I didn’t play the violin as a kid or grew up in a family of fine arts connoisseurs but I can say that I appreciate a fair amount of high art, architecture and classical music. Regardless, I got easily overwhelmed by so much beauty concentrated in such a small city.
We started off the second and last day of our short but sweet Vienna getaway with a visit to the Schonbrünn Palace. We had booked our tickets online because we couldn’t afford to waste the little time we had waiting in a queue. There were all sorts of passes to choose from: the Imperial tour, the Grand tour, the Sisi ticket, etc. As interesting as the tour of Empress Sissi sounded, we couldn’t dedicate our whole day on just one activity. We bought the Imperial tour for 14,20€ that covered 22 rooms, good for 30-40 minutes.
It was me vs. -2˚C again. We left out Airbnb (unsure if my toes were gonna survive this time), took the U4 train to Schönbrunn station and made a beeline for the palace entrance.
Alas, photography inside the rooms was prohibited but apparently entering with a camera around your neck wasn’t. Naturally, I sneaked a stealth no flash picture when nobody was looking.
That’s the Hall of Mirrors. According to the audio guide, six-year-old Mozart played here to an audience that included Empress Sissi. Also included in the Imperial tour were some 20 state rooms and private apartments of Franz Josef and his narcissistic wife.
Schonbrünn is not in its prime during winter. Gardens were almost non-existent and fountains were frozen solid.
It was still worth hanging around for, thanks to this lovely Christmas market. It had a good assortment of stands – from handmade Christmas ornaments…
… to some of Vienna’s tasty delights.
The Palace provided quite a spectacular backdrop to this cozy market. You couldn’t help but just soak up the holiday ambiance and get away from the sense of existential vacuum you feel inside. *Insert upside down smiley emoji*
The Ringstrasse is a circular boulevard lined by institutional and representative buildings like the Opera House, Imperial Palace, Parliament and City Hall. If you want to whiz around the main sights and don’t mind getting ripped off, take the Vienna Ring Tram like we did. It ran every 30 minutes at Schwedenplatz. We had to wait 15 minutes for the tram to arrive and the smell of Asian food lured us into grabbing a quick lunch before boarding.
It was 9€, too expensive for what it was, but I got to keep this cute ticket to stick to my travel journal.
Taking the tram was a comfortable way to marvel at the sights of the Ringstrasse but it wasn’t conducive to taking pictures. Once we got off, we took another tram. This time a regular one which was included in the 2-day transport ticket.
We took a close look at Athena and the details of the Greek-style façade of Vienna’s Parliament.
The Belvedere Palace is home to some works of Monet, Van Gogh and Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’. We didn’t enter (sigh) because we didn’t have time. Nonetheless, enjoying the palace from outside wasn’t too shabby. Not to mention, it’s free to enter the grounds. The garden was obviously not in full bloom but the architecture was a stand-alone attraction.
Lower Belvedere and Upper Belvedere are separated by an immense garden filled with mazes, fountains, and statues.
I was particularly smitten by the fading teal copper roof of the Upper Belvedere.
A week before our trip, the boyfriend and I rewatched Before Sunrise. It goes without saying that we came here to see Wiener Riesenrad, the Ferris wheel where Celine and Jesse first kissed. We took Line U2 of the U-bahn and alighted at Messe-Prater, as instructed by Google Maps. Yes, we eventually got there but we got the impression that it was a creepy, abandoned amusement park. Apparently, we should’ve gotten off at the Praterstern station.
It was just 4 PM but it was getting dark. Suddenly, Prater came to life with all the lights of the flashy rides.
And here it was: the Wiener Riesenrad. I just learned that it is also the oldest Ferris wheel in operation. We didn‘t go on it or on any of the rides because the boyfriend is an adult who is afraid of roller coasters. No tick for you, bucket list!
One of the things we couldn’t miss in Vienna was to see an opera. With tickets that cost 200 euros, I thought it would be impossible to watch one. After doing my research (lol Tripadvisor), we found out that some opera houses sold standing tickets for just 3€! Vienna State Opera House doesn’t sell them in advance, you will have to wait in line. Since queues are not our idea of fun, we settled on its runner-up, Volksoper. Standing tickets were sold online just like any other regular ticket. The scheduled musical on our opera night was My Fair Lady… in German. Of course.
We had time to spare before the show started so we popped into the café in front of Volksoper. They served Sacher torte, a sweet accident of a dessert. This apricot jam-filled chocolate cake was invented by Austrian Franz Sacher when he was just 16. The story goes that he was left in the kitchen to make a dessert for a statesman’s dinner party when the chef was off sick.
While we don’t speak a single word of German, the music, the production, and the singing made up for it. It was just weird when everyone seemed to laugh except us so sometimes we fake laughed along with them just for the lulz.
We called it a night by 10. We took the tram back to our Airbnb, tired to our core but looking forward to celebrating the NYE in Budapest!
BACKTRACK: Wandering in Vienna / Part I