On my last flight to Vienna, I was surprised how many passengers were on their way to farther destinations, i.e. in Austria’s capital only on a layover. Therefore, after having already published an extended article on my stay, I put together my best tips in this “24 hours in…”-post.
Majestic Vienna: At the Imperial Apartments of the “Albertina”
As usual, it’s meant as an itinerary for just a layover or a short stop on a road-trip through Europe: Austria has eight(!) neighboring countries*!
Open daily from 7 a. m. to 7 p. m.
Furthermore, all the hotels can supply you with info material, tourist cards and more.
? Getting Downtown and Back
Taking the streetcar is the fastest and cheapest way to visit Vienna. (@ WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud)
To get from the airport to the city center, your best option is to take the S7 (‘S-Bahn’) towards Floridsdorf and get off at Landstraße/Mitte. This train takes only about two minutes longer than the CAT (City Airport Train) and costs a fraction: If you just buy one way, it’s 3,90 €uro. If you get a 24 hours ticket – for 7,60 €uro highly recommendable since a single ride costs 2,20 €uro – you only have to pay an additional 1,70 €uro for the trip from the airport – while the CAT costs 12 €uro (and the shuttle bus 8 €uro).
There are so many different tickets and options – you might want to check for yourself. There even is a Queer City Pass and although I did some research online, I don’t get what’s the difference and what makes it queer; if you get, give me a hint, please.
Even on a sunny day a visit to the Stephansdom, Saint Steven’s Cathedral is Vienna’s most important landmark and within walking distance from the hotel resp. the Schwedenplatz. Built in the early 12th century, it is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of Vienna’s Archbishop. It has four towers, the highest, southern tower is 136 meters / 446 feet high. There are 343 steps to be climbed to get to the tower chamber from where you have an incredible view of Vienna. Besides precious altars and chapels, there are also the treasury and the catacombs to be visited.
Domkirche St. Stephan
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 515 52 3054
Open daily from 6 a. m. to 10 p. m. (Sunday from 7 a. m.)
You’ll probably will enjoy strolling a little around the Stephansplatz, watching some street artists performing, listening to the hoofs of the horses pulling the ancient carriages and stock up on traditional wafers and other delicious sweets at Manner.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 513 70 18
Open daily from 10 a. m. to 9 p. m.
Still in the mood to saunter? You’re at the perfect location: The Stephansdom is facing the Graben, Vienna’s most important, pedestrian shopping street with the flashy plague column in its center.
Although most of the stores and cafés are more or less like stores and cafés in any other city center, I’d like to point out – believe it or not – H&M: In 2004, this chain opened its 50st store in Vienna and chose the beautiful building of the former ritzy department store Braun & Co.
Even though you are at H&M, in the antique furnishing and decoration you’ll feel like shopping at a posh boutique.
Don’t miss out on a ride with the ancient wooden elevator!
Walking down the Graben away from the Stephansdom, you’ll reach another Viennese institution, the coffee roaster and deli Meinl am Graben. Here you’ll find all sorts of wonderful Austrian delicacies – i. a. of course Meinl’s famous coffees – to sample on the spot or take with you home. This is also a good place for a short break. Get a light snack on Meinl’s terrace while you watch people.
Meinl am Graben
Phone: +43 – 1 – 532 33 34
Open weekdays from 8 a. m. to 7.30 p. m. and Saturday vom 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.
The Burggarten with its huge trees and the little lake is a perfect place to just hang out a bit on a hot day. If you get thirsty, there’s the Palmenhaus serving light snacks or hearty Austrian food. It’s located next to the Hofburg, so it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s really beautiful and if you’re not on a budget, absolutely worth the visit.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 533 10 33
Open weekdays 10 a. m. till midnight, Saturday 9 a. m. till midnight and Sunday 10 a. m. till 11 p. m.
Don’t worry, even if you’re not up for a fancy lunch, you won’t spend the day hungry: Leave the Burggarten on the right side of the Palmenhaus and you find yourself at the Albertinaplatz. Here is Vienna’s most famous sausage stand, Bitzinger Würstelstand.
Of course, every place looks much nicer in bright sunlight, but if there’s a city ready for liquid sunshine than it’s Vienna with its many, many exhibitions of world-famous paintings and sculptures, but also rather unusual museums like e. g. the Museum of Heating, the Third Man Museum or the Museum of Contraception and Abortion.
