Wednesday, July 2 (Valencia, Spain) – Time for some funnies!! This time from Austria, Switzerland and Germany!
Food is a big part of the Viennese culture. From weiner schnitzels to apple strudels there are a lot of delicacies to try when you're in town. I had limited time in Vienna, but I made sure to taste as much as I could! Here are some of my favorites:
Breakfast in Austria
The Naschmarkt is a great way to spend a Saturday morning, especially if you’re hungry. On Saturdays, the food market extends to a flea market where people sell all kinds of junk that is fun to look at. But for me, the real fun is walking through the food market and tasting all kinds of delicacies (like dried watermelon, yum!).
After being tempted by almost everything I saw, I finally stopped for breakfast at a Turkish café (ironically I was in Turkey the day before) in the heart of the market. The food and coffee were fresh and delicious and it was a great place for people watching.
Coffee houses are a huge part of the Viennese culture. Many of the traditional cafes are decorated beautifully on the inside and feature a variety of picture-perfect pastries. People often linger for hours enjoying their mélange (local coffee with warm milk and foam, to me it tastes like a cappuccino) and conversation.
There are hundreds throughout the city and it’s hard to go wrong (except Café Griensteindl - I didn’t like this highly-rated breakfast spot / coffee house. I ordered yogurt with fresh fruit which was very watery (gross) and the coffee only came half full. The prices are also quite high and I don’t think it is worth it).
Lunch in Vienna
Figlmueller is home to the schnitzel of all schnitzels. With a few locations throughout the city, it is still difficult to get seated without a wait – so make a reservation or go early. The schnitzels are huge (definitely good for two people) and are surprisingly not greasy at all for a dish that is fried! But if you still want something to balance the fried meat, the salads are fresh and tasty.
Note: at the end of your meal you will have to tell the waiter how many pieces of bread you had from the basket… and you pay per roll!
Dinner in Vienna
Konoba is a delicious fish restaurant that is far from the touristy city center and home to locals and regulars. My cousins who have lived in Vienna over a decade took me here and it was delicious! We ordered an appetizer platter and then a fish platter so we got to try a little of everything. You can’t go wrong here, especially with the calamari or cod-like lake fish (don’t know the name)
On my first night in Vienna, I started walking in the neighborhood by my hotel (near the Westbanhof train station) for something quick to eat. There wasn’t much going on on the main shopping street-by-day, and I was about to call it quits when I saw people coming out of a small alleyway. I looked in and there were a bunch of tables outside of a restaurant called Kantine with people eating and drinking while watching a huge screen set up for watching the World Cup!
I went in and had a grilled chicken salad and a Radler to drink (apparently popular for girls who don’t like the bitter taste of beer, Radler is also part lemonade… I was not a fan!). I got to watch some of the World Cup around a bunch of in-the-know locals who wanted to enjoy the nice weather over a drink and a soccer match.
Snacks, Desserts & Pastries in Vienna
Café Sacher is part of the Sacher Hotel and is famous for its original Sacher Würfel, a mini chocolate cake with a twist. The treat has a light layer of apricot jam in the middle and is covered with chocolate frosting and a chocolate decal on top. They are quite delicious and worth the three Euro+ per bite size treat.
The hotel claims to have the original - and secret - recipe for the torte that dates back to 1832, so it is truly the place to get a real taste.
As with many cities in Europe, gelato is the local ice cream, and you can find it everywhere. I was taken to the ‘best’ gelato in the city, at Eissalon Tuchlauben. Even on a Sunday night, this place was busy and their homemade gelato was running low! About half their flavors were completely sold out. I may have had a triple scoop on a cone…. Delicious!
One of the most famous coffee houses in Vienna is Demel, located on the popular Kohlmarkt street next to some of the most expensive and fancy shops in town. Demel is known for their intricate interior, candy shop, and delicious pastries. It is pricy – as expected – but worth the cost for a one-time pastry and coffee and a couple of photos.
TIP: Demel's pastries can be found at Dean & Deluca in NYC!
Sunday, June 15 (Vienna) – I like museums, and sometimes I think they are a great way to learn about and explore a city. But when I arrived in Vienna, and saw how beautiful the city is from the outside (architecture, parks, cafes), I thought I would try to make the most of my stay outdoors – or at least outside of the endless row of museums.
