Our tour across the four countries reached half way both in terms of time, and distance when we reached Vienna. As I wrote in the previous post, Vienna was probably the destination I was most looking forward to – after all, it was one of the most impressive city in terms of culture and history in Europe.
The journey to the city was done by a cruise on the Danube, from where we arrived to the pier in Schwedenplatz well before noon after a comfortable ride on the river. We had two days in the city and already before arrival, I had prepared myself for two intense days of rushing through the streets in order to see everything I wanted, as there were just so many things I wanted to do. There were the palaces, the parks, the impressive architecture, the Ferris wheel and the elephants in the zoo, not to forget that we had to also try the schnitzels, the original Sacher-cake and the wine… and this is only to mention the most important ones, so the list was quite extensive in the end. And naturally, in order to avoid the potential relationship crisis due to lack of food on my behalf and the lack of beer on behalf of the other half of our duo, we did need to time for maintenance breaks as well. But we were up for the challenge. So before even reaching the city, I was pretty sure that if any, this would be the one where we would run out of time. But surprisingly, it didn’t.
Once we reached Vienna, we quickly stopped by at our hotel and dropped our bags before heading to the city center. During the two days, the narrow streets of Innere Stadt became surprisingly familiar and we had plenty of time to admire the endless amounts of beautiful buildings from all different angles. Somehow I never stopped wondering how much money the construction of all these glorious buildings must have required.. Most probably no-one knows exactly, but I know it is something way beyond my understanding.
The city was just packed with beautiful buildings one after another
The parks were just as impressive though..
The innere stadt is surrounded by the beautiful Ringstrasse, a boulevard along where the most impressive and interesting sights of the city are located, there is the Opera, the parliament and the Hofburg palace area. By walking along the Ringstrasse for the whole round, even the most demanding traveler truly can understand how amazing the city is and how glorious it must once have been. And the awe does not end once the buildings are seen, but the little (and terrible) horticulturist inside me also wonders how many gardeners it takes just to maintain all the parks….
Horses were a common sight in the city
The Ringstrasse is really popular amongst both the tourists as well as the Viennese, and therefore rather lively area. One could easily spend days on the route if you want to learn about the sights in detail. We were, however, happy admiring most of the buildings only from the outside, as what comes to myself, I’m really terribly unenthusiastic about most museums and also getting deep into the little details is somewhat difficult for me. Not so surprising when keeping in mind that I’m not that well known as the patient one… Hence, in the two days, we managed to see the sights along the Ringstrasse in just enough detail to leave plenty of time for the other ones in the city as well.
We had planned (…or to be exact, I had announced..) that it might be good to focus on the Innere Stadt sights on the first day. However, three hours after we had left from our hotel, we had managed to see the most interesting sights in the center (check, check and check), eaten lunch (schnitzel – check), and tried the original Sacher (check), and strolled around while looking at the crowds, we noticed that we had actually unintentionally arrived to the Ringstrasse. So we continued the day on the southern section of the Ringstrasse
THE Sacher. I must say I was a bit disappointed with this, but then, I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate cakes.
The southern part of the Ringstrasse does cover most of the important and most impressive sights on the route, so if there is only a limited time to be used in the city, I’d focus on the area between hotel Sacher and Votivkirche. When including a short stroll from Stephansplatz in the center of innere stadt in the start, the route will be around three kilometers and covers around 80% of the main sights in the central area of the city (I’d almost say 90% but I’m sure we missed something I did not even realize). So even if you are in a rush, with just one hour it is possible to walk by the main sights and get the photos if that is all you need. Although, to really see and walk around the sights to get an appropriate view of them and get into the details, you’ll need many more hours, or even days.
It is possible to take a tram around the Ringstrasse as well, and we had actually planned on taking the ride on the second day, but we ended up covering most of the route by foot before that and decided that it would not be that interesting anymore. The tram ride is probably a good idea, at least in theory, if you are in a rush. The downside is that even though it is possible to see all the sights during the ride, you won’t have time to have more than a glimpse of one before the next one appears behind it, plus half of the route does not include that many interesting things. So if I only had half an hour in the city and would like to see the Ringstrasse sights, instead of taking the tram, I’d still go by foot and focus on the few main sights on the southern area of the Ringstrasse.
If Stephansplatz, Stephansdom, and Hotel Sacher are the main attractions inside the Ringstrasse, would the ones outside it be Karlskirche and Prater park, of which on the latter we visited on the first evening as well. In Prater park one can find the Wiener Riesenrad, a ferris wheel that was originally constructed in 1897, that is one of the main attractions in the city. It was one of the ”definitely must go”-type of places on my list and after having the ride, I can say it was worth it without a doubt and a highly recommendable ride! The Ferris wheel includes 15 cabins around 5*2 meters in size that can take around 20 people in at a time. During the 20 minute ride you’ll go up to 65 meters and get to enjoy of great views over the city. And if that is not enough, for all the little adrenaline junkies, there is always the possibility to continue from the wheel to other devices in the amusement park.
Onboard the Wiener Reisenrad, a ride that is easily worth the money!
In the second day we had planned to cover rest of the remaining parts of the Ringstrasse and to visit the Shönnbrunn palace. Shönnbrunn deserves a separate post, but let’s just say here that it did not let us down. After the two days, just before going to sleep, I did a quick recap on the ”must do and see”-list that I had had in mind before coming to the city. I had no choice but to agree that this was truly an excellent visit and we got to see and do everything that was planned in advance, and even more. If I’d have to list some popular musts for the city that we did not do this time, those would be the visits to the Spanish riding school, the opera or the ballet. For sure worth the visit, but this time we did not prefer those over the other things we did and frankly, I’m not that sad about that now. But I know what to do the next time I visit the city.
So it was easy to fall asleep in high spirits after the two great days. The next morning we would continue the journey towards Slovenia, where the first stop would be in Lake Bled after a six hour train ride across alpine scenery. We had bought the tickets earlier on the second day and it was close that this part of the trip would be the first where not everything would go as planned. I had looked up the best connection online before heading to the train station, and I’m glad I had, even more glad I was that I had taken a screenshot of the details on my phone as the clerk who was issuing the tickets to us at the station seemed never have heard of Bled and after carefully spelling the name, she managed to get us tickets that would not only go to a wrong station (a close by though), but also take more time, so not even close to what we had in mind. So after showing her the details of the trip, we finally managed to get the right type of tickets. If someone would have made me bet the part where something would be close to being screwed up on this trip, I’d never have thought it would be in Vienna getting the train tickets — in the ticket office… But luckily nothing happened though, not in this case, nor anywhere else during the trip.
Alpine cenery along the Vienna-Bled train route
I also must say that even though Vienna was without a doubt the most expensive city on our trip and the daily budget was over double the size from any other city, the price of the train tickets to Bled were horrible! With 75 euros per person for the ticket, that leg costed us more than all the other ones in the trip combined, and that includes the taxi rides to and from the airport. Did I mention something about cheap train travel in Europe in my previous posts? I had figured that bargaining would not be an option, so we just had to get the tickets. Luckily the train ride was a nice one, the train was on schedule, the internet was free (and occasionally working…). When you add beautiful alpine scenery to this, you just can’t complain. So we left Austria and continued the journey with some good memories from Vienna. Although, I must say that with so high expectations of the city, the head-over-heels-type of falling in love with the city did not really happen. I could easily see myself visiting the city again, but next time I’d love to spend some more time in other parts of Austria as well. Based on just one city you just can not get a decent experience of the whole country. But realistically thinking, my bucket list includes already over 30 countries, let alone cities in them, so I can’t see myself visiting the same place again in the next few years.