A handful of years ago, I spent a rainy 48 hours in picturesque Vienna, the City of Music. Famous for its Imperial palaces, museums, galleries, architecture and monuments; Vienna could be considered a museum in itself.
Though there are a myriad of things to do, my Mum (whom I was on vacation with) and I decided to forego the museums to walk around and see what we would stumble on to.
Here are some fun ways to spend a short stay in Vienna:
1. Explore the underground Imperial Crypt:
Below the Capuchin Church lies the Imperial Crypt. Call me morbid, but the minute I heard there was a crypt, I was all for exploring it. Hundreds of members of the Habsburg dynasty have been laid to rest here, from 1633 to as recently as 2011. The sarcophagi are some of the most beautiful and ornate ones you’ll ever see, and truly fascinating.
2. Take a tour of Mozarthaus at Domgasse no. 5:
One of several apartments that Mozart lived in, the one at Domgasse number 5 has been turned into a mini-museum, chronicling his life, his time in Vienna and his most famous works. The cost of an audio guide is included in the ticket cost, and will talk you through the tour as you make your way through this six level house.
3. Have a picnic in the Burggarten:
Once the private gardens of an Emperor, the Burggarten is now a public park. Landscaped similar to an English garden, the park also houses famous monuments like a bronze statue of Emperor Franz Joseph, as well as an intricately detailed marble statue of Mozart. Grab some grub from the food carts that line the outer perimeter of the park, or dine in at their open-air cafe if you prefer a fancier option.
4. Stroll through Schmetterling Haus:
The Imperial Butterfly House (who knew such a thing even existed) in the Burggarten is a tropical greenhouse. Home to hundreds of butterflies, this art-nouveau structure is considered one of the ‘most beautiful’ of its kind. The enclosure is landscaped to simulate an actual rain-forest, also providing tons of photo-ops of these stunning insects. The butterflies roam freely in the enclosure, and there are also little observation boxes where you can watch them emerging from their pupas. Keep an eye out for the Atlas Moth, the largest species of moth in the world.
5. Appreciate Gothic Architecture at St. Stephen’s Cathedral:
You don’t have to be religious to appreciate great architecture. The Gothic design of St. Stephen’s Cathedral – situated in the literal heart of Vienna – is one of Austria’s most iconic symbols. If you care to venture inside, you’ll be floored by the beautiful patterns of colour that dance across the room, refracted by the stained glass windows. I’ve never seen anything like it. There are also ancient relics, adorned altars and side chapels worth admiring.
6. Shop til you drop along the Stephansplatz:
Kärntnerstrasse and Graben are two streets that run adjacent to Stephansplatz, and form the city’s touristic hub. Shop for everything from knick-knacks to high-end fashion along these streets, or find a spot to relax and do some people-watching.
7. Watch the Lippizan Stallions at the Spanish Riding School:
My Mum’s personal favourite (and secretly, mine) thing to do was our brief visit to the Spanish Riding School. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get tickets to watch the famous Lippizan white stallions perform their ballet, but we did get to watch them train in the baroque setting of the Imperial Palace. Top-notch equestrian skills and horsemanship have been maintained here for decades, and it has been deemed an ‘intangible cultural heritage’ by UNESCO.
8. EAT your heart out:
You simply must (and I cannot stress this enough) make sure that you get to try a Wiener Schnitzel, Doner Kebabs, Bratwurst, and a Sachertorte (pastry) before leaving Vienna. You’ll thank me later. Confectionery stores aplenty, don’t miss out on tasting some truly exceptional chocolates and sweets!