After our first visit to Vienna I knew I’d be back to see more of this cosmopolitan capital city. This time I was looking forward to doing things we didn’t get to our first visit – relaxing in some of the grand cafés, visiting new-to-us museums and sights, and taking long self-guided walks to explore different parts of this beautiful city.
Vienna Take 2 – Top Experiences
- Relaxing with espresso and cake in iconic cafés
- Discovering interesting places with audio walking tours
- Hundertwasser Museum
- City Temple – The interesting tour of the only surviving pre-WWII synagogue in Vienna
Käsekrainer and Cake
Late afternoon and we made our first stop Bitzinger’s, our favorite sausage stand (Würstelstände) that’s right in front of the Albertina. Any one of their sausages was a favorite quick meal the last time in Vienna and we had something here a couple of times this trip also.
Tip: Käsekrainer is a Viennese invention – a type of sausage with bits of cheese. We like any of the sausages, chopped, not in a roll, with the sweet mustard and a couple of slices of bread on the side. Oh so local!
Sacher Café is just down the street from Bitzinger’s and famous for their Sacher-Torte, a secret recipe. A great start to sampling the Viennese coffee-house atmosphere in an iconic café, expensive but a real treat.
The Albertina Museum
Our first full day in Vienna started out with the Albertina museum, the former palace given to empress Maria Theresa’s favorite daughter Maria Christina who married Albert of Saxony – “Albert+Tina”. Great permanent collection, grand State Rooms, and also a very interesting exhibition of 19th century watercolor painting.
Tip: Get an audio guide and go to see the State Rooms first. We didn’t and later in the day the State Rooms closed for a special function. Fortunately the ticket agent gave us pass to come back another day when the rooms were open.
We love the “free” walking tours found in other cities, but none are offered in Vienna. There are a couple of free MP3 audio guide walks you can download to your phone or MP3 player, this year we enjoyed some of the interesting and informative ones put together by Dr. Alan Keele of the Brigham Young University.
We’d passed this old dried up tree trunk encased in plexiglass many times on our way through Stephansplatz, but I’d never really given it a second thought until learning about it on Dr. Keele’s walking tour #1. In medieval times each locksmith apprentice would pound a good luck nail into the old tree that used to grow here as he left town to become a journeyman. The remains of this tree are closed by an iron band and a padlock, earning the name Stick in Irons (Stock im Eisen).
A statue of the hammering of nails into the tree is depicted above the door of the building next door at #1 Stock-im-Eisen-Platz.
If you’re lucky enough to find Dr. Kelle’s mp3 walks be forewarned – there aren’t any accompanying maps to these walks. He does quite a bit of backtracking and it can get a little frustrating trying to find exactly where you are supposed to walk to. Of course once you’ve walked the route it’s all very clear! Despite this, we managed to do several of his walks and went to many terrific places because of them.
Tip: We found that the “Smart Audio” app was the easiest to use to listen to audio tours on the Galaxy SmartPhone.
Great Break: Zwolf Apostelkeller (Cellar of 12 Apostles). This is one of the mentions on Dr. Keele’s walking tour #3. It’s an historic underground restaurant in cellars that go down 3 levels with room after room of tables. We were lucky to find it open for lunch service and popped in for a beer and espresso in the first of the atmospheric cellars. Don’t miss it!
Jewish City Temple
The Central Synagogue, or City Temple, is the only Synagogue that survived WWII. It was built in the space of an inside courtyard and the Nazis couldn’t burn it to the ground without destroying all of the buildings in the entire block.
The interesting tour is given in both English and German. Make sure you bring your photo ID for your visit to this historic synagogue.
More City Walks, Museums, Cafés and Sights
Another day we followed walk #2 to Judenplatz (Jewish Square) and to the large Holocaust Memorial.
A visit to the Jewish Museum here takes you under the square to the foundations of a medieval synagogue which was burned down in the persecution of the Jews in 1420. The monument above is positioned in the square on the site of the synagogue.
