When I think of visiting Austria, I don’t necessarily think of Vienna. I think of Salzburg and the Sound Of Music, or the Alpine city of Innsbruck, or more recently, the phenomenally pretty town of Hallstatt (if you don’t know it, I suggest you google it immediately).
Meanwhile, my mum, as seldom as she ever comes up with anywhere she wants to visit, has always wanted to go to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Ash wants to see the grand architecture there, and take in all the art and culture of the city.
I felt like I ought to head over to another new country seeing as I was in such close proximity, so I gave myself three days in Bratislava in order to head over to Vienna for one of them. For most people, it’s the other way around, and I will concede that I could have spent longer in Vienna, but a day was a good amount of time to get my feet stuck into the city to see what all the fuss is about.
The best part? I paid 6€ return for the trip (just over an hour’s journey – I went with Regiojet), and the bus was more luxurious than any of the damn flights I took!!
The only downside is the bus drops you off pretty far out of the centre of town, and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I stubbornly walk everywhere. So to make the most of my 40 minute walk into the city centre, I strategically planned out a route through the Belvedere Palace (Schloss Belvedere) gardens.
I knew I wasn’t going to have time to get to Schonbrunn Palace, which is partly why you should aim for more than a day in Vienna, but Belvedere Palace is a fantastic alternative, and to be honest I was stunned by it the second it came into view.
This sort of set the precedent for the rest of the day, because Vienna is ridiculously beautiful.
And I really do mean ridiculously, because after a while, it started to feel like Disneyland.
I realise that’s an ironic observation, given that Vienna is one of the cultural capitals of the world and therefore is about as far from Disneyland as you can get. But when every single building on every single street is curated and perfectly formed, I began to form an illusion that perhaps this city can’t even be real. After rolling out of the Belvedere gardens with only a rough sense of the direction I should be going in, I found myself wandering random side streets to get into the city centre, and EVERY SINGLE ONE WAS IMMACULATE.
And I wasn’t even in the city centre yet, so it was only going to get even more so.
I wound up at Schwarzenbergplatz with its imposing Soviet War Memorial, and a while later at Karlsplatz. Both were incredibly pretty.
As I suspected, once I found the city centre proper, the architecture went bananas.
The first thing I stumbled across was the impeccably gorgeous Vienna opera house.
From the photos I’ve seen, it looks even better at night.
I immediately enjoyed wandering the pedestrian shopping streets, because even though they were similar to every other shopping precinct in major cities, they also weren’t, because they were approximately 250% more magnificent (even Edinburgh, which has an exquisite view of the castle the entire way along Princes Street, with the layers of Old Town sweeping across the horizon, has got nothing on these buildings).
I stopped in a café for a cuppa, partly because it was the first chance I’d had to sit down, and partly because I needed caffeine. And partly because, obviously, people watching is fantastic.
Also, I was given tea candy with my tea. Not sugar. Tea candy.
Around the corner, I was swept off my feet by St Stephen’s Cathedral – not just for the fact it’s a lovely cathedral plonked into the city centre, but the roof is so striking that I couldn’t stop staring at it.
From there, I found myself wandering aimlessly down The Graben, one of the most distinctive streets in the heart of Vienna.
Of all the photos I took in Vienna (spoiler: an embarrassing amount), I’m pretty sure approximately half of them were taken on this street.
I have to admit I didn’t even know what this was, but I’ve learned since that it’s called the “Pestsaule” and is there to commemorate victims of the plague. To be honest, it looks like a bit of a shambles with all the netting on, but then the plague wasn’t exactly a fun walk in the park either, so I’ll forgive it.
One thing that became quickly apparent was the number of horse & carriage rides trotting along wherever I went. It’s not exactly unique to Vienna, but with the surroundings they’re quite a spectacle, even once you’ve seen a load of them.
I was heading in the rough direction of the creme de la creme of central Vienna, Hofburg Palace, but first I wanted some unhealthy food and I couldn’t think of anywhere better to fulfill that than the famous Cafe Central.
Cafe Central has an uber posh interior that would normally make me feel completely out of place, but people from all walks of life were there, and I knew that the queue was going to be worth it. As it happened, the queue moved really fast too, so within five minutes I was seated with a menu and a huge decision to make.
Do I have cake or something else? And if I have cake, WHICH ONE DO I EVEN GO FOR?!
I was slightly overwhelmed, so I went for apple strudel instead. When in Austria…
It was DELICIOUS! I did get a better photo, but I didn’t angle it right and managed to catch a girl’s face distorted in my wine glass. And as funny as it is having someone’s face being stroked inside a glass, I’ll spare her the embarrassment.
Naturally, I then had cake as well.
I stayed in Cafe Central for a while, people watching and listening to one of the waiters who was literally one of the friendliest people I’d ever seen (he also took my photo, which is the only photo of me in Vienna!), catching up with a few things online and savouring my delicious goods.
But eventually, it was time to move on and check out Hofburg Palace.
…yeah, so that’s one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever seen in my life.
After how impressive everything else had been in Vienna, I wasn’t sure quite how anything I’d seen would be topped. I walked through the palace to the other side.
I mean COME ON! That’s a freaking LIBRARY.
Anyone else seen a more elegant library? Answers on a postcard, please. (Bonus points if the library is ON the postcard, because that means it’s a highlight of the destination.)
Of course, I managed to find a ridiculous statue on the palace.
Do I feel bad laughing? Not at all.
And while Vienna is all about the high brow arts and the souvenir shops are full of Mozart-themed items, I was happy to see they’re still not afraid to show a silly side.
I didn’t buy a t shirt – but I did buy a postcard with this on!! Because of course!
And I found this very curious sign that almost made me want to go in and get a tattoo.
You can put me in a highly cultural place, but I will still manage to find weird things.
The rest of my afternoon was spent wandering many more streets, taking yet more photos of The Graben, and eventually walking alllllllll the way back to the bus station (which I regretted around half way).
Central Europe is fast becoming my favourite region of the continent (although the Balkans are fighting for it). I already love Prague, Bratislava and Budapest, and although I didn’t click with Vienna quite as much (I know, I’ve just spent an entire post gushing about it, but remember what I said about Disneyland? It just felt a little too curated), it has won me over enough to want to return.
In fact, if Mum wants to come to the Spanish Riding School then I am more than happy to jump on a plane back to Vienna with her for a couple of days!
I’m really glad I decided to spend a day in Vienna, but I think the city needs a little more time than that to give it true justice. So if I do go back, it’ll definitely be for a little longer.
Have you been to be Vienna? What did you think of it?
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