Nestled peacefully in the centre of Europe surrounded by eight neighbours, Austria’s capital is a little under the Birmingham radar.
Words: Andrew Riley
Vienna is a fascinating city that’s best enjoyed slowly. However, few tourists can afford the luxury of time. We took a whistle-stop tour and here’s our advice on how to make the most of Vienna in two days.
Home to an eclectic mix of buildings and styles including Art Nouveau, Romanesque, Gothic, Rococo and many more, Vienna is without question a feast for the architectural lover’s eyes.
There are three important palaces in Vienna – the Belvedere, Hofburg, and Schönbrunn. Chances are you won’t have the time to enter all of them, so you’ll need to choose one or two. The Belvedere is a complex of various buildings that have been converted into art galleries. They’re home to paintings by Gustav Klimt (including his famous Kiss), Schiele, and Kokoschka. The Belvedere has also a stunning garden you can enter free of charge.
The Hofburg served once as the Habsburgs’ winter residence and today is the headquarters of the President of Vienna. Choose this palace if you are interested in the history of the Austrian monarchy, the Habsburgs and especially if you’re a fan of their most famous Empress Sisi. The Hofburg is situated in the city centre, so you won’t have to commute (in contrast, you need to use public transportation to reach the Schönbrunn and Belvedere Palaces).
The Schönbrunn Palace is also a great choice if you want to get to know a bit of the Habsburgs’ history. Unlike the Hofburg, it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens. If you travel during the winter season, you may also come across a Christmas market that takes place every year there. A visit to the palace itself shouldn’t take long (up to one hour), but the gardens here are also incredible.
Vienna also has diverse museums. Its most important art gallery and one of the biggest museums in the world is the Kunsthistorisches Museum (the Museum of Art History), which houses important works by such artists as Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Dürer, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. You’ll need at least half a day to properly enjoy this museum.
If you prefer modern art, you may want to choose to see the Leopold Museum. A visit here certainly won’t take as much time as it would to explore the wonders of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Amongst the highlights are masterpieces by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, and Richard Gerstl.
Alternatively, you can choose to go to the Naturhistorisches Museum (the Natural History Museum). The building is gigantic, filled with more than 30 million objects on display. It was erected to house the Habsburgs’ collection of natural artefacts and was opened to the public in 1889.
They say that no visit to Vienna is complete without a ride on the Wiener Riesenrad (German for Vienna Giant Wheel), at the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Austria’s capital. It’s one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions, and symbolises the district as well as the city for many people. Constructed in 1897, it was the world’s tallest extant Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985, but with its beautiful carriages and construction, it still beats all of the rest on charm alone.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Ruby Lissi, the newest addition to a collection of three hotels in the city, each offering something unique, individual and above all relaxed.
Ruby Hotels embrace technology with a neat self check-in system and rooms which are compatible with any mobile device. Rooms are minimalistic but beautifully appointed with thoughtful touches: soundproof, amazingly comfortable beds and blackout blinds (you’ll definitely get a good sleep here, we did).
There’s no restaurant at the Ruby Lissi, its philosophy is that you should go out and explore the heart of the city to eat, and with such a great selection of eateries, cafés and a bustling nightlife we wholly agree with this strategy.
However, there is a very fine and quirky bar at the Lissi, with an interior created from reclaimed up-cycled art, objects and furniture. You can sit and enjoy this relaxing space where they serve an equally thoughtful organic breakfast which caters for all tastes and includes a selection of superfoods and vegan delights.
No trip to Vienna is complete without trying the best Veal Schnitzel, we ate at Huth Gastronomie where you can indulge in some traditional fare. Also, try traditional Greave Dumplings to start and finish off with the best Apple Strudel all washed down with Viennese white wine.
Take a stroll down the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s best-known market which boasts around 120 market stands and restaurants for a colourful culinary offering ranging from Viennese to Indian, and Vietnamese to Italian.
The Naschmarkt is a well-known meeting point for locals, don’t pigeon-hole this market in the ‘normal’ category, it’s 5-star. We sat here enjoying a Melange (German for Viennese Blend and similar to a cappuccino) watching the world go by.
It’s impossible to see all that Vienna has to offer in just two days and if you have the budget we recommend a group, or even better a personal tour with www.theredumbrella.tours where you will be treated to a fascinating Viennese masterclass.
With so much to see in Vienna, you’ll have to make some choices, but the most important monuments include the Belvedere, Hofburg and Schönbrunn Palaces and the Leopold Museum – our personal favourite.
Most importantly walk around, stop for a drink and keep your eyes and ears open; Vienna is, of course, famous for Opera and was the home of Mozart and Beethoven, so you won’t find it hard to stumble upon some beautiful music in this city brimming with creativity and culture.
With direct flights from Birmingham to Vienna via Eurowings you can touch down in around two hours. If you want to travel to your hotel in style book a chauffeur driven car with intersprint.at.
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