Vienna’s public transportation is excellent and if you stay at the recommended hotel or at another one in that neighborhood, you’re centrally hence perfectly located.
Since in the rain you cannot explore Vienna itself, let’s do the next best thing: Explore Vienna’s culture and all the quirky stories around it.
One of the best places is the Belvedere, which consists of the ‘Lower Belvedere’, the garden palace, built around 1714 for Prince Eugen, and the ‘Upper Belvedere’, which was added a couple of years later (from 1720 on) and is even more luxurious. Both are connected by a manicured garden. While the Lower Belvedere houses temporary exhibitions, the permanent collection at the Upper Belvedere is indisputably a must-see since it shows some of the most important works of mainly Austrian painters like the masterpieces by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Catch the streetcar #2 towards Dornbach at Schwedenplatz and go to Schwarzenbergplatz where you can take a quick look at the Soviet War Memorial. If it’s not raining too hard, you can enter the Belvedere complex here and walk through the garden to its upper building. If that’s not an option, you can also change at Schwarzenbergplatz to streetcar #D towards Alfred-Adler-Strasse and get off at the Schloss Belvedere stop right next to the gallery.
The good thing about bad weather is, it’s a great excuse to take the tram instead of walking – like you do now back at the Schloss Belvedere stop: #D towards Nussdorf will take you in ten minutes to the stop Burgring, located between the Hofburg, the Royal Castle, and two magnificent buildings housing the Natural History Museum to the left and the Art History Museum to the right; and between them is sitting monarch Maria Theresia.
Your destination should be the Art History Museum, which houses an incredibly rich collection from any art epoch and every region: the Cranachs, Raffael and Tizian, Caravaggio’s ‘Madonna of the Rosary’ – and of course the masterpieces by the Bruegels like the ‘Tower of Babel’. Besides the paintings, they also show art from Egypt as well as Greek and Roman statues, a coin collection and much more.
Your lunch options on a sunny day are a couple of snack stops along the way described in the morning itinerary.
What would be Vienna without a Schnitzel?!
To the right a pot roast with a dumpling.
These are of course two separate meals…
On a rainy day, you’ll probably won’t be up for a quick bite on your way, but will enjoy a hearty hot meal at a cozy restaurant, so it’s good that you’re just a five minutes walk away from a typical Beils, a pub, serving authentic Austrian food.
Cross the Museumsquartier west of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (were our first afternoon stop will be, anyway) and you’re practically there.
Breite Gasse 4
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 526 56 60
Open daily from 11 a. p. to 2 a. m. (Sunday to 1 a. m.)
? Afternoon Activities
It’s possible to walk from the Bitzinger sausage stand to the Belvedere; but it’s not exactly close by. If you choose to walk, go down the Walfischgasse and turn right into Schwarzenbergstraße. Continue till you get to the Soviet War Memorial – you cannot miss it. The Belvedere complex begins right behind this very socialist piece of art. If you prefer not to walk, just take either tram #1 (towards Prater) or tram #2 (towards Friedrich-Engels-Platz) at Opernring/Karlsplatz and get off at Schwarzenbergplatz.
Like I explained in the itinerary for a rainy day above, the Belvedere consists of two main buildings that are connected by a very elegant park with fountains and statues. You can just stroll along the gravel paths, rest on the many park benches and be enchanted by the beauty and majesty of the place.
If you choose to visit the buildings, that today house museums, please check the rainy weather part above for details.
Right next to the Belvedere is another elegant yet cool park that’s worth a visit, the Stadtpark, the city park. Besides its shady paths and lush trees, there are many romantic statues of Vienna’s great artists – the most famous among them is the Johann Strauß statue, made by Franz Metzner and Edmund von Hellmer in the symbolist style of the Vienna Secession.
⛈ Afternoon Activities
The Leopold Museum is not only worth the visit for the art,
it also opens to Vienna’s most beautiful views.
The Glacis Beisl is three minutes from the next great museum focusing mainly on Austrian art from the turn of the last century – a truly exciting era with many ingenious, daring artists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Albin Egger-Lienz, Anton Kolig, Richard Gerstl, and many others. Since not only the paintings of these gentlemen are colorful, but also their lives, it’s worth it to get an audio guide telling you about their shenanigans.
