Five things we love about Vienna

Vienna was the second stop on our #GwoFamily Euro trip, and the city I was second most excited about visiting. While my family and I had an enjoyable time in Vienna, it was not the city we loved most when all was said and done. All was not lost, though! Here are the highlights – what we loved most about Vienna – that made our time there worth it.

Vienna Austria | Volksgarten

Vienna Austria | Volksgarten

Free wifi. I’m not talking about the wifi in our GowithOh apartment; I’m talking about free wifi throughout the city. There are Freewave hotspots everywhere. As a blogger with a social media obsession obligation, the reliable connections made sharing and reporting so much more convenient and effective, as I was able to do so in real time.

Spanish Riding School. We were lucky to have a privately guided, behind-the-scenes look at this historic and elegant institution. We visited the horse stables, getting up close to the horses, and seeing how well they’re cared for. This type of tour may not be an option for everyone, but I believe a visit to the Spanish Riding School is a must for all visitors to Vienna. The Lipizzaner stallions are stunning, majestic creatures, and it is fascinating to see such natural power and grace in motion. If an evening performance does not work with your schedule or budget, at the very least make it a point to observe the morning training exercises, which are open to the public.

Vienna Austria | Spanish Riding School

Photo by Ren van Bakel | Courtesy of Spanish Riding School

Cafe culture. “Viennese” and “coffee house” just go together, kind of the same way “German” and “beer garden” do. Experiencing the Viennese cafe culture was something I excitedly looked forward to. Knowing they are the hub of community activity, where news is shared and patrons are encouraged to sit and linger for a while, I figured the coffee houses would be my best bet for a glimpse of real Viennese life. Then, I learned that late-afternoon cafe visits for Apfelstrudel and Mélange are the norm, and suddenly Viennese life became a whole lot sweeter. Lucia was confused by the routine we developed of having dessert BEFORE dinner, but she didn’t dare question it. Because of this, she thinks Vienna is the best place in the world.

Vienna Austria | Julius Meinl

Vienna Austria | Julius Meinl

Griechenbeisl. Since we’re talking about food, I’ll mention this historic inn and restaurant next. Griechenbeisl dates back to 1443 and, through the centuries, has hosted the likes of Beethoven and Mark Twain. A beisl is a cozy and comfortable tavern, restaurant, or inn, that serves hearty and traditional Viennese meals. Griechenbeisl is housed in a lovely vine-covered building on Fleischmarkt near Schwedenplatz, and the interior – with its dark wood accents – has a pleasantly rustic feel to it. Despite it being a Friday during Lent, this Catholic girl ordered a steak (which I NEVER do, even on non-Lenten Fridays!), served with grilled scallops, asparagus risotto, and black truffles. Lucia was tired of having schnitzel every day (I know, right? What’s wrong with that kid?!), so our server graciously offered to ask the chef if he would make a special chicken dish for her. The chef agreed and Lucia was thrilled. We just loved everything about Griechenbeisl and, if we ever return to Vienna, we definitely will dine there again.

Vienna Austria | Griechenbeisl

Schloß Schönbrunn. There is no shortage of palaces in Vienna. We did not visit all of them but of the ones we did see, Schloß Schönbrunn tops our list. This 1,441-room, former imperial summer residence is one of Vienna’s most popular attractions. There’s no denying that Schönbrunn is gorgeous inside, but we enjoyed our time outside the palace even more. Our Spring visit coincided with Schönbrunn’s Ostermarkt (Easter Market). The grounds were transformed into a pastel-colored, retail wonderland. Wood-slatted merchant stalls formed a border around clusters of Easter egg-shaped chairs where patrons sat and enjoyed wine, beer, pastries, and the sunshine. Since it was such a beautiful day, we paid a few extra Euros and let Lucia run around the playground that’s behind the palace. It was bustling with children and families, laughter and little voices. One of my favorite things to do when traveling with Lucia is letting her loose on playgrounds to meet the local kids and interact with them. It’s even better when the kids don’t speak English because then they and Lucia have to figure out different ways to communicate. It’s fascinating to see how their little minds work. Well, this playground experience at Schönbrunn was no different. Lucia befriended a little girl who looked to be a few years older than she (see photo below), who did not speak English. They played for a long while and when it was time for us to go, I don’t know who was the saddest: Lucia, her new friend, or I. After the playground, we ran around the adjacent maze, letting Lucia lead the way. But even with all this activity and excitement, the highlight at Schönbrunn was the kindermuseum (children’s museum). It’s completely interactive and provides a glimpse into the lives of the imperial children. Young visitors can dress up in royal robes and gowns, pretend to be princes and princesses, sit on a throne or in a horse-drawn carriage and have their pictures taken. (Adults can get in on the action, too!) The museum even has its own mascot, a friendly little ghost named Poldi. I made the mistake of telling Lucia about Poldi days before our trip and she became obsessed! From that point on, it was all she could talk about. She even renamed him: Ghostly. I like Poldi better but not as much as the name The Working Dad gave the little fella, which was Frederick von Scary Pants. All three of us just had such a fun time at Schönbrunn and the kindermuseum. We have lots of happy memories from our visit to last us a long time. (Read Lucia’s blog post about the kindermuseum here!)

Vienna Austria | Schloß Schönbrunn

Hard to believe that Vienna landed at the bottom of our list of favorite cities from this trip, right? It’s no knock against the city; it just had some stiff competition. It’s still a beautiful, historic, and lyrical city, and I’m thrilled to have experienced it with my family.

