Vienna, a city seemingly composed by the gods themselves, will take your breath away the moment you step foot in it. It’s a place steeped with a tradition of grand coffee houses, music and a royal history. As you walk through the city, the magnificent baroque buildings on every block give off a sense of poise and beauty that no other European country can match. Not only is it gorgeous to behold, but the food scene is what truly stole my heart.
This stately yellow palace and its grounds — once the summer home of the Habsburgs — was the site of Mozart’s legendary concert where he allegedly kissed the Empress after his performance. Not only did Mozart walk these halls, but so did Marie Antoinette and many other fascinating members of the royal family. When you visit, be sure to take a tour of the inside, where you will be taken through the opulent rooms that truly showcase the wealth of the royal family. And when I say wealthy, I mean it — they actually have a room called the “Rich Room” and the “Millions Room.” Once you’ve toured the inside, walk around to the gardens on the other side, where you can walk up a hill to the triumphal belvedere and get a great view of the city. The gardens are massive, so get lost wandering through the beautifully manicured park.
Vienna State Opera
As a college student, I’ll do anything if it’s free or cheap; somehow the Vienna State Opera was the cheapest attraction I went to during my trip in Vienna. The trick to having a classy night at the opera for only three to four euros is to wait in line at the ticket office for about an hour and a half to two hours before the show starts. These same-day standing tickets become available 80 minutes before the show starts, but I’d recommend getting in line earlier, especially if the show is popular or a performer is especially famous. Also, don’t forget your scarf because once you’re inside, you’ll need to mark your standing spot, so tourists out for blood and your hard-won spot won’t snatch it from under you. Seriously, getting a spot felt a little like the “Hunger Games.” But despite waiting and fighting for a spot, the Vienna State Opera truly is world class, and seeing a performance in the beautiful building was a moving and extremely enjoyable experience.
Vienna Old Town
Take a walk around the city center, where you’ll find the incredible Hofburg Palace and Stephansdom, a beautiful Gothic church. As you walk around, make sure to check out the Spanish Riding School and walk through the many churches and cathedrals you pass. You could spend hours within the same mile radius, so take your time! Consider picking up some of Vienna’s famous wurst from the Würstelstand if you’re feeling peckish.
Burggarten and Palmenhaus Cafe Brasserie Bar
One of my favorite parts of Vienna was the Burggarten and Palmenhaus, a conservatory that houses a butterfly garden and a restaurant in what looks like a greenhouse. If you go to this art nouveau styled conservatory in the winter, it’s a sweet little escape from the cold outside. Go hold some butterflies Disney princess-style, then treat yourself to some wine and cheese in the lush brasserie next door.
If you’re in Vienna on a Saturday, don’t miss the Naschmarkt’s eclectic and bustling flea market. Locals will be gathered around buying and selling old fashioned knickknacks and clothes like fur coats, picture frames, spiked helmets from World War I and antique books. Since food is a central role in Vienna’s charm, Naschmarkt also houses over 100 food stalls. Squeeze yourself down the narrow passage with fresh food on either side of you, and allow yourself to give in to your temptations and buy all the goodies you want. Some highlights of my food tour was the Kaspressknödel (bready cheese and onion dumplings), Börek (pastry stuffed with spinach and cheese), fresh squeezed orange juice and shawarma!
Speaking of food, you can’t go to Vienna without trying some of their amazing coffee houses. Vienna is famous for these places where you can sit and smoke a cigarette, listen to live piano, discuss politics and literature and drink a Wiener Melange, an espresso with frothed milk. While you lounge among the greats like Beethoven and Freud, as well as some Russian revolutionists like Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin, try the traditional Austrian food. Make sure to have the wiener schnitzel, spaetzle and goulash. For dessert, have the famous chocolate Sachertorte, apfelstrudel and Kaiserschmarrn. My favorite cafes were Café Central, Café Schwarzenberg and Café Eiles. The waiters often won’t come to you with the check; but rather than hurrying away after your meal is done, sit for a while with another coffee or cake, talk to the person you’re with and just soak in the history and class of the establishment you’re in.
Vienna is way too beautiful of a city to rush through, so take your time. Whether it be at the opera, a palace or café, this city will treat you well. You’ll be sure to fall in love with the city and its adorable stop lights (pictured below), so if you ever have the chance to go, take the opportunity.
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