No Vienna-sojourn is complete without a visit of the Hofburg,
the Royal Castle, that was the Habsburg’s residence between the 13th century till the end of WWI in 1918. After WWII in 1945, it became the Austrian President’s official seat. Besides the official apartments, the Hofburg houses Austria’s National Library and a couple of museums like the Sisi-museum, focusing on the beloved Empress, the ancient State Apartments and the Silver Chamber.
Phone: + 43 – 1- 533 75 70
Open daily from 9 a. m. to 5.30 p. m. (in July and August till 6 p. m.)
Tafelspitz, beef in its broth, one of Austria’s delicacies.
Nope, Austrian cuisine is not very light.
If after all the snacks or hearty lunches you’re still hungry, there’s one of Vienna’s most rustic and traditional restaurants just a few steps from your hotel.
If you are coming – on a sunny day – from the Stadtpark, you can actually walk there along the Bäckerstraße from which the Sonnenfeldgasse deviates.
Coming on a rainy day from the Hofburg, you walk back to the tram stop Burgring and take either #1 (towards Prater) or #2 (towards Friedrich-Engels-Platz) back to Schwedenplatz.
Vienna might be historical and traditional, but it’s of course also trendy and hip and there are many clubs and bars.
The Motto am Fluss is a pleasant place for a nightcap – especially since it gives you the opportunity to say Good Night to the city: It’s located on the bank of river Danube and there is a fantastic view over Vienna.
Motto am Fluss Cafe
Franz Josefs Kai 2
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 252 55 11
Open daily 8 a. m. till midnight
Even if you have a very early flight, it’s not necessary to stay at an airport hotel: A trip from downtown Vienna to Schwechat, where the airport is located, takes 45 minutes max – and you have the a. m. four options to get there. Only if you intend to take the S7-train you might have to adjust your schedule since these trains are running only every 30 minutes.
A walk from your hotel to the train station Mitte should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
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* In case you’re curious: Austria adjoins to Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Hungary.
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Austria’s capital Vienna is one of the European cities full of history, stories and myths.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture?
God and some very talented architects made it: It’s the view from a window at the Museum Leopold at the Museum’s Quarter.
Whether it is the Congress of Vienna where after the napoleonic wars Europe’s layout and further history were determined, Empress Sisi and her tragic story or the gilded years around the turn of the century when Vienna – next to Berlin and Paris – was the center of the artistic and intellectual avant-garde.
Progressive painters like Egon Schiele, innovative designers like Koloman Moser, inventive architects like Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, exciting musicians like Arnold Schönberg and of course the father of the psychoanalyse Sigmund Freud make a compelling case for it.
After all these new tendencies were destroyed by the Nazis (by the way, Adolf Hilter was Austrian, but from Braunau, not from Vienna), Vienna had to find its balance after the war. Graham Greene’s post war classic ‘The Third Man‘ – also a great movie starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten – gives us an idea of Vienna’s shady, sinister side. Until now the city has a dark, melancholic flair to it; if you want to feel it, that is.
It is absolutely possible to visit the city and focus exclusively on its sugarcoated and romantic sides. But it’s the rich mix of century old Royal culture and architecture, once hyper modern, misunderstood innovations of design and style, a little petty-bourgeois attitude and at the same time crazy artists and progressive intellectuals that makes Vienna one of a kind.
The many tourists coming here every year prove that this elegant, sophisticated metropolis has never lost its charm and attraction.
I’m going to Vienna every year – since there are always some of Europe’s best exhibitions taking place, but also because it’s just such a beautiful and cool place. So let me take you with me on a really special Vienna tour – sort of a hop on hop off thing, but we can pay as little as 2.20 €uro for it: We are going by cable car – which the Viennese call ‘Bim’ because of the noise of the bell announcing the cart’s departure.
Visiting Vienna by streetcar is fun – and cheap, too. (@ WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud)
The ‘Bims’ #1 and #2 are actually going in a circle around the city center – this street is cleverly called “Ring” – stopping at some of the most interesting, important, but also hidden spots you absolutely should see.
MAPS – tracing the tour on a responsive streetmap and a downloadable network plan
WELCOME TO VIENNA
I will not lie to you, you can do this tour in one go by taking the touristy ‘Ring-Tram’: It’s the ancient yellow car that starts its tour at the Schwedenplatz and takes you around in about 30 minutes. You’ll get some information, but you can go only once and the whole trip costs you 9 €uro.
