48 Hours in Vienna

After a bit of a transition back into the United States, I am back to blogging about our trip through Europe! We left off in Munich, which kicked off the second half of our adventures in Bavaria, England, Ireland and Paris. First up, the charming city of Vienna!

Vienna was a smaller city packed with shopping, food and historical churches. It's easily walkable and much of its beauty is outdoors; we'd highly recommend enjoying it in warmer weather! Our Airbnb apartment was by far our FAVORITE in this city, with a beautiful open-concept loft. Give Danuta, the owner, a ring if you're ever in town; you won't be disappointed! The apartment is also one block away from a plethora of wine bars and restaurants-- we frequented Rochus for three out of our six meals while we were there! The restaurant serves a variety of cuisines--don't make a reservation if you're looking for traditional Viennese--but I was done with chicken and dumplings after our previous three-day excursion in Munich. Next door, the Vinothek Rochus wine bar is a MUST-TRY. Wine by the glass (try the Riesling!) is served with COMPLIMENTARY pasta. I literally could've eaten here every single meal for $5. 

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After perusing the city, we discovered the Hundertwasserhaus, a colorfully decorated apartment building and artist colony just a few blocks away from our apartment. The expressionist landmark was completed in 1985, the brainchild of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It's now become a tourist attraction so there is a quaint and funky indoor marketplace to complement the quirky photo op!

The first church we visited is Vienna's most renowned, St. Stephen's Cathedral. This was the only parish with an artfully decorated roof, and it definitely stood out! The church sits at the front entrance to the city's pedestrian-only shopping zone and its side streets are filled with horse-drawn carriages. Dimly lit and eerily gothic, the church was packed; for a less crowded option, St. Peter's Church is just down the street. 

Below are some shots of St. Peter's, much more colorful and ornate. I could've looked up into the oval dome for hours! We sat in the pews while others prayed; it was a nice reprieve from the winter chill!

About a 15 minute walk away, the Museum Quarter sits next to the parliament building and famed opera house, Burgtheater. One sight I wished we'd had time for was the Spanish Riding School, home of Lipizzan horses and their world renowned performances. Instead, right in the middle of it all, we stumbled across a winter festival in front of Town Hall. More than half a million visitors flock to the city for this festival, Wiener Eistram, which involves ice skating, music and Austrian street vendors. We were delighted to parade through the crowds to take in the sights. 

In the afternoon, we strolled through Burggarten, Vienna's large public park and gardens, to find this famous statue of Mozart, who composed many of his best-known symphonies in the city. The treble clef is usually decorated with an array of flowers but wintertime didn't allow for it when we visited! 

Our final stop on our first afternoon in town was a church on the outskirts of the city, Votivkirche, or Votive Church. We walked past the University of Vienna to stumble into this gothic-style parish, decked out in some of the most beautiful chandeliers I've ever seen. On our way home, we stopped into Xocolat, said to be the finest chocolatier in Austria, let alone the world. There is a boutique in the city center right across from the legendary Cafe Dommayer, as well as a full fledged factory on the other side of the city where you can take workshops in the art of confection-making. Make sure you try a truffle with sea salt!

On our final day in the city, we visited the Schönbrunn Palace--the former residence of the Habsburg monarchs--just a short train ride away from the center of the city. This was by far our favorite tour in all of Europe, though I'm sorry to say we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. A major tourist attraction since the mid-1950s, the Baroque-style palace is completely reassembled to look just as it did when during the tenure of its final residents. Modeled after Versailles, the palace served as the meeting place for John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev in 1961, and was teeming with historical artifacts and original furniture. I'm sure the gardens are equally as ornate and breathtaking in the warmer months. 

All in all, our trip to Vienna was short and sweet, reclaiming the misgivings I'd had about Bavaria after touring a somewhat dreary Munich. Try it in the spring. Next up, Prague!