Tip: Your entry ticket here gets you into the other, large Jewish Museum on Dorotheergasse, well worth a visit.
Café Central: A great start to a day is an espresso and cake (or breakfast!) at Café Central. But go early, this gorgeous café is famous and if you wait too long there’ll be a line out the door.
We walked all over Vienna on Dr. Keele’s walks, one of the terrific sights was on hard-to-follow walk #4 to the Austrian Postal Savings Bank Building. Another great sight was on long and hard-to-follow walk #6, which takes you to the Votive Church and then the University Courtyard, all terrific destinations.
Tip: The University Courtyard has an audioguide.
Riverside walks and the Hundertwasser Museum
On our last day in Vienna we were burnt out on the audioguides and went to the lovely Donaukanal riverside walking and biking path – two times.
Our first riverside walk was north to the Jewish Cemetery we’d heard about (Jüdischer Friedhof Rossau). This is the oldest cemetery in Vienna, destroyed by the Nazis in 1941 and restored in the 1980’s. The graveyard is in the courtyard of a retirement home…hmmm. A visit doesn’t take very long, you can’t wander around in the cemetery but you can see it from the outdoor walkway attached to the retirement home.
Heading back to the center, we were close to the Sigmund Freud museum so walked by to take a look – the sign on the door said only open certain days, and this wasn’t one of them.
Tip: Don’t believe the sign on the door, I found out later that it really was open and you are supposed to buzz through for entry to the museum. No matter, this worked out perfectly for us – we had time for a second riverside walk after lunch.
Great Break: Zanoni & Zanoni is well known for their gelato, but they have excellent sandwiches and…cake!
Our second riverside walk was southeast to the Hundertwasser Museum. All I knew about Friedensreich Hundertwasser was a quirky apartment building he designed. Boy were we in for a TREAT! The small museum is terrific and we loved his art. The apartment building he designed is 10 minutes further up the street.
I don’t know how anyone could live there with a gaggle of tourists standing around outside all of the time!
Into Vienna from Budapest
It’s easy to get to Vienna from Budapest, the high speed Railjet whisks you there in 2.5 hours, and cheaply too! You can get reduced fare €13 tickets in advance, or regular fare for €19.
Tip: The new main train station, opened October 2014, is Vienna Hauptbahnhof (Wien Hbf). If your destination is Stephansplatz you can get off at Wien Hbf and take the Metro U1 Red line directly there. No need to travel another 15 minutes on the train to Wien Westbahnhof.
Our 7 nights up, we left with a lot more of Vienna to explore – and more to look forward to next time!
We hopped on the U1 metro at Stephansplatz, back to the main rail station Wien Hauptbahnhof, and picked up our Europcar rental car. Our next stop – Krems in the Wachau Valley.
Travel: Drive from Vienna to Krems – 1.5 hours
Large New 2-Room in Top Location – 7 nights in a 1 bedroom apartment in the middle of Vienna, Hoher Markt.
We loved the Hoher Markt location in Vienna, just minutes around the corner from Stephansplatz, it’s hard to get any more central. Every direction we wanted to go was only a 10-15 minute walk away. The apartment I rented isn’t offered any longer – it was spacious and comfortable rather than luxurious, the WIFI excellent, and for the price I paid ($797 for 7 nights!) it was great!
Tip: Pack your HDMI cable along with your laptop – our apartment had a huge LCD TV with cable channels, but not one English language channel among them. We enjoyed movies and more by connecting our laptop to the TV with the HDMI cable.
- City Temple – Guided tours Mon – Thu 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., closed on pub. hols. (Bring a photo Identity Card!)
- Train tickets – Hungarian rail company MAV – pick up your pre-purchased ticket from any of the blue ticket machines at any station using the ticket reference number MAV supplies (on your receipt and in the email when you buy in advance online).