But I find it’s much cooler to do it on your own – especially since you might hop on and off as much as you please if you buy a 24 hours ticket for 7,60 €uro (resp. 13,30 €uro for 48, 16,50 €uro for 72 and 16,20 €uro for a week (this is not a typo – unless they’ve made a mistake on their website).
But hold it – you’ll probably will arrive in Vienna by plane and land in Schwechat, the city’s airport located about 14 km / less than 9 miles from the city center. To get downtown from there is easy peasy, actually there are four options, but I recommend only one – unless you arrive at inhumane hours or have to schlepp very heavy luggage: Take the S7 (‘S-Bahn’) towards Floridsdorf and get off at Landstraße/Mitte. This train takes only about two minutes longer than the CAT (City Airport Train) and costs a fraction: If you just buy one way, it’s 3,90 €uro. If you get one of the a. m. tickets, you only have to pay an additional 1,70 €uro for the trip from the airport – while the CAT costs 12 €uro (and the shuttle bus 8 €uro).
If you are staying at the guest house I’m recommending or in that area, you can actually walk from the stop Landstraße*/Mitte in a little over 10 minutes.
*The letter ß exists only in the German alphabet and it’s by no means a B – it’s a ‘sharp’, double S as in kiss. When writing, you can actually replace it by a double S.
After going through customes, you’ll find bank boothes as well as ATM to change or get money. Since 2001, 19 European countries paying with €uros, and Austria is one of them. The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 0,83 EUR (January 2018), but you can check the conversion on this page.
Austrians speak German with a strong accent and a peculiar dialect which might frustrate you if your German is only basic; especially at the beginning of your stay you might have some difficulties understanding people. However, there are so many tourist coming here every year that most people speak a pretty decent English or even other foreign languages. For some useful words and phrases, you might want to practice a little with the help from e. g. Babbel (first lesson is for free and already supplies you with useful basic vocabulary).
Tourist information and deals
Whatever you have planned, you’ll probably be much better off with a discount card, one of these tourist cards you get in practically every (European) city. To make things difficult, in Vienna there are two types: The Vienna Card which grants you free use of transportation and discounted entrance to many attractions and the Vienna Pass which grants you free access to many attractions, but no free use of transportation so that you need to buy an additional travel card.
I’ve made a little chart so you can check your options. If you want me to recommend something, I’d go for the Vienna Pass since the entrance fees are pretty high, so ‘free’ is much better than ‘discounted’ and you can add the travel card if you really need it which might not be the case on every day.
The price difference between the Card and the Pass seems dramatic, but take into consideration that you get only up to 25% discount with the Card: If the entrance fee is 12 €uro, you still pay 9 € whereas with the Pass it’s covered. It really depends on what you intend to do.
Accommodations in Vienna are not exactly cheap. The Ruby Hotels are a chain and the Ruby Lissi is conveniently located close to the airport transports as well as to the Schwedenplatz (on my map its marked with this star ✪) which is the starting and final point of our city tour; and all this at an ok price.
Not so elegant, but a real institution: Elias Canetti, Andy Warhol and Sir Peter Ustinov are only three internationally famous stars from a long list of celebrities to enjoy Hawelka’s hospitality…and specially roasted coffee that can also be ordered from their online store.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 512 82 30
Open daily from 8 a. m. till midnight (Friday and Saturday till 1 a. m. and Sunday from 10 a. m.)
Every time I set foot in the Royal Patisserie Demel, I crack up laughing. It’s not the salesladies, here they call them ‘Demelinen’ – who lower themselves to serve the customers in a quite charming old fashion. No, it’s the prices that are just ridiculous: their famous chocolate, called cats’ tongues for their shape, cost about 22 €uro for 160g / 5.6 oz. You think that’s an extreme? Check out their online shop for 300g / 10.6 oz of cookies for 19 €uro or 125g / 4.5 oz of sweets for over 24 €…I could go on and on, but I can’t since I’m still laughing hysterically.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 535 17 17 – 0
Open daily from 8 a. m. to 7 p. m.
Also a classic, but much more affordable are the sausages at Bitzinger’s stand in front of the Albertina gallery behind the opera. But get there in time before you are really hungry since the line can be very long; a prove of their quality at a fair price.
