A guide to a day in stunning VIENNA, Austria

Ohhh Vienna! I’m not sure about you but of all the opulent and beautiful cities in Europe that I wanted to visit one day Vienna was up there at the top! It was a city of which it’s majesty I could only imagine, but it’s cost I was oh so aware of! As budget travellers we had heard about the proximity of Vienna to one of Europe’s lesser know capitals: Bratislava. Being in Eastern Europe and coming in at a more wallet friendly price we took this opportunity to experience the grandeur of Vienna without paying the designer price tag!  With easy and cheap transport links between these two capitals cities we headed over to Vienna for a day we will never forget!

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Jump straight to “What to do for a day in Vienna:”

Getting to Vienna from Bratislava:

The Bratislava to Vienna (and vice versa) route is a well trodden one for the visitors of this Eastern European capital and as such it is served by various different methods of transport from buses to train and even ferries and all at different prices. I wrote a post about it here:

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Transport links:

As you might well imagine the transport links in Vienna are second to none. The city had a wide reaching network of underground stations, trams , trains and buses which run on time and regularly. Vienna feels much bigger than Bratislava and the underground is probably a big reason why, it’s usually a sign you are in a major city with impressive infrastructure.

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Vienna is also one of those great cities in which people have actually organised the transport well and it all comes under the same fare. A day ticket is valid for the whole system (apart from airport transfer). We picked up a 24hr ticket for around about €7.60 each.

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The city is also pretty walk-able and once you are within the central most sections of the Ringstrasse you will probably benefit more from walking because you will see much more.

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Impressions of Vienna:

WOW!! Where do you even start with Vienna! I mean, sure, people say that Vienna is beautiful and you think well that’s probably true but so are countless other cities, especially in Europe. But what an understatement… Now over the last years we have seen some real beauts, I mean gems of Europe, but nothing come close in terms of traditional, exquisite beauty. I mean sure, I may prefer the rough and untouched edges of Lviv, or the bohemian nature of Krakow and the understated quietness of Bratislava, but Vienna is the dictionary definition of the word beautiful and that is something that knocked us off our feet!

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Vienna has a huge reputation that’s for sure, it had a lot to live up to and unlike some of the more off the beaten track places we usually visit there was a massive expectation. Vienna delivered on all counts, it’s smooth and seducing, it’s easy on the eye and in practical terms, it’s a well oiled machine of class, history, safety and opulence. Around every corner yet another piece of stunning and unique architecture, breath taking detail and craft, 360 degrees of fairy-tale travel!

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Ok, so it sounds a little over board and maybe it’s because we are from a grimy industrial city in the gloomy North West of England, but Vienna felt almost too good to be true, too perfect. Like a dream, but it was real, shining and shimmering in the early Spring sun. This is travel for you, when it takes too kids from Manchester into another world!

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Hey, don’t get us wrong, we love our grimy little city and we love places like New York for that very reason, but Vienna, it’s like someone managed to create a city without all of the baggage that comes along with it. No screaming drunks, no litter, no graffiti, no kids fighting in the park, it’s just nice and allowed to be that way!

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Vienna’s imperial grandeur is almost outrageous, the history of this great city is as long as the history of Europe. The palaces, the churches, the courtyards and the theatres. The mighty Habsburg’s playground, it’s statues, monuments, it’s livable atmosphere and seamless integration of the old and the new.

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The sound of Bach and Mozart fill the air, there is a real “classic” feel about Vienna. Even it’s German language sounds much more poetic and musical than the harsh tones I had experienced in Hamburg (although I really do have a love for the language I must admit). It’s so organised and yet so energetic. It’s a city unlike any other and one which really left an impression!

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What to do for a day in Vienna:

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Translated into English this is the Museum of Art History and lies directly opposite the  Naturhistorisches Museum in an almost identical building. We chose this time to head to the Art museum as we only really had time for one and whilst in London we chose the Natural History Museum… so I had my way this time!

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The buildings themselves are almost, if not more, impressive than the priceless collections they house. Opening in 1891 alongside the Naturhistorisches Museum these two museums were built to house the huge collection of the Habsburgs’ in a publicly accessible gallery.

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The building itself is lavishly decorated in gold leaf, marble and features impressive frescos and sculptures. The opening hallway and staircase has to be one of the most impressive and overwhelmingly detailed and ornate places we have ever laid our eyes on.

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The museum suitable decorated for the masterpieces on display from the likes of Rembrandt to Rafael. Now OK, renaissance painting isn’t exactly my favourite era (don’t forget I’m a Art graduate) but you have to admire the skill of these painters and the legacy they have left.

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Info:

Maria-Theresien-Platz, METRO: Museumsquartier, Volkstheater
TIMES: Tu – Su, 10:00 – 18:00 , Th, 10:00 – 21:00

Rathaus (Town Hall) and Park

The Rathaus of Vienna is another architectural masterpiece, built from 1872 to 1883 it houses the Mayor and city council of Vienna. It is free to enter the town hall and wander it’s grand old hall ways. To be honest we got completely lost in here and ended up even wandering into a conference such is the freedom you are given! It’s a real treat to discover the little details of this amazing structure. One of the highlights was riding the old paternoster lift which is a revaluation and a surprise in this day of health and safety!

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Info:

Town hall and with the Rathausplatz and the Rathauspark it is located at the Wiener Ringstraße directly across the Burgtheater
METRO: Rathaus  station on Line U2,
TIMES: Monday to Friday from 08:00 – 18:00 o’clock.
Parliament Building

Another impressive building hardly believable to the eyes it is so grand, although it did remind us just a little of Washington DC. The Greek revival style building was completed in 1883 and is where the two houses of the Austria parliament sit: the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat). We couldn’t get inside the building which is a little disappointing but there is more than enough to keep you occupied with the stunningly detailed exterior complete with the Pallas Athene Fountain and great views over the city.

