This post is a bit tricky to write, since we could talk about Vienna for hours – and yet it wouldn’t give it justice nearly as much as the photos do. We did expect it to be beautiful, but we were definitely unprepared for how spectacular and absorbing this city is. It’s a mixture of old, impressive and intricately decorated buildings and monuments, charming city parks, walls full of grafittis and revolutionary statements, outdoor festivals and screenings, tongue-in-cheek word plays, colorful people and quirky exhibitions on every corner. Definitely a place worth visitng a couple of times – not just to make up for all the landmarks and attractions that you skipped the first time, but also to soak in the atmosphere of this amazing city and allow yourself some lazy days and city strolls.
Still not sure if it’s a place for you? Just take a look at some of the places that we’ve had the chance to see:
St Stephen’s Cathedral – Hands down, Vienna’s most impressive building, towering above the crowds on Stephensplatz. This nearly 900 years old monument of great historical value is one of the most recignizable landmarks of Vienna and cannot be left out on any sightseeing tour. Be sure to see the inside of the catherdal as well and, if you’re not too scared of heights, take the steep stairs to the top of the tower and enjoy a panoramic view of the city. For this, you might have to pay a small fee.
Schönbrunn Palace – one of the most important landmarks in Austria, full of fountains and gardens looking like straight from an Alice in Wonderland adaptation. Many locals come here to relax among the greenery – especially because wandering around the gardens comes at no extra charge.
If you want to see the most of it, be sure to arrive abour two hours before 6p.m., as most of the attractions (palm house, labyrinth) close in the evening. Also, keep your head up – you might even spot a squirrel in the trees!
Karlskirche – an XVIII century baroque church, not far from the city center. There’s also a little park and a fountain nearby, and together they all make up one of the popular meeting points of the locals.
Belvedere – world-famous place complex, probably on every Austrian itinerary. Apart from the obvious, you might also want to take a look at the art installation on the lake, made out of refugees’ life jackets by the controversial contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. If you don’t want to go inside and visit the museum, the admission is free.
Hundertwasser House & Village – this quirky, odd and phantasmagorical building was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an architect with an artistic soul and a great passion for ecology. His dream-like artworks can be seen in many places of the world, also in a form of paintings, but this has to be one of the most famous pieces that he’s ever created. It functions just as any other block of flats, so the visiting is restricted till 6p.m., not to disturb the residents. Sightseeing is free of charge.
Vienna Museum of Natural History – an impressive, over 125 years old museum with exhibitions presenting historically, archealogically and scientifically important fossils, among others – Venus of Willendorf and a replica of “Lucy”. A regular ticket for all the permanent exhibitions costs only 10 eur and afterwards, you might also want to visit the neighbouring Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Wiener Rathaus – Vienna’s city hall, a place where some of the most frequented cultural events take place. during our visit, it there was a big film festival going on.
Finally, the streets of Vienna, especially the ones surrounding the Old Town and the city’s most popular districts – wherever you look, there’s always something picture-worthy. Austrian architects have to be among some of the best in their profession, and they definitely managed to turn Vienna into a timeless work of art.
Apart from all these spectacular sights (and I can assure you – they look even better live!), there’s just something to this city that really appealed to us. People seem to be much more relaxed than in the neighbouring countries, but it’s not accompanied by callousness, especially seeing such a strong presence of activism on the streets. To our surprise, plenty of grafittis had strong messages regarding global issues, such as the refugee crisis and human rights. There were posters and leaflets showing that there’s a big group of people who care about what’s going on around them. Also, we could pin point a couple of cities in which putting up a huge banner advertising an erotic exhibition anywhere near a historical monument simply wouldn’t go, while here it just seems to blend into the cityscape.
If we were to pick a city to stay for a bit longer, Vienna would be high on our list of potential destinations, mostly because of how it combines history with modern attitudes and because of how a laid-back attitude or typical city-lifestyle mixes on the streets with activism, quirkiness and all things alternative. Also, just looking around – it’s one of the greenest capitals of Europe, with city parks pretty much in every neighbourhood. For everyone who can’t decide whether they prefer the convenience of living in a city or the greenery that comes with living on the outskirts – that’s a place to be.