Vienna’s Timeless Beauty

By on July 10, 2016

Vienna, Vienna, Vienna! Just saying the word calls to mind images of imperial palaces, baroque architecture and decadent feasts!

With only 72 hours in Austria’s capital, this food and culture lover made the most of this amazing sensory overload that this vibrant primary city had to offer!

Vienna offers a plethora of options to explore her vast history and imperial past as she can be seen and felt by underground, bus, tram and urban railway. All of these options are guaranteed to bring you to cultural new heights!

Fairy Tale Attractions

To experience all of the beautiful and historical sites in Vienna it would take many many days to accomplish, if not months…this all depending how long you linger, soaking up all the rich grandeur and history that Vienna has to offer.

Seeing that I was in this remarkable city for only three days, I did my best to see the sights that I wanted, but obviously I couldn’t do everything which provides me with just another reason to go back!

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace

Home to 27 palaces, and 163 ‘palais’, smaller palaces that have served as residences of the imperial and noble families, Vienna doesn’t fall short on all things historic and romantic.

The 1,441-room Schönbrunn Palace, deemed as one of the most beautiful palaces in all of Europe, is an absolute MUST for any tourist visiting Vienna. It is one of Europe’s most impressive Baroque palace complexes.

Manicured gardens, horseback carriages and the luxurious life of the famous Habsburgs Emperors and Empresses, who used the Schönbrunn Palace as their summer residence, can still be felt as you walk amongst its grounds.

Schönbrunn Palace and its beautiful gardens.

To discover the beauty of Schönbrunn Palace, a simple ride on the subway takes you there (approximately 40 minutes from downtown Vienna). Its beauty is seen all throughout the buildings and surroundings. Visitors can literally spend an entire day at this baroque complex as there is a myriad of things to see and visit; from the enchanting park, the labyrinth, the Palm House (the largest glasshouse of its kind in continental Europe), the Gloriette and a zoo, which happens to be the world’s oldest surviving zoo.

Today, the palace and its gardens are a UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage Site and Austria’s most-visited tourist attraction due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings. I highly recommend visitors of Vienna to visit this historic and magnificent palace!

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Hofburg Imperial Palace

One can easily spend several days in the marvellous museums and expositions hosted in the Imperial Hofburg Palace; among them the Austrian National Library, Collection of Arms and Armor, the Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer), the Spanish Riding School and many more. The palace literally has something for everyone and then some.

Originally planned as a lavish “Imperial forum”, the grounds were built up majestically by the Habsburg Emperors – from the 13th century “Alte Burg” to the most recent addition from around 1900. Today, the Hofburg in Vienna is the official seat of the Austrian President.

Being the food lover that I am, it must be noted that in the complex you will also discover cafés, restaurants and parks to enjoy the present Vienna moment.

The Hofburg Imperial Palace stands up to its sayingWelcome to an imperial march through history, art and luxury, welcome to the Hofburg.”

St. Stephen’s Cathedral & The Votive Church 

Vienna has an impressive amount of historical landmarks and tourist attractions; however, one cannot go to Vienna without seeing one or both of these religious monuments.

Vienna, home once to a mighty empire, has two monumental gothic churches: the overtly immense St. Stephens Cathedral and the neo-gothic Votive Church, also known as Votivkirche. Dominating the western landscape of Vienna with its two high towers at 99 metres, the Votive Church is much lower in comparison to that of its counterpart’s south tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral at over 136 metres.

Both religious monuments are striking in size and grandeur as well as to the sheer time and sacrifice it has taken to build these houses of prayer.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) 

The immense gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral has become the symbol of Vienna. Photos courtesy of © Bwag/cc-by-sa-4.0.

With over 5 million visitors per year, the St. Stephen’s Cathedral has become the symbol of Vienna. With construction dating back to the 12th century, today it is one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria.

Massive in size, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is 107.2 metres long and 34.2 metres wide and it has four towers. The tallest of these is the south tower at 136.44 metres. The tower room, from which there is a gigantic view across Vienna, is reached via 343 steps. However, “the best-known bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Pummerin, is located in the 68.3 metre tall north tower”. It is the second-biggest free-swinging chimed church bell in Europe.

On the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, colourful roof tiles were laid to create the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral defines the city centre and has been the heart of Vienna for centuries. It is one of the most famous Viennese sights and was built in 1147 AD. For a long time it was uncontested as the highest building in Europe.