A very unique snack bar is Trzesniewski. Don’t know how to pronounce it? Never mind, even Vienneses don’t, so that they even put it in a slogan: Trzesniewski – unspeakably good.
Their specialty are little sandwiches with all sort of hearty spreads: whether meat or fishbased, whether with herbs or veggie – Trzesniewski’s little sandwiches are good, indeed. Try them with a ‘pfiff’ of white wine – a ‘pfiff’ is a small glass of wine – about 100 ml / 3.4 fl oz.
They have a couple of branches all over town, but my favorite is at the Dorotheergasse.
Dorotheergasse – my kind of foodie heaven: to the left is first the Café Hawelka, one door down Reinthaler’s Beisl and to the right Tresznewski!
Open weekdays from 8.30 a. m. till 7.30 p. m., Saturday 9 a. m. till 6 p. m. 19.30 and Sunday from 10 a. m. till 5 p. m.
If you have a craving for heavy, hearty Austrian cuisine, there’s no better place than Reinthaler. They have a restaurant close to the Albertina, but the Beisl (=pub) at the Dorotheergasse has more space – and the place is always busy, believe me. No wonder: they are offering fantastic, huge main courses at 9 to 16 €uro!
Of course we had a Schnitzel – almost the size of the plate – and pot roast with a nice dumpling.
Plachutta is another classic, but a little more sophisticated, i. e. more expensive. They have a couple of branches in the center of Vienna, but my favorite is the one at Wollzeile.
One of Vienna’s most famous dishes, the ‘Tafelspitz’. It’s beef cooked in broth (and also served in its own broth), traditionally served with remoulade and apple-horseradish. Yes, this is for one person, no, I didn’t order dessert!
Last but not least there is the very rustic Zwölf Apostelkeller, the cellar of the twelve apostles; and here, like in all the other eateries I’ve mentioned, you’ll feel close to heaven, I can promise you that.
But hey, before you take a break at one of the cafés or restaurants, let’s explore the city by streetcar.
The Ruby Lissi Hotel is just a stone throw from our starting point, the Schwedenplatz.
At Schwedenplatz, you get on the tram #2 towards Dornbach. Don’t make yourself too comfortable since you have to get off already after two stops at Stubentor.
MAK – Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst
Our first stop is the museum of applied arts which offers a couple of inspiring temporary exhibitions, but the most popular pieces are Klimt’s infamous designs for the ceiling of the University of Vienna’s Great Hall which were at that time very controversial and the artist discredited.
MAK – Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst / Gegenwartskunst
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 711 36-0
Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (Tuesday to 10 p. m.)
While the Lower Belvedere houses temporary exhibitions, the permanent collection at the Upper Belvedere is indisputably a must-see since it shows some of the most important works of mainly Austrian and German painters like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, Hans Makart and Hans von Marées, Alfons Walde and Ferdinand Waldmüller – to mention just a few.
For decades there was a sell out of Mozart and Empress Sisi. A couple of years ago, the souvenir industry began printing Klimt’s ‘Kiss’ on all sort of artifacts. Guilty as charged: I bought a Christmas ornament.
In 2011, the Belvedere was completed by the ’21er Haus’, a gallery for modern art about 10 minutes from the Upper Belvedere. I’ve been here a couple of times and each and every exhibition was great, so I urge you to visit this venue, too.
Open daily from 9 a. m. till 6 p. m. (Friday till 9 p. m.)
The 21er Haus is open from Wednesday till Sunday from 11 a. m. till 6 p. m. (Wednesday and Friday till 9 p. m.)
Coming from the Schwarzenbergplatz, you get to the 21er Haus in ‘laps’, but walking all the way back might be a bit far. Therefore I suggest you take the tram #D towards Nussdorf at the Quartier Belvedere station back to Schwarzenbergplatz where you change in the next #2 – we want to continue our circle, after all.
As you arrive at the next stop which is Oper/Karlsplatz, you have many options to visit great attractions: Turn left and go south and you’ll get to the Karlsplatz with its iconic Karlskirche, a grand Roman-Catholic church built in the first half of the 18th century. The church is richly decorated and absolutely worth a visit.
In its neighborhood is one of the old train stations designed by master architect Otto Wagner in the style of Art Nouveau.
