There are few places as awe inspiring as Vienna. For weeks we had traveled various Central European countries, learning of the Habsburg Monarch, their incredibly long reign & far reaching Austrian Empire (& we would continue to hear for another several weeks); but once in Vienna, these far off legends became real.
In our opinion, the full breadth of history wrapped into the Hapsburg lineage isn't given its full credit. Being a huge history nerd, I recalled various facts & random trivia I had of the once-massive empire, but in general, our learning in the area was limited. Granted there's a lot of history to cover & you can only dive into so much throughout school, but our very Western European-focused lessons leave a vast gap in understanding these countries, their histories & much of what has made them into what they are today.
Vienna is proud of its history & the beautiful city, with plenty to see, speaks to that. You could completely immerse yourself in museums, operas, ballets & every history tour you can imagine. Nowadays, the roads that once lined the coronation paths of Holy Roman Emperors are now lined with posh shops & restaurants. Roman ruins rub elbows here with the new inhabitants, maybe you’ve heard of them, Louis Vuitton, Chanel & Hermes just to name a few. Stepping out onto the streets feels like its own runway show. Fun fact, we even got to visit Europe’s fanciest toilet, yes this was an actual stop on a walking tour & it’s done up in smooth white marble.
Posh city dwellers, fancy attire & loads of history felt a bit like D.C. You could completely immerse yourself in that alone & perhaps because of this, we frankly didn't do much of it at all. Besides the general tour of the famous “ring road”, a family tree lesson on the Hapsburgs & one quick stop-in for the world famous “Vienna cake” we found a few other things to love about the city.
Wachau Wine Valley
After loads & loads of beer in Germany & Prague, we wanted some wine! We decided to take advantage of Austria’s amazing wine regions & book an all-day bike tour through the Wachau region just outside Vienna. Sadly, there were no tandem bikes available - we checked. Though it was blistering hot, we had an amazing time & met lots of other fun vacationers. It’s a bit of a hike to get out there, an hour or so train ride from Vienna before we could even hop onto our bikes, but there's no way you'd get the same enjoyment from the beautiful surroundings in a van or bus.
We enjoyed two local, family owned wineries & while only one was my beloved red wine, we have a newfound appreciation for well-produced whites. To top off the trip, we all stopped over at the river bank & took a dive into the chilled waters of the Danube; definitely needed after sweating it out on our bikes.
Vienna’s “Beach” Bars
Unbeknownst to us before reaching Vienna, there is quite the “beach” bar scene along the river banks & it quickly became a favorite stop. Our first day, we snagged some bikes from our hostel & biked down to check out the scene in one of the channels. And our final afternoon, we met up with another couple we met on the bike tour, spent the afternoon laying around in the sun & then bar hopping our way across the Danube canal back towards home.
Not a bad way to spend a summer evening. Though we didn't make it out till the end, apparently several of the bars are open till 2 or 4 am. I can’t really imagine how that can be a good idea.
Randomly enough, this was probably where we spent the most amount of time. Typical, we find a food market & never leave it. Around since the 16th century, the Naschmarkt is apparently world famous, but we had never heard of it until our arrival. Luckily enough for us, our hostel was right across the street which made shopping, dinners, & brunches there really easy! Between two distinct aisles there are hundreds of vendors for fruits, veggies, Mediterranean dishes & lots of pasta! There are also numerous restaurants & cheeky shops for any of your souvenir shopping needs.
Vienna has plenty of world class cuisines & fancy restaurants, but grabbing a “home cooked” pita or pasta dish was my favorite!
But of course, as I mentioned above we could not leave Vienna without at least one, major tourist must-do - the “Sachertorte” aka “Vienna Cake”. Apparently a long fought after recipe, the Sacher Hotel has won the rights to call their cake the original recipe of their founder & the family who created it. Once a favorite of the royal court, you can now sample the rich chocolate & apricot treat at a variety of locations, we even found one in Hungary! But to do it justice, try one at the hotel & one at Demel Cafe, you can decide which one you prefer!
Vienna was a surprise. While we expected the rich dose of history & high-class entertainment, we did not expect to find the relaxed gems of the market & beaches. The city has more than a few surprises for those open to something other than the typical, while offering the posh beauty that everybody knows & loves.