After 2.5 blissful days in Budapest, Hungary it was time to head north to Prague, Czech Republic. However, I wanted to make a stop in Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia. I left Budapest in the early afternoon and arrived in Vienna in the early evening. I was exhausted from nonstop exploring, but I knew with my limited time in Vienna, I wanted to see as much of the city as possible. I quickly checked into my awesome hostel, Hostel Ruthensteiner, and decided to walk to the Schloss Schonbrunn.
Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Schonbrunn it was closing. It was a nice evening so I decided to grab some gelato and read a bit of my guidebook in the local park filled with families, couples, and playful dogs running around and sipping on local beers. I called it an early night and vowed to get up early to explore the Schonbrunn gardens as soon as they opened at 8:30am.
The next morning I was up early to grab a quick breakfast at my hostel and walk the two miles to Schonbrunn. I contemplated signing up for a tour, but the cheapsake in me decided to just walk around the free gardens.
The Schloss Schönbrunn was the Imperial summer residence of the Austrian monarchy since the 16th century. The original building was a small mansion that sufficed until the mid-1600s when Eleonora Gonzaga, the window of Ferdinand II, decided to build a palace onto the mansion. The present day 1441-room palace was built and remodeled in the 1740-50s by empress Maria Theresa. Of the 1441 rooms, 40 are open to the public. The Imperial Tour will bring you to 26 of those rooms.
Some of the gardens date back to 1695 and encompasses a large area. Not only does the garden include actual flower gardens, but a maze, the world’s oldest zoo, and the Gloriette. The gardens are completely free and are open to the public from 6am to dusk everyday. If you want to enjoy the peaceful beauty of the gardens, get there early. You might even see cute little foxes hunting for grub.
Next up was my mission to find my train ticket to Prague. Unfortunately the night train from Bratislava to Prague sold out so I could no longer go to Bratislava for the afternoon like I originally planned. I was extremely disappointed, but I learned an important lesson – book transportation in advance in Europe! After purchasing my train ticket for the late afternoon for €60 (gulp! expensive!), I took the metro to the historic center of Vienna for a couple of hours.
As soon as I emerged from the underground, I was immediately met with huge crowds of tourists. While I loved the imperial architecture of old Vienna, I hated the massive crowds and their selfie sticks. I snapped a few photos of St. Stephens Cathedral, a massive Romanesque and Gothic cathedral first constructed in 1147. Over the centuries the cathedral has expanded to its current size. When I was there in early June they were doing construction on the outside of the cathedral.
From St. Stephen’s Cathedral I ambled down Kärntner Straße towards Staatsoper, the Vienna State Opera, a Neo-Renaissance building dating back to 1920. It is home to the Vienna Philharmonic and over 50-60 operas a year. From the Opera House I headed towards the Hofburg, one of Vienna’s iconic buildings.
The Hofburg symbolizes Austrian culture and history and served as the home base for the Habsburgs from 1273 to 1918. While walking around the Horburg is free, there are several museums with small entrance fees. The Kaiserappartements, or the Imperial Apartments, can be toured for about €11 for an adult ticket. You can see the apartment that was once occupied by Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth. If you want to see the Imperial Crown and other royal jewels you’ll want to head to the Kaoserliche Schatzkammer for €12. Unfortunately I didn’t have any time to check out the jewels, but I did enjoy the nice rose gardens. The Hofburg also contains the Spanish Riding School, which is home to the incredible Lipizzan horses. I wish I had time to take in a show as I’ve always wanted to see the Lipizzaner stallions perform their tricks and dance.
And that’s all I had time for in Vienna. Honestly, I didn’t like Vienna. I can’t exactly pinpoint why. Perhaps it was the crowds of tourists. Or maybe the locals who seemed to stick to themselves. Or perhaps it was because I just came from amazing experiences in Greece and Budapest. Someday I would like to go back to Vienna and give her more time to really explore her and see if she could wear me down into liking her. Despite my dislike for Vienna, I’m sure that I would fall for Austria’s mountains and countryside. I’m just guessing that 24 hours in Vienna just wasn’t enough.
Have you visited Vienna? Did you like it?