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2 1/2 Days in Vienna

Hello, all. A friend and I are making a quick trip to Vienna in the middle of March -- my first trip there. We like history, art, classical music, and general wandering. The impetus for the trip is to have another chance to see 85-year-old conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt (whom we saw in Salzburg last summer) lead Concentus Musicus Wien. Here's the current "rough" itinerary:

Friday March 13: Arrive Vienna around 12:30. Rick Steves Vienna City Walk (including outside view of Habsburg area). Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna Opera House (Werther).

Saturday March 14: History of Music in Vienna Tour with Context Travel. Belvedere Upper Palace. Museum of Military History (big draw = the car in which Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated). String quartet at Annakirche. Wandering Vienna in the evening.

Sunday March 15: Rick Steves Ringstrasse tram tour. Freud Tour with Context Travel (both of us have psychology backgrounds). Free afternoon. Concentus Music Wien at the Musikverein.

Monday March 16: Depart early.

Does anyone have recommendations for my Saturday night wandering or for my free afternoon on Sunday? Our hotel is near the Opera House. For Sunday, I'm thinking about a stroll through Augarten (with the bonus of the WWII air-defense tower) + Ride the Giant Wheel (I've watched the Third Man one too many times) + a quick peak at the Danube. Stadt Park would also be nice for a stroll. Other ideas, comments or criticisms? Thanks.

Posted by
419 posts

You say you are going to Vienna in March, yet all your days are listed in May. Which is it?

Posted by
2597 posts

Joan,

Thanks for picking that up! It's March. I corrected the post.

Posted by
3091 posts

Well , considering your Friday schedule , I would have at least several coffees before the Massenet , as you know , Vienna has no shortage of fine coffee houses . As far as Sunday , Vienna offers limitless possibilities , so here is just one . Take the # 71 Tram out to Zentralfriedhof and stroll around the central plots of the cemetery where the composers are buried , thus combining History , Music and Art . go into the Karl Lueger Kirche , the interior is a gorgeous Art Nouveau confection , To picque your interest , take a look here -----http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zentralfriedhof

Posted by
4325 posts

A few comments:

March 13: By the time you get to your hotel and check in, I imagine it will be at least mid-afternoon. I think a walk is a good idea, however, I would suggest Frommer's Walking Tour #2 which covers areas not currently on your itinerary. In particular, the Naschmarkt and Vienna's famous Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture. A coffee at the Café Sperl will also be a nice break. I think that the Rick Steves Tour sites will be easily covered in your history of music tour, so some duplication there. That said, the Rick Steves tour (looking at the map) is very simple and can be done easily and quickly. I doubt you will have time on this day to also cover the KHM.

March 14: The day sounds good. The Belvedere is right across from the Military History Museum, so that's a good fit. I do hope that you plan to also go in the Belvedere. For that evening, I suggest an evening at a Heurigen. The Schuebel-Auer is one of my favorites and is open on Saturdays.

March 15 - Ringstrasse Tram tour, ok, I get it. Freud tour, ok, I get it. For me the obvious gap in your itinerary is Schonbrunn. You must visit this palace, in my opinion. At least the grounds. Augarten is a strange choice, in my opinion, unless you are in Vienna for 10 days. The flakturm are just ugly concrete blocks. The Ferris Wheel, ok, I get it, but I find it to be an overpriced tourist trap. Danube - not attractive in Vienna, industrial, ugly buildings, etc. Stadt Park - Maybe stop here and walk around a bit when you do the tram tour.

Posted by
383 posts

I agree with Emily's suggestions. You definitely want to go to a heuriger while you are there. We took Rick's suggestions, took public transportation to an area with several within walking distance, and picked the liveliest one. This was one of our favorite experiences in Vienna (we actually went to two on two different nights).

Also agree on Schonnbrunn. If you have at least a couple of free hours, I think it's a must-see. And it's so easy and cheap to get to with public transportation.

Don't miss St. Stephen's Cathedral either. You'll be in the area, and it's well worth seeing it. It doesn't need to be a long visit either.

Note that Rick's Ringstrasse tour doesn't take that long, and in my opinion, is prettiest at night.

