Europe Trip - Highlights from Vienna
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. (Henry Miller)
During our trip to Europe last summer, we traveled a lot by train. It was relaxing and easy, and also a lot more timely than air travel. Unfortunately, most of our destinations on this trip were an 8-hour train ride away. We flew everywhere, except for our train ride from Munich to Vienna. The journey was relaxing, scenic, and productive! I was happy to get some work done while also enjoying the picturesque countryside.
Here are some highlights from Vienna:
We are building up Hyatt points for our honeymoon, so we were excited to stay at the Park Hyatt Vienna. The hotel occupies a 100-year-old building in the historic First District that used to be a bank headquarters. Our room was spacious, impeccably decorated, and full of modern niceties like touch-pad lighting and bluetooth Bose speakers. My Mister thinks this hotel has ruined me for any future vacations!
We arrived on Thursday evening, had a full day of work on Friday, then a wonderful weekend before leaving on Monday for Paris. We got the full Vienna experience, including a night at the opera and three morning runs through the city!
One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Schönbrunn Palace. Photography was discouraged, so while we have a few sneaky pics of the incredible rooms, they don’t do the place justice. If you go, I recommend investing in the audio guide. I wish I was more of a history buff because much of the content was over my head!
Neither of us had major aspirations to see an opera, but we thought, "when in Vienna, do as the Viennese do!" Tickets to the State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) were too expensive by the time we considered buying them, so we booked two seats at the Volksoper instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but halfway through the show we were both totally lost. Since we do not speak Italian or German, following along was quite difficult! I am embarrassed to admit that we ducked out at intermission and did not come back...
St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) is a central landmark in the First District. After walking past it a few times, we went inside during Sunday morning services. The church is beautiful, with ornate details around every corner. Inside, there was a mix of tourists and parishioners — but everyone seemed to be in awe. Listening to the organs play and the choir sing, it was a magical way to start the day.
After St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we went to the State Hall Library (Prunksaal) at Hofburg Palace. It was neat to walk through the old imperial library, and my favorite part was the four globes by Vincenzo Coronelli. The tour inside Hofburg Palace and the Sisi Museum were a letdown compared to Schönbrunn Palace, but I am glad we went because it lead to one of my favorite (and unplanned) parts of Vienna!
When we walked through the entrance to Hofburg Palace, we saw the ticket office for the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School. Then I remembered my grandma telling me that she, “didn’t get to see the horses” when she was in Vienna. We peeked into the ticket booth to find out the 11am was show was about to start. We purchased two standing-room tickets and hoped for the best. To our delight, every part of the show was incredible! I would highly recommend it, and hope to go back with an actual seat one day.
Our three morning runs were another highlight. It was fun to experience the quiet stillness of Vienna, before everyone flooded the streets and started their days. We ran through the Naschmarket as it was opening on Monday morning, but I think we both wished we had been there during the day. It’s on the list for our next time in Vienna, for sure.
We had some great meals in Vienna, here are my restaurant recommendations:
- Café Landtmann – if you were in Vienna for just a few hours and could only visit one cafe, I would recommend going here for weinersnitchel, apfelstrudel, and melange coffee. The full Vienna experience in one iconic location!
- Freyenstein – this is a neat little restaurant. There is not a menu in the traditional sense. Instead, the chef prepares 7 courses comprised of many small plates. Each one was artfully prepared and full of surprising and delicious flavors.
- Lola – on our “opera night” we went to Lola for tapas before the show. It was an early meal for Saturday night, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Our food and drinks were both wonderful, and so was the ambiance of the restaurant.
- Glasweise – eating here was not part of our original plan, but we shuffled into this lovely restaurant across the street from the opera. We sat at the bar, enjoyed a few wine recommendations, and shared a tasting plate. Glasweise is an adorable restaurant with amazing customer service!
Vienna is a historical and magical place that made me feel small and young in comparison. It’s not somewhere I would want to move to tomorrow, but I could see myself visiting again in twenty years... I imagine things might be very similar to how they were this trip!