Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
Vienna was always planned as a chill-out and relaxation stop for us on our trip, as the first destination after a month of driving around France, Spain and Portugal. For those who spend a lot of time in the car, you’ll know how exhausting it can be – not just physically, but mentally as well as you spend your time concentrating on the road. Combined with endless days of sightseeing and roaming around a new city, it was a truly exhausting month!
So with that in mind, we booked eight nights in a much nicer Airbnb apartment in Vienna. We knew that if we were doing the usual tourist thing of spending all day out seeing the sights, we probably wouldn’t need that many days in Vienna – five nights might have been enough. But we wanted to stretch out our time in Vienna to be a more relaxing trip with sleep-ins in the mornings, the occasional lazy afternoon, and quiet cozy nights in.
Obviously, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t go out though! We spent a lot of time wandering around the old part of Vienna, soaking in the huge palaces and impressive monuments. We fell in love with the beautiful foliage in Vienna’s public parks and gardens – it was the first real sign of autumn that we had encountered on our trip, and the range of colours in the trees was purely magical. I might be too much of a city girl when I’m in Australia, but I can honestly say that I’ve never encountered that richness of colour in an Australian autumn.
I particularly enjoyed our visit out to Schonbrunn palace which combined the beauty of extensive gardens going through the changing colours of autumn, with the opulence and the history of the Hapsburg royal family. While the building itself doesn’t have a particularly ornate exterior, the interior definitely makes up for it – and the audio-guided tour is superb. The tour concentrates primarily on the most famous ruler of the Hapsburg dynasty, the Queen and Empress Maria Theresa, and also one of the last Kings of Austria, Franz Joseph I – both powerful and influential leaders in their own way.
By far the best day that I had in Vienna was the day of my 29th birthday. It started early with K cooking me brioche French toast, and then continued with the fantastic meal that we had at Restaurant Steirereck. We went on to visit the Prater amusement park in the late afternoon, and took a ride on the historic Wiener Riesenrad, or Vienna Ferris Wheel which dates back to 1897. We finished the day by watching Tom Hiddleston’s (my favourite actor!) new film Crimson Peak at the Viennese English language cinema, the Haydn Kino. It was literally the perfect day – great food, an amusement park, and watching my favourite actor in a new film.
Speaking of great food, we had a series of great meals while in Vienna. Steirereck was by far and away the best meal, but we also enjoyed our traditional meal at Zum Alten Fassl. The meal we had at Restaurant Weimar before attending the opera was a little more disappointing, but you can’t win them all. At least we had some great casual street-side eats – bratwursts, hotdogs, pastries, strudels. One of my favourite discoveries was the realisation that all supermarkets offer a deli counter where you can request a DIY sandwich – just pick your favourite cold meats and cheeses, and they’ll slice it up for you and make it into a sandwich for only around 2 or 3 Euro.
I can’t finish any entry about Vienna without quickly mentioning the best sweet wafers I’ve ever had – the Manner Neapolitan wafers. Yes, they are better than Loackers! A Vienna specialty, they are truly irresistible, and I think I ate almost a pack a day while I was there. I highly recommend trying the Manner wafers if you ever see them available.
I really loved our visit to Vienna, but I know it’s not for everyone. If you’re not that into history, and not that into walking around parks and gardens, it’s not for you. But if you love beautiful buildings and landscapes and a place that bleeds history in every cobblestone, Vienna is the place to go. It’s a particularly relaxed and laid-back city (everything is closed on Sunday so people can have family time!), and a perfect stop if you’re looking for a bit of a break in a longer trip – plus it’s in close proximity to Bratislava which is an interesting peek into a post-Soviet city.