15 July 2016

a little guide to vienna

'Grand', 'opulent,' 'expensive,' all words that could describe the Austrian capital Vienna (Wien). Sketches recently had the opportunity to explore this wonderful city, with something of a whistle stop tour. Whether you are an art lover, a fan of classical music, a culture vulture or just a wandering tourist, this city will give you plenty to keep you occupiedAnd quite likely burn a hole in your pocket. So Sketches gives you its Little Guide to Vienna.

Outside the Parliament building
The Circle Walk
From our base, the elegant Hilton Vienna Plaza the main attractions of the city can be easily discovered by foot. In fact with a little planning you can do a circular walk that will cover pretty much all the bases. It will take you about 3/4 hours, depending on how long you want to stay, explore each location on route. From the University district to the Museum Quarter, The Palace and Opera House to the Cathedral, you can see it all within a few short hours of walking. Great exercise everyone. You can also hire bikes (more of that later). So if your time is short, like ours was, then this is the perfect way to get a flavour of the city. 

Street scene - Vienna 
Museum Quarter
The museum quarter is a large complex of interlinking museums.  There is such a vast range of choice, from modern and contemporary art to classical culture, this is a place to lose yourself for a few hours. The museums aren't free but if your budget allows you could quite easily spend the day hoping between the different museums, popping out for a coffee in one of the cafes that occupy the courtyards. Again here with a little pre-planning you could chose which museum 'rocks your boat'. There are so many to choose from. There were some free exhibits, one in which unbeknown to me was actually open yet! Well I had a quick look and made my 'Sorry I'm a tourist' excuses! 

Wall artwork in the Museum Quarter 

Museum Quarter 
Bike Hire
The best way to see the city, and any other city in the world for that matter, is undoubtedly to hire one of the city bikes. For a 1€ registration fee, and with the first hour (of any ride) free its well worth the expense. Vienna is a cycle friendly city (take note London!) Green cycle ways circle the central business district and can easily be covered in an hour. So see all the sites (although briefly) for free! As with all these city bikes, they are hard work, but Vienna isn't too hilly so riding is ok. 

"Grab your bike!"
The Palace / Cathedral / Opera House
These are really the top attractions to visit. Hoards of tourist throng each of these areas and here's a tip. If you don't like being pestered, then avoid the 'Mozart' dressed concert sellers. You'll get bombarded. I'm sure they are great concerts but being pestered every 5 meters is not what I want when exploring. The Cathedral offers you a little rest-bite from the crowds (once inside) and if you're happy to climb the 300 odd steps then the views from the top are superb. Be warned its a spiral, narrow staircase but the rewards far outweigh the pain! Wandering around the Palace complex was a nice way to get a flavour of the grandeur this city offers. Outside its gates the park is a perfect place to chill. Highly recommended after lots of walking! From there you can see the Museum Quarter and the Parliament building. 

Vienna Cathedral

View from the atop the Cathedral
Part of the Palace complex - Vienna
Close to the centre is the Danube canal (the river itself is a little further out of town). A place to walk along, get away from the tourists and take a moment to reflect. Unlike most city centre rivers, we were greeted by vast amounts of graffiti lining the banks' walls. I like graffiti, when done well, it adds colour and vibrancy to an area.  Along this canal it was a little hit and miss, actually detracting us from venturing further. A scattering of cafes line the pathways, so if you do fancy a stroll then by all means go for it. I biked along the path the following morning and did find some tranquil spots which were graffiti free. 

Along the canal - graffiti 
Tea for Two
Everyone needs a rest now and then. All that wandering and wanderlusting. Close to the Opera building you'll find  The pull of attractive, Gerstner K.& K. Hofzuckerb√§ckerei. Cakes and chocolates were enough to persuade us to give it a go. If you take the spiral staircase you'll come to a grand (slightly overdone) room, resplendent with piano. As a stop off it comes highly recommended. The cakes were delicious.

Tea and Cakes at Gerstner 

A Little Guide to Vienna
Our time in Vienna was short - around 36 hrs, but that didn't stop us from gaining a real perspective of this fascinating city. As a weekend break Vienna is perfect. Yes it is a little expensive, but with some planning you can enjoy the city without spending a fortune. Delight in the culture and food and wonder at the buildings. 

In light of recent events its worth remembering that we must continue to travel, so please be safe and if going to Vienna, enjoy. It's a fabulous city. 


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