Finally, it may be hard for you to get tickets to tour the Opera on the day you arrive. There are often long lines when they go on sale, and they sell out. If you have tickets to a show, then great! But I wouldn't plan on getting tour tickets the day you arrive.

Posted by
12355 posts

Hi,

The car in which the Archduke was riding is in the WW 1 section of the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, also the display of the blood stained tunic is nearby, see the "tank garden" outside. On the history part: see the Heldenplatz. For a militaristic historical display, I suggest the "Deutschmeisterplatz," a couple of blocks from the U-Bahn stop. The Zentralfriedhof has not only the graves of the various composers but also the WW1 and 2 military cemeteries, ie, towards the back.

Posted by
2597 posts

Thanks for the suggestions so far. I was imprecise in my "arrive Wien" verbage. I'll be hitting the doors of Pension Suzanne at 12:30 on Friday.

Emily -- I love the ideas of doing the Frommers walk and going to a heurigen. Thanks for the suggestions.

Steve -- I definitely will pop into St. Stephen's Cathedral.

Emily & Steve -- If I will be back in Vienna in the next few years during a warmer time of year, would it make sense to save Schönbrunn Schloß for then -- when the grass is greener, the flowers blooming, and the fountains flowing?

Stephen & Fred -- Thanks for the Zentralfriedhof recommendation. I followed the link and was most intrigued by the story of Walter Nowotny, a 24-year-old Luftwaffe pilot buried there. Interesting stuff. Fred, did you say "tank garden"? I'm there! Thanks, too, for the "platz" and other history suggestions.

I can't wait for the trip. Right now, though, I'm going to go study German...

Posted by
12355 posts

Hi,

At the Army History Museum (HGM) in Vienna, often missed after one sees all the "stuff" inside, including the 88 mm gun, is the garden outside, ie the "tank garden." ( der Panzer Garten). Good that you'll bone up on German since you'll need a good level for reading the posters, newspaper headlines, etc especially in that section of the museum displaying post WW 1 history. The "misery factor" was much worse in Austria in 1918-1920 than was the case in Germany. The posters reveal that. Where the Archduke's car is displayed, one or two of the corners in that room displays behind a glass rotary file the front pages of German language newspapers in 1914. Check that out, even papers from Switzerland, I think.

Another historical monument is the Soviet Memorial on WW2 It's close to the Schwarzenberg Platz, even though he was beaten by the French at some decisive events.

Posted by
4325 posts

Yes, I would still go to Schonbrunn, especially if it is a nice day.

Posted by
12355 posts

@ Dave...Although I haven't seen it, I would suggest going to Belvedere too, not only because it's the Schloß of the Austrian Habburgs' greatest military commander (you'll see his statue not only in front of the Hofburg and but also in Budapest) and its art exhitions, but its connection to the Archduke FF. He and his family lived at Bevedere prior to moving to his estate at Konopischt. If tours the Schloß are available, even if they are only given in German, take the tour (I would).

Posted by
2157 posts

As a huge fan of The Third Man I planned an entire week in Vienna last August and wrote a trip report about it in Sept, if you care to read it. Riding the Riesenrad was a must-do for me, easy to get there and just across the street from the U-bahn so you don't have to linger in the Prater if you aren't an amusement park fan. Finding the Harry Lime Door was like a treasure hunt, I also took a walking tour that gave even more insight on the conditions in post-war Vienna and if you're near the Opera House then you're very close to not only the Naschmarkt--great food, Saturday flea market-- but the Third Man museum, very much worth a visit, not just movie memorabilia but more on Vienna in that unique time-frame. You can probably do this in an hour but they are only open Saturday from 2-6, though they do give tours at other times so check their website.

I preferred the Belvedere to Schonbrunn, and the Leopold was probably my favourite as I love the Secession artists. The actual Secession museum has only one thing worth seeing, Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, on the way to the Naschmarkt. The Wien Stadt Museum was quite interesting as well and just a short walk or U-bahn ride from the Opera.

You will love wandering in Vienna, day or night there's so much to see and it's a very compact and walk-able city. I felt instantly at home there and made good use of the U-bahn and trams.

