07 Nov Our Viennese Whirl
After two days of exploring Bratislava, Slovakia’s Little Big City, we had some time on our hands. A quick map check revealed that we were just a hop, skip and a jump away from a brand new country: Austria. In fact, the capital Vienna lay just 60km away and would take only an hour to reach by bus. We couldn’t resist the temptation to get a taste of a new city, so we set off the very next day on our Viennese Whirl.
A Viennese whirl: our day trip to Vienna
We arrived in Vienna completely unprepared. We had no idea that the city centre had been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its concentration of historic buildings or that Vienna was known as both The City of Music and The City of Dreams because it was once home to famous musicians like Ludwig Van Beethoven and the Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Neither did we know that Vienna is regularly named one of the most liveable and economically powerful cities in the world.
It was only when the U-Bahn train deposited us neatly in front of Vienna’s neo-gothic Rathaus (city hall), that we started to get an idea of what the city was all about. The sheer scale of the building, its spikes, stone arches and Harry-Potteresque style, reminded me of the Natural History Museum in London. In fact, as we continued to walk around the Ringstrauss, a grand boulevard that circles the centre of the city, Vienna began to feel more like one living museum of architecture than a modern capital city.
There was the ornate Parliament building, which reminded us of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Then we wandered through pretty gardens that lead to the Heldenplatz, an area crammed with museums, monuments and spectacular buildings. We snapped endless photos as we joined crowds of tourists to explore. Horses and carts rolled by and we popped into the famous Spanish Horse Riding School to get a souvenir for my mum, who has always longed to visit.
Exploring more Vienna tourist attractions
We only had to follow the crowds to find our way into the heart of Vienna, St Stephen’s Square. The wide, sweeping stone avenues were immaculately clean and filled with shoppers, well-dressed locals and tourists. The streets were lined with bakeries, fine restaurants and designer clothing shops set in fancy buildings. At the centre of it all towered St Stephen’s Cathedral, the city’s most important religious building and a stunning example of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
The hours sped by as we explored the streets, marvelling at the collection of magnificent buildings and decorative cakes in shop windows. As beautiful as Vienna was, we quickly realised it was far too lavish for our meagre European travel budget. While stopping for the cheapest lunch we could find, pizza at a street-side café, we talked about how we’d love to return to Vienna and explore more of Austria one day when our bank account was healthier.
We spent the afternoon discovering more of Vienna’s First District, which is stuffed with museums, famous buildings and imposing streets. Our wanderings took us down to the Stadtpark, a green haven of well-manicured gardens and lakes. The park is dotted with monuments and statues of famous Viennese figures like Franz Shubert and Johann Strauss.
As the afternoon dissolved, the sky darkened with the promise of rain, signalling an end to our Viennese Whirl. The day had given us just a tiny taste of a grandiose city full of history, style and architecture, but it was enough to make us want to return in the future. Our only disappointment had been discovering that a real Viennese Whirl, the shortbread biscuits sandwiched with cream and jam we enjoy in the UK, don’t actually exist in Vienna. They’re just a British, Mr Kipling invention.
How to visit Vienna Austria from Bratislava
Vienna is such a hugely historic city packed with museums, monuments and impressive buildings that you could spend weeks there exploring. Many people choose to stay in Vienna and take a day trip over to Bratislava, which is a much smaller and easier-to-tackle capital city. We did things the other way around and took a cheap Regio Bus to travel to Vienna from Bratislava on a day trip. The journey cost just £13.60 for two people, return.
Have you traveled in Austria? What do you think of Vienna?