To my great frustration, I could only free up three days to visit Vienna, but a proper slow traveller would make sure to have at least 1 full week to explore this amazing city, especially if such traveller has varied interests. The following are ideas and tips taking many different interests into consideration, though I won’t deal with nightlife, which for me as a traveller almost always involves…being asleep (Hey, not everyone is a party animal!). Though I’m numbering days, it doesn’t mean that this itinerary should be followed in numerical order, but rather that each number can compromise the content of 1 slow travel day. Even when not stated, I’m assuming you’ll want lots of time to hang around in local cafes and that you won’t feel like gobbling your lunch and dinner.
Day 1 to 3: Explore the wonderful Hofburg, a collection of palatial buildings spanning the centuries, most of which have been turned into museums (For a complete outline of the different Hofburg museums, please refer o my previously published article here). You could easily spend three days in this area by tackling 2 to 3 museums a day while taking frequent refuelling breaks in the many cafes and restaurants around Michaelerplatz. This area, which hugs the Hofburg to the North-East, is also filled with stores, boutiques, and buildings of architectural interest, not to mention St. Stephan’s and St. Peter’s Church. If you’re into that sort of thing, you can also try and catch a performance or a morning training session at the Spanish riding school.
Day 4: Head over to the Schloss Schonbrunn, the former imperial summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs. To get the full experience, take a tour of the palace itself (this needs to be booked about a week in advance), and then enjoy the beautifully manicured palace gardens as well as the view of the city from the Gloriette. After a lunch and coffee break, take on the Belvedere complex in the afternoon. Consisting of two main buildings and a number of smaller ones, these Baroque buildings are now exhibition spaces for both modern and more classical art, but are mostly famous for their collection of Klimt paintings. The gardens between the Upper and Lower Belvedere are also particularly beautiful in the warmer months.
Day 5: If you’re interested in Art Nouveau architecture, or if you’re not, just out of curiosity, take a look at the Secession building (pictured above) which is also an exhibition space. For more Art Nouveau delights, check out the Majolikahaus at the Naschmarkt (food market), and since you’ve already got yourself to a food market, seat yourself down for a meal (though not on Sunday, when most places are closed). Finish of by admiring the beauty of the Baroque/Rococo Karlskirche from inside and out (though I prefer it from the outside).
Day 6: Whether you choose to follow the suggestions for day 6 pretty much depends on whether you’re interested in Modern art, curious about it, or simply hate, like I myself do. If you belong to either one of the first two options, then you should give the MuseumsQuartier a look. The most eye-catching features of this area are the colourful Enzo and Enzi courtyard furniture and the imposing bulk of the MUMOK, both pictured above. Some argue that this modern structure creates a nice contrast to the other 18th and 19th century buildings in the near vicinity, but I, personally, apart from thinking that it makes an interesting photographic subject, find it plain awful. Apart from the strong presence of contemporary art, the area is also home to a children’s museum and various restaurants. For a comprehensive list of museums and establishments in the MQ (MuseumsQuartier), visit its official website.
Day 7: Go on one of the many themed walking tours of the city. Even if by now you will have spent a lot of time getting around on foot, a guided tour will probably take you to corners you might have otherwise ignored, and it will fill you in on the stories of the ones you have already come across. Then take a tour of Parliament or the Rathaus (the Town Hall). Finish the day with a performance at the Opernhaus (Opera).
Day 8-9: Head to Bratislava, the Slovak capital which is only a short bus, train or ferry ride away. Even for a really slow traveller like me, a full day in Bratislava is enough to see everything, because while the city itself is not small, the only really interesting part of the city is its old town, which is frankly tiny. If you want to take it really easy, stay overnight in Bratislava and return to Vienna in the morning. For articles about Bratislava, click here.
Despite all the things mentioned above, this is by no means a comprehensive guide of things to do in Vienna. There are many more things which I did not have time to do and so won’t recommend, and, I believe, several more days to fill, especially if you take some day trips in Austria itself.
If you’re planning on staying in Vienna for at least 3 days, you might want to consider a Vienna Card. Though it’s by no means the best card I’ve ever used because it provides only discounts rather than free entries once purchased, if used well it can end up saving you a bit of money.
-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.theartofslowtravel.com. All rights reserved.