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Info:

TRAM, 1, 2, U-Bahn : U2,U3 Volstheater
Imperial Palace (Hofburg)

The imperial palace of Hofburg is probably one of the most famous and popular sights in the city and part of it to this day is home to the president of Austria. The palace has been home to some of the most powerful, rich and influential people in European and Austrian history since it’s beginnings in the 13th century.

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The palace in no uncertain terms is massive, it hold museums, festival halls, conference centres, it has at least 8 major “wings” as well as many other grand halls and room.

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In truth only a small section of it is visitable but that is enough to gain a feel for the majesty and history of this fascinating place.

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Info:

It is located at Vienna’s splendor boulevard, the Ringstrasse, and is reachable from there through the Burgtor gate.
METRO: Metro U3 station Herrengasse, TIMES: 9:00 to 17:30 o’clock

Austrian National Library (Nationalbibliothek)

Now the library is actually technically part of Hofburg but it is that special that it needs a section of it’s own. The library is actual not without its controversy, under the Third Reich tens of thousands of Jewish citizens were robbed of their possessions which were subsequently housed in the library. Since the end of the war many have been returned but thousands still remain.

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This Baroque library houses over 7.4 million items, so there’s a lot to see, but much like Trinity college in Dublin there is a centre piece everyone comes to see: The Prunksaal (The entrance to which is actually in Josef Platz). There are few words to describe it in all honesty that I haven’t already overused in this articles! It’s so detailed and frankly over the top that you really don’t know where too look, but wow is it beautiful.

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The state Hall (in English) is the central structure of the old imperial library and is divided into opposite sides of “War” and “Peace” as evidenced by the jaw dropping frescos adorning almost every surface. There is no other way to say it, but this is one of those places you just must see in your lifetime, simply amazing!

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Info:

The library is located in the Hofburg Palace but you have to walk a little further round to another entrance at Josef Platz for the separate entrance to the Prunksaal

St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)

This Baroque Roman Catholic church is reported to be the oldest in Vienna with sections dating back the the early middle ages, the current structure having been finished in 1733. We have been lucky enough to visit some of the most beautiful and ornate churches in Europe over the last few years and every time we set foot in another the level of detail is mind blowing, even for atheists!

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The interior and exterior are nothing short of masterpieces, it’s also free to enter and pretty much empty. From the roaring high street outside you could hear a pin drop inside this atmospheric old church.

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Info:

Petersplatz 6, METRO: U-Bahn: Stephansplatz

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) and Stepansplaz

Stephansdom is a real icon of Vienna and one of the first places we stopped off at. Not only is the church impressive with it distinctive multicoloured ornate roof consisting of 230,000 tiles but the whole area around it is the hub of the city.

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The real highlight here is acceding the lift to the top of the churches 446ft tower which gives you a close up view of that famous roof as well as an unrivalled view across this imperial city.

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The most important religious building in Vienna is has witnessed many of the major events of the city since it’s humble beginnings in 1147 and is an imposing and memorable structure.

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Info:

Stephansplatz, TIMES: Mo – Sa, 06:00 – 22:00, Su, 07:00 – 22:00
Church of the Jesuits (Universitatskirche)

Also known as the University Church the double towered baroque building was constructed between 1623 and 1627. Again with many of the buildings in Vienna the exterior is of particular note but the interior is simply stunning.

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The opulence of the marble pillars, frescos and details bays have a illusionist effect including a dome painted upon a flat part of the ceiling.

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One of the thing that really stands out in this church is the current inclusion of a massive art work hanging in the centre of the building. The effect is really quite odd but amazing, it really stands out compared to the detail of the surroundings and is really quite entrancing. “To be in Limbo” measures 26ft and 700kg in weight and was created by Steinbrenner/Dempf & Huber as a homage to Rene Magritte.

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Info:

Dr. Ignaz-Seipel-Platz 1, METRO: U3 till Stubentor

Cost?

Is Vienna expensive, well yes it is when you compare it to places such as Bratislava and other in Eastern Europe. Some of the entrance prices felt quite steep but worth it to see such breath taking places. I’m not sure that it is all that much more expensive than what what we expected of the city and there were also plenty of free attractions to visit too.

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Enough time?

Is a day enough time, yes and no. We have visited many other cities before for only a day and have managed to pack in quite a lot. In fact we are pretty good at doing that and managed to get through an itinerary that most people have for three days in one day. Now, that’s good and we are young and energetic so we can pull it off. But, I would much rather have longer to explore if I am honest, but sometimes we just don’t have that time.

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In all honesty we don’t feel like we are leaving having left major things not done or seen that we would have liked to have done, we are leaving fulfilled in case this is our only chance to see it but hopeful that we will one day see it again. If you get the earliest and the latest trains/ buses/ boats like we did, organise what you want to do and how to get there as well as taking short food breaks (having a proper meal once everything has closed and it’s dark) and a good pair of shoes then you can see a hell of a lot in 9-10 hours!

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We are looking forward to being able to spend a little more time and basically have more control over our schedule on our RTW and is one of the reasons we are not putting any time scale on it. I guess it will be a change for us but both methods offer good and bad aspects. Sometimes only having a limited amount of time makes you less likely to take it for granted.

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Overall

What an amazing day in an amazing city, heading back to Bratislava we were tired but fulfilled with our day of exploring with a more relaxing and slower paced day planned for the day after. We would loved to have had time to return for another day but looking at our list of things we wanted to do we pretty much did it all. Vienna was a whirlwind but we feel we really got to see somewhere truly special, we hope to return for a little longer in the future and also see more of this beautiful country.

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Have you been to Vienna. Were you as amazed as us?

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Or this guy….

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.