Our flight arrived into Vienna airport at 1:45pm. As we had minimal luggage, rather than waste time going to the hotel first with our bags, we decided to go directly to our first port of call; Schonbrunn Palace. This sumptuously ornate Baroque palace was once the Hapsburg royal family’s summer residence and is Vienna’s most popular tourist attraction.
There is a train station downstairs in the arrivals hall of the airport and from there we took the train to Vienna Mitte station, changed to the underground U4 line in the direction of Wien Hutteldorf and alighted 7 stops later at Schonbrunn. A 2 minute walk from the station and we were at Schonbrunn Palace. It took less than 50 minutes to get from the airport to the palace gates; the Viennese public transport system is wonderfully efficient.
They have 5 subway lines, 28 tram lines and 128 bus lines. Stops are frequent, and the transportation is clean and inexpensive. As we had public transport passes for the duration of our stay, it was easy to jump on and head off. There is an honesty system in operation in that there are no ticket barriers, however there can be undercover ticket agents and fines must be hefty enough to deter fare evasion.
You can buy tickets for a self-guided tour of Schonbrunn at the palace ticket office or online in advance, or you can book a guided tour through us in the office. As the guided tour operates on certain days only, we weren’t able to opt for this, but it would have been my preferred option as there is no substitute for a live guide. This Baroque palace with its 1440 rooms and its 176 hectares of gardens is so vast you could easily while away the better part of a full day there.
As there are several cafes and restaurants on site, you don’t even have to leave the complex to refuel. We spent a lovely couple of hours there. Be warned though and plan accordingly. Although we visited in March and were there 2 hours before closing, it was extremely busy. I can only imagine what it is like at peak times.
Our hotel for the 2 nights was the Hotel Stefanie, the self-styled oldest hotel in Vienna, in existence since the 1600s.
It was there that we headed next to check in before heading out to dinner. The hotel is an olde-world, elegant place with a lovely bar and restaurant. Our room was very comfortable, warm and spotlessly clean with a good shower and the buffet breakfast had a decent variety of cold items and some hot items too. It’s in a great location too; quiet yet central.
After pre-dinner drinks in the lovely hotel bar, we headed across the city to an Indian restaurant called Ganesha which was the place we had picked out for dinner. It was a great choice – the food tasted much more authentic than the sweet, heavy Indian fare you typically get in Irish Indian restaurants and we left it feeling really satisfied instead of unpleasantly over-full. The owner was the perfect balance between being attentive and leaving us in peace to enjoy an unhurried meal. It was a lovely evening, rounded off nicely with some post dinner drinks.
Our first stop was at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the Old Town. We walked to there from the hotel in about 10 minutes. It is an impressive Gothic cathedral and its foundation dates back to 1137. The cathedral, one of the tallest in the world, dominates the square to which it gives its name; Stephansplatz and this square marks the centre of the old town of Vienna.
From the square we walked to the State Opera House which marks the outer point of the Old Town. This took a further 10 minutes – that’s how compact the Old Town is. From here we got on the yellow route of the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. This route takes you out to Belvedere Palace, Schonbrunn Palace and to the Museum of Military History among other places.
We were aiming to do the four Hop-On Hop-Off bus routes today, but after doing just this one, it became apparent that we wouldn’t manage to squeeze all four in. Anyway, this gave us unexpected time to amble around to soak up the atmosphere of the city and we managed to stop for a leisurely Kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) along the way.
We had a decent pizza lunch in the Trattoria Pulcinella in the Naschtmarkt, Vienna’s most famous produce market. Its 120 stands sell a wide array of fruits, vegetables, meats, wines and cheeses and there are loads of restaurants throughout serving everything from Italian to Asian to Austrian. On Saturdays there is a flea market there too. I wouldn’t rush back to that particular restaurant as it was very touristy, but as we had somewhere to be at 3pm, we didn’t have much time to decide where to eat.
Our 3pm appointment was at Segway Rental Vienna where we had booked an hour’s Segway rental (they also rent out electric bikes).
I have always wanted to go on a Segway, but as we usually have the kids in tow when we are travelling, the opportunity hadn’t presented itself before. I was very worried I wouldn’t be able to use it, but the owner, Andrea, gave us very clear instructions on how to operate them and I ended up having no problem, and in fact I LOVED it! It was a great buzz, whizzing along the cycle paths and was the highlight of my stay! Vienna is really well set up for biking and segwaying (is that a word?).
There are 1170km of cycle paths around the city and the ring route that begins just outside the door of the Segway rental office takes you right around the old city in about an hour. It is an ideal excursion and a lovely way get a new vantage point on the city.
However it does take a few minutes to get the hang of operating the Segway, and of course you have to be very cautious when using it; taking care not only at junctions as they drive on the right hand side of the road, but also watching out for pedestrians and cyclists. Please contact us for bookings.
After this, we did the red Hop-On Hop-Off bus route as conveniently, it stopped right beside the Segway rental office. This route takes you out to the city park, the university, the Sigmund Freud museum and many other places. The last stop was at the state opera house and from here we walked back to the hotel. This took about 20 minutes and it was nice to see the old town in the evening time.
We ate dinner at the Steman Restaurant. Although it was a Monday night, it was packed with what seemed to be all locals (always a great sign). They serve Classic Austrian food like schnitzel (breaded meat), tafelspitz (boiled beef) and spaetzle (a kind of pasta/dumpling). We both had spaetzle which was really tasty at first, but was extremely filling and quite stodgy. It was great to try some authentic Austrian food however.
Our flight was at 11:10am so after breakfast, we took the underground from the stop nearest to our hotel (Schwedenplatz) to Vienna Mitte station and from there, changed to the airport train. The entire 20km journey took just 35 minutes. It’s largely because of its wonderful public transport system that a very short break to Vienna is so doable; however you could easily spend longer here. I felt we just scratched the surface of the many things there are to do in Vienna, but I hope this gives you some ideas for a trip of your own there. Please get in touch with any questions you might have.
Grüß Gott - hello (apparently you shouldn’t use “Guten Tag” as that’s mostly used in Germany!)
Danke - thanks
Bitte - please (and also you’re welcome!)
Written by Samantha Gavigan