The palace is located on Ringstrasse, Vienna’s elegant ring road boulevard lined with monumental buildings such as the Parliament, the Rathaus (City Hall), several museums, and the striking Staatsoper or Vienna State Opera.
The most impressive of all royal buildings is the Schönbrunn Palace, 8km outside of Vienna. The massive baroque complex was the royal summer palace and is appropriately lavish. The extensive grounds house several parks, a palm house, and even a zoo.
Emperor Franz Joseph opened the palatial and extravagantly decorated museum in 1891, making 2016 its 125th anniversary. To mark this occasion the museum has a special exhibit, “Celebration” (running till September, 2016), which will depict how festivals have evolved over time. The baroque Belvedere Palace also houses several collections, the most important of which are Gustav Klimt’s famous golden paintings, The Kiss and Judith. The Vienna Museum Karlsplatz documents the city’s history from its birth, right up to the present. One of the most exciting art destinations in Vienna is MuseumsQuartier, near the Imperial Palace. There are several museums here, including the Museum of Modern Art (see Picasso, Warhol and more) and the small, but significant Leopold Museum. The complex has many restaurants, cafes and bars, making it a very lively place to hang out in the evenings.
Burggarten houses the former royal greenhouse, which is now a trendy café-brasserie, Palmenhaus (Burggarten 1). The atmosphere is almost tropical with lots of trees inside; I recommend the local grilled fish.
Another Viennese institution is Trzesniewski (Dorotheergasse 1), which is always full of locals who come by for a pfiff (0.175L) of beer and open sandwiches with a mind-boggling number of toppings (try the sweet & spicy peppers or anything with herring in it). The gorgeous ONYX bar on the 6th floor of the Do & Co Hotel is the place for a sundowner. Read more about Vienna’s many culinary delights here.
A coffee at Café Sacher (Philharmonikerstrasse 4) is another must-do. The legendary Sacher Torte was created here – a decadent dark chocolate cake, layered with tart apricot jam, and topped with chocolate icing and cream. However, my favourite at Café Sacher is the Gewürzgugelhupf, a sweet-spicy Viennese ring cake with hints of candied orange and ginger.
Café Griensteidl (Michaelerplatz 2) is one cafe that I absolutely adore – relish an apfelstrudel, or better yet, a topfenstrudel, a deliciously flaky strudel pastry filled with cream cheese.
On my latest trip, I discovered another cafe – not a historic one, but great coffee nevertheless! Drop in at CaffèCouture located in the passage of Palais Ferstel in Freyung. Read more about Vienna’s famed coffeehouses here.
The pretty medieval square Freyung builds the biggest tower of eggs in the city – this year there was a giant, revolving Easter egg painted with a rooster and some bucolic scenes.
You can also partake of traditional dishes at these markets, including the roast Easter lamb. On Easter Sunday the Prater hosts a colourful party, complete with live music acts, arts and crafts workshops, games and children’s puppet theatres. Come November, the city lights up again with several Christmas markets, with both Schönbrunn Palace and Freyung hosting numerous stalls selling local delicacies.
But the biggest market is held in front of the City Hall in Rathausplatz, which puts up the tallest Christmas tree in Vienna. Sip on some gluhwein, take a bite of a bratwurst or kasekrainer (cheese-stuffed sausage), and load up on the lebkuchen (gingerbread biscuits). Hand-painted glass balls and colourful knitted gloves are wonderful souvenirs or gifts. Read more about Vienna’s Christmas markets here.
Turkish Airlines has frequent flights to Vienna with a layover in Istanbul. If you can manage an upgrade to business class, there’s nothing like flying high with Turkish Airlines! Read about my business class experience with Turkish Airlines here.
Where to Stay in Vienna
Since it was Easter time, the hotel staff had left a cute Easter bird nest and several chocolate eggs for me to enjoy. The hotel itself was all done up for the festival, with Easter eggs, bunnies & other characters all over the place. The lobby was also beautifully done up.
I dined at Restaurant Anna Sacher one night – opulently decorated in emerald green upholstery, this restaurant pays tribute to Anna Sacher, the elegant owner of the hotel in the late 19th century.
For other stay options in Vienna, read this post.
- You don’t need to give up your jogging routine when in Vienna. The city’s numerous parks and open spaces offer excellent running trails, many of which are signposted. Try the Hauptallee, a 4.4km long avenue in the Prater amusement park, or the Danube Island for all sorts of outdoor activities, including jogging, cycling, hiking and skating.
- Opera tickets at the Vienna State Opera (Opernring 2) get sold out in advance. However, you can buy standing room tickets directly at the opera house, 90 minutes before the performance starts. These usually cost €3-4 (approx. Rs.300). This is how the husband and I watched a modern rendition of Romeo and Juliet a few years ago – totally worth the aching feet 😉
- Naschmarkt is Vienna’s biggest outdoor market, and has been around since the 16th century. More than 120 stalls and restaurants offer everything from local produce to international cuisines. Don’t miss the flea market here on Saturdays – you might just chance upon an antique gem!
- The Vienna Card is a worthwhile investment. You can get discounts at museums, tourist sights, theatres, cafes, shops and more. It also allows you free travel on the city’s public transport system. The 48-Hour card costs €18.90 (Rs. 1,400) and you can buy it online (https://www.wienkarte.at/card-order/order.php) or at the airport, train station and tourist info offices.