Before you go back to the tram station, you ought to cross the horrible junction at Operngasse to the Secession, the building that initially housed works of the Vienna Secession movement founded by Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann and others. At its lower level you can admire Klimt’s famous Beethoven frieze. Upstairs, modern temporary exhibitions are taking place.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 587 53 07
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Note: In 2017/2018, the building is being renovated, but can still be visited.
If you are a great art aficionado like I am, you will enjoy a visit to the Academy of Fine Arts just behind the Secession. The gallery is actually at the academy’s premises which is at first irritating, but the visit – and the searching – is worth it to see masterpieces like e. g. Boticelli’s tondo “Madonna with Child and Angels” and of course Hieronymus Bosch’s “Last Judgement Triptych”.
Coming back to the Oper/Karlsplatz stop of tram #2, you now keep on going north, taking a good look at the impressive opera building to your left. Please refuse to buy tickets to some concerts by the friendly young men dressed as some sort of Mozart. These tickets are a big scam: You’ll get to see a concert, but it will be some cheesy stuff in some back alley and certainly not worth whatever they make you pay for it.
Better keep on going down Kärtnerstraße, look left into Philharmonikerstraße behind the opera to get a glance at the famous Hotel Sacher where a bell boy in sleek livery is holding the door for the rich and noble guests.
Keep walking and turn left into Marco d’Aviano Gasse that leads into Neuer Markt. Ahead you’ll see the Kapuzinerkloster, the Capuchian Abbey, and right next to it the Imperial Crypt where all the tombs of the Royal family members, among them Elisabeth of Austria, aka Sisi!
No walk the Tegetthoffstraße back towards the opera and you’ll get to the Helmut Zilk-Platz with the anti war memorial by Austrian bad boy artist (one of many…) Alfred Hrdlicka. To your right is the ‘Albertina’, another great art venue with the permanent exhibition of the Batliner collection of art from the 19th and 20th century like French impressionists and fauves, German expressionists and much more.
German expressionist from the rich Batliner collection.
Besides this permanent collection and the collection of modern art in the basement, there are always at least two changing exhibitions taking place.
From the big Raffael-exhibition at the Albertina: ‘Die Vision des Ezechiel’/’The Vision of Ezekiel’
On the first floor, the palace’s state apartments with the original furnishing and decoration can be visited.
At the Albertina’s state apartments.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 534 83 0
Open daily from 10 a. m. till 6 p. m. (Wednesday and Friday till 9 p. m.)
Once you’re here, you might want to try one of the Bitzinger-sausages (see the Snack-section above).
Oh, you thought the highest density of attractions was at the stop Oper/Karlsplatz?
Well, you stand corrected since at the next stop, the Burgring, are some of the greatest museums – greatest in both, quality and size.
Let’s first visit the ‘Hofburg’, the majestic complex to your right. The Hofburg, the Royal Castle, was the Habsburg’s residence between the 13th century till end of WWI in 1918. After WWII in 1945 it became the Austrian President’s official seat.
Besides the official apartments, the Hofburg houses Austria’s National Library and a couple of museums – and these are very interesting when it comes to Austria’s history and therefore not to be missed.
Our image of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria is strongly influenced by Ernst Marischka’s sugarcoated, cheesy trilogy of Sisi-movies that we have to endure Christmas after Christmas after… Therefore I was first rolling my eyes when getting to the museum, but I must say, it’s really very nice and interesting and not at all tacky. It explains all the difficulties Sisi had with her surrounding, her role – and herself: her obsession with sports, her what we would call now anorexia, her longing and her fears.
…and again: I have a Christmas ornament depicting Sisi; well, I cannot afford one of Winterhalter’s portraits that can been seen at the apartments.
I particularly enjoyed the exhibition of costumes and attires from the former annexed regions in Bohemia, the Balkans and Italy – until 1918 all part of the imperial and royal Austria.
In another wing the originally furnished and decorated Imperial Apartments can be visited.
Next to the Sisi-Museum, I simply adore the Silver Chamber where all the table services, chandeliers and huge center pieces are exhibited – just so sophisticated.
Phone: + 43 – 1- 533 75 70
Open daily from 9 a. m. to 5.30 p. m. (in July and August till 6 p. m.)
Since you’re on all these Royal activities – and especially if you are visiting in the company of teenage girls – you might want to visit the famous Spanish Riding School located in the very Hofburg.
