After conquering the long train ride from Prague, the first thing I did in Vienna was to (you guess it) eat!
I was so hungry that I finished these 6 delicious open-faced sandwiches from Buffet Trzesniewski in record time and washed them down with a small glass of Pfiff beer. This place is quite a hot spot in Vienna and justly so! Everything was soooo good, from the simple tomato and mushroom to the popular herring with onion and prawn with egg. Cheap, fresh and tasty, I love my lunch here!
Mariahilfer strasse 95
Dessert was waiting right across the street at Bortolotti, arguably the best ice cream parlor in Vienna. There are lots of flavours to choose from and we finally narrowed the list down to dark chocolate, pistachio, chestnut, blueberries, hazelnut and rum & raisin. I was happy with all the flavours; texture was very creamy and quality was top-notch!
7, Mariahilfer Strasse 94
And a raisin cinnamon pastry from the cute pinky Cafe Aida before I was ready to move on with the itinerary proper =)
Mariahilfer Straße 101
Palaces are a big deal in Vienna.
There’s Schloss Belvedere, the two Baroque palaces built in the 18th century as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy…
… and there’s the Hofburg Palace, the winter palace of the Habsburgs who ruled over much of Europe, which also houses the renowned Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) today…
… and my favourite palace in Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial summer palace of the Habsburgs with its gorgeous manicured gardens.
Besides palace, music rules in Vienna!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is probably the most famous Austrian musician everyone knows of.
Statue of Mozart in Burggarten.
Then there’s also Johann Strauss, the Austrian composer known as the “Waltz King”.
Statue of Johann Strauss in Stadtpark.
And of course, Vienna’s landmark Opera: Staatsoper, the world’s greatest opera Mecca. And that’s when I took a break at Sacher Café (just behind the opera house) for the legendary dry Sacher Torte!
Guess what, I saw this quirky public Opera Toilet that plays classical music in the underground on the way to the Opera House. For just €0.60, you get to soak in all the music you want while doing whatever needs to be done. Talk about enterprising businessmen! -___-
And on the subject of enterprising Viennese businessmen, here are some in action. Dressed to the nines and trying to persuade tourists like us to purchase tickets for that night’s performance.
Of course, we didn’t buy the tickets from them cuz they’re so expensive! Thanks to Rick Steves, we queued for a Stehplatz (standing-room-only ticket) which was wonderfully cheap and gave us the option of leaving early if we wanted. Honestly, a three-hour opera is a lot of opera, and we weren’t sure whether we could endure it. Or so we thought.
We returned at around 7 pm that night and whoa, the locals attending the opera were very well-dressed in their gowns and suits. Anyway, buying the Stehplatz was a wise move cuz it allowed us to explore the beautiful interior of the building!
The opera itself was awesome! We thought we would get bored and leave after 15 mins max but no! We actually stayed till almost the end cuz the singing was full of emotions and so captivating. It didn’t matter that it was in a foreign language; there’s subtitles on the small screen in front of the seats so we could follow the story. This was easily my best moment in Vienna~
Hundertwasserhaus (designed by renegade artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser) is one odd building. The lines are irregular, the angles incongruous, and the exterior a colourful patch of work. What’s more, it’s a lived-in apartment! I’m not sure I’ll want to live there though, what with so many camera-toting tourists flocking there on a daily basis, LOL.
The Prater was somewhat disappointing. It had a tired look and nothing enticed us to stay longer than the time it took to photograph its most celebrated Ferris wheel, originally built in 1896.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Austria’s most eminent Gothic edifice, houses the venerated Pötscher Madonna painting and on the cornor of Stephansplatz is Haas Haus, in whose facade one can see the mirror image of the cathedral.
After that, it was an easy stroll to Neuer Markt via Kärntner Straße (the most famous shopping street in central Vienna) where there’s lots of cafes and restaurants surrounding the square.
To me, a reliable way of differentiating the good and bad not-as-good eateries is to see whether there’s a crowd, especially on a weekend. Le Bol, a French bistro, was packed to the max on that Saturday and I know the reason why after we were served. Service was friendly, our smoked salmon tartine and croque monsieur were tasty and came in enormous portions too!
Neuer Markt 14
Of course, Vienna being the city of cafés, I tried to visit at least one café per day for the quintessential Viennese coffee house experience. Each coffeehouse comes with its own individual character and no one does cozy interior design as well as the Viennese.
Smoky atmosphere, dark furniture, comfortable benches, and moody waiters, that’s Café Westend (above). The Wiener schnitzel and breaded cod fillets were so-so, and very over-priced. Not recommended since there are much better ones elsewhere~
Mariahilfer Straße 128
Now, Café Central is another story. Opened in 1860, it’s known as a key meeting place of intellectuals, writers and revolutionaries who would change the world (Leon Trotsky, anyone?). It’s exactly what I imagine a grand Viennese café to be like. And thumbs up for the fried egg with asparagus and homemade Viennese style square noodles!
Herrengasse 14, in the Innere Stadt district
If I’ve got to choose my favourite café in Vienna, it would be Café Sperl. It dates from 1880, and is still furnished identically to the day it opened — from the coat tree to the chairs. Even the dear old man manning the counter looks like he’s been with the café since its beginning. Everything we tried was good, from the Wiener schnitzel and sole with potatoes, to the to-die-for chocolate torte and apple strudel (we still love Demel’s version more)!
Gumpendorfer Straße 11, just off Naschmarkt near Mariahilfer Strasser
My overall impression of Vienna is pretty good… The pace of life is slow, and if you like classical music or imperial grandeur or just a good apple strudel (I’m in this category), you’ll love Vienna =)
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