Thursday, May 2, 2013


Vienna State Opera
 Vienna is an easy place to research, so instead of telling you things you can find elsewhere, here are the places I've been to and recommend.  Enjoy!


Beethoven Frieze by Klimt
GUSTAV KLIMT:  One of my favorite artists of all time, you can find a huge concentration of his work in Vienna:  Belvedere Museum (which owns the largest collection of his paintings, including his most famous work The Kiss), Secession (amazing building...but it's only worth going inside if you like Klimt), Leopold Museum (beautiful interior and home to one of the most highly recommended cafes in Vienna).  

Klimt's Death and Life
OTHER MUSEUMS: MuseumsQuartier is cool to walk around in and of itself and you can see all the museums in this area with a multi-venue ticket (also includes Leopold Museum). Across from the Leopold is MUMOK, which might be cool to check out if the current exhibit is interesting.  If not, the exterior is worth a glance. On the other side of the 1st district, MAK is an applied arts museum with a pretty good restaurant/cafe (the Weinershnitzel was good and it also has WIFI...otherwise, Cafe Pruckel is across the street).  Didn't make it to the Wien Museum, but I would have loved to if I had time.

Secession Building
BELVEDERE PALACE AND GARDENS:  A wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon after visiting the Belvedere Museum.   

Hint:  Go when it opens to avoid the crowds. They usually show up at the same time by the busloads.

Belvedere Palace
VIENNA STATE OPERA (WIENER STAATSOPER): Take the guided tour which starts daily at 2 and lasts for an hour (on some days, you can buy a combo ticket for the Opera Museum).  Try to go for a performance if you can.  Visit the Tourist Information office, around the corner and 2 blocks away to purchase regular tickets. Standing room only tickets are sold at the box office the night of the performance.

Hint:  Go early for the guided tour!  Lines start forming at least 30 minutes prior and you have to factor in finding the actual entrance for the guided tours (on the corner of Opernring and Operngasse). 

Vienna State Opera
ALBERTINA:  A former palace turned museum that houses a solid collection of modern art. The Albertina is easily the type of place you would see in the pages of Vogue.  It is stunning.  Look for the cute monkeys in the entrance hallway.

Hint: Go about an hour or two before closing to see the exterior lit up and to be able to enjoy the exhibit rooms (practically) all to yourself.

Albertina Museum
NASCHMARKT:  I love places that have a good mix of locals and tourists, and this is one of them.  Alongside tourists with DSLR's hanging around their necks you will see a locals with real baskets (as in they look like something Little Red Riding Hood would use) doing their daily shopping. 

Hint: Go on a Saturday to see the flea market.  It can be mayhem so hold on tight to your valuables.

HUNDERTWASSERHAUS and KUNTSHAUSWIEN:  A whimsical apartment complex and a museum, respectively.  Both with very cool facades.  

STEPHANSDOM:  Impressive from all angles. You will no doubt cross the main square again and again, so don't work this into your itinerary.  Just drop by (free entry) when the crowd looks small.  

GOOD THINGS TO KNOW: The Spanish Riding School was low on my list (almost got thrown off a horse once), but it is a very popular tourist attraction.  Visiting Beethoven's Grave might be cool too.  Also, we missed the Hofburg, and went to Cafe Demel instead (sweets were calling).  If I ever go back, the Hofburg would be on my list of things to see.

Exterior of the Hofburg


PLACHUTTA:  One word: TAFELSPITZ. You don't need the set menu (the one with steak or with dessert...get dessert at any number of cafes around town afterwards), just order the combination boiled beef Tafelspitz (with or without the noodle add on) with two sides of vegtables and enjoy.  One portion per person might leave you in a food coma, but it's worth it.  We ate here twice in one weekend and that's a faux pax we never commit unless the meal was that good.  And it was.  What I wouldn't give for another taste.  Opening Hours: Daily, 11:30am-12:30am.  Address: Wollzeile 38.

How it goes:  Drink the soup; eat the boiled beef and veggies with horseradish and chive sauce; scoop out the bone from the pot and spread the bone marrow on the toasted bread; enjoy the vegetable sides as you go.

Hint:  We've only gone to the Wollzeile branch, but I imagine other branches are just as good.  Reservations are essential.  Use their easy online reservation system. 

