I had visited Austria when I was about 10, skiing in the Alps at St. Wolfgang famous for the Sound of Music. I had heard good things about various Austrian cities including its capital, Vienna renowned for its pretty architecture and cultural music and arts scene. The latter is not really my thing but the city is 1 hour from Bratislava Airport where we were flying in (due to high cost from Budapest) to spend the weekend with friends in Hungary. Sam and I had a few extra holiday days to use up before the new year so I thought why not take advantage of this spatial proximity.
We landed at Bratislava airport and took a Flixbus to the Erdberg station in Vienna. The journey took just over an hour (due to traffic) and cost about €10. We stayed at the Mecure Hotel Raphael near Westbahnhof Station. This new hotel is undergoing a complete revamp so whilst the facilities were excellent, there is some noise from construction in the morning.
Vienna, I gather is a city that comes to life at the weekends and during the warmer summer nights, unfortunately our visit coincided with neither and the result was a very empty city with only a few bars getting busy in the evenings. The most notable was 1516, a brewery/bar/restaurant which played 5 football games simultaneously (including England’s unlucky 2-2 draw at home to Spain) combined with excellent food and drink. We visited this place on both evenings after failing to find suitable alternatives.
There were some notable highlights which included;
Vienna Christmas Markets
The end of November is the start of Christmas market season. Pockets of these markets had began to pop up around Vienna including the main collection of stalls outside the Rathaus (Town Hall) to the north west of central Vienna.
Though very similar to the markets now experienced in many English cities including Manchester the food at these markets was delightfully carb heavy and wholesome. We sampled frankfurters, Goulash in a self contained bread loaf and Spetzal, a unusually dough like consistency with cheese and bacon.
The Rathaus itself, majestically backlight was a highlight of these markets and the perfect backdrop for any festive scene.
One of the cultural draws of Vienna is the Opera and the city is the home to some of the best opera houses in the world! None are more famous than the State Opera. On our second night in Vienna the State Opera was hosting the performance of Manon, a French Opera about the plight of a beautiful young French women from Le Harve who was sent to a convent but swayed by the glitz and glamour of Paris and a dashing young man called Chevalieur.
One of the tricks of the trade I had discovered is the possibility to get standing seats to the performances for a fraction of the price! The Operngasse (standing) option offers tickets for €3-4 Euros. Considering the seats ranged from €50-€350 for this performance this was an absolute bargain.
Standing for a 3 hour performance is not for the faint hearted and the elderly gentleman next to me had to take regular pit stops but the view was pretty much unrestricted and each standing platform had its own display to translate the French dialect into their native tongue.
Though we only stayed to the intermission (scandalous I know) it gave me a taste of the Opera which we would otherwise not had experienced.
The Loft, the 18th floor restaurant on top of the Sofitel hotel was a firm favourite amongst my friends who had visited Vienna. Whilst our opera plans restricted our visit to the day (I can imagine the views were better at night) I can see why this restaurant gets the hype it does. Still, the place is a typical rooftop hotel bar with unnecessary inflated prices and surprisingly uncomfy seats. Combined with a day full of rain, fog and clouds restricting views of downtown Vienna it did little to inspire the imagination.
To the south of the centre is a market called Naschmarkt. Situated on an urban island between two roads leading in/out Vienna this food market was a real favourite of mine in the city. Split into sections focusing on Fish, Meat, Vegetarian, Oriental and traditional Viennese the market was still lively even on the wetter and colder of days. This was the place I chose to have the traditional Wiener Schnitzel which to fellow northerners its just breaded veal/pork or chicken with chips.
So would I come back to Vienna? Doubtful! I have a real sense of been there done that, bought the ticket-shirt which compels me to visit pastures new instead of revisiting locations previously visited.
I would like to have seen the city in all it’s summertime glory but honestly, who (unless travelling or interrailling) would prioritise Vienna over other hotter, livelier destinations?!
Still, another country I can officially tick off the list.