Last weekend I had the pleasure of being whisked away to Vienna for a city break by my Dad.
I know that Vienna has been highly rated as a ‘must-visit’ European city, but before researching it and going there, I didn’t know what was in store for us. Unlike other landmark cities like Paris, Rome or even Amsterdam, thinking about Vienna doesn’t conjure up images of famous tourist attractions, buildings or impressive landmarks.
So what is it that you go to Vienna for? Well, aside from the coffee shop culture, extensive art galleries, and important buildings, it’s just a really nice place with lots to explore.
0 hours in: When we arrived, we spent the afternoon walking around and soaking up the feel of the city. It’s very clean and easy to navigate by the tall cathedrals in the distance and the domineering stone buildings on every street. A ring road encases the town centre so it was easy not to stray onto the outskirts of town without realising it.
I was struck by the contrast between the traditional buildings, cafes and pubs that were steeped in history, and sitting beside (or sometimes containing) ultra modern and lively bars and shops.
24 hours in: The three major art galleries are all handily grouped together in the ‘Museumsquartier’. We went to the Leopold Museum, which among others, displays the work of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. I remember studying Schiele at school – he’s best known for his unglamorous and eerily realistic paintings of nude figures. The Leopold was definitely worth visiting, and it gave us our dose of culture for the weekend.
26 hours in: Vienna is known for it’s coffee shop culture – as if we needed an excuse to stop for one (or five). We went to a traditional Viennese café called Café Sperl, which was just outside the city’s ring road.
Café Sperl dates back to 1880 and is on the Austrian Register of Historic Places. There was a piano player in the corner, and each table seemed to be using the café for a different purpose: there was a group of boys drinking beer, couples having lunch, and then others drinking coffee – a bit different from Woking Costa!
28 hours in: We then ventured out to Naschmarkt, which had been recommended to us by the hotel staff. This literally sold everything, from wine, cheese and sushi, to furniture, antiques and shoes.
Just when I thought we’d seen every type of food, the food stalls stopped and stalls selling clothes, antiques, and furniture came in to view. The market is actually 1.5km long – no wonder it seemed to go on and on! I didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to look at!
32 hours in: On our second night, we tried some typically Austrian food, namely Wiener Schnitzel. It doesn’t seem very healthy – breaded veal with potatoes and ketchup, but it was good stuff.
We went to a local restaurant, and I think we might have been the only tourists in there because we had to ask them to find us an english menu. The restuarant was surprisingly busy – there was an outside patio area in a courtyard rammed with tables and groups of people. Being busy was a good sign though and a reflection of the good food!
48 hours in: On the last day, we went to see a performance at the Spanish Riding School. To summarise, a few horses pranced around, each with a very serious looking rider astride them demonstrating the different steps they could make the horse do. I don’t know much about horses so it didn’t mean too much to me, but it looked good.
51 hours in: I think we saved the best part of the trip until last. We had seen most of the city, but we didn’t know much about it, and there were still a few areas that we hadn’t made it to. So we went on a Segway tour.
We started with brief instruction on how to control a segway, and as the only member of the group who had never been on one, this was primarily directed at me.
Riding (or driving?) a segway is only slightly harder than it looks (and it looks easy). You just have to stand up straight and control it with your body. Luckily, in Vienna there are cycle paths everywhere, and travelling along these meant we were away from the pedestrains and had little chance of colliding with anyone.
Travelling by segway was a fantastic way to see the city. It was a lot faster than walking and segways are much less cumbersome than bikes. The tour guide stopped us at various landmarks and told us a bit about them, and took us on a big loop of Vienna so we saw all the things worth seeing.
It was a great end to the weekend, but it may have been better to do it at the beginning of our stay so that we could re-visit some of the places on the tour.
54 hours in: Time to go home!
If you have the opportunity to go to Vienna – make sure you take it!
It’s perfect for a weekend getaway: with culture and history to learn about; shopping streets and markets to discover; and local restaurants, bars and coffee shops to chill out in. Next time, I need to try out the nightlife!