Vienna (and Austria) was a first for both of us and it did not disappoint! Vienna (and Austria) have quickly become some of my favorite places. A few highlights of what we loved about Vienna:
- Water – Not only can you drink the tap water (for some of you this might not seem like a big deal, but depending on where you live, it is), but there are numerous places to refill water bottles around the city. It was fantastic.
- Bathrooms – I’ve got a whole diatribe prepared about bathrooms in general, but bathrooms in Vienna were amazing. They were plentiful and clean. They also cost money (around 0.5 Euro), which I viewed as both good and bad (for another post).
- Public transportation – This isn’t specific to Vienna as it’s Europe and pretty much all the major cities have solid public transport and Vienna is no different.
- Social Life – Vienna had some amazing places to go out and eat and drink. Our favorite was by a canal (more later in the post).
- History – The history of Vienna (and Austria) is intertwined with the rest of Europe. Very cool to see
Okay, so let’s start with a few of the places we really loved, with the best being the Schloss Schonbrunn. We went to this palace without much in the way of expectation.
It turns out, we were quite wrong as it was an incredibly beautiful palace, but what was more were the grounds surrounding the palace. Like Versailles, the grounds are extremely expansive with various gardens, including an orange garden, hedge mazes, and more. The gardens also included fountains and waterfalls, a zoo and faux Roman ruins, which we had thought were real initially but were built 200-250 years ago….we were a bit disappointed by that.
The palace itself was also quite fascinating (though no photos were seemingly allowed) as it was the home of Maria Terese and played host to a number of interesting people. Mozart played one of his first major performances there as a small child and then proceeded to climb upon the queen’s lap. Napoleon stayed there as he waged (and eventually won) war with Austria. Marie Antoinette of French Revolution fame was born there as a member of the Austrian Royal Family who was married to King Louis XVI to help solidify allies amongst the European royals.
We also loved to walk around and enjoy the old town square, St Stephen’s Church (and the lovely view its bell tower provided), and one of our favorite activities…drinking wine and people watching.
During our time in Vienna, we also took off on a day-long bike trip/wine tour starting in Krems and heading up through the Wachau Valley. It was a perfectly gorgeous day and we embarked on a 24 km bike ride through a set of mountains just north of the Alps. Our path followed the Danube, winding up through little towns like Förthof and Dürnstein to a winery outside Joching. The wines we tasted were all delicious, and many of the wineries were collectives, where the grapes were grown and sold to the winery by a collection of different families. It was a lovely afternoon with perfect weather!
Aside from wandering about Vienna and taking in the churches and fun little side streets, we also spent an afternoon at the Schloss Belvedere, which served as an extra house for the royal families in Vienna.
In the evenings, our favorite activity was easily going to the canal where locals would go to the many open bars or bring their own and lounge by the water, legs hanging over the edge. Whilst also being a great place to people watch, it was a great spot to enjoy the warm summer evenings of such a historic city.
Vienna was an amazing first stop on our European trip and we absolutely intend on returning. The weather, the efficiency, the people. Everything!