They have a varied program that you can check out and book on their Website: There are the ‘White Ballet’-shows where the horses ‘dance’ in formations. There is the daily training in the morning – and there are guided tours through the premises.
By the way: If you didn’t purchase any card that grants you a reduction – there is a ticket combining three imperial attractions (the Hofburg, Schönbrunn Castle and the Museum of Furniture at a cheaper price.
Since the two museum buildings – the Museum of Art History to the left and the Museum of Natural History to the right with monarch Maria Theresia sitting enthroned in the middle might be confused with a castle, I specifically pointed out that the castle is on the other side. Yes, these are museums.
The Museum of Art History houses incredible treasures from all art epochs and from around the world: whether the Cranachs, Raffael and Tizian, whether Velazquez or Caravaggio – and of course the masterpieces by the Bruegels – these galleries have it all and it takes certainly many hours if you really want to see it all. And these are only the paintings. They also show art from Egypt as well as Greek and Roman statues, a coin collection and much more. With a little time, certainly a great place to visit. However, if you have only little time and are not the greatest art aficionado, this museum could be skipped since it does not reflect Austria and namely Vienna as much as the others art museums do.
By the way: If you didn’t purchase any card that grants you a reduction – there is a ticket combining the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Museum Ludwig (see below) at a cheaper price.
The Museum of Natural History owns a collection of about 30 Million pieces which makes it one of world’s most important Natural History Museums of the world – and it’s one of Austria’s largest museums. A visit might be great if you are travelling with kids or if you are really a sucker for nature studies. Otherwise – especially if you’re on a tighter schedule – I’d rather skip it since it has next to nothing that might be considered Vienna-related.
There is the so-called ‘Museumsquartier’, a Museums Quarter, at the building complex of the former Royal Mews. After a long planning and almost 20 years of many, many disputes, the Museumsquartier was officially opened in 2001. The complex houses a wide range of different museums, galleries and halls covering almost every kind of interest or liking.
A modern annex is the building now housing the mumok – Museum moderner Kunst, the Museum of Modern Art, founded by the Ludwig foundation (I wrote about the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, financed by the same foundation that the late Peter Ludwig, a chocolate manufacturer and great collector, has established).
The mumok does have a permanent exhibition of some really cool pieces and organizes great shows of modern art.
Although the mumok is certainly one of Vienna’s most important venues when it comes to art, for the average tourist who wants to explore the city itself it might be dispensable.
Besides the Upper Belvedere, the Museum Leopold is another must-see museum since its collection focuses mainly on Austrian art from the turn of the century when great painters like world famous Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, but also daring artists like Anton Kolig and Richard Gerstl, who are not as beloved – maybe because their motives and techniques are rougher and wilder than those of the above mentioned superstars. However, the Leopold has them all – and many, many more.
Anton Kolig: Die Malerfamilie/The painter family
shown on the occasion of the special Kolig exhibition in 2017/2018.
Egon Schiele – the Leopold has them all: ‘Selbstbildnis mit Lampionfrüchten’/’Self portrait with Chinese lantern plant’ and ‘Wally’ – a portrait of his lover Walburga Neuzil, after long conflicts regarding its provenience now back to Vienna.
In addition to the innovative, reckless painters, the Ludwig – named after its founder, collector Rudolf Leopold, a ophthalmologist – shows the wonderfully plain furniture from the ‘Wiener Werkstätten’, the Vienna workshop, designed by Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser and others.
Besides their own treasures, the Museum Leopold has always one or two exhibitions of modern art in its basement.
Special exhibition of Swiss born Ferdinand Hodler’s work. There can be traced a strong influence of the artists of the Vienna Secession in many of Hodler’s works. Especially Koloman Moser, but also Gustav Klimt had a strong impact on Hodler.
There is of course a nice café in case you need to refresh, and I recommend to check out their gift shop which is very art and Vienna-based, but in a rather classy way.
Going on by tram #2, you’ll see the parliament building and the magnificent town hall to your left. In winter there’s a cute Christmas market in front of the building and a huge ice skate ring right next to it – great fun for everybody (besides the Grinch). Another, even bigger Christmas market is to be found between the two museums around Ms Maria-Theresia mentioned above.
At the Parlament stop you have to change trains since here the #2 is turning left and going west. Therefore we’re waiting for tram #1 to finish the entire circle.
