A Month In Vienna
Vienna is a beautiful, historical city, with imposing buildings, a plethora of churches, plenty of parks and open spaces, a few Imperial Palaces that the Habsburgs called home, a cultural history of music and art, and much more. We spent a month, spanning October and November exploring and would like to share a few of our best bits with you.
We chose to stay in an AirBnB, situated in Kardinal Nagl Platz, just outside the city center, which is in the Landstrasse neighborhood, with U-Bahn or Metro station and frequent bus service to the city center. It's also possible to walk into the center in around 40 pleasant minutes, which is what we chose most of the time.
There a four U-Bahn lines in the city- all go through Stephansplatz, so getting into the center is easy and the system is easily mastered. Tickets can be purchased at stations and are good for one journey, including tram and bus transfers within 90 minutes of purchase. Tickets need to be validated before boarding. The machines are easily visible at the top of escalators and the station concourses. The trains are clean, frequent and dog friendly. Dogs are however, required to wear a muzzle and also need a ticket, which is half the price of an adult ticket. There are no exceptions on muzzles and fines, if caught can be quite steep, so it’s a good idea to don the gear and avoid the fines.
Things to do
At the center of the city is Stephansplatz, so named for St Stephan's Cathedral (Stephansdom). The Cathedral is free to enter, although tickets need to be purchased if you want to do a tour of the catacombs, make use of an audio self-guided tour of the Cathedral, ascend the North or South towers, or view the cathedral precious treasures. We bought tickets to do all the above for €19.40 online through an app called 'Get Your Guide' . A voucher can be downloaded to your phone, then exchanged for a ticket at the Cathedral. The beauty of the ticket is that you don't have to see everything in one day – if you keep the ticket and want to do the things over a few days, then you can.
The Ringstrasse is a circular, grand boulevard, located where the medieval city fortifications once stood. It was constructed after the dismantling of the city walls in the mid 19th century. The walk around is 5.3km. Starting at the Opera House, with your back to it, walk to the left of the Strasse and follow the broad pathway all the way. You will take in many of the grand buildings along the route, including the Rathaus, the Parliament building, St Rupert's Church (considered to be the oldest in Vienna) and the Hofburg Palace. We had a very helpful podcast by Rick Steves Audio Tours, titled 'Vienna's Ringstrasse Tour'. You can download to your phone, and follow his tour, although he did it by tram, which you could also do if walking 5.3km isn't your thing! You will find plenty of places in Swedensplatz for refreshments and WC facilities, if you walk, or take the tram, as it's where you need to switch tram lines.
The Hapsburg dynasty left its mark on Vienna, with a choice of Imperial Palaces to see. The Hofburg Palace was the former principal palace of the Hapsburg rulers and is now the official residence of the President of Austria. Entry is €12 and can also be purchased through 'Get My Guide'
We chose to visit the Belvedere which consists of two Baroque Palaces connected by beautifully laid out gardens and fountains, built as a Summer residence by Prince Eugene of Savoy. It's now a museum and art gallery, housing the world's largest collection of Gustav Klimt paintings. There is also a spectacular collection of sacred medieval art housed in the former stables. We paid €13 for our tickets.
The Schönbrunn Palace was the main Summer residence of the Habsburg rulers. Single ticket entry to this is around €14– this is one we decided to see next time we visit Vienna.
Vienna has plenty of parks and open green spaces. The main one is the Prater, which has the oldest amusement park called The Wurstelprater and includes the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel. This is a popular area with locals and tourists alike. It is a big park so it is possible to escape the crowds and enjoy a walk through the woods. We walked there every day with Chelsea. Look out for the 'Hundezone', which are the dog friendly parts and they can also be off the leash.
The Stadtpark is where you will find a beautiful gilded statue of Johann Strauss, King of the Waltz, and one of Vienna's favourite sons. This is a monster 65,000 square meters (28 acres) park with intimate enclaves, grand promenades, hunde zones and concert halls.
Horse carriages, called Fiakers in Vienna, are easy to find within the Ringstrasse or at Stephansplatz. These horses are well cared for. They are all stabled together on the outskirts of Vienna. They have their own little village where they are fed, groomed, shod, doctored and loved and they are all almost rescues of some sort, saved from the horse meat industry. Their work days are strictly regulated for cold and heat concerns. They can work no more than 260 days a year and no more than 4 days per week so they have it much better than most humans! Maybe that's why they can live up to the age of 30. You can visit the stables for a cost of €25 where some of the cost goes towards their care.
You can't go to Vienna and miss the river Danube! There is an island the centre called Donauisel, the only way to get there is one Line 1 of the U-Bahn to Donauisel station. It's a great place to walk and is a place to escape to in the Summer months.
St Marx's Cemetery, Leberstrasse 6-8, is the burial place of Mozart, although he was interred in a mass grave, there is a monument to him at the spot. This is a beautifully laid out cemetery and worth spending time wandering around.
The Central Cemetery, Simmeringer, Hauptstrasse 234, is one of the largest cemeteries in the world and the most famous in Vienna. In section 32A you will find the most famous list of dead, Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss and Brahms, facing each other in close quarters. Sure they are all dead, but stand in section 32A for a few minutes and you know you're in the presence of greatness. Dogs are unfortunately not allowed in either cemetery
Places to Eat
There are multiple places to eat in the center. We found a lovely place for a quick lunch called Kolar, which is tucked away from the main tourist area in Kleeblattgasse 5. It's a pub that serves an extensive range of tasty savoury filled flat breads, a choice of beers and of course coffees and hot chocolate.
If you take the U-Line 1 from Stephansplatz to Rochugasse,(or walk for about 15 minutes in the direction of Wien Mitte station and up Landstrasse to Rochugasse) you will find a plenty of places to eat at the daily market. We had decent sized slice of pizza between us for 2 Euros.
We found a great Irish pub near us called The Golden Harp. It is a thriving place, full of locals. Friday night is live music night. Reserving a table is highly recommended if you want to get in.
NGO's kitchen, Neustiftgasse 15, is a great Vietnamese restaurant, serving authentic freshly cooked food and it's reasonably priced – so if you're craving Pho, NGO's Kitchen is the place to go! It's also dog friendly.
As we were getting ready to leave Vienna the Christmas markets were starting to set up. We managed to get a few Gluhweins ar the Weihnachs Markt in front of the Rathaus, which is voted one of the best, it was packed, but the atmosphere was great and as we left it started to snow.
We hope this will inspire you to visit Vienna if you've never been or encourage you to return if you have.