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Vienna the Second Time Around

I just returned from 2 weeks in Amsterdam, Vienna and Budapest, posting each report separately. I first visited Vienna for a week in 2014 and then travelled by train to Budapest, and this trip I found myself doing the same thing all over again. My first trip focused a lot on everything to do with my favorite movie, The Third Man, and I loved the city so much and had missed a couple of things so decided the time was right for a return. I did many things the first trip--I'm a huge Klimt/Schiele/Secession era art fan; Belvedere, Schonbrunn, Secession, Albertina, MAK, Leopold, Hofburg museums, Wien Stadt museum, so this time was just to spend time there and do whatever came up that pleased me.

2 hour flight via KLM and I arrived at 1:30 pm on a Tuesday; last trip I used the CAT to Wien Mitte and decided this time to save a few euros and made a point to find the S-bahn, if you follow the signs for trains and go below it's there. Bought a ticket for 3.90 from the machine and within 10 minutes was on my way. At Wien Mitte I bought my transit pass and continued to my hotel via the U-Bahn. I chose the Hotel Am Stephansplatz and as I exited the station it was right there, and my stay was one of the nicest so far in my travels. Huge room and bath, every amenity, quiet and comfy bed, and an excellent breakfast was included. Tuesday was a beautiful, warm day and I just reveled in it--had been so tired of feeling like a blue polar bear all bundled up in layers, scarf and gloves so it felt wonderful to go about in a tee shirt.

My first stop was the Prater to ride the Riesenrad again, and I explored the little park, taking pictures of the charming little rides--some have been there a very long time, others more modern. I ate dinner outdoors at the Englischen Reiter and had the grossmutterschnitzel--2 layers of thin pork cutlet with bacon, cheese and pepper inside, along with some wonderful roasted potatoes and a great big beer. Later I reacquainted myself with the Innerestadt by tram and stopped at a Spar store to see if they still had the crunchy little sesame cookies I loved last trip--they did! Same place, even--I bought 7 bags of them, and had a heck of a time getting them home but they survived and will be rationed sparingly.

Wednesday I headed to the lower Belvedere to see the special Lawrence Alma-Tadema exhibit, some of my favorite work all in one place. Then out to the Mariahilfer Strasse area for the Hofburgmobiliendepot--huge museum devoted to the furniture and other household items of the royal family, quite interesting and not crowded. The Albertina next as they had a special exhibit on Egon Schiele, plus when I visited last time the Monet, Picasso etc wing was closed so I was looking forward to seeing that, too. Dinner was at a cozy old café near the hotel on Himmelpfortgasse called Frauenhuber--filled with Austrians, very old-world. I had tafelspitz, and it came with a marvelous sort of haystack of potatoes--these people know a thing or two about potatoes.

Thursday I first hit the Art Academy on Schillerplatz to see the Bosch Last Judgment triptych, then walked to the Kunsthistorisches--what a fabulously ornate building, very impressed. Not exactly my favorite art, again, but plenty to please and some of the artifacts were fascinating, like Cellini's salt cellar. I confused myself looking for the Burg Theatre, wrong tram, but arrived in time to take a tour as I wanted to see the Klimt murals in the staircases. Well, that day the tour was only in German, so I endured 1.5 hours of that--but it was quite worth it. After that I felt I needed to see the Harry Lime door on Schreyvogelgasse again, just 2 blocks away. I get there and to my utter dismay the building is being renovated, door covered in plastic, who knows what's going on?! Perhaps the people are tired of tourists standing in their doorway, smirking like Harry, taking pictures, endless zither music...

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2318 posts

Dinner was at the nearby Café Landtmann where I had a much-needed chicken Caesar salad and cream cheese strudel. Friday morning I packed up and took the U to the Hauptbahnhof to get to Budapest. I hadn't been able to buy my ticket ahead of time due to the new security features on OEBB's website, so had purchased when I arrived on Tuesday.

Vienna on second glance was just as fascinating, elegant and alluring as the first, and it remains one of the places I know I will be drawn to many more times. I love exploring the streets away from the main area near St Stephans, and find their transit system very easy to use, remembering many of the stops and connections. It was pleasantly crowded in late April, though the weather turned chilly after that first glorious afternoon.

Posted by
1176 posts

Another very nice informative trip report. I went to many of the same sites and museums you visited on both your first and second trips to Vienna. And a few I will need to list and take a look at for my next trip to Vienna that I have not seen. I never tire of Klimt or palaces! I find the cafes to be wonderful. Happy to hear you had a lovely time.

