My husband and I spent three days exploring Vienna, relaxing in cafes, visiting the most colorful house in Austria, frolicking in gardens, and taking in the music and culture. Below I will detail a three-day guide to visiting the city of Vienna, including where to eat and why we weren’t fans of Vienna’s famous Sacher Torte (gasp!) Read on to find out why…
Here is how to spend three culture-packed days in Vienna!
1) Free walking tour
2) Wienerschnitzel at Figlmuller Cafe
3) Standing tickets to the opera at Vienna Opera House
1) Schonbrunn Palace Gardens
2) Anker Clock
3) Italian dinner
2) Mediterranean lunch and Xocolat
3) Kunsthistorisches Museum
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TAKE A FREE WALKING TOUR
10:30 AM – 12:30 PM
We learned so much interesting history during this free walking tour, especially since Vienna is the birthplace of Adolf Hitler. As the story goes, Hitler was poor during his early adulthood; he was even homeless for some time. He applied to art school and was denied twice, which is one of the reasons he hated Vienna so much. Can you imagine how different our world would be today had he been accepted as an art student in Vienna and grew a love for the city instead of being deemed inadequate?
There are three famous companies that have their headquarters in Vienna. The richest families in the country of Austria (in order of greatest wealth) are:
- Red Bull
Frauenhuber is the oldest coffee house in Vienna. Here Mozart played the last concert of his life, as he lived right next door. He died at the young age of 35. Mozart wrote his first complete opera at the age of only 8 years old. In 1689 the Vienna Opera House opened to the public.
Here’s a fun little piece of history between two great composers: Beethoven meant to take piano lessons from Mozart, but his mother became very ill back home in Germany, so he went back for his mother’s death and funeral. By the time he returned to Vienna, Mozart had also passed away, so these geniuses never actually met each other in person. Both Beethoven and Mozart were bad tenants; they never paid their rent and were very loud because they were composers. They lived in over 40 apartments around Vienna because they kept getting kicked out.
In the 1400’s, St. Stephen’s Cathedral was the tallest building in the world, and it remained that way for 70 years.
Sigmund Freud and WWII
Prior to World War II, there were 215,000 Jews living in Vienna. Today there are 15,000. Sigmund Freud was the Godfather of the Jewish community in Vienna. He was 82 years old when the Nazis came for him, and even though he was world renowned, because he was a Jew he had to be killed. What happened instead as a compromise, was that his daughter was taken and put into prison. She wrote to her father saying that she would commit suicide if he didn’t do something about the situation, so Freud took 15 members of his family and fled the city to London. This inspired many other Jews at the time to flee the city as well. However, Freud had to pay a large sum in order to leave. The Germans also forced him to write a note saying that he was treated fairly and without violence. On that note, he left one PS at the bottom of his letter, which stated “I can highly recommend the German Gestapo.” (secret police). The German officer did not catch his irony and sarcasm and proudly showed it off to his colleagues.
Your free walking tour guide will share their secrets on where to find all the best local foods. The walking tour finishes around 12:30 – 1:00 PM, just in time for lunch. Try local Wienerschnitzel at Figlmuller.
We learned during our tour that the word for Vienna in German is “Wien“, so Wienerschnitzel is simply schnitzel from Vienna, and therefore should be capitalized. (By the way, schnitzel is simply a large, flat pounded veal cutlet breaded, fried and served with lemon.) Apparently it is considered blasphemous to locals to ask for any sauces such as ketchup or mustard, so eat it as served. It isn’t the most healthy food, but it was delicious.
Another interesting dish that I had never seen before were spinach dumplings. This was essentially spinach and Parmesan cheese balled up and baked in butter. The first few bites were heavenly, but after a while it became too rich.
STAND IN LINE TO PURCHASE €4 STANDING TICKETS TO SEE AN OPERA
There’s a relatively well-known hack in Vienna around the expensive tickets to the opera…wait in line two hours prior to the start of the show, and you can get standing tickets for as little as €3! For more information on how to get standing tickets to the opera, click HERE. This program started so that students could have access to theatre and the arts at an affordable price. Also, the standing area is on the first floor and relatively close to the stage, so the view was excellent!
We saw the opera Don Pasquale, which was phenomenal, but we could only stand for the first half (around 1.5 hours). Many people leave during the intermission because it truly is difficult to stand for that long! My recommendation is to splurge and buy normal seated tickets, or wear very comfortable shoes.
VISIT SCHONBRUNN PALACE GARDENS
The Gardens and Palace were added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 1996. The park was initially used as a hunting ground, but was later turned into beautiful gardens, open and free to the public.
WATCH THE FIGURES MOVE AT ANKER CLOCK TOWER
In the course of 12 hours, 12 historical figures will move across the bridge, meaning that for each hour you’ll see a different historical figure. Every day at 12 noon, all the figures parade to music from their era.
ENJOY AN AUTHENTIC ITALIAN DINNER AT I Terroni. One thing I loved about Vienna is that because of its close proximity to Italy, they had authentic and delicious Italian food! Their pastas were delicious, and cooked al dente, just as the Italians do it. Most of their ingredients were sourced from Italy, and the entire staff was also Italian!
Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser started out as a painter, but later became interested in architecture. This colorful landmark of Vienna is actually just a regular apartment building located in the Landstraße district on the corner of Kegelgasse and Löwengasse.
This is said to be the “Gaudi of Vienna”.
HAVE LUNCH AT The Epos, delicious Mediterranean cuisine with a hip vibe.
After your meal, walk across the street to Schokov and spend way too much money supporting a local chocolatier. 😉
VISIT A MUSEUM
We were lucky to have visited Vienna during a special exhibition of collections from all over the world of artist Pieter Bruegel at Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Bruegel was a diverse artist, dabbling in both sketches and excelling as a painter.
The interior of the museum is gorgeous as well. (Pardon my unfashionable running shoes; when it comes to walking around a city for over ten hours, I’m all about practicality and comfort.) 😉
Check out the Cafe!!! How extravagant!
Fun Fact: There are 1,100 coffee houses in Vienna.
We didn’t get what all the hype was about in Vienna with their famous Sacher Torte. We tried it a few times in different places, and each time we thought it tasted like American boxed cake; dry, flavorless and disappointing.
Demel is supposedly the best bakery in Vienna, but we found it to be touristy and of poor quality, though the interior was beautiful. So instead of going for a Sacher Torte, you can get your chocolate fix at Xocolat and then go for an espresso and drinking chocolate (they use Xocolat’s chocolate) right next door at Cafe Couture.
End the day with dinner at Ali’s Grill for authentic Turkish food.
Transportation in Vienna
I recommend the 72-hour Vienna pass
Cost: €17 per person
Where to purchase: The airport or any Tabaco shop
Inclusions: all public transportation including the metro, trams and buses
We found this to be a great deal and very easy to use the public transportation options; we never had to wait more than 7 minutes for a bus, tram or metro.
We stayed in Falkensteiner Hotel using Expedia points, so our cost was $0. The location was ideal; close to the metro and bus stations, and only ten minutes by vehicle into the center of the city. The area was very quiet and safe.
I hope this three-day Vienna guide was helpful!