Studies have placed Vienna among the top cities in the world to live and it is easy to see why! The Austrians take great pride in their city. It oozes opulence and culture.
We spent four days on our own in the heart of the city, near Westbahnhof, which is a great area to stay in. Our hotel was near the railway station, the main shopping street and only a nice walk away from the museum quarter, the Danube River and other city attractions.
After travelling on the overnight bus from Berlin, we did our usual trick of going for a long walk around the city, to get our bearings, see what the city had to offer, before checking in to our hotel. We loved the feel of the place. The old section made us feel like we were in a fairy tale.
Austria is in the fortunate position of having only a small population but millions of tourists. With all the VAT streaming in, the money spreads a long way. Austria’s population is only 8 million, but approximately 5 million tourists visit Schonbrunn castle and its gardens every year!
One highlight of our stay in Vienna was a visit to the opera. This was the first time we had dressed up on the whole trip, but we will be needing to look flash on a few occasions on our two upcoming cruises, so we updated our wardrobes appropriately. Even the local beggars noticed the change! Our opera was Don Carlos, sung in Italian. It was a great cultural experience. We appreciated having the small screens in front of us, which translated the songs into English. There were a couple of strong singing performances and although we aren’t opera buffs it was quite entertaining and the venue was impressive.
During our time in Vienna we also stayed with our friends Michael and Helen at their apartment just out of the city. We spent the weekend with them and they looked after us extremely well. Highlights included an Italian dinner, brunch at the markets, chatting, the last quarter of the Collingwood v West Coast final on live stream (very Viennese), a nearby pub, but particularly our visit to the Schonbrunn Palace and gardens.
Schonbrunn is unbelievable. We missed it last time we were in Vienna, 30 odd years ago and it has to be at the top of your list of things to do in Vienna. The palace itself is stunning and is a strong indicator of the former wealth of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It’s great that it is open to the people. You pay to tour the castle but you can wander the extensive grounds for free. There are fountains, a zoo, a specially built Roman ruins, a giant pigeon coop, a labyrinth, a forest, the former dining room on the hill overlooking the castle and gardens, and so on. You could spend several visits and still not do it justice. Wonderful.
Then we had a surprise reunion with our lovely Aussie friends, Rosie & John Field from Burnside SA who had just arrived after visiting Poland and the Czech Republic. We had lots of fun sitting outside the Austrian Restaurant listening to some wonderful local singers.
We enjoyed great autumn weather in Vienna and were amazed at all the locals sitting out enjoying the sunshine with a coffee or a drink. Vienna isn’t standing still though. Many cranes dotted the skyline, including a huge number out near the Sudbahnhof, or south railway staion. There looked to be a shopping centre, station infastructure, accommodation and a new arena all under construction. A great city and also well located for accessing other countries nearby, which many do!