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Like another world
Member Name: Alternum
Date: 24/09/00, updated on 24/09/00 (86 review reads)
Advantages: Wonderful atmosphere; wealth of things to see and do; cheap opera tickets!
Disadvantages: None whatsoever
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.