If you’ve been reading this blog of late, you’d be forgiven for thinking that my recent trip to Vienna was all for following the city’s foodie trail. I’ll admit. I did have more than my fair share of coffee & cakes (when in Vienna, after all!). But as my trainer back in London would no doubt be mollified to hear, I’m likely to have worked off at least some of all that indulgence while traversing the City of Dreams on foot!
Following a quick lunch in the central Stadtpark on arrival and a visit to the famous Cafe Sacher after, our cultural explorations started at St Stephan’s Cathedral.
The towering gothic structure is emblematic of Vienna’s rich heritage and bears the city’s coat of arms on its roof to prove it! Although construction began in the 12th century, the Cathedral’s interiors underwent a series of changes over the centuries until it was finally fashioned in the Baroque style, replete with relics embellished with gold and precious stones…
Even though this was my second time visiting the Cathedral, quite unsurprisingly the magnificent sight still completely and utterly took my breath away!
The next day – upon our wise concierge’s suggestion, we started our day with coffee and Vienna’s finest apfel strudel at Landtmann, the old-world cafe frequented by Sigmund Freud himself back in the day.
We then strolled down the Ringstrasse, taking the path that Freud and so many others of his ilk have tread before us.
The sweeping boulevard came to life in 1857, when it was decreed by the Emperor Franz Joseph with the simple words “It is my will…” The ornate palaces soon built thereafter by the Viennese nobility still stand tall along the Ringstrasse today, alongside other iconic landmarks, from the Flemish-Gothic inspired City Hall and the Greek-style Parliament to the most stunning museums, which look as though they might be palaces instead!
The Museum of Fine Arts and Natural History Museum particularly stand out – each has been built in the exact architectural mirror image of the other, inspired by the Neo-Renaissance school of design. It’s quite a wondrous sight to behold…
We spent the afternoon in Kunsthistorisches – the Art History Museum, which was established to house the Habsburg family’s formidable imperial art collection. Today the museum boasts the largest Bruegel collection in the world, alongside showcasing other eminent artists including Raphael, Vermeer, Rubens, Rembrandt and Titian to name but a few! And from its resplendent dome ceiling (which is 60m high!) to the marble details trimmed with gold-leaf – I have to confess that I’m likely to have spent as much time marvelling at the museum’s spectacular interiors, as I did the fine woks of art.
The museum also has one of the most stunning cafes I’ve ever seen, positioned directly under the domed ceiling… Unfortunately our tight schedule didn’t allow us the luxury of experiencing it, as we were keen to squeeze in a few more sights before making our reservation at the Imperial Hotel.
And so we resumed our tour of the city, stopping by the Spanish Riding School, which is said to be the only place in the world where you can find classic equestrian skills preserved and practiced in their original form…
… Before landing at Vienna’s State Opera, another institution which is as distinguished for its handsome architecture as for its illustrious history – it opened with Mozart’s premier of Don Giovanni in 1869.
Quite famished after the day’s activities, we rewarded ourselves with coffee & Imperial Torte at the grand Imperial Hotel, which is arguably a Viennese institution in its own right!
And finally, our last day saw us indulge in a lazy start at our hotel (#HolidayModeOn), followed by a spot of shopping and lunch al fresco in the cobbled Peterzplatz…
… Before wandering into Peterskirche.
The Baroque Roman Catholic Church of St Peter’s may well have been the highlight of the entire trip – words can’t quite describe our awe-inspired state upon encountering the Church’ lavish design from the gilded carved wood to the frescoes and altarpieces. Not to mention our sense of peace and tranquility in the hallowed grounds.
It was the perfect note on which to end a memorable holiday.
Which are your favourite sights in Vienna?
If you’re interested, do have a flick back to the other chapters of my Vienna Diaries, from a fabulous stay at the Intercontinental Hotel to embracing the city’s coffee house culture and exploring the contemporary side of Vienna’s dining scene.