Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Vienna : A Whistle-Stop Tour

The capital with the best quality of life in the entire world* - An imperial past with enduring grandeur - Excellent public transport with a cheap option for tourists - a place of classical culture with impressive thematic museums - Even a glorious food market and a specific cuisine and yet 

 
 
 
In spite of it all, Vienna isn't one of the most popular tourist destination when it comes to European capitals. Though everyone who has been will tell you that they loved it. Our excuse to go (if we ever need one) was that it's only 5 hours away from Prague by train and the journey cost less than £30.
 
From a sightseeing point of view Vienna is compact with an impressive stock of Art Nouveau buildings amidst elegant (but heavy) architecture from the mid 19th century.

Exploring Vienna

 
Spending time in the Austrian capital needs forward planning and a selective mind, it's a case of too much to see and too little time to see it. The incompressible are Vienna’s landmark Gothic cathedral Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral), Schönbrunn Palace the imperial rococo style summer residence favoured by the iconic Empress Sisi and Ringstrass, walking along the boulevard will give you a strong understanding of Vienna before the fall of the empire in 1918 (a yellow tram with personal headphones will avoid blisters), these seen, your Tailor-made itinerary can be "activated".
 
Note that a "72 hours Vienna" travel card at 20 euros is a must.
 
Taking a look at the food scene
 
It won't be earth-shattering to read that Vienna is big on pastries however the Austo-Hungarian monarchy didn't only unite Hugary, Bohemia and Moravia as territories it also bought the cuisines in a large melting pot; contributing to goulash, strudels, various pancakes and the famous Wiener Schnitzel which is rumoured to have reached the Austrian capital from Istanbul. The hot dog came later but don't leave without having tried one of the sausage stands which dots the city.
 
Note that strangely it's not that easy to find a restaurant open in the evenings on a week-end and every thing bar night-clubs seems to close earlier that in the UK.
 

May be not surprisingly, Naschmarkt, Vienna food market was my first stop, a long string of food stands and restaurants which doubles up with the flea market on Saturdays, the whole of Naschmarkt is closed on Sundays. when there don't can't miss the eye catching vinegars stand, may be not great for tasting though but rather impressive for its varieties.
 
Recommended by locals:
 
Xocolat Manufaktur, as a writer at Chocolatier.co.uk, I have tasted my share of chocolates, these are some of the finest. The shop doubles up with the factory so that customers can see the fabrication process, I am told that there are workshops too.
 

Pay attention: it's the cultural bit 






Music and Visual arts are closely associated with the Vienna, if you are interested in classical music, it would not be too difficult to design a walk dedicated to all the musicians who live in Vienna at one point or another, Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms to name but a few.
 
Themed museums are really well conceived, I still groan at not catching The Third Man museum (as in O. Welles). Sigmund Freud's place of work is a museum too and I am told by my neurotic friend that it's an excellent place to see.
 
As for the visual arts, a choice has to be made thought most are situated in a compact quarter, each one is huge and one can take only so much in. The Leopold Museum which owns the world's largest collection of works by Egon Schiele and a number of master pieces by Klimt is fascinating.
 

Vienna's Lodging Options

This is where Vienna comes undone, at the time of research, all the options were deemed expensive. With a Vienna (travel) card, it might be worth considering staying outside from the main center, there is so much to see and do that it is unlikely you'll spend much time indoors. We opted to stay in the center at Pension Lerner as Hotel Daniel, our 1st choice was so popular it was fully booked 
 
Pebble Soup's best experience in Vienna : PolaWalk,  a company recently founded by two cool photographers who take customers and vintage Polaroid cameras on an activity walk, the latter can be Tailor-made or generic. It's a completely different approach to photography. In a world where frankly too many pictures are taken, this gives a chance to focus on the essential as the cartridge contains only 8 pictures, it's a very different way to look at Vienna and you get to take your oldie-worldly pictures home.
 


Useful address: 
Food Market
between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse
U4: Station Kettenbrückengasse
U1, U2, U4: Station Karlsplatz


My thanks to the staff at the tourism office for providing me with information and two complimentary travel card.

 *the latest global survey from consultant group Mercer which uses 39 factors such as political stability, health care, education, crime and transport.
 

2 comments:

EmmaMT said...

I am not jealous AT ALL!!!!

Klimt is my favorite artist and I've always wanted to go to Prague/ Vienna/ Venice / Rome etc. Your trip looks fantastic. Wish I was there with you!

Solange Berchemin said...

Thank you. Vienna was much better than I had expected, certainly would put it top of that list of 4Museum are just excellent.

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