After 12 days in Vienna, I figured that I had been around the block enough times to offer some insights on the best that the City of Dreams has to offer. That is kind of my job, after all. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Viennese sights and experiences!
Best Sunset: From a sofa boat on the Danube River
I was a little thrifty at the beginning of my trip, meaning that I had some cash to burn during my final few nights in Vienna. I decided to rent a sofa boat to watch the fireworks from the Festival of Lights and puttered out onto the water just in time to watch the sunset. I had packed myself a little picnic dinner of crackers, cheese, cherries, and chocolate cake (two slices of famous sachertorte from the rival Sacher and Demel cafes—fyi, they were mediocre cakes that tasted exactly the same), and ate my treats as I listened to country music and reclined on my sofa in the middle of the river. Honestly, it was one of the best meals that I had on my entire trip—nothing beats that view!
Best Palace: Belvedere
I’ll be frank: I was not a fan of Schönbrunn Palace. It was crowded, hot and, in my opinion, didn’t live up to the hype. Belvedere, on the other hand? That was a gorgeous little palace that was much more my speed. My favorite part was that it felt like a museum inside a palace, rather than a palace that was turned into a museum. A subtle difference, but one that totally changes the experience.
Best Museum: Albertina
A Monet! Finally! It took over six weeks, but at last I got to visit a museum with an Impressionism exhibit. If I never see another contemporary art museum in my life, I won’t be one bit sorry. MOMA and Hamburger Banhof can keep their kindergarten scribbles and creepy old television sets that play chainsaw sounds. I’ll take water lilies, meadows, and gardens any day.
Best Pool: Krapfenwaldbad
On the advice of my team mate, Chloe, I ventured out to Krapfenwaldbad one Saturday morning. After a bus ride, a train ride, another bumpy bus ride through the vineyards, and a ten-minute walk, I arrived at the pool. Not only did it have an amazing view over Vienna, but it also offered some of the most comfortable lounge chairs in the history of man. Coming from a Florida girl who spent a large chunk of her childhood on the beach, this is huge. My only regret is that I didn’t block out the entire afternoon so I could spend more time relaxing and soaking in the view (and soaking up some rays).
Best Unexpected Surprise: A museum that was actually a skate park
Turns out that the Wien Museum Karlsplatz is being shut down for a giant, multi-year renovation. Their final exhibition? A skate park takeover, featuring work from some of the best European street artists. When I got there, I found that half of the ground floor had been converted into an indoor skatepark that was open to the community, while the other half was being tagged, painted, and pasted with artwork from anyone in Vienna with a paint brush or spray paint can. The second floor featured a giant commissioned exhibit with works from some of Vienna’s best-known street artists. My favorite part was that the city—which I traditionally think of as somewhat stuffy, uptight, and hoity-toity—had called attention to two movements typically associated with rebelliousness and a punk lifestyle. I found it to be poetic and beautiful.
Best Bar: Krypt
They say that the underground cavern was a semi-legal jazz club during the 1950s and 1960s. Today, it gives off a speakeasy vibe—meaning that I may have wandered around for five or ten minutes before figuring out to press the subtle white doorbell so I could be buzzed in. The glamorous bar is also an architectural masterpiece, serving up exquisite cocktails in a jaw-dropping vaulted cellar. Contemporary, classy, and chic. What else could you want in a clandestine cocktail bar?
Best View Over the City: Prater
Thank God I went to Prater Amusement Park twice. During take two, I rode a terrifying and exhilarating ride that left me dangling some 80 meters above the ground for a solid 2-3 minutes. As the ride slowly rotated, I took in a panoramic view over Vienna that was absolutely breathtaking. Or, at least I think it was. Unless that was just me hyperventilating from the adrenaline rush that accompanies the sense of flying through the air with nothing more than some shoulder straps between you and death.
Best Coffee Shop: A tie between Phil and Café in der Burggasse24
You didn’t think that I would get through an entire article on the best that Vienna has to offer without including some coffee shops, did you? After all, the city is the center of café culture. Let’s start with Phil. I know, I know. Phil sounds like the name of a khaki-wearing insurance salesman, not a vintage, hipster, and somewhat melodramatic cafe/bar/bookstore/record shop. Despite wearing about five different hats (it’s also a kino), it works. In fact, Phil just wouldn’t be Phil if it didn’t have an eclectic and antique, yet somehow chic vibe. My favorite part was that visitors were invited to grab any ol’ cookbook, graphic novel, memoir, romance, or fairytale off the shelves and crack open the spine while enjoying a frothy cappuccino or a refreshing mint tea lemonade. I simply sipped an Americano and snacked on a yogurt bowl, as I tried to make some progress on Tuer Alex Cross, a book that I’ve started, stopped, and restarted about eight times in the last two years.
Last but not least, I’d like to share the wonders of Café in der Burggasse24, a charming little café nestled inside a vintage clothing store in Neubau. I ran across this gem while I was doing some light window shopping and decided to snag a spot on the cushy couch, read my book (again!!), and treat myself to a delicious açai bowl and Mama Rose’s Lemonade. It was a sweet goodbye as I ventured out through the door back into the real world, just as this is a sweet goodbye to the wonderful city of Vienna. Until next time.
Healthy base tan, courtesy of the unyielding sun in Megan’s hometown in southwest Florida? Check. An insistence that gallivanting through Germany and Austria all summer does, in fact, count as exercise – after all, those cathedral steps aren’t going to climb themselves! Definitely. A command of the native languages and the confidence that one mere backpack will get her through two months abroad? Now slow down there, she didn’t say she was Wonder Woman. While neuroscience and chemistry may be this coffee-loving, beach-bumming, fashion-adoring springboard diver’s forte, Megan is hoping to expand her appreciation for the finer things in life (beer, currywurst, schnitzel, melange…) before returning to the reality that all good things must come to an end, as evidenced by her impending senior year.