architecture of Stephansdom, or the St. Stephen's Cathedral, at Sthephansplatz, a stone's throw from the tourist information office. You'll definitely be awe-struck with the latticework spire of this masterpiece, which was built in the 13th century. I remember looking high up into the sky, admiring the beauty of it all, and its sheer height shielded me and my friends from the hot afternoon sun as we sat there, in its majestic courtyard, writing postcards home to our respective families. (there is a post-office situated at the square, so it's a real convenient place to buy a postcard(of the grandiose Stephansdom even), pen a few lines, stick a stamp on and off it goes into the giant letterbox of the post-office!) And if you are a fan of famous musicians (& get all emotional at the mention of Beethoven, Schubert,and Brahms), you can find their memorial tombs at the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) at 11, Simmeringer Hauptstrasse 232-244 . There is also a monument of Mozart here , though he is actually buried in an unmarked grave in the St Marxer Friedhof at 03 Leberstrasse 6-8.
"Vienna is the capital of Austria, and also one of the nine States of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city; with a population of about 1.7 million (2.2 million within the metropolitan area), and is by far the largest city in Austria as well as its cultural, economic and political centre. Vienna lies in the south-eastern corner of Central Europe and is close to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site."