Visiting Vienna: First-Hand Experiences
When I was putting Vienna on Pinnable last year, the city quickly outnumbered London & Paris in pins, and last April we travelled to Austria because we had to see it all for ourselves. Vienna is the city of the Habsburgs, the dynasty that provided the Holy Roman Emperor from the 15th century until downsizing to just Emperor of Austria in 1806, which lasted until 1918, when the republic was established. The Hofburg, the principal imperial palace, as well as Schönbrunn Palace, the emperor’s summer residence, are among the highlights of the city. We especially enjoyed the 10th-century Crown of Charlemagne at the Imperial Treasury, and the former Court Library, now part of the Austrian National Library.
Vienna is also the city of art nouveau, or ‘Jugendstil’ in German. The movement is epitomized by Gustav Klimt, and his foremost work, The Kiss, together with some twenty of his other paintings, can be found at the Upper Belvedere, after queing up successively at the ticket office, the palace’s front door, and the exhibition’s entrance on the first floor. Be sure to also go see Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze at the Secession, an art gallery that is a compelling example of Viennese art nouveau architecture. Further down the street you will find Majolica House by architect Otto Wagner, who also designed the Karlsplatz Pavilion for the metropolitan railway, the Austrian Postal Savings Bank, and the Church of St Leopold.
One of the downsides of mass tourism is queueing, and in Vienna the worst queues occur at the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Upper Belvedere; be sure to arrive early to avoid them. Doing so at the Spanish Riding School won’t help, but the epic queue is easily avoided by entirely skipping the Lipizzaners’ rather dull morning exercise. All travel websites tell you to go have Wiener schnitzel at Figlmüller and Sachertorte at Café Sacher, which results in hordes of tourists who are waiting to get in blocking the streets in front of these two establisments. Schnitzel isn’t a complicated dish, and most restaurants do a decent job of it (as for Kaiserschmarren for dessert). Similarly, Sacher’s famous chocolate cake is served at all Viennese coffee houses.
The most enjoyable way to get from A to B within the city centre is to walk, but otherwise it’s advisable to use public transport. The Vienna City Card offers unlimited travel on the underground, trams & buses for one adult & a child aged 6–14, as well as various small discounts here & there. A card for 24, 48 or 72 hours costs € 17, € 25 or € 29, but if you don’t bring a child and just need transportation, you can also buy a 24- or 48-hour ticket for € 8 or € 14⅛. For € 17⅛ you can get either a 72-hour ticket or a weekly pass that is valid from Monday until 9 p.m. the next Monday. Day tickets are € 5⅘ and a single journey costs € 2⅖ for an adult or € 1⅕ for a child; on Sundays, children travel for free (under-6s always do). A final word on expensive, infrequent & slow hop-on hop-off buses: fuggedaboutit.pinnable.eu/wien