Can you believe that in all my 10 years in Germany (click here for my very first post from Hamburg), I had never made the journey across the border to Austria? To make up for that, I spent my 10-year Germanniversary in Vienna, and it ended up being a fantastic trip! There are so many centuries of European history contained in this one city, and I knew there would be absolutely no way to see it all in five days (including the train rides), so I just decided on the things that really interested me the most: palaces, views of the city, and art. Ok ok…so in Vienna, that doesn’t really narrow things down much, but I did try!
So much history
Probably the biggest highlights were the Hofburg Palace and the Schönbrunn Palace: the former homes of the emperors and empresses of the Habsburg Empire who ruled large parts of Europe for many centuries. I still have vivid memories of my 10th grade social studies class and my teacher telling us about the assassination of Franz Ferdinand which ignited World War I — Mr. Ames pronounced Habsburg with such great relish that spit would often go flying towards any student sitting in the first row. Anyway, if you’re a history buff, Vienna is definitely the place for you!
Views from above (and below)
I also took the 343 steps up the spiral staircase of the South Tower of Stephansdom for fantastic views over the city. Definitely not recommended for claustrophobics or anyone anxious about falling down stairs. The stairs made a tight spiral the entire way up, no handrail whatsoever, barely enough room for foot traffic going both up and down, and quite narrow steps. I nearly had a panic attack on my way up, and got dizzy on my way down from the constant spiraling. In contrast, I absolutely loved the view from the slightly lower North Tower — because from there you can admire the beautiful shingle designs on the roof of the cathedral!
If you want a great view from above of the interior, check out the Domschatz exhibition in the West Gallery. You’ll escape the crowds and get a wonderful bird’s eye view of the tourist masses swarming through the cathedral.
However, if you’ve visited the catacombs in Paris (which still house the bones of six million Parisians!), you can skip the mostly empty and definitely less impressive catacombs underneath the Stephansdom.
Of course, checking out the Klimt collection at the Oberes Belvedere is a definite must for art lovers. But my favorite was actually a small exhibition of street photographer Vivian Maier at WestLicht. It was a perfect coincidence that I discovered the exhibition while searching for a way to take a break from the tourist hordes. Her portraits and her story have fascinated me for a long time.
I also traveled a bit outside the city center to visit Freud’s former apartment, waiting room, and office where he treated his patients. While it was pretty cool to see the original rooms, the museum is in dire need of an update, which it will apparently receive in 2020. Most of the original furnishings and property of the Freuds are located in the London museum, where the family fled in 1938 after the Nazi annexation of Austria.
There is a lot more I could add, like the Hundertwasserhaus, the Prunksaal at the Nationalbibliothek, eating Schnitzel, drinking a Kleiner Brauner at a cozy coffee house, having lunch at the Naschmarkt, and just wandering to my heart’s content.
But I think I will end here anyway — for many more photos, check out the Flickr album!
What are your favorite spots in Vienna? (I’m already making a list for my next visit!)