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20 Responses to Five things we love about Vienna

  1. Susan August 14, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    You had me at Apfelstrudel! Never been but on my list!
    Susan recently posted…A Bit of Paradise: Vacation, Puglia StyleMy Profile

  2. Anne August 14, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    I haven’t been to Vienna since I was a kid, and you’ve made me both want to visit it now and later again with my family. 🙂
    Anne recently posted…Remembering Robin Williams at the Mrs. Doubtfire HouseMy Profile

  3. Amber August 14, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    We only spent about 24 hours in Vienna, but I was not a huge fan. In addition to everything being so expensive, I thought the architecture was too over the top, just saccharine, like one too many wedding cakes lined up one after another. I enjoyed myself much more in surrounding European cities that seemed more “real” like Ljubljana!
    Amber recently posted…The Business of Blogging – BlogHouse ChicagoMy Profile

  4. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer August 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    I got sick during my trip to Vienna and I missed out on so much 🙁 I would have loved to see the Volksgarten it looks lovely!

  5. Nick (Nick's Travel Bug) August 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    The museums were my favorite part about Vienna. Hunderwasserhaus was a social development project that was quite interesting. Also, the Kunsthaus Museum.
    Nick (Nick’s Travel Bug) recently posted…FotoFriday: A Foggy View of the Golden Gate BridgeMy Profile

  6. Cathy Sweeney August 16, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    If Vienna was at the bottom of the top 5, I can’t wait to see 1-4! The cafes, food, architecture — all wonderful. Your meal at Griechenbeisl looks totally mouthwatering. We visited in winter and got to enjoy the Christmas market in front of Schönbrunn – a highlight of the visit.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted…From Shoes to Sex: 14 Intriguing Museums in North AmericaMy Profile

  7. Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds August 18, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    I wasn’t a huge fan of Vienna either. It seemed a bit too over the top for me, and way too expensive. Glad you still enjoyed your time though, even if it wasn’t at the top of your list! And so glad Lucia got the chicken she so wanted 🙂
    Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds recently posted…Playing Tourist in my Home State: Yosemite National ParkMy Profile

  8. Traveling Ted August 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    Coffee and wi-fi is a travel blogger’s dream, so I am intrigued from the beginning. I have only been to Vienna for an afternoon. I had a Eurail Pass and met up with a high school buddy for a day. I would love to get back.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…A ladyboy waiting for a Bangkok trainMy Profile

  9. Will Castillo August 18, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Vienna was not a highlight for me while in Austria but just like beauty many other things are in the eye of the beholder.
    Will Castillo recently posted…Bogotá: A Hunted Walk On A Rainy DayMy Profile

  10. KarolinaPatryk travelling couple August 19, 2014 at 2:27 am #

    Wow! We didn’t know that Vienna has free wi-fi everywhere.
    Thanks for sharing this information and for these beautiful pictures 🙂

  11. Lance | Trips By Lance August 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I “think” it’s OK for Catholics to have meat on Fridays when traveling. That’s really cool that wi-fi is so available. The more cities do this the more they will rise to the top for visitors.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted…Join the Fight With ALS Ice Bucket ChallengeMy Profile

  12. Lucy August 20, 2014 at 5:58 am #

    We loved the Schloß Schönbrunn and the Riding School too (and my husband took full advantage of the wifi to watch the cricket on his iPad in the park opposite our apartment one day when it was too hot to move!) – I did enjoy Vienna but can see why it might seem a bit over the top. I hope to go back and compare it to some of the other cities in Austria sometime.
    Lucy recently posted…Swiss scenic trains – and the DIY alternativesMy Profile

  13. Pola (Jetting Around) August 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    Alright, we have had a conversation about Vienna, so I’m glad you like SOME things about it. 😉 As you can imagine, my heart skipped a bit looking at that Julius Meinl coffee (I need to make the pilgrimage to Meinl am Graben!) and I hope the beautiful historic tavern has a thing or two for vegetarians.
    Pola (Jetting Around) recently posted…Win a trip to Cartagena, Colombia from LAN Airlines [Ends 9/4/2014]My Profile

  14. Aggy August 27, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Vienna looks amazing and the things you did in the city just made me wanna go there immediately. I’ve been to Austria but skipped Vienna for some reason, it’s a mistake I have to redeem one day!
    Aggy recently posted…On Friendships and Moving AroundMy Profile

  15. Lisa Goodmurphy September 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Vienna is a city that I want to visit so badly but it always seems to be trumped by another destination. Partly because I can’t decide if I want to travel around Austria or if I want to take a Danube river cruise. It sounds like you had a lovely time there – I can think of at least a couple members of my family who would be in favour of dessert before dinner!

  16. Bali Attractions September 16, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    In Vienna, the coffee house isn’t just a hangout: it’s an institution.

  17. Sarah Ebner September 17, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Interesting post. My daughter went to Vienna with my parents last year and absolutely loved it (she also wrote a post on 5 things you must do in Vienna, funnily enough). I also think it’s a gorgeous, beautiful city, but not a patch on London, of course…

  18. Jolanta aka Casual Traveler January 25, 2015 at 7:22 am #

    Free wifi throughout the city? Oooh, my husband and my son are going to LOVE that! And I bet my daughter will love the children’s museum at the Schonbrunn.
    Jolanta aka Casual Traveler recently posted…Harvard University’s Old YardMy Profile

  19. Sharon Blake November 9, 2015 at 8:09 am #

    Great post! I love the free wi-fi in Vienna , too. I moved one year ago and I was really pleasant surprised by this fact. There are some spots with phone chargers , too. Thank you for sharing this great article! Greetings!

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