Ah Vienna! In a city with such history, music and coffee houses, no amount of time spent can be enough. Here’s some questions and chunks of info that I hope make your trip better.
1. What’s with the Maria Theresa posters?
If you’ve heard of the Habsburgs, this should be a breeze. Maria Theresa was the only female ruler in the Habsburg dynasty. She and her son Joseph (who’s sculpture you’d see in front of the National Museum riding a horse) are credited with numerous reforms that were received well by the people. And so they are very famous and well respected. Incidentally, Joseph was the first one who decided that Sundays would be complete no-work days for all Viennese. So if you end up in Vienna on a Sunday and find more than half the shops/cafes closed, you know who to blame.
Another Habsburg, Franz Joseph, is tagged one of the factors responsible for WWI when he declared war against Serbia. In his defense, he did not really foresee what effects this little action of his would have, and he did think that the Serbians were responsible for murdering his nephew. Doesn’t reduce the impact of the war in any way, but an interesting thing to remember when visiting Vienna and seeing his name pop up in Schönbrunn Palace.
2. Why is everything closed?
Probably because it is a Sunday (read above). Well. Tough luck. All the options you have now are general sightseeing. You can still enjoy the day. Go to Schönbrunn Palace, hire a boat in Alte Donau (last I saw the hourly rates were on an average of 18 per hour for four people) or walk around Donaiunsel (and feel incredibly you- old watching the teenage crowd). Completely viable options. For your sake though, I hope you have another say in the city so you can see other places as well – like roam in Nashcmarkt, the food market, or check out the shopping scene in Mariahilfer Strasse or do everyday grocery shopping (even most supermarkets are closed on Sundays).
3. Is Schonbrunn worth it?
In one word. Yes. The major types of tickets available are (all of which include an interesting audio guide):
- Imperial Tour (€14,20) – Access to a few Castle rooms
- Grand Tour (€17,50) – Access to inner Castle rooms in addition to Imperial Tour
- Classic Tour (€24,00) – Castle rooms and other attraction in the garden (like the maze)
The Schonbrunn Palace is really beautiful. While the Imperial Tour covers the grandiose hall of the palace, there are many beautiful rooms which it does not allow access to like the black lacquer room which Maria Theresa had gotten designed in the memory of her late husband (a favorite). So I’ll recommend getting the Grand Tour at the least, if you hold even a teeny tiny interest in architecture or beautiful walls really. Oh and entrance to most of the garden area is free.
4. Coffee Kaffee
If you have coffee on your to do list, I’m proud of you. Vienna is well known for its coffee houses and rightfully so . They are the traditional socialization venues. You must try Melange here – espresso with skimmed and foam milk. It sounds similar to Latte but is incredibly smooth and really yum. If you’re a purist, I’d recommend Jonas Reindl. It has great coffee but not many options to eat except a few cakes. So if you need a plethora of snacks with your coffee, not your kind of place. In general, it’s hard to go wrong with the coffee houses in Vienna.
5. Which brings us to.. ice cream!
Yes they are worth it. And wonderful. And I would highly recommend Tichy. I was lucky enough to stay near the place on my visit and they completely justify the people crowded there at almost every hour of the day. Specially the fruit flavors (strawberry, blueberry) and coffee. It can get a bit far from the city center, but if you have a subway pass, enough time to spare or consider yourself an ice cream fan, do visit here.
6 Umm… Sacher Cake Torte?
Sacher Torte sits on the to-do list of many visitors to Vienna. And most of them end up at Hotel Sacher to have their first taste of the dessert. And it is good business for the hotel. Any hotel. So good that the Supreme court had to get involved in the debate of who can call their Sacher torte as the original Shacher Torte. Now Hotel Schaher might have gained the favor of the court, but if you want a more pocket friendly version, I found the ones sold at Demel pretty good too. I’ve heard Heiner has good ones as well so you might give them a shot too.
This is a bit tricky. I have realized, after much denial and as much as I like it, that opera is not for everyone. And giving it a shot for the first time can be a daring choice. Why? Because it’s costly af. If you’re a first timer, you can try getting standing tickets in Vienna Staatsoper (the major opera house in Vienna). They usually cost €7-10, but are sold out quickly. This way you can get a taste of the show without putting much at stake. If you’re feet hurt too much or you find you’re not interested, you can just leave. You can check out Theater an der Wien also, which is pretty good. It has comparatively cheaper tickets (if you don’t like the idea of standing) and there is a higher probability of actually getting tickets here (Staatsoper tends to get sold out really really fast).
8. Getting to all these places?
I’ve found the Vienna Subway passes to be a good deal. There are 24, 48 and 72 hour variants. They are approximately worth three trips on the subway and are applicable for all forms of public transport inside of Vienna. If you plan on using public transport, then this app on Play Store – Vienna Subways and buses – is very helpful. The best part is that it also works offline.
No matter where you end up going, Vienna remains a wonderful treat.