Are you on flickr or instagram to see your photos? Love to see them!

Looking forward to the third city.

Posted by
2353 posts

Thank you for your wonderful report! We are returning there in September for a 2nd visit. We both fell in love with Vienna on our first visis and can't wait to return. I will have to be sure and try the grossmutterschnitzel - sounds wonderful!

I too will visit some of the Third Man places too - love the movie.

Our son gifted my husband a Swarovski Crystal Dinner on the Reisenrad which I am sure we will enjoy - talk about a unique experience.

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2318 posts

Robert--I did not know he had added more space and now offers tours on days besides Saturday--I did see it last trip and really enjoyed not only the Third Man memorabilia but the whole post-war Vienna focus, really a well-done museum. Clearly, there's a reason to return!

Christi--what a lovely gift! I saw the cars going past that are set up for dining and that really is a unique thing to do.

Posted by
4462 posts

Christa, thanks for sharing your trip report! Hotel Am Stephansplatz was also one of our favorite splurge hotels, and their breakfast, customer service and especially the room was fantastic. Vienna is lovely, and I'll take note of some of the places you mentioned for future trips.

Posted by
2466 posts

I enjoyed your trip report, so different then the Vienna we have experienced. That is what i love about this forum, enjoying cities we've been to through another, different set of eyes. Can't wait to read Budapest....

Posted by
12886 posts

Thanks for a very interesting report. A two hour flight from Amsterdam to Vienna...not bad. I did that route by night train once.

Yes, Vienna is captivating and absolutely fascinating as I am discovering from repeat visits...splendid. Getting out of the Ring area and the tourist sites is also revealing. Across from the Albertina is the large tourist office, lots of brochures on city activities.

Posted by
2096 posts

Christa,
I love your reports! I loved Vienna also, went there on the Rick Steves' Berlin, Prague, Vienna tour and stayed 2 nights on my own in Vienna. It is elegant and captivating and filled with such fantastic art museums.

Reading your reports, I am gaining courage to design my own trip for next year! I find it difficult to find travel partners who want to go to the same places I do, most of my friends have been everywhere in Europe. I think it may be time for me to embrace traveling solo and take the plunge. You have made it seem easy to do. I really want to see Amsterdam and one of my co-workers is from Holland and he has said he would help me plan an itinerary. I'm an art and history enthusiast so I won't be bored at all there. Also, there are day trips that will be easy to do from Amsterdam.
Happy Travels,
Judy B

Posted by
2318 posts

Judy--I reached the age of 45 and it suddenly hit me that it was time to start travelling, if I kept waiting for the right partner or friend I might miss out and there's so much I want to see. I have one friend who travels, and unfortunately we're both still working--I can't go during the summer months and she's a professor so can't go at any other time but summer. Once she retires we will be doing Germany. Fortunately I'm an only child and also naturally very comfortable with my own company, and I find that I do best in big cities, easier to deal with people and less daunting, somehow. I love the planning part, figuring out what I want to see and piecing it all together. This trip was very satisfying on many levels, I'm still glowing from it.

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958 posts

"This trip was very satisfying on many levels, I'm still glowing from it."

This says it all. I haven't been to Vienna and don't know if I'll ever get there, so I thoroughly enjoyed visiting through your words.

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1176 posts

So Christa, where to next? I agree, when traveling solo I like to go to big cities, this way for me I can spend my time in museums, walking and seeing the buildings, go window shopping and just seeing the sites. I also enjoy going to the theatre and concerts and don't mind going alone when traveling solo. I love small towns and villiages but find that is better left to when you are able to go with someone. I agree it is hard to find a travel companion that shares your interests, will spend the money to go and want to see the same things you do. If you don't go then you don't see anything.

I really enjoyed your insight and what you saw and did.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
3110 posts

Loved your report and travel style Christa! We've been to Vienna 3 times but now, after reading your report, I think we need to go back and explore some more.

Posted by
12886 posts

You are seeing why Vienna is well worth repeat visits as I have been doing since 2009, certainly more so, when you are familiar on the good, bad and ugly sides of its history. In that way it is a captivating city.

