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This is a very different itinerary from what I’m used to because it was the first time, and now the last time that I bought tickets for the Vienna Sightseeing Tour Bus! I know I am all about the walking and experiencing the city in a more direct way, but Vienna has too many attractions and it is a very big city, so all these attractions are far from each other.
As I explained in my previous post about Prague, Vienna was a destination of a Europe trip that we organized using Eurail and Interrail (click the link to find out how this works), which are a great way to save some money in transportation if you plan to visit many cities.
This post is about the places that in my opinion are a must, but please keep in mind that you need more than two days to visit all the interesting places in Vienna.
My first impression of Vienna was that it was a bit overwhelming: everything is monumental! Every building is beautiful and seems to have an important function in addition to their rich and interesting history for every taste (artistic, military, historical, royal, musical…)
Taking the Vienna Sightseeing Tour Bus is probably not a bad investment. It connects you to the most important places and you waste less time and money in transportation. Another great advantage is that tickets for the attractions are included, so again you don’t spend a long time in lines. You just need to show your Sightseeing Bus identification in every entrance and you are good to go! Some places will ask you to use the tickets even though you already have the card.
First, we left our bags in our airbnb. I think this is the most beautiful and luxurious airbnb I have ever stayed in. It is located just a few minutes from the subway station and from Stephanplatz (one of Vienna’s most beautiful and famous squares). The apartment is on top of a bakery, and we woke up every morning to a fantastic smell. And that’s not even mentioning the remarkable and magnificent interior decor of the place! I highly recommend it. These guys are airbnb super hosts!
After dropping off our bags, we headed to the center of town. On our way there and really close to our airbnb was Saint Peter’s Church, and just a few minutes away Stephanplatz, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the religious icon of Vienna. It is very beautiful and it creates a great contrast with the rest of the city’s architecture. You will notice that a section of the church is darker, as it was burned during World War II (See? many interesting facts!). Close by you can take a walk across the beautiful gardens of Stadtpark, one of Vienna most famous parks.
We planned to walk around and truly take the city in during our first day. After Stephanplazt, we were so hungry that we stopped at the first restaurant we saw: Ilona Stuberl! We later found out that it was one of Tripadvisor’s most highly-rated recommendations in Vienna. It was an amazing place, and taking into account the average Vienna prices, it wasn’t very expensive. After lunch, walking along the Kärntner Strasse, we visited the Vienna State Opera. Vienna is known for being the home of music and important music personalities such as Beethoven and Mozart.
Our next stop was to search for the patch! (It’s one of my favorites! Check it out in our gallery). We found ourselves in a huge souvenir shop called World of Souvenirs. Here you can buy your Sightseeing Tour Bus tickets if you are interested.
Ok, so we were ready to start our second day! Whether you decide to take the bus or not, you will have different route options. I suggest you start with Schönbrunn Palace, which was the Hapsburg Royal Family summer palace. Vienna is full of history, so be ready to start learning about royal history and connecting it with the military one.
The road to Schönbrunn is kind of long, but this gives you plenty of time to appreciate the city. You have to organize your itinerary, keeping in mind that a large part of your day will be spent visiting this Palace. There are a lot of rooms to see and gardens to enjoy. My favorite part of the palace was definitely these gardens (my favorite part is always the gardens!). They are absolutely lovely and breath-taking, and even though it was early winter, there were flowers everywhere. One of the most beautiful pictures you can take is from the Gloriette, a splendid building in the highest part of the gardens. This structure was used as a dining and festival hall, and Frank Joseph I used to have breakfast there.
The Palace provides you with activities for all ages and interests. There is even a zoo inside, which is a great alternative if you are traveling with kids. You cannot miss out on the pretzels! Close to the zoo entrance you will see a tiny coffee shop, where you can ask for these gigantic pretzels.
After more than three hours in Schönbrunn Palace, we decided to visit the Museum of Military History of Vienna, also known as the Arsenal. If you are curious about military issues, you cannot skip this museum.
Once you exit, after crossing the street you will find the twin museums. Depending on your taste you can chose between the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts. Or both if you’re feeling adventurous! If you are into art, as I am, you have to visit the Belvedere Museum and see the famous painting by Gustav Klint titled “The Kiss”. This painting is one of Vienna’s most iconic symbols. The museum also has beautiful gardens for you to enjoy! (And that I did).
We were excited to visit the Hofburg Palace —the Habsburg royal family residence for 600 years—and enter Empress Sisi’s Museum, but it was closed! As always, be sure to know the closing times! In winter, closing times are really early. Close by, you can walk to the Ringstrasse, which is a very big avenue where you will find important and imposing buildings: the Parliament, the Wiener Rathaus, the University and the Votive Church.
We hopped on the bus again, this time to see the Danube River closer. We took a route that stops in Hundertwasserhaus, an area with a very special architecture. This same route takes you to the famous Prater Park, the oldest amusement park in history, which is home to the emblematic Ferris wheel constructed in 1897 and still in operation!
Vienna is also famous for its delicious cuisine. I loved the Demel (click here for Tripadvisor reviews) pastry shop. Do not miss out on the Sacher cake and the delicious Mozartkugeln chocolates (if you are not planning a trip to Vienna anytime soon, try them anyway!)
So many places and so little time in Vienna! A great city that offers you diverse activities perfect for every taste!
Photos credit to Ruben A.Hidalgo and Alejandra Beaujon
If you need some extra help planning your trip, this Travel Guide is really helpful! – Lonely Planet Vienna – Travel Guide
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