Nothing focuses your energy quite like having only a bit more than one day in a city you’ve always wanted to see. When we booked our trip to the Czech Republic, we decided to stay in place in Prague and do a few day trips rather than being repeatedly on the move like our last few big trips. When we took a closer look at a map and saw Vienna a mere four hours away, we knew we had to do a quick trip into Austria to spend one night in the city of music. So what did 30 hours in Vienna look like? Here’s how we spent the first 12 hours after arriving just before lunch on the first Sunday in September.
12:30 Before going anywhere, we were in desperate need of a caffeine jolt. Across from our hotel was a coffee shop whose double espresso and lovely pastry got me ready to start exploring. With caffeine hitting our respective blood streams, we took a streetcar ride around half of the Ringstraße (ring road). If you envision the Ringstraße as a clock, we took a trip from 12 to 6 to get near the Vienna State Opera.
13:30 On my list of things to try in Vienna was the famous Sachertorte. Looking up from the map when we got off the streetcar, Hotel Sacher was right in front of us meaning it was time for the rich chocolate cake (with brandy!) and another double espresso.
I loved this cake. The chocolate icing was almost fudge-like. I could have had a second piece, but I was well into a deep caffeine and sugar buzz. Plus, my understanding wife who can’t eat gluten may not have been so eager to sit and watch me wolf down a second slice.
14:30 The next stop was Haus der Musik, a music museum in the heart of Vienna. One of the highlights for me was a sound stage where you could experience the Vienna Philharmonic in a recent New Years Eve concert. It gave me goosebumps. There were interactive stops to create and hear your own musical score, to test your hearing, as well as to learn the history of a number of influential composers. Just before leaving the museum, we walked into a musical presentation by a violinist and pianist explaining and demonstrating various classical music forms. Overall, it was a nice way to get a taste of the important place music has in Vienna.
16:30 Leaving the Haus der Musik, we strolled down the pedestrian only shopping street, Kärntnerstraße, toward St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Although it dominates the view of the square around it, it’s only when you step inside that you have that jaw dropping moment. By this point in our trip, we had seen some spectacular churches. This one was among our favourites:
17:00 After the church, it was time for a bit of exploring on the way back to the hotel to freshen up for the evening. Vienna has some sights that you can’t mistake for anywhere else. On the left, the ubiquitous folks dressed up as Mozart selling opera tickets around the State Opera. On the right, me at Stephensplatz with the crowds and iconic architecture of Vienna stretched out behind me:
19:00 Another “must do” for us was dinner and a drink at a heuriger. About a 20 minute streetcar ride away in Grinzing are wine taverns serving the young wines from the hills above the Danube. These taverns have rustic menus, musicians wandering through to play a few songs and ample outdoor seating. On this slightly chilly summer evening, we had a wonderful meal in a laid back, romantic setting. A highlight was getting to sample a couple of very young, refreshing local wines. Also, the photo of the sausage and fried potatoes below does not do that plate justice – tasty beyond words! The whole experience was a little slice of Austrian heaven:
21:30 Leaving Grinzing as night fell, we headed back into Vienna and to Prater, the famous amusement park only a couple of metro stops away from our hotel. The big attraction for us was the Ferris wheel which offered lovely views over the city. Both of us worked at amusement parks growing up, so they usually don’t hold a whole lot of charm for us. But an amusement park at night is pretty romantic, and I’m sure it wasn’t just the wine talking:
All in all, it was a pretty full and fun day: a scenic train ride from Prague, good food and wine, some music, some wandering and exploring. We made our way back to our hotel to rest up for the remainder of our short exploration of Vienna the next day. More on that in my next post.