Posted by
2597 posts

Fred -- My German is pretty basic as I just started learning it a few months ago. My hope is that I'll be in decent shape for a May 2016 trip to Berlin/Leipzig/Nürnberg/München. I'll do my best to make out what I can of the headlines and posters. Definitely will hit the tank garden and the Belvedere.

Christa -- Thanks for your input. i enjoyed reading your trip report for Vienna. I'm also happy to hear a pro Riesenrad vote! Perhaps I can move a few things around to hit the Naschmarkt and the Third Man museum early Saturday afternoon. When I return to Vienna, I'll try to be there on a Monday so I can do the Third Man walking tour.

Emily -- You are the resident Vienna expert. I'm looking for a place to squeeze in Schönbrunn Palace.

Thanks, everyone, for the ideas.

Posted by
12355 posts

@ Dave...My compliments on your language learning. You just stick with it and stick with it until you start dreaming in German. If you travel with any of the electronic gear (something beyond my comprehension), have a translation app, or if you don't trust them, carry a pocket dictionary along (I'm really old school.) to help crack the documents, ie, reading the posters, newspaper headlines, painting titles, battle map titles and explanations, slogans on flags, speech excerpts...they're all in German at the HGM in Vienna. Check out the museum shop afterwards for a coffee and its interesting products.

Posted by
498 posts

I'm surprised you say it's your first trip to vienna - you have really done your research and know what to seek out! Follow your instincts . I am a classical musician as well, and I lived there for quite a while, and your agenda sounds as good as any.

I'd normally suggest you do a Heuriger in Grinzing during your visit - some suggested that above - but on such a short trip, there is surely some fun to be had in the city with your spare day and night. Especially in March - what a great time to be there. Just go with the flow and enjoy the spirit of the town!

Posted by
498 posts

PS the WIEN MUSEUM KARLSPLATZ - formerly the Museum der Stadt Wien - is an excellent exhibit for visitors with historical and cultural curiosity, that often goes unnoticed. I highly recommend it!

Posted by
169 posts

I would also recommend the Belvedere. I was there in Christmas when obviously the gardens are snow covered. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I am not a big museum goer but I enjoyed the art in both the Upper and Lower Belvedere. The buildings themselves were very beautiful. Also the location, sitting on a slope looking down on a lot of the city. The history is also interesting - Prince Eugene of Savoy.

Posted by
4699 posts

Not to disrespect the Schonnbrun, but it's a pretty big investment of time that you don't have a lot of. I enjoyed the living area of the Hofburg Palace, an easier way to see something of the Habsburg lifestyle. But I had to power through the endless displays of china and the cloying Sisi museum to get to the good parts.

Posted by
2597 posts

Fred -- Thanks for the encouragement on German. Your comment was prescient... shortly after it I awoke from a dream that was in German.

Jtraveler -- Thanks for the encouragement, too. Music is the reason we are there! I've found city museums to be great investments of time. I think time is so short this go round, that I'll have to save Wien Museum Karlsplatz for the the next trip.

Gerry -- Another vote for Belvedere. Will definitely go!

Dick -- Thanks for your thoughts, too. I think you view parallels mine on Schönbrunn, Sisi, and Habsburg china. We will catch Schönbrunn on a future trip.

Posted by
2597 posts

Ten days until departure! I can't wait. Thanks for all the comments. Context Travel fell through -- apparently no one signs up for their tours in Vienna in March! For anyone interested, here is the itinerary as it currently stands:

Friday -- Arrive at Pension Suzanne at 12:30, RS Vienna City Walk (including St. Stephen's Cathedral, outside of Hofburg [some inside if time]), Werther at Wiener Staatsoper.

Saturday -- Frommer's Vienna Walking Tour #2 (including The Secession, Naschmarkt, Flohmarkt), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Cold War Vienna Tour, string quartet at Annakirche, Heuriger.

Sunday -- RS Ringstrasse tour, Freud Museum, Riesenrad (can't help myself!), Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Museum of Military History), Belvedere, Concentus Musicus Wien performing Handel's Saul at Musikverien.

Posted by
4325 posts

I strongly disagree with choosing the Hofburg over Schonbrunn. I find the interiors of both to be repetitive and boring, but the exterior of Schonbrunn is a wonder; Hofburg, not so much.

