I arrived in Vienna a little late as my bus was delayed, bit I still had time to wander around. I was staying with a friend I met on a bus in Uruguay. We were both studying abroad in Buenos Aires.
She was still at work so I took the metro to another station closer to the center and dropped my bags at a luggage storage place. I somehow found the most famous square in Vienna. All my friends who have been here have told me to visit Stephansplatz.
The Christmas markets in this square, but all over Vienna, are in full swing and I was so excited. I couldn’t help smiling as I walked around. I grew up hearing about these Christmas markets and here I was!
Some of the Christmas lights were not lit, maybe a little early? But seeing them hung in the streets were still lovely.
I met my friend who I’m going to call ABA as we met while studying abroad in Argentina, but she is from Austria (Austria Buenos Aires).
We grabbed some food then headed back to her apartment.
She lives close to Schroenbrunn palace so the next morning we walked around the grounds. There is also a Christmas market there.
That afternoon there was a family lunch. November 11 is San Martin day. They open up wine from that year and have a feast. This is also true in the Czech Republic. I’m not sure if it applies to the rest of central Europe. However, due to circumstances, ABA’S family had the feast the weekend after with a long time family friends. I was invited to join and it was amazing.
I enjoyed the meal. The parents had a traditional meal of goose, canoodles (potato/bread dumplings), red cabbage, and sauerkraut. I tried it as well. It was delicious! There was so much I couldn’t finish.
Dessert was ordered and it was another traditional treat. It was cooked chestnuts that were smashed and made into noodle form. It was delicious as well.
After, ABA’S friend C joined us for a walk around the city. They were great tour guides and I learned a lot about Vienna.
As it got dark, we stopped at the biggest Christmas market at Rathaus (townhall). We got punsch, which is a big drink item in the markets. They come in collectible mugs, but you can return the mug and collect your deposit back. We also had a big donut like thing filled with marmalade.
Later that night I met more of ABA’S friends- a Costa Rican, a Croatian, and another guy from Vienna. They were a lot of fun! They were confused as to why C, being from Vienna was speaking English then they realized I was the only one who couldn’t speak German. We met at a bar called Traveler’s Shack. A small place with a mini dance floor, lots of chairs, and a room for karaoke. No cover and the coat check is only a euro. Drinks are average priced in my opinion.
I was super excited for the next day as I met up with someone I graduated university with. It was nice seeing a familiar face so far from home. As she had to work, we only spent an hour together at a restaurant called Pure Living Bakery. A bagel place. It was a bit on the expensive side, but their black coffee was American size, which was a nice change versus the small espressos.
The rest of the day, I walked around the city and toured Albertina, an art museum and the Opera house. Albertina was a nice small museum. They have works from Monet and Picasso. Most of the collection I found to be impressionist or pointillism. I really enjoy this genre. They also had an exhibit on photographs from movie stills or while in production. That was really cool. I also went to the infamous Stephansplatz- the church. Everyone told me to go, but it is the main plaza, I would have went anyways! I forgot it was a Sunday and they were holding mass inside.
The Opera house was 80% destroyed in the second World War, but the reconstruction and what remains of the original are beautiful. The tour guide was well informed. The seating to watch a performance is expensive, but they sell standing room 18 minutes before the performance for 3 or 4 euros. The tours are in a variety of languages. What amazed me was that they never have a performance 2 days in a row, so they constantly have to change sets every morning!
I finally went back to Schroenbrunn palace to take a tour. I got the Sisi ticket, which included the Hofburg palace, and the furniture museum. It was the cheapest option. The Schroenbrunn is more about the rooms and the history of the Hapsburgs, the ruling family of Austria for generations, hundreds of years. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos and they request you put your bags in the coatroom.
Sisi is short for Elisabeth, one of the Queens of Austria. The Hofburg museum expanded on her story. It had an exhibit on palace dining wear and then it showed the apartments, which held exhibits on Sisi’s life. She was a very private person and didn’t like being in the public view. However, her death and the marketing of her image did just that. She is now everywhere. I feel bad for her memory. The museum is worth it and like the Schroenbrunn you get an audio guide and can go at your own pace. You don’t have to check in your bags.
I didn’t really want to go to the furniture museum, but since it was part of my ticket I went. I was immediately scolded for trying to enter the exhibits with my bag. In my defense, I didn’t see the small sign and I didn’t even scan my ticket yet. I put my bag away and was again immediately reprimanded for my rude behavior. I didn’t even say anything against the woman when she told me to check in my bag. Her attitude was definitely uncalled for and rude.
I walked through the museum. Some of the furniture is cool, but a chair is a chair to me. If you like furniture and design, this museum is good for you. There are great info panels throughout. Just make sure to check in your bag or you will be scolded as if you are a 6 year old.
My plan was to see the museums at Belvedere palace. However, after 4 hours of museums (Schroenbrunn takes about 1 hour, Hofburg 2, furniture museum about 40 minutes depending how interested you are) I was tired.
I just walked the palace grounds and looked through the small Christmas market.
After doing so many indoor activities, I was ready to do some outside ones. The weather cooperated greatly. Apparently, the weekend before I arrived it snowed, now it was a high of 15 degrees or 60. It was quite warm. We went to Prater, ABA, C, myself, and ABA’S dog. Here is an old fair. Some of the rides have been there for years. One ride said it started in 1887.
They showed me the rides they liked as children then we had some treats at their mini Christmas market. We went to the Danube river and walked around the park. You can see the UN from the park.
After, ABA and I went to Museum Quarter, a bunch of museums together, then walked along the longest shopping street. We had dinner at her apartment then went it got dark we went back to Museum Quarter for their Christmas market. It was definitely less touristy and more locals. We had punsch and then headed to her favorite market- Spittleberg. It was more artisanal than the other ones and it flooded different streets versus in a square like the other ones. I saw around 7-8 Christmas markets in Vienna and so excited to see more in other cities!
I had a hard time finding the bus stop to go to Graz, Austria. It took me 20 minutes and asking 5 people for directions. I ended up passing it earlier, but the sign was so small. It’s in front of the flower shop.
I plan on spending a day in Graz, staying with a host on couchsurfing. Then I’m heading to Zagreb, Croatia!