Before a trip, I’ve mentioned that I try to keep my expectations/pre-conceived ideas to a minimum. Travel porn can really mess with your head and make you feel like you’re missing something when you see the real thing.
Gee, I guess real porn might do the same.
And I’ll admit it, over the years I’ve looked at plenty of Viennese travel porn (I have a problem, ok?), and my romantic visions of the city were at completely unrealistic levels. Confectionary Baroque architecture, the home to the only surviving building lived in by Mozart, rich coffee, chocolate cakes, luxurious furs, sweeping waltzes, classical music . . . I mean, come on, how could any romantic not be a sucker for that?
And you know what? It’s true. Parts of the city really are that way! But, it’s also a modern, bustling place with people, you know, going to work in plain old suits and ties and unfortunately not powdered wigs.
I wanted powdered wigs.
Actually, I wanted Miloš Forman to art direct my vacation.
But even with the lack of powdered wigs and Miloš, I still really liked Vienna, and I really needed more time there. I don’t feel like I fully maximized the time that I did have, but here are a few tips:
You know something that Brahms, Strauss, Schubert, Beethoven, and Mozart have in common? Ok, yes, they’re all classical composers, but they’re also all buried in Vienna. In fact, you can even pay your respects to all of them at the Zentralfriedhof if you’ve got the time, which is absolutely on my list for next time. Even if classical music isn’t really your thing, you should at least have a little listen for some ambiance. Try these:
– (he wrote The Marriage of Figaro while living in Vienna, dontcha know)
SEE & DO
– Schoenbrunn Palace – it’s probably best to visit this gorgeous palace in the warmer months so you can enjoy the gardens, but there is a great, non-cheesy Christmas market around the holidays, so brave the cold! It’s a bit outside of the city, but it’s a quick metro ride.
– Mozarthaus – this is the only surviving structure that was home to the Mozart family, which is now a museum at Domgasse 5. The admission includes an audio tour, but it’s sort of slow moving and a little repetitive. I spent about an hour there and it was good enough for my pace, plus, it was cool just to be in the building itself.
– Stephansdom – who doesn’t love a cathedral? Well, Damian wasn’t too fond of them, but for the non-antichrist among us, they’re beautiful old buildings to walk through and marvel. This is the focal point of Stephansplatz, which is the center of the old city, and a good place to start your day.
– Kärtnerstrasse – this is the “main street” of Vienna, pedestrian only, and full of shops, cafes, and plenty to see
– Figlmüller – home of “Vienna’s most famous schnitzel”! This might seem a little touristy, but you’re a tourist, so who cares. You can’t go to Vienna and not get a good wienerschnitzel, and this is a great spot for lunch. When we were there around 12, the crowds weren’t terrible, but by 1:00 it was a madhouse, so plan accordingly.
– Der Naschmarkt – Vienna’s open-air food market
– Café Sacher – again, another tourist spot (and the crowds will remind you of this), but when in Vienna. If you have the opportunity to have a torte and a coffee at Café Sacher, you should just go for it! And if, like me, you don’t have the time to wait in the long line for a table, no worries. There are plenty of cafes in this style where you’ll be served your yummies on a little silver platter.
– Käsekrainer – ok, this is a really disgusting cheese-filled sausage, but it’s really kind of awesome during a night of drinking in the cold. You’ll find this at every wurst stand on the street, and I highly recommend it. It is definitely not kosher.
– Mozartkugeln – you won’t spend more than 30 seconds in Vienna without seeing these Mozart-themed chocolates being hawked everywhere. We have these in the states, but here you’ll find not only the Wolfgang variety, but the Constanze, and the Mozart children and grandparents and giant crystal-covered versions. Hey, they’re delish and they make good token gifts.
Vienna was where my group of eight had a slumber party in an 8-bed dorm room, so I can’t give you a ton of skinny on the lux digs available to you, but here’s what my initial research found:
– Vienna Westend City Hostel – we stayed in this hostel on the Westend of the city, which wasn’t a terrible location, but wasn’t within the Ringstrasse. Clean, friendly, not too many frills, but very near the subway, about $20 per person for the dorm
– Wombats – this is a well-known, popular hostel in Vienna. There are two locations: Base and Lounge. They’ve won all sorts of awards and look like great places to stay if you’re in the market for a hostel, plus it’s the most awesome name ever
Vienna is a very bustling city; it’s much more crowded than I expected it to be for some reason. That being said, I was there the day before New Year’s Eve, so that might have had something to do with it. There is plenty to see and do in Vienna, but even with limited time there, you should take part in their storied kaffeekultur. Sit down in a cozy café, relax with a friend or a book or both, have some dessert, and just people watch. It was so crowded when I was there that it was hard for us to get a table anywhere, but it’s worth it to fight for one.
You should also familiarize yourself with Princess Sissi, who was the less controversial Princess Di or Kate Middleton of her day, but even more so. The movie based on her life is beloved by German-speaking girls in the way that The Sound of Music is by Americans.
And ladies, if you have any fur in your wardrobe that you’re sort of nervous about wearing in your own city, bring it to Vienna. Ladies here love them some fur.
Looking forward to more time there . . . and maybe in warmer weather!