Vienna is a fascinating city, that provides a crazy mix of history, culture and modern-day amenities. With a local population of nearly 2 million people, plus all the tourist, it is a big and bustling city. Two days was not nearly sufficient time to enjoy all it has to offer, but I got enough of a sampling to I know I will definitely go back! From museums to historical palaces and cathedrals, to fancy restaurants and charming cafes, there’s a lot to see and do. Pack a good pair of walking shoes because you’re going to need them!
Our first stop was breakfast at the world famous Naschmarkt. Picture Pike Street Market in Seattle but with an Austrian twist. The market is lively with street vendors, music, tasty foods, cafes, and a variety of interesting shops. The colorful fresh fruits and vegetables immediately got my attention because there were many that I didn’t recognize or hadn’t seen available outside of Asia. There was a vast supply of tasty cheeses, olives, and sweets to sample. We even ate a bag of delicious dried hibiscus flowers. We shopped for old antiques, modern day souvenirs and Austrian hats. I can’t imagine visiting Vienna without enjoying some time perusing Naschmarkt.
You can’t miss the spectacular Schonbrunn Palace because it is smack dab in the middle of the city and is gigantic. It was originally a baroque style hunting lodge built at the end of the seventeenth century for Emperor Leopold I. We spent hours there wandering the grounds and we didn’t even go inside! The gardens are breathtakingly beautiful, as are the magnificent stone fountains. There is also a zoo, complete with a panda bear! At the top, overlooking all of Vienna, is a quaint restaurant where you can rest your weary feet and take in the view, all while enjoying an iced coffee and strudel. Austrians put ice cream in their iced coffee, and it’s soooo good!
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
The locals call this famous Gothic style cathedral Stephansdom. It was built in the 12th century but has been renovated many times. I’ve seen a good number of churches and cathedrals in Austria, but this one stands out as my favorite. It is dark and jagged with high pointy ceilings and beautiful gold etching and semi-precious stones. Below the cathedral is the catacombs where many famous people were buried, including Emperor Friedrich III in an impressive marble sarcophagus. The tomb’s cover slab alone weighs over eight tons. The entire time I was inside my jaw hung open in awh. I don’t think I have words to describe how remarkable it is.
Affectionately known as the MQ by local residents, the MuseumsQuartier is one of the largest cultural complexes in the world. Vienna has over 100 museums, and a good number of them are at the MQ. We could have spent days there just enjoying the many art exhibits. Historic buildings built in the 18th and 19th century combined with contemporary museums form a unique urban living room for locals and tourist from around the world. There is a special ensemble ambience about the place and I dug the artistic vibe. .https://www.mqw.at/en/about/
Gutes Essen (Good Food)
Vienna has some incredible food. Good thing you have to walk so much and get a chance to work off those calories! I really enjoyed the kaesespaetzle, which is similar to macaroni and cheese, the wiener schnitzel (it’s kind of like chicken fried steak), strudel (Austrian’s version of apple pie), ice cream, and all the delicious cheeses. They also have a lot of excellent wines from local vineyards, much like the Pacific Northwest.
Vienna is a lovely city and a delightful place to visit. There is no shortage of fun things to do and incredible historic sites are on every corner. The people are also fun loving and helpful. Not many people speak English though, so I highly recommend learning some key words in German before you go. Whatever you end up doing in Vienna, you’ll never be bored!