The uniqueness of the cathedral and its countless details has made it a world-famous destination for art historians and architecture aficionados alike.

The Votive Church (Votivkirche)

The neo-gothic Votive Church (Votivkirche) in Vienna.

Historians tell us the story that the reason why the neo-gothic Votive Church was built was due to a failed assassination attempt. In 1853, an assassination attempt was made on Emperor Franz Joseph. He survived the attack, so his brother, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian started raising money for a church to be built to thank God for saving the Emperor’s life.

The new basilica was meant to commemorate the attack on the Emperor and, at the same time, to be a church for all the catholic nations of the empire.

Stunning and hauntingly beautiful is this church, pictures will never do it justice. Seeing how the church was in very close proximity to my hotel, I had the pleasure of visiting one aspect or another every time I walked in that area.

The Vienna Mozart Orchestra 

The Vienna Mozart Orchestra in the Golden Hall.

Music lovers worldwide talk with abundant joy and complete awe when talking about the performances given by the famous Vienna Mozart Orchestra.  

It is one thing to see a live performance of an orchestra, but when you experience the music from which it is derived…now that’s a game changer.

The beautiful Musikverein building that has become famous for its annual worldwide broadcast of the New Year’s Concert by the Vienna Philharmonics, as well as for being the permanent seat of the Vienna Philharmonics and main stage of the Vienna Mozart Orchestra.

Today the Vienna Mozart Concerts represent one of the highlights of Viennese musical events and are an important part of the cultural and artistic life of the Austrian capital.

Being a classical music lover, I could not pass up on the opportunity to see a live performance, especially in the famed Golden Hall. And as if it could get any better, I found a way to incorporate food with my music treasure.

Guests can enjoy a “Mozart VIP” package which includes dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant, a horse drawn carriage tour before the concert and meeting some of the performers backstage. Believe me when I say it is well worth the money spent. A bucket list item being checked!

The Golden Hall fascinates the concert guests being a unique architectonic and acoustic master piece.

The Mozart VIP Package that the Vienna Mozart Orchestra offers guests dinner at Michelin Star restaurant and a horse drawn carriage tour around District 1 before the concert.

The repertoire of the Vienna Mozart Orchestra includes more than 100 works by the great master of the Viennese classical era, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Music lovers will also be happy to know that concerts even fulfill the wishes of the Strauss lovers by performing the most impressing pieces by the Strauss Dynasty, such as “The Blue Danube Waltz” and “The Radetzky March. Magical!

To make you feel as though you have been transported back in time, the signature or hallmark attractions of the Vienna Mozart Orchestra Concerts are that they are performed in historical costumes. “The choice of the setting, the program, the authentic costumes and wigs, the musicians’ enthusiasm and not least the typical Viennese atmosphere, all contribute to create an ambiance which makes the audience feel as though they had stepped back to the end of the 18th century.”

Encore to that!

Viennese Cuisine

Food lovers worldwide will find good quality food all of throughout Vienna from Michelin Star restaurants to the most simple and unpretentious of eateries. Famed for their coffeehouses and confectioners, Vienna is literally the sweet jackpot for those that have a sweet tooth.

Interestingly enough, Vienna happens to be the only city in the world that has its own cuisine; a particular style of cooking that combines the very best of culinary traditions from Bohemia, Austria, Italy and the Balkans.

The roots of many quintessentially “Viennese” specialties can be traced back to neighbouring countries, which is hardly surprising given that Vienna was the heart of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy for centuries – a union which brought together countless cultures with their own unique culinary identities.

Knowing that I was traveling to Vienna, I did some research on their culinary repertoire and kept note of their ‘must try’ items and one by one, I indulged over and over. I completely immersed myself in all things Viennese…sweet and savoury alike. It wasn’t all about their Weiner Schnitzel, but yes I had some of the best there!

I started with their typical coffeehouses; these establishments are literally everywhere in Vienna. It must be noted that it’s not uncommon to go to a coffeehouse and order a glass of bubbly and a piece of chocolate goodness like their famed Sacher Torte and literally spend hours enjoying the Viennese life.

Regardless if it’s the Sacher Torte (combination of two layers of soft and light chocolate cake separated by apricot jam and coated with a chocolate icing) or its better-known counterpart, the Imperial Torte (made of layers of cocoa cream with almond pastry and marzipan and glazed with chocolate) both are famous worldwide for their mouth-watering tastes and their special wooden presentation boxes.

