The best medicine for cold weather and dark days is a weekend trip filled with wine, art, food and waltzing.
Vienna is somewhat underrated – even though the historic center is a UNESCO-site. I don’t know why, but hopefully this post will show, why the old capital of the huge Austro-Hungarian Empire should be on every cultural traveller’s list.
HOW TO GET IN THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT IN VIENNA
THE GOLDEN CITY
The golden city of Vienna developed from Roman settlements into a Medieval and Baroque city. The historic centre is rich in Baroque castles and gardens, as well as the late-19th-century Ringstrasse lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks, and this is why is is classified as a World Heritage Site.
Vienna is full of sight for the cultural traveller and just walking the streets and looking at the beautiful buildings is an experience in itself. But here’s a selecation of top sights:
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN VIENNA
A must-do is going to a classical concert – preferably in the Golden Hall in Musikverein. This is where the Wiener Philharmonic play the famous New Year Concert every year. But check the schedule in advance, since there aren’t many concerts in November.
There are an incredible number of places playing Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven or Strauss for tourists, but be critical in your choice. Several historic Viennese buildings are now associated with these world-famous composers from when the city played an essential role as a leading European centre for music.
Architecture do take up a lot of the city’s charm. Like the so cool Wiener Secession, where artists like Klimt came. Besides the Baroque, the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau), the Secession, and the early Modern Movement can be seen.
Vienna is full of so many fantastic museums, that I have to go back with my museumgroup and write a museum guide. Kunsthistoriches Museums has a huge antique collection with a fantastic Amazonian sarcophagus, but also paintings by Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Dürer, Rembrandt and Vermeer! Remember to see the Kunstkammer with strange and Baroque nick-knack for people with too much money.
The Belvedere Museum is also a must with its extraordinary collection of Gustav Klimt including “The Kiss” among other masterpieces.
Naturhistorisches Museum is home to world-famous 29,500-year-old Venus of Willendorf! I also recommend Kaiserliche Schatzkammer, which is a type of museum I often skip. But don’t miss this important collection of medieval royal objects: the insignia and jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, including the Imperial Crown and the Holy Lance. And even more bling, including one of the world’s largest emeralds, reminding you that this (now small country) once was part of a huge empire and to the Habsburgs’ former power.
Besides all the museums and palaces and the riding school with the expensive horses, the Stephansdom is the most important Gothic building in Austria. The glorious tiled roof, has an impressive row of chevrons and the Austrian eagle. The church has many sarcophagus’ and relics
Austria’s rich cultural heritage is clear in the complex Hofburg, home base of the Habsburgs from 1273 to 1918. The oldest section is the 13th-century Schweizerhof (Swiss Courtyard), named after the Swiss guards, who used to protect its. It houses several museums and have many visitors.
You gotta love the pink decor. Nothing beats a rococo pastel interior design.
From the middle of November and on, Vienna is filled with Christmas markets.
We found a small one outside Kunsthistorisches Museum, but our favourite was near Rathausplatz with close to 150 booths, plenty of hot wine (including the terrible moulded wine) and solid food. and of course all the Christmas ornaments you can imagine. But the best thing: The moment we entered the Christmas Market – it started to snow!
Find a list of markets here. Get some hot mulled wine and a potato filled with sour cream and buy a Christmas ornament – and you are in the mood…
WHAT TO EAT & DRINK ⇓
No, I don’t like the Sachertorte or many of the other cakes. I had really looked forward to it, but they are too dry for me – and of course I tried several times. The Esterhazy was a little bit better. Maybe it’s because, I don’t eat whipped cream. The original is found at Hotel Sacher or Demel.
I also don’t drink coffee…But of course we still went to the famous coffee houses, where western civilization in some aspects had an enormous push forward. The atmosphere is unparalleled; People just sit there or hours with the newspaper. No laptops or take-away coffee! Try Café Mozart for cake or Tafelspitz or Das Café Landtmann.
Yes, I do like Austrian wine very much. Very much!