The other day I found myself at a bit of a loose end after Christine had left me home alone in Vienna to go to her Hen’s (bachelorette) weekend. So rather than just mull around the apartment I decided to make a day of it and hit up all of my favorite places in Vienna. Hopefully you’ll find this list useful if you ever find yourself in beautiful Vienna :).
I can still remember my first impression of the Museum’s Quartier from my first visit to Vienna back in 2009. It was a mid-summer’s Thursday evening, and the space was packed with young people meeting and drinking together, with cool tunes emanating from a small DJ booth in the corner of the square. In many ways, it epitomizes for me what Vienna is as a city: old world art and culture mixed with youth and vibrancy. Admittedly the place was a little quieter on the overcast morning this time I visited, but regardless the MQ definitely makes the list for me for top places to visit in Vienna. Best seen in the evening on summer’s day, you can chill out on one of the many cool public benches that decorate the square, grab a coffee or drink at the ueber cool cafes or bars, or even visit a museum or art gallery if you’re so inclined (it is the Museum’s quartier after all!). Interesting fact: the MQ used to be the stalls for the army’s horses back in the day. If you take a close look, you’ll notice that the buildings in the quartier have horse figures and horses heads embellished all over.
At the back of the Museum’s Quartier you’ll find one of my favorite Beisels in Vienna, Glacis Beisel. A Beisel is essentially a typical Austrian small restaurant. Menu is usually limited to a short list of Austrian favorites (e.g. Wiener Schnitzel). The reason I love Glacis Beisel is because it puts a modern touch on the traditional Beisel, with cool decor (see pic above of some of the street art painted on the entrance to the Beisel). Previously I had only frequented Glacis during winter when you only have the option of indoor seating, but today I noticed how charming their outdoor patio looks. I’ll have to go back to experience the summer side of Glacis!
Next I headed into the 1st district which is really the heart of Vienna. First stop here was the Hofburg, which was the former winter residency of the emperor until the turn of the twentieth century, and today is the official residence of the President of Austria. In my opinion, the Hofburg is the grandest of all the beautiful buildings in Vienna. It is also home to my favorite museum in Vienna – the Sissi Museum and Kaiser Apartments, where you get to hear about the fascinating (and tragic) story of Austria’s last emperor and emperess.
Stephansdom (St Stephan’s Cathedral)
The tall spire of this iconic Vienna landmark can be seen from many places in the city. I’ve been told that the bell in the tower is the biggest in Europe. Other than that, I don’t know a lot about this place. But suffice to say it’s iconic and worth passing by :).
By now I’d built up a bit of a hunger walking around, so time to stop by Christine’s favorite Viennese sandwich shop, Trzesniewski’s. This place is a bit of an institution in Vienna, established over a 100 years ago. What makes it special is that everything is bite size. Each open-faced sandwich is barely bigger than a bit so you end up getting to taste 3 or 4 different flavours. And the beers (Pfiffs) are tiny too!
Satiated, I then ventured to the Stadtpark on the border of the 1st district. While there are many pretty (or even prettier) parks in Vienna, the reason I like Stadtpark is because of the beautiful golden Strauss statue that you’ll find here. Johann Strauss II was a prolific Austrian composer, particularly known for his waltzes. When Christine and I were choosing a waltz for our wedding first dance, it wasn’t really a question of which waltz, but rather which waltz by Strauss!
Admittedly, Praterstern park is lower on my list of the must see places in Vienna, but it’s worth a mention if only because the big Ferris wheel is an iconic part of the Vienna skyline (even made it onto our wedding invites!). And if you’re a runner, like Christine, you’ll probably enjoy jogging through this park. The park is well loved by children with the many rides on offer, and on the day I was visiting there seemed to be some sort of children’s festival going on.
There was really no better way to end my day than with a trip to Schoenbrunn. I think Schoenbrunn is my favorite place in all of Vienna (note that Schloss Laxenburg, the venue for our wedding, doesn’t count because it is technically outside of Vienna. If it were in Vienna, then this would of course be my favourite place!). Schoenbrunn is one of the old main summer residences of the emperor. In addition to the main palace that greets you at the entrance of the park, Schoenbrunn also has some of the most beautiful gardens and at the backside of the grounds, atop a small hill, lies the Gloriette. Together, these sights make Schoenbrunn one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see. And if that’s not enough reason for coming here, there is also a zoo (Tiergarten) inside the grounds which is the oldest zoo in the world!