Activities in Vienna
A Journey Through Time
I came across Time Travel Vienna while I was walking through the city. I was intrigued by their interactive and fun approach to the city’s history, so I signed up for a short 45-minute tour. A guide leads you through different rooms where 5D films, talking historical figures or waltzing seats bring to life the history of Vienna until the present day. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a really well-done exhibit and a much more interesting way to learn about the city than by reading plaques.
A Biking Tour of the City
Since there are no free walking tours in Vienna that I could find, I immediately opted for my other favorite type of tour: a biking tour. I signed up for the Classic Vienna Tour with the company Pedal Power, and we took a three-hour ride throughout the city with plenty of stops to learn about what we were seeing. I really enjoyed this, but a few things could have been improved upon. There were no helmets, instructions on how to use the bikes or checks of the seat height before we began. I was also the only English speaker in my tour and while the tour was bilingual, I felt as if the guide was sometimes skimping on her descriptions to me and that everyone was just waiting around for her to stop speaking English. It ended up being okay but it was a bit uncomfortable at first and I’d recommend checking with the company ahead of time to see if it is a German-dominated group or if there is an English-speaking tour you can join.
The World's Largest Amusement Park
Vienna is home to the Weiner Prater public park which is twice the size of Central Park! In it, you can find green areas, cafes, sports fields, and "Wurstelprater", the oldest amusement park in the world. The amusement park has a few notable landmarks including the giant ferris wheel and the Praturturm, the world's largest high-flying swing! There are also beer gardens and plenty of spots for eating and drinking in and around the amusement park.
An Endless Market (in a good way)
For fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and more, the Naschmarkt is the place to go. It is a huge market (that also has a flea market on Saturdays) where people-watching from a cafe is as much fun as tasting the delicacies and looking at the region's specialties. It is walking distance from the main ring downtown so it is a good place to start your touring.
Performances in Vienna
A Horse Show
The Spanish School of Riding is the oldest classical equitation institution in the world, and a must-see for anyone interested in horses, dance or culture in Vienna. (The ‘Spanish’ comes from the breed of horse which is a mix of Spanish, Arabian and Berber). There are a variety of activities you can join from a stable tour to see the famous Lipizzaner stallions to a performance in the beautiful arena (which I did). I signed up for standing room tickets because they were much cheaper, and I definitely couldn’t see the full arena, but the riders are good about moving around the ring so everyone can see. I enjoyed watching the riders on their extremely fancy and talented horses, and it made me want to ride and even learn dressage! However, to be honest I think I preferred the performance in Jerez de la Frontera better. I thought the show was more interesting and the seats had better views. That said, I still think it is worth spending 90 minutes watching the incredible precision and grace of the horses and riders at this show.
Vienna is a world hub for opera and classical music, so it is definitely the place to see a show. There are so many venues that it is actually quite easy to secure tickets, and I heard you can often get tickets to a show at the main opera house for under 5 Euro if you stand in line the day of a performance! I was extremely lucky to be invited to a premiere of the “Feuersnot” opera at the Volksoper, one of the other opera houses in the city, so this is another venue to keep in mind when looking for a show.
Saturday, June 14 (Vienna) – Most of my friends didn’t grow up listening to classical music or watching operas. Like playing bridge or watching soap operas, opera sort of died out for my generation. I was lucky enough to be exposed to opera from a young age because my cousin is a professional opera singer and I would go to see him whenever he performed at the Met in NYC. Still, I never got all that into it and didn’t think much of it. Then I arrived in Vienna.
Vienna is the land of classical music, and opera in particular. My opera-singing cousin lives here, and there are performances any given night at the multiple opera houses in the city. Since it is such a rich part of the city’s culture, I was thrilled to be invited to a premiere of an opera called “Feuersnot” at the Volksoper while I was in town.
The show was semi-staged which means that there is no scenery, very simple costumes, and not much movement on stage. At first I felt like I was at a rehearsal, but then I realized this is the official production and I kind of liked it. With less attention to staging, more attention can be focused on the singing and the story. Unfortunately for me, the opera was in German, and the lyrics were printed (in German) on a screen above the stage, so I am not quite sure what the story line was!
After the opera there was an after party where the director of the opera house spoke and acknowledged the performers who were all present – including about 30 kids ages 8-14 from the children’s chorus who did an amazing job in the show as well!