The Long Weekender
Vienna (Wien) Austria
Vienna is a city that has held a special place ever since I first visited as an 18 year old. I returned after that first visit a few times between the ages of 18 and 25, but had not returned since. From that very first visit it struck me as a fairy-tale city, full of romance and joy, enhanced given that it was December, close to Christmas, the ground covered in a blanket of pure white snow, all adding to that feeling of magic. On one of my visits on a Christmas day I made my way to St. Stephens’s cathedral, more out of curiosity than religious compulsion, and ended up with the very good fortune of hearing the Viennese boys’ choir sing. It still stands out as a profound life memory, along with those memories of the friends I made and times we shared. On one such evening a gang of us all met up (me being the only non-Austrian) in the metro station at Opera before heading off into the snow covered streets, snow ball fighting as we went into the night. The memory of that night and many other remain vivid to my recollection. Indeed, such was the impact of my experiences in Vienna it inspired a short story I wrote shortly after one visit, which was published in a well-known Dublin magazine of the time “In Dublin”
Would I feel differently all these years later I wondered?
View from the plane as we come in to land Vienna.
This time there was no snow to greet me, but then on many of my past visits in younger days the snow had long passed. I am happy to say the city has lost none of its charm and is as wondrous and romantic a place now as it was then.
From a practical point of view it’s also turned out to be one of the least expensive European cites I have visited, even taking Brexit bashing on my pound into account. This is another city where a city pass is an absolute must, called the Vienna Pass, it offers not only free entry into 60+ attractions in many it also allows you to skip the ques and gain easy access to the attraction, a real boon in peak season As if that wasn’t enough it includes the Hop on Hop off City Tour Bus, again a great was to familiarise yourself with the city and it stunning architectural history. If fact it covers entry to so many places you will be hard pressed to visit them all.
Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens Vienna
Schonbrunn Palace and gardens, a place I remembered well from all those years ago.
Tree lined avenue Schonbrunn
Schonbrunn Palm House
Floral display, Palm House Schonbrunn
Enclosure, Sconbrunn Zoo
Schonbrunn Zoo, which I had not visited in the past turned out to be a pleasant surprise as it has and is being totally revamped to provide the animals with larger and more conducive enclosures.
Koala Bear, Schonbrunn Zoo
Majestic Cheetah, Schonbrunn Zoo
Polar Bear, Schonbrunn Zoo
DDSG Blue Danube River Cruise
A Danube cruise on the refurbished MS Blue Danube is also included with the Vienna Pass. The route takes you along the Danube Canal, which was the main branch of the Danube in the middle Ages. Along the way you will glimpse such architectural highlights as the Urania observatory, Jean Nouvel’s hotel and commercial building, Hans Hollein’s Media Tower, Otto Wagner’s Schützenhaus and the Spittelau waste incineration plant designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. You can also not help but notice that Vienna is a city full of graffiti in places and nowhere more so than along the river side walls. It is now, as it was then. The boat is very well laid out, comfortable, and includes a bar and restaurant. Needless to say any food or drink you might want during the cruise is extra.
Boat dock Blue Danube river cruise
Iconic, Spittelau waste incineration plant
Through the looking glass
Silhouette bridge and glass building
Reflections in canal basin
Cyclist with blue sky, viewed through Art Deco handrail
Contemporary reflections Vienna
Old meets new
Natural History Museum
Historic street lighting
The Museum of Natural History. This place is vast containing over 30 million specimens and artifacts, be sure to allow plenty of time to see it all.
Street lighting Vienna
Inside Do-An cafe Nachtmarkt
St. Stephens Cathedral
View from the watchtower, St Stephens Cathedral Vienna
Top Tip: If the windows in the watchtower are locked and you would like one opened in order to take a pictures without glass refection ask the rather eccentric, but very helpful and friendly man behind the counter in the little shop, he may well oblige, he did for me!
Sun going down St Stephens Square
St Stephens Cathedral is a must for one and all but with the Vienna Pass you can also climb the 343 steps of the South Tower, taking you to watchman’s lookout some 246 feet above street level and affording great views of the city below and beyond. If the weather and time permits try and get there for sunset, it’s spectacular. Whilst you are visiting the Cathedral be sure to also take the time to do the guided catacombs tour as it offers a fascinating, if somewhat eerie, glimpse into the history of both Vienna and the Cathedral. My visit to |St. Stephens left me overcome in a great swathe of warming nostalgia as I gazed upon the seat in the Cathedral where I had lost myself to the spell of the coir on Christmas day all those year before.
Nighttime St. Stephens Cathedral spire
Book shop window display
And last, but by no means least, (No Picture, but a must for all music lovers) Mozart’s House which is just around the corner from St Stephens and well worth a visit.
This is just my list of places I particularly wanted to visit, or revisit, and any you miss on a long long list provides the perfect excuse for a return to this remarkable and beautiful city.
EasyJet from Manchester. For more info click this link
Top Top Tip EasyJet: Seats are released in five tranches throughout the year. EasyJet’s prices are based on demand, so be ready to buy on the day it launches a new wave of tickets and you’re likely to get a good deal. Also if you’ve booked a flight directly with EasyJet, check the price afterwards to see if it drops. The airline’s little-known price promise guarantees that if you do find the same flight for less after booking, you’ll get the difference back as a credit voucher.
AirB&B comes up trumps in Vienna with lots of affordable apartments in great locations for reasonable prices. For more info click this link
The Vienna Pass: for more info click this link
Happily, eating out in Vienna does not have to be expensive with some great choice and fabulous food. In particular there is an area called Naschmarkt, fabulous place, full of an array of all types of restaurants, food stalls and markets.
Sour Note: Remarkably it is still possible to smoke in virtually all restaurants and bars in Vienna, one big down side to this city from my point of view, although I believe it’s due to change in 2018.
Neni: For more info click this link
Of particular note has to be Neni am Naschmarkt where the food is as memorable as it is unique with a blend of Lebanese, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Israeli inspired dishes. It also offers many vegetarian and vegan dishes too. We dined here twice, it was that good. Happily it is also one of the few restaurants in Vienna that I visited which does not permit smoking indoors.
Do-An: For more info click this link
Another good place along here (although, sadly they permit smoking) is Do-An
There are of course many, many, more places to eat out in Vienna, but these were 2 of my favourites.
Please do feel free to let me know what yours are?
Places to See and Visit in Vienna
Sconbrunn Palace and Gardens: for more info click this link.
Schonbrunn Zoo: for more info click this link.
Saint Stephens Cathedral: for more info click this link.
Mozart’s House: for more info click this link.
The Museum of Natural History Wien: for more info click this link.
MS Blue Danube Cruise: for more info click this link.
#TravelWise #TravelWell #TravelThere
This article and it’s contents is dedicated to a friend I made on that first visit and with whom I shared some very happy times and memories in Vienna, Claudia Neudecker.