Getting There: Thanks to German Wings Blind Bookings we found ourselves in Vienna for a long weekend direct from Stuttgart for only 33 euros per person each way. The flight is about 1 1/2 hours. We landed at 3:30 in the afternoon and it was already completely dark outside with a dense fog. We took the bus from the airport to the West Banhof station (by our hotel) for 8 euros each. There was probably a cheaper option but the bus was direct and it was pulling in right as we exited so we hopped on.
The West Banhof was a good spot to start our self-guided tour of the city. The subway system in Vienna is similar to Germany with zones. Tickets are 2-3 euro per person to go to the center where the market is.
Vienna had a lot of French influence which I loved because that meant we could find breakfast! Germany doesn’t really do breakfast but at French cafes at least we could find an omelet with a fresh croissant and coffee to start our day.
Breakfast spots we loved came from this bloggers site at cookiesound.com.
Vienna has well over 10 Christmas markets throughout the city. We had no idea there were more than just the one big one in front of the Rathaus (City Hall). Finding them all is easy as you walk through the city at the Museum Quarter, Stephansplatz, in front of the Spanish Riding School (where there is the cheapest Gluhwein served) and of course the Rathous.
The verdict: Not what I expected actually. Very commercial, all the booths were the same in décor, products from china, and expensive. The lights displayed at the main market were the best part. Touring around all the enormous official buildings, going from market to market, with Gluhwein in hand, made the weekend great. The market itself was not that impressive for gifts and unique finds.
Spanish Riding School: We were advised this is a must do plus it’s also in the 1000 Places to See Before You Die book that we are now working our way though. It was 16 euros per person which is a lot for an hour tour but now we can say we did it. The show horses are beautiful, the tour walks you through the stables and tack room. It was cool to see the private practice and show arena, and learn about all that goes into the training of both the riders and the horses. Did you know there are treadmills for horses? The horses travel all over the world.
Stephansplatz Church: The church in Stephansplatz square called Stephansdom was beautiful with gothic details and painted tiled roof. We hiked up the spiral staircase tower of the church for 4 euro, there are hundreds of stairs. It feels like you are walking up in a never-ending circle. At the top, we learned we should have gone up the other tower because from that one you can also go outside for a better panoramic view. You can only get to that entrance from inside the church (no signs). Since it was lightly raining, we were content with the tower we were in, still a fantastic view but just from the inside of the tower.
The Naschmarkt is a huge flea market…gigantic. We walked almost 2 kilometers through it. There are restaurants and bars throughout. On the flea market side it’s a mix of junk, antiques and crystal chandeliers, furs, leather jackets and random flea market goodness. If it wasn’t so cold, I would have perused through it longer. To Drink: Ginger infused white wine Gluhwein.
PROST! Vienna Breweries
1516 – best beer if you can get a seat you are lucky. Make a reservation if you want to eat there, otherwise stopping in for just a beer in standing room is still good.
Siebenstern – Aside from the restaurant and bar at which they serve seasonals and even an IPA, they have a vending machine for beer in their entrance with a bottle opener attached for beers on the go. Say no more. There were also a ton of side street Christmas markets walking up this street.
Plutzer – Ok but there is smoking inside the restaurant you can smell from the non-smoking side too so it made it harder to stay and try everything.
We didn’t make it to Salm or Ottakringer, next time.
TO EAT – The largest doughnuts ever.