Locals and tourists alike flock to these coffeehouses and their stores for these lavish desserts and packaging. The packaging of these desserts compare to those holding priceless jewellery, exquisite amount of detail has been given to these parcels. And to add to the sweet experience, guests also have the opportunity in some cases to see how these lovely sweet concoctions are made.

Guests can enjoy the famous Sacher tortes in luxurious stores as well as seeing them being made.

One particular coffeehouse, Café Landtmann, which has been around since 1873, came highly recommended for its authenticity to Viennese cuisine. It is one of the few remaining original Ringstrasse coffeehouses. It is well known for being the center of local social life. Ministers and celebrities are known to frequent the very busy establishment.

I ventured to the café and opted for their savoury options: sausages with some goulash gravy. I was told this would be a ‘light’ afternoon snack. I know that I have a healthy appetite, but this was very generous to say the least! And truth be told, I was also convinced to have a sweet indulgence to ‘complete’ my so-called light afternoon snack.

The famous Café Landtmann.

The assorted pastries that can be had at Café Lantmann; the ‘light lunch snack’ of sausages with goulash gravy; a sweet ending to my visit with a hazelnut ice cream dessert.

It didn’t take long for me to understand the vibe and mentality that Austria let alone Vienna has when it comes to enjoying life and food. There’s no place for looking at your watch to see how long you’ve been there. You just need to enjoy, period!

Enough cannot be said about Vienna’s food scene. You can literally be walking and taking in the sights and stumble upon some fresh local products being sold right in the middle of the district square that you happen to be visiting. The smell of smoked charcuterie and cheese is one that you wish you could bottle up and bring back home with you!

Food vendors selling their products in the district square. Everything from charcuterie to cheeses can be bought.

Food lovers can spend hours at the famous Naschmarket in Vienna.

Speaking of local products, if you enjoy trying new things and walking among popular bistros then the Naschmarket is the place for you. The Naschmarket is one of Vienna’s most fascinating culinary markets offering exotic foods and spices from all over the world. It’s a culinary treasure for those that love food and enjoy the simplicity of eating fresh local products right from the source.

Boutique Accommodations

The Best Western Premier Harmonie Vienna. Photos courtesy of Harmonie Vienna.

Vienna is bursting with boutique hotels, all of which have their own special niche. During my stay in Vienna, I had the pleasure of being a guest at the Best Western Premier Harmonie Vienna.

Built in 1863 by the famous Austrian architect Otto Wagner, this family-owned hotel was refurbished from top to bottom and reopened in 2013. This modern 4 star hotel, named after its location in the Harmoniegasse in Vienna’s 9th district, and their generous sized 66 rooms oozes Viennese charm and individual service.

The love and passion for dance, art and music are felt and seen throughout this hotel. Pieces of beautiful art and dance videos give this hotel a sophisticated ambiance that is neither pretentious nor over-the-top.

Harmonie Vienna gives guests the comfort and luxury of a chic hotel without compromising any services. Conveniently located off the beaten tourist tracks, one can easily walk or take the railcar to most tourist attractions.

Exquisite materials and impressive details offer guests a homelike atmosphere.

With an increasing number of travellers seeking hotels that uphold their contributions and responsibility to the environment, I was pleased to hear that Hamonie Vienna is the first hotel in Vienna which holds the “Austri Bio Garanti” certificate for organic products. It is also among the first hotels in Vienna to fulfill the ECARF-standards for allergy friendly hotels. For its eco-friendly and sustainable concept, the hotel was also given the Austrian eco-label.

Both the culinary offerings and the hospitality staff were spot on. My morning pleasures of having local charcuterie with homemade bread and an abundance of smoked salmon really got my days off to a good start.

The Harmonie staff was very accommodating and helpful with their knowledge of the area especially when I needed to find some landmarks. Their suggestions of what I should be experiencing, seeing that I was in Vienna for a short amount of time was a definite plus. Hospitality is something that can be taught; however, going the extra mile really speaks volumes about the establishment and the people that run it.

Vienna left me at times utterly speechless with its romantic feel as I saw horse drawn carriages transporting couples to explore the palaces. It brought feelings of excitement as I was taken aback by the sheer decadence of the architecture old and new. And I can’t leave out the opulent décor that can be seen in one manner or another to remind you that Vienna depicts timeless beauty.

Life in Vienna is meant to be savoured one sip and one bite at a time.

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