This our fourth trip to Vienna and we still love it. It is such a vibrant and beautiful city that is so easy to navigate.
We rented an apartment near the Belvedere Palace to get a little more space and to be able to make a few meals and our morning pot of tea.
It was an easy four hour train ride from Prague and the connecting S Bahn (local train) is near our building. We also have tram #71 which takes us directly into the center each day. This must be a city full of honest folks because you buy your ticket, walk through the U Bahn (metro) and get on the train. You time stamp the ticket yourself and in all our visits no one has ever checked us to see whether we pay or not. Yet everyone seems to pay — just as we did! We have been sharing an 8 day ticket by stamping two days on it with the current date — which is allowed for group travel at a discount. Because the day passes are for 24 hours, we have been able to squeeze an extra day out of it depending on when we start out in the day and how much walking we do.
Vienna is a walker’s city — wide sidewalks, no dog poop, traffic signals that make sense and have an audible signal as well. And most of the city center is flat. Hills surround the city (Tales of the Vienna Woods), but it is easy walking downtown. As it warms up, most of the city will have good shade from the trees lining most of the streets.
Our first full day, we just walked and re-familiarized ourselves with the city and also with its coffee culture. We rode the trams a bit to re-learn the routes and stopping points for major sites. The core is the city is ringed with a wide boulevard (called The Ring) and other arteries radiate out from it. Most of the inner ring is free of traffic and some streets are 100% pedestrianized. There is also world class shopping here to be sure.
We found a few churches that we hadn’t been in before and visited about five as we happened upon them. Stephensdom had a special colored artsy light show going on which lit the altars in interesting colors. St. Peter’s was still dripping with baroque layers of carved decoration and gilt. The Augustiner Church was sedate in comparison. Austria is a very Catholic country and the churches are in full use.
Many of the large art museums are conveniently located together in Museum Quarter just across the Ring from the Hofburg Palace. This area used to be stables for the Hofburg.
We have been on all of the Hofburg tours (Imperial Apartments, The Treasury, etc.) except for seeing the Spanish Riding school performance, so we made on-line bookings for that.
We noticed that a large installation for the Life Ball was going on at the Rathaus (City Hall) — and we planned to attend the opening on that Saturday night along with 35,000 others!
Our second day of real sightseeing took us to the Belvedere Palaces and the art collection there. We like the Belvedere because it is a smaller collection (compared to 3 floors in the huge Kunsthistorisches museum) and well organized. The former palace rooms are part of the show. Plus, the Gustavo Klimt paintings are some of our favorites. The Belvedere is actually two summer places built for the same guy — I guess one summer home just wasn’t enough. The upper palace sits high on a hill and gives a nice view of the city. When you have indulged your senses with the art and the decoration of the rooms (no cameras allowed), you can stroll through a huge garden — laid out in a stylized format down past a beautiful fountain to the lower Belvedere palace. There at the lower Belvedere is where they display changing exhibitions. There are stables, an old Orangerie building that has been updated for special exhibits, privy gardens and a back gate onto Renweg — the street where we rented an apartment. We had a nice tasty lunch on site in one of the Cafes.
The Belvedere can be toured in about 3 hours if you are in a hurry, but if you have the day, it is a great way to spent time in Vienna.
Photo album to be added soon!