Best known for its Sachertorte, Vienna is the favourite destination for those who love Christmas markets, museums and history… But Christmas markets more than anything.
I reached Vienna on the 1st of January 2017, after a 12 hours long train ride. Spending the New Year’s Eve in a train carriage wasn’t ideal, I agree, but at least I gave the chance to the future me to tell her kids and grandchildren I experienced it. Not less important, I made friends with a couple of Korean guys who offered to my fellow traveller and I a bottle of apple flavoured soju, which we enjoyed while watching fireworks in the distance. All is well that ends well, may I say.
My companion and I decided to book this trip two weeks before the departure, motivated by the will to experience some Christmas atmosphere and discover a European capital we had never been to before.
In this blog, forget about anything related to Christmas and carefully read the following words: never, ever, go to Vienna after the 1st of January if Christmas markets are your main interest. Far be it from me to state it was vain to visit this city, but I can’t deny I have felt some sort of disappointment when everything I could see was workers dismantling the stands. Wherefore, here there is the first keep-it-in-mind note: the Christmas markets period in Vienna is usually from the second half of November to the very last days in December.
Despite the bitter disappointment, Vienna still had a lot to offer: it’s a city full of history, rich museums and of marvellous churches (first and foremost, Karlskirche).
Since I must make a selection of the places I visited in Vienna, I will briefly mention the Wiener Rathaus and the Schönbrunn Palace. The first one is the beautiful building which houses the city hall of Vienna and where, during Christmas Time, is hold the biggest Christmas Market in the city (and if you look closely in the picture I posted down below, you can see the workers I was talking about).
The Schönbrunn is the former imperial summer residence, where tourists can have access to numerous rooms and discover about the life and habits of King Franz Joseph, Princess Sissi and other members of the Austrian royal family. It is also possible to visit the Garden and have a suggestive walk surrounded by nature.
During my stay, I had the chance to make one of my deepest wishes come true: I visited the Leopold Museum, home to one of the largest collections of modern Austrian art and of Egon Schiele, in particular. Having the honour to see those paintings in real life, being able to distinguish the different traits and brush strokes was achingly beautiful.
How? MuseumsQuartier, Line U2 of the Vienna U-Bahn.
How much? Full price ticket: 13€ | Students (under 28): 9€
Another unmissable museum for Art lovers is Österreichische Galerie Belvedere. The immense art collection of this museum, housed in two different buildings (Upper and Lower Belvedere), is best known to be the home of one of the most appreciated works of art of all times: The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. If you are only interested in this painting, I suggest you to only buy the ticket for the Upper Belvedere: only visiting this building already requires you to spend at least 2 hours and a half in the museum. The art collection is huge, extremely diverse in forms and epochs and I feel the visit of only this part of the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere is enough for those who are averagely keen on Arts.
Fun fact: you are forbidden to take photos of the paintings, but they set up a room to let tourists take a selfie with a copy of The Kiss. Is it just me, or this is just absurd?!
Where? Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Upper Belvedere
How? Best with tram, line D stop Schloss Belvedere or line 18/0 stop Südbahnhof
How much? Full price ticket: 15€ | Students (under 26) and seniors (above 65): 12,50€
Another place where you can enjoy Klimt’s art is the Secession Building, housing the Beethoven Frieze. It is a widely recognized architectural manifesto for the Vienna Secession, a group of rebel artists.
Where? Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Upper Belvedere
How? Karlsplatz, Line U1, U2 or U4 of the Vienna U-Bahn.
How much? Full price ticket: 9,50€ | Students (under 26) and seniors (above 65): 6€
The fourth and last museum I am going to talk about is Museum Hundertwasser, situated near the famous Hundertwasserhaus -photo 2 and 3 down below- and was founded by Friedensreich Hundertwasser himself, one of the most exceptional and unique artists of our time.
Before reaching Vienna I only knew about the presence of weird and coloured buildings with an unpronounceable name and I could never expect I could possibly fall in love with that genius mind who projected them. The visit to the museum was the purest of revelations, a rollercoaster of emotions and astonishment.
Where? Untere Weißgerberstraße 13, near Hundertwasserhaus
How? Preferably by tram, line O or line 1 stop Radetzkyplatz
How much? Full price ticket: 12€ | Students (under 26) and adolescents (under 19): 5€.
I highly suggest buying the audioguide for 3€ (only available in German and English) in order to deeply understand the life, genius and production of this artist.
Further suggestion: if you get to visit this museum, make sure to stop at its cafe: the atmosphere is unique, the coffee is good and you get to experience some more of the magic of Hundertwasser’s art. A bit pricey, but worthy. Not sure if my opinions count or not, since I almost hate Strudel, but the one I had here was near to decent… Maybe it can translate to ‘good’ for those who actually appreciate this dessert, but I can’t tell for sure.
Since I made a digression about desserts, let me talk about the ultimate cake when you visit Vienna: the one and only Sachertorte.
It may sound a bit banal, but the best one I had during my stay was at Cafe Sacher, exactly that place that everyone talks about on the internet. The queue is extremely long, so much I had to wait outside the cafe for about 40 minutes before being able to enter and literally defrost (I remind you the weather in Austria is particularly cold in winter time); you might spend the highest price ever for a piece of cake (about 8€ each) but your taste buds will be grateful for the rest of your life.
Might not be the best solution for those who are on a budget, but it surely is one of the best experiences you can have in Vienna.
PS: I wrote a post completely dedicated to this piece of cake, you can read about it at the following link: SACHERTORTE | Food discovery.
One final experience you can’t miss during your stay in Vienna is a ride on Wiener Riesenrad, one of the most ancient Ferris wheels in Europe. I must admit the view is nothing unmissable, but the museum about the various stages of the Wurstelprater amusement park -where the wheel is located- was pretty interesting.
Talking about the amusement park, I must warn you of the chance to find most of the attractions closed in winter time, which is a pity considering the big amount of interesting vintage and contemporary rides.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my travel and got inspired to visit Vienna in the future. If you have already been there, don’t be shy and share your experience!