The pretzel bread is the best in the bread basket (try not to get too full).  HIghly recommend the potatoes as a side. Enjoy.

FIGLMUELLER:  Don't let the tourists deter you. Yes, this place is popular with tourists, but locals love it as well. The Wienerschniztel is paper thin and ginormous.  Make sure you order some potatoes or a salad on the side to accompany it. There are two locations in the 1st district, Wollzeile and Bäckerstrasse.  Whichever you choose, try to make a reservation, especially on weekends. Opening Hours: Daily, 11am-10:30pm. Address: Wollzeile 5 or Bäckerstraße 6.

Ginormous Wienerschnitzel.  Potato salad was good. 
ÖSTERREICHER IM MAK:  A modern take on classic Viennese dishes.  I would go back.  If not for the restaurant, definitely for the cool cafe attached (which is also attached to the museum gift shop).  Opening Hours:  Daily, 11:30am-3pm and 6pm-11pm. Address: Stubenring 5.

Beef stew, mushroom soup, unfiltered beer, and Wienerschnitzel were delicious.  Bread was warm.  Wasn't a fan of the liver meatball soup.
KAFFEHAUSER:  The Viennese love their coffee and have many specialty coffee drinks.  Don't be boring and order regular coffee!  Try something new. Needless to say, cake is a must.  You're on vacation!  Here, I've listed the most popular cafes in Vienna:

CAFE DEMEL:  Best pastry display.  Always packed with tourists. Beautiful packaging if you order to go. Opening Hours: Daily,  9am to 7pm. Address: Kohlmarkt 14.

Psst:   If there is a line for Cafe Demel, order to go and enjoy your cakes on a bench in front of the Hofburg.  I waited about 45 minutes for a table and while it is a cute space, if you are pressed for time, the experience was not worth it. If you are a smoker or can stand inhaling a roomful of smoke, there is usually no wait for the smoking section.

CAFE LEOPOLD: Funky. Convenient place to rest for a coffee if you're doing MuseumsQuartier.  Young crowd. Opening Hours: Sunday to Wednesday 10am-2am, Friday to Saturday, 10am-4pm. Address: Museumsplatz 1

CAFE SACHER: Located in the grand Hotel Sacher.  The outdoor seating provides an opportunity to watch tourists (not locals) go by. Opening Hours: Daily, 8am to midnight.
Address: Philharmonikerstrasse 4.

CAFE SPERL: This was by far my favorite cafe.  It's off the beaten path so there are fewer tourists.  Great place to relax.  Cute outdoor seating. I had brunch here one day. Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7am-11pm and Sunday 11am-8pm. Address: Gumpendorfer Strasse 11.



MANNER FLAGSHIP STORE: Pretty much a must try - you can't miss this place, it's a bright peach color and right next to Stephansdom.  Delicious wafer cookies, but be careful which kind you buy as souvenirs since they are fragile and don't travel well.  Personally, I liked the coffee flavored ones.  The small packages of Manner chocolates by the register are good too. Opening Hours: Daily, 10am-9pm. Address: Stephansplatz 7.

Hint:  There is a Manner in the departures, but they charge a lot more.  If you are going to buy souvenirs, it's definitely worth it to buy them in town.


GETTING FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY:  Whatever you do, do not fall for all the ads advertising the City Airport Train (CAT) - 12 euros one way, 19 return.  Instead, take the S-Bahn (4 euros one way): S-Bahn to WIEN-MITTE (FLORISDORF direction) then transfer to the U-Bahn (U3 to STEPHANSPLATZ and U4 to KARLSPLATZ).  You can purchase your tickets right outside the station or on the platform.  Make sure you validate your tickets or prepare to pay a 100 euro fine.  

WHERE TO STAY:  Stay in or as close to the Innere Stradt (1st district) as possible.  This is where all the major sites are located.  Bonus points if the hotel is near a metro for easy access to the airport and other sites in the city.

BRING NICE CLOTHES:  You will be tempted to attend a last minute, standing room only performance at the Opera House.  Although casual dress is acceptable, please don't be that guy.  Dress up out of respect for the other patrons. 

TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION:  Walking is recommended in the 1st district, but outside of that area, take the tram and U-Bahn.  Both are fast, convenient, and reliable. 

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