Posted by
12355 posts

Hi,

It is really a tough call due to time constraints to choose between Schönbrunn and the Hofburg. I suggest rather than set aside time for both save most of the time for viewing Schönbrunn inside and outside. That's well worth it. But, if you can squeeze the time and are into the war history, get to the Heldenplatz (very close by to the Hofburg), imagine what that was like in '38. I'm sure you've seen the documentary clips of that event, and then imagine in '45 how the place was and looked like.

Aside from seeing the cultural aspects of the Hofburg, you 'll see historically outside (including across the street) two statues whom the Habsburgs regard as among their greatest military commanders, Prinz Eugen and the Archduke Karl. The former justifiably so since he never lost a battle, whereas Karl was defeated over and over.

Posted by
2597 posts

Just got back tonight from Vienna! Great trip. I ended up taking the advice of the pro-Schönbrunn crowd. My travel companion and I toured inside (took the English tour) and walked the gardens (to some degree). Definitely an impressive place (despite cloudy skies and temperature of 45 F. I'll try to write a trip report this weekend.

Posted by
12355 posts

Hi,

Good that you enjoyed the visit in Vienna. Being there with that temperature is a bit chilly. How was the visit to the museums? I am sure you gave them you thorough undivided attention as at the Army Museum.

Posted by
2597 posts

Fred--

Time was short, so I'm not sure how thorough my attention to the museums was. I tended to pick what I really, really wanted to see at most of the museums. At the HGM, I spent most of my time in the WWI and WWII sections. I did find the display of newspaper headlines in the corner of the room with the car in which Archduke Ferdinand was shot; deciphering those was a nice activity. It creeped me out to walk past the large artillery piece in that section and look down its barrel. Sadly, the "panzer garten" was closed; we could only walk out on the patio off the coffee shop and look at the tanks from a distance. Belvedere... only made it to the Upper Palace.

Posted by
12355 posts

@ Dave...what, the Panzer Garten closed, that's unheard of...lol. If it's any consolation, most of the displays are tanks after 1945. For tanks pertaining to the war, you need to go a museum in Germany to see that esoteric collection. I'm glad your language study paid off in looking at the newspaper headlines of 1914. I assume that artillery piece you're referring to is the 88 mm, what is called in German, the acht comma acht. The HGM is only one of the museums in which I have seen that gun displayed.

Did you make it to the Flaktürme or Zentralfriedhof (the cemetery)?

Posted by
2597 posts

It came down to Zentralfriedhof or Schönbrunn on Sunday afternoon. With the temperature hovering around 42 degrees, we opted for the activity that had a little bit more of an indoor flavor to it. Zentralfriedhof will be at the top of my list when I return some day, along with the Flaktürme. The closest we got to one of those was the view from Heldenplatz of the Flakturm just southwest of the Platz. Our final activity of the trip -- attending the Concentus Musicus Wien performance of Handel's Saul at the Musikverein -- was easily the highlight of the trip for me. Thanks for your interest in my trip!

Posted by
1 posts

I once stayed in the Pension Suzanne and hope to return back there in late April 2015. It was a great location, with good staff and quirky rooms. My room had a little balcony overlooking the interior parking courtyard. I can't wait to return. How was your experience? Any advice? Thanks

Posted by
2597 posts

@Sally... I thought Pension Suzanne was great. I had a double room with shower for single use with breakfast for €98/night, so the price was right. The room was fairly simple but spotless. Bathroom was nicely updated and spotless. Breakfast, from my perspective was excellent -- meats, cheese, fresh bread, yogurt, dry cereal, fruit, vegetables, soft and hardboiled eggs. The owners are super friendly. The location can't be beat. I would definitely stay there again.

Posted by
12355 posts

@ Dave...At 42 F it's pretty chilly. Yes, the weather can put a damper on one's outdoor plans in a city, sort of like being defeated by the weather. Glad you made it to the Heldenplatz, which gives you the imagination on what took place there, esp after you've seen the documentary film. Thanks for the trip details.

Posted by
2597 posts

...and I put up a trip report in the Trip Report section. Thanks again to all who contributed their thoughts on my weekend trip.