Now sitting in tram #1, look right and you’ll see the Burgtheater, one of Europe’s most prestigious theaters – every actor is proud to have been a ‘Burgschauspieler’, a Burg-actor.
And two blocs farther is the above mentioned Café Landtmann – just in case you might need a sophisticated break.
The next place of interest is the University complex is coming up to your left and after a while the stock exchange building (‘Börse’) to your right. We are now heading towards the Donaukanal, the Danube canal.
The tram turns right, goes along the Danube and finally gets back to Schwedenplatz where our tour started.
Although I followed the tram’s map, it’s not possible to visit all the listed attractions in one day. It is meant as a guideline, a golden thread. On your personal trip, you should either split the tour and do it in hops – or you do the whole tour and get off only at some of the most interesting and important attractions.
And there are still two great attractions in the city center that are not on the route along the ‘Ring’ so that I mention them separately:
Saint Steven’s Cathedral is Vienna’s most important landmark and within walking distance from the hotel resp. the Schwedenplatz.
Built in the early 12th century, it is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of Vienna’s Archbishop.
The Stephansdom is over 107 meters / 351 feet long and over 34 meters / 111 feet long. It has four towers, the highest, southern tower is 136 meters / 446 feet high. There are 343 steps to be climbed to get to the tower chamber from where you have an incredible view of Vienna.
Besides precious altars and chapels there are also the treasury and the catacombs to be visited.
Domkirche St. Stephan
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 515 52 3054
Open daily from 6 a. m. to 10 p. m. (Sunday from 7 a. m.)
KUNST HAUS WIEN
As I wrote at the beginning of this post, Vienna has always been home to inspiring, innovative wackos. Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000) was certainly one of the most imaginative and eccentric. But the crooked, colorful, organic buildings he left us prove that dreams can be blueprints for reality.
Besides his grand oeuvre of multicolored, vibrant paintings and drawings that is on show at the KUNST HAUS WIEN, there are also changing exhibitions taking place.
The Hundertwasserhaus, that can be seen only from the outside and not actually visited since there are people living there (some folks have all the luck!), is just a five minutes stroll along Untere Weißgerberstraße away on Kegelgasse 34-38 (1035 Wien
Telefon: +43 650 7138620). There is an info center across the street.
If you have more time and want to experience some real Austrian flavor, you should get out of Vienna on a day trip; let’s face it: in our globalized world, the big cities are much less genuin and cultural than the outskirts and rural areas.
But before we take our hiking boots on, we pay Schönbrunn a visit – Vienna’s Number One attraction. At this former summer residence, the originally furnished and decorated apartments can be visited. To learn about the history, a guided tour is recommended. But also the vast, manicured gardens including the famous Gloriette and the maze made of hedges are nice spots to be visited. Especially in summer, Schönbrunn, now on the list of the Unesco World Heritage Sites, is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Vienna’s city center. However, by subway U4 it can be reached from the Schwedenplatz in about 30 minutes.
Phone: + 43 – 1 – 811 13-0
Open from April 2 to June 30 and September 1 to October 31 from 8 a. m. to 5.30 p. m., July 1 to August 31 from 8 a. m. to 6.30 p. m., from November 1 to March 31 from from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m.
The Kahlenberg is part of the Wienerwald, the Vienna forest. It is a very popular excursion destination to locals and tourists alike – mainly because of the smashing views – on clear days all the way to the Schneeberg, the snow mountain. On a height of 484 m / 1588 ft, the mountains highest point, is the Stefaniewarte, a lookout built in 1887 and named after Belgian princess royal Stefanie.
A little lower is the St. Josefskirche, Saint Joseph’s church. Especially because of its black Madonna the church is a very popular pilgrimage church.
Although hiking the Kahlenberg is a legitimate rustic outing, you’ll get there from Schwedenplatz by public transportation in less than 45 minutes, taking the subway U4 to Heiligenstadt and from there bus 38A uphill.
If you are rather a hedonist than a hiker, you just get to the Kahlenberg to walk the Kahlenbergstraße down south. After about 20 minutes, you’ll find the most original Heurigen-taverns where you can sample Austrian wines and snacks – called ‘Schmankerl’ – like hams and cheeses on farmer’s bread. After all, this is what the Heuriger-tradition was initiated for! If you’re lucky, some fiddler will entertain you with his tacky tunes. A truly Austrian experience!
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