Waking at 7.00 a.m. to the sounds of our alarm, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Holiday Inn’s light and airy restaurant before setting out. Our plan, to spend a full day sightseeing in Vienna. I’ve not been to Vienna before, in fact I’ve only ever visited Austria once and that was many years ago on a ski holiday staying in Westendorf in the Austrian Tyrol.
Our hotel was located in a quiet suburb so we found the nearest tram stop and rode into Bratislava’s Railway Station with 20 minutes to spare before the hourly service to Vienna. Queuing for no more than five minutes, we bought return tickets costing €14 each which could be used on any service within the next 14 days.
Our train was already on its platform and was quite busy (9.38 a.m. service on a Saturday morning) but we managed to secure window seats facing each other for the 65 minute journey to Vienna.
We had carried our passports with us but these were not required as we left the large, ultra modern Vienna Hauptbahnhof (Railway Station). We’d planned our own walking route around the main sights and instead of following signs to the city centre, set off in the opposite direction towards Belvedere where we marvelled at its stunning architecture and elaborate gardens. The Belvedere palaces were built in the early eighteenth century as summer residences comprising upper and lower Belvedere together with its gardens. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, Belvedere contains the largest collection of Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Continuing, we strolled along to Karlsplatz where we admired the magnificent baroque Karlskirche church on the south side of the square and the flower bed in the shape of a musical treble clef in front of the statue of Mozart in Burggarten.
Our walking tour continued through the museum quarter and onto the Austrian Parliament building. The Parliament was completed in 1883 and is the seat of the National Council and the Federal Council.
Adjacent to the Parliament stands the Rathaus (town hall), built in a neo-gothic style and completed in 1883. It houses the office of the Mayor of Vienna and its city chambers and on the day of our visit was crowded with cycle enthusiasts as a BMX festival was taking place which was generating much interest.
Our cameras clicking constantly in this most beautiful of European cities, we consulted our phone map briefly, then made our way to the Burg Theatre and the Spanish Riding School. From there, we strolled through the narrow archways of Albertina, jostling for space with tour groups coming towards us, following guides waving flags and umbrellas. The majestic Hofburg Palace was next on our agenda, this architectural gem is the former imperial palace and is now the official residence of the President of Austria.
Nearby we came to Graben which is one of the most famous shopping streets in Vienna. Most of the buildings in the pedestrianised area date from the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s surrounded by narrow alleyways with elegant shops and tempting cafes tucked into historic buildings. I loved viewing the fine porcelain in Augarten and the wonderful gourmet delicatessen of Julius Meinl which was filled with tempting Austrian delicacies.
After window shopping along both Kohlmarkt and Naglergasse we needed to rest our feet awhile so we relaxed in one of the many cafes, feeling revitalised after a pot of Earl Grey tea and a large slice of marzipan gateau. A few steps further on, we came to Stephansplatz dominated by St. Stephen’s Cathedral where we were able to look inside and admire this Romanesque and Gothic masterpiece. The cathedral’s brightly tiled roof is one of Vienna’s most recognisable landmarks.
Our next idea was to walk along the banks of the Danube, so another quick look at our phone map and on our way we went. With hindsight we would have been much better taking the UBahn from Graben over there as it was a long walk with little of note to see along the way.
The Danube is extremely wide as it passes through central Vienna and at Donauinsel (Danube Island) a long narrow island lies down the middle splitting the Danube into two creating the Neue Donau. Many people were enjoying picnics and catching a few rays of the spring sunshine, with the riverside bars and restaurants doing a good trade. Walking across the pontoon bridge we returned to Vienna Central Station by UBahn. Single tickets cost €2.20, a flat rate fare payable irrespective of journey length. Back at the railway station we were too early for our train so we passed the time with another pot of tea and a cake – we’d walked so far today, I think we deserved it. We’d loved every minute of our day in Vienna but really we didn’t do the city justice. This was just a taster and we now need to return and spend a few days there to see the city in more depth and visit some of its museums and gardens.
Our Bratislava train departed at 5.16 p.m. and was a much quieter service than on our outbound journey and a chance to rest our feet for an hour before returning to the hotel by tram. Next followed a well earned rest in our room after walking more than ten miles around the streets of Vienna. It was a bit late to take a sauna bearing in mind that the trams stop running near our hotel at around 11.00 p.m. and as it was too far to walk back from the old town we went straight out for supper instead. The narrow streets of the historic centre were bustling with activity as it was Saturday evening but we soon found an inviting hostelry before returning to the Holiday Inn for the night.