During our five days in Budapest we found out we could hop on a train (5am start, on the train at 6am) and spend a day in Vienna, Austria! Arriving in the city at 9am we had until the last train of the day (9pm) to cram in as much site-seeing as we possibly could. The train ticket for the three hour journey cost about 13 euros which is just over £10. I am unsure if prices change or have changed since we visited but at least this gives you a ballpoint figure. Prices may also vary depending on the time you go and if you want first class, I am pretty sure we booked a generic ticket as we don’t mind sitting in the cheap seats, all you need is a good book, music and good company and you are all set!
Vienna is very elegant and pristine. You can see that the locals are extremely proud of their city. It feels safe, very well looked after and very sophisticated. All the buildings and streets are flawless and many Viennan’s can be seen walking out of opera houses, theatres and concerts in their luxurious cars and stylish clothing. This city is needless to say, expensive to live in, let alone visit but if you are someone who enjoys culture, history and opulent lifestyle then Vienna is for you. Although I am glad I visited Vienna, I did not like the aloof atmosphere and it felt almost too immaculate to enjoy, whereas Budapest had a slightly grungy, boho vibe that implied the lifestyle was down to earth and vibrant, Vienna felt like I was walking around a huge exhibition I was not allowed to touch.
Walking around Vienna and you can’t help but marvel at the grand architecture. Vienna, the capital of Austria, lies in the country’s east on the Danube River. Its artistic and intellectual legacy was shaped by residents including Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. The city is also known for its Imperial palaces, including Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ summer residence. In the MuseumsQuartier district, historic and contemporary buildings display works by Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and other artists.
Vienna is packed with imperial history; at the same time it has exciting contemporary museums, lively eating and nightlife scenes, and many quiet corners to explore. The city boasts an imperial pomp like no other and whilst some enjoy environments like this, it just wasn’t for me, although some parks within the city looked and felt like you had stepped into a romance novel.
If Budapest is the city of contemporary arts and urban life, Vienna is the city of classical music and in fact is one of the most musical cities in the world. You can experience the works of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, Johann Strauss (both father and son), Liszt, Brahms, Bruckner and many others in venues like the Staatsoper and Musikverein. The music of Bach and Händel continues to be performed in Vienna’s historic churches today, and Vienna’s Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments, paired with a visit to the Haus der Musik, takes you deeper into the texture of music and how it is created. Venues for classical music are augmented by some great clubs and live rock and jazz places.
Some of the most amazing sites to visit are the city churches, especially in winter to keep warm and dry! The churches are awe-inspiring and so grand you feel engulfed by the high stone walls, the magnificent interior and austere atmosphere. Other sites I recommend include the Schönbrunn Palace. It offers a 30 and 60 minute tour, but go for the shorter one and spend the rest of the time walking the beautiful gardens. A little secret about the palace is that it has the world’s oldest zoo on its premises and is a great treat for families.
The other sight is the Giant Ferris Wheel at the Prater. Lines can be long and to be honest, it isn’t worth the wait. Photo opportunities from the ground looking up at the wheel can be really nice though. You can even buy a Vienna 2, 3 or 6 day pass that gives you free entry to the likes of the aforementioned Hofburg and Schönbrunn Palaces, plus the main venues in the Museum Quarter, like the MUMOK and the unmissable Leopold Museum, often with “skip the lines” entry. It will save you a fortune! (You can even hop on and off the tourist buses for free).
Vienna is also the birthplace of the coffeehouse and The Sacher Café is the most prominent with its famous Sachertorte. Pair the sweet torte with a strong cup of Viennese coffee and the sugar and caffeine rush will keep you buzzing for hours. To see all the other sights ride the Vienna Ring Tram which is a good value or do what Jon and I did, wear a good pair of walking shoes and walk around all the sites to really get a feel for the place.
Walking through Vienna is a bit like walking into the pages of a fairytale, as a horse and carriage trots past one ornate palace after another. The Austrian capital is bursting with Imperial history and Baroque architecture, with a musical accompaniment by Mozart and Strauss. But there’s also a more modern side, with Art Nouveau and modernist art.
This hasn’t been a favourite destination but I definitely urge you to visit and experience the grandeur Vienna has to offer. If you are a history buff, music student or someone who can and does enjoy visiting places of a higher budget then Vienna is perfect for a long weekend city break. Steeped in majesty and a pompous attitude, Vienna is a touch of class within Europe.
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