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2318 posts

Ann--I have a few ideas, Barcelona is high on the list, though I really connect the most with Central Europe--a second trip to Poland is calling to me. I also really want to see Tallinn again, and would add Riga and Vilnius. The only definite is that I would need to be in Budapest again on a Saturday for the flea market, and if I do mid-May I can see the wonderful Museum Festival on the 3rd Sunday again.

Posted by
7597 posts

Christa, love hearing your Vienna report as well. I lived in Budapest for a year back in the early 1990s, and when I first went there, Vienna didn't do much for me. It seemed too staid and royal for me. Then, a few years later, I went back and focused on Judgendstil and Klimt and Schiele and the Wiener Werkstatte and fell in love with the place. I haven't been in a long time, but your trip report brings up so many of the reasons why it is special to me.

Nice to hear that you treated yourself to that hotel - sounds fantastic! Sorry about the Harry Lime door, thank goodness you had already seen it on a prior visit.

Posted by
4690 posts

You want to know something crazy? I've lived here for 10 years and never seen the Third Man.

I find with Vienna I most enjoy the simple things like sitting on a warm bench in the Volksgarten in June, buying the first asparagus at my local market or noticing some amazing Jugendstil detailing on an obscure building. I've only been to the Hofburg once when a relative visited and I thought I would die from Sisi overload. Never been to see the Spanish Riding School performance or had Sachertorte at the Sacher Hotel - the horror!

Posted by
2353 posts

The Third Man is classic film noir and young Orson Welles is dashing as the villain. It is the kind of film that can be watched again & again - always finding something new.

I hope the door is uncovered when we are there later this year!

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2318 posts

Emily--I noticed an abundance of asparagus offerings at restaurants and any market I passed, looks like the first asparagus is as big a deal in Vienna as it is here. I do love spying exquisite architectural details, too--among my favorites are the owls on the sides of the Secession museum, but there's so much more everywhere you look.

Christi--I would love an update on Harry's door if you get a chance to swing by on your trip. My thoughts range from thinking they are renovating the front of the building to maybe placing a plaque; I know I would be tickled to live in that building and go through the door every day, but that might wear thin over time in reality. I found it by myself on my first trip, and later took a Third Man walking tour (learned a lot, mainly that Orson Welles was quite uncooperative, wouldn't ride the Riesenrad for that scene, wouldn't go into the sewers, etc) that ended at the Door, complete with a man sitting out front playing the Harry Lime theme on a zither. I consoled myself by finding Harry's purported address as stated by Holly at the beginning of the movie, 15 Stiftgasse, near Mariahilfer strasse. My fellow Third Man geeks at home were amused.

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12886 posts

I don't know exactly in Austria but in Germany "Spargelsaison" (asparagus season) is ca. the mid-May to mid-June. Certain areas are specifically noted for that , such as the Düsseldorf area and Brandenburg.

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4690 posts

Spargelzeit is the term for asparagus season, literally "asparagus time." It starts at the very beginning of May/end April and lasts until late May in this part of Austria. Many probably know that it is the white asparagus that is traditional, boiled and served with hollandaise sauce. I prefer the green, myself.

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12886 posts

Maybe when the season starts and ends depends upon the region in Austria and Germany. They told me in Berlin and Brandenburg it starts mid-May and lasts mid June, which is true for that region.

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45 posts

Wonderful reports, Christa. It seems that my sister and I were in Vienna and Budapest around the same time as you. Although it was not our first trip to Europe, it was our first time in Vienna and Budapest, and were able to visit many of the same places.
After our first trip to Paris in 2009, we had a 'longing' to return, and have done so every year since...even if for just a few days. However, after spending a week in Budapest, we have fallen in love with it. It seems to be a kinder, gentler, cleaner "Paris."
Of course we are already planning to return Spring '18.

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2318 posts

Judithchristia--I'm hoping to return to Budapest again next May, now that I know how to get to the flea market and what wondrous (and cheap!) things are there it's like catnip. I was there in late May last year and the weather was perfect, and I discovered the Museum Festival entirely by accident and want to see that again--3rd weekend in May on the grounds of the National Museum (not the Gallery on Castle Hill), all kinds of museums from all over Hungary have exhibits, craft demonstrations, wonderful handmade items to buy, a book sale, music and food. It was free and attended mainly by the locals and I just loved it.

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3024 posts

Christa,

Thanks for an excellent report. I really enjoyed reading it. I've enjoyed my 3 visits to Vienna, but they have all been short stops (1-3 days) -- hope to spend a longer amount of time there someday...