The first time I took an interest in Vienna, was while watching Before Sunrise. I was moved by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s story, and I was captivated by the city, its coffee houses and its history.
Then I learnt that one of my favorite piece of art, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (how original), was in the Belvedere, the iconic viennese palace.
Thanks to Christmas, the human being that is staying in my flat and my bed surprised me with a trip and added his own touch: two days in Bratislava.
I’ll say it now, Vienna in February it’s cold. Temperatures went between -2 and +4 during our trip, but if you invest into a good coat and warm shoes it’s totally fine. We’ve had (other than that) a really good weather and just enough snow to say “he, it’s snowing!”
THE TOP 3:
The old town:
The center of the principal touristic attractions (except the palaces), the old town is the home of Stephansdom, the cathedral and its unconventional roof. The entrance is free and allows you to admire the splendid interiors.
Many churches are around the city center, all most impressive than the others. They are all freely accessible and will give you an overview of the old town’s style: gothic and baroque.
But, in winter, the best is still to enjoy a good tea (or a viennese hot chocolate) in one of the many coffee houses.
The Belvedere used to be the summer residence of viennese’s royalty and is now hosting a big painting collection. Divided in two, the Upper Belvedere and the Lower Belvedere, and cut by amazing french gardens (the Belvedere was one of Versailles strongest contestant), the palace also possess the biggest gathering of Klimt’s work.
You can also find some Monet, Munch and Van Gogh, scattered in the old ball rooms, the secret meeting rooms and even in the staples.
The ticket for the two Belvedere costs 20 euros, and the one for the Upper (and Klimt) is 14 euros.
We took the two and even if the Lower Belvedere is not as magnificent as the Upper, the first will give you an overview of viennese’s monarchy and its customs, the Lower being used to promote Austrian culture at an international level.
The Orangery and the staples belong to the Lower Belvedere too and hosts temporary exhibitions.
The iconic palace is the crown jewel of Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach -that’s long-
(he’s also the architect of KarlsKirche, the church next to the Belvedere). With its 1411 rooms (we didn’t count though) it was the home of the Habsburg and of Franz and Sisi’s love story.
You have to visit with an audio-guide (included in the price), lulled by Viennese waltz and indications about the rooms. It would appear the audio-guide didn’t like Sisi very much.
And if Franz is praised for his rigor (he was waking up at 5am and went to bed very late, in his monastic bedroom), Sisi is presented as his total opposite: frivolous and obsessed by her beauty.
During the entire tour, cutting remarks were made to Sisi: she never was in Vienna, she spent too much time taking care of her hair, never ate with her family because she always was on a diet, etc. Obviously the reasons of her trips or the fact she was maybe not in love with Franz are never mentioned, the guide preferring to focus on her pretend faults while never explaining them.
The gardens are as majestic as the palace and deserve the trip, even in winter. Neptune’s fountain, in a perfect symmetry with the palace, stands proudly and the Gloriette, up on a hill, is watching over the gardens. You’ll have to climb to get there but the view on Vienna is worth your time.
To follow: eat + drink in Vienna, a guide to avoid frozen toes.
Photo credit: Mathieu Moody