One day in Austria: Christmas in Vienna

Vienna, Austria; even the name sounds delectable, romantic, and down right beautiful, and it really was.

I recently had a bit of a Viennese Whirl, with a day trip, where I spent 8 hours, admiring the beautiful architecture, drinking mulled wine and shopping in Christmas markets, getting a bit lost (as is standard in my travelling life), and riding on one of the oldest Ferris Wheels in the World. There is a lot of cram in, in one day, and it just isn’t enough, so I will return.

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Here is what you can get up to in the city of Vienna, if you just have a day:

History, and culture:

Vienna is possibly one of the most beautiful cities, I have been to in Europe – at least in the past 5 years or so; and I have been to Belgium, Spain, Italy and France during those years. It just seeps out beauty; even corner you turn, there is another beautiful period and grand building.

During your time in Vienna, I’d recommend having a look around the following historical sites:

Kunsthistorisches Museum (meaning museum of art and history). This building was built in the late 1800’s and from the outside it incredibly beautiful. We didn’t have time to go inside on our trip, but the gardens surrounding it, as lovely to wander around.

A visit will cost you 14 Euros, but this also gives you admission to the Neue Burg, where we spent a lot of time wandering around.

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The Neue Berg 

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The Neue Berg, is also known as the Hofburg (or Imperial) Palace, and you can get inside between 10am and 6pm to view with the 14 euro ticket to the history and arts museum, as mentioned above.

During our visit, we spent a fair bit of time outside, marveling at the architecture, (and the man playing with giant bubbles!)

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This complex is huge – a 19th century palace, and boosts hundreds of rooms, housing armory and historical items, as well as a huge library. If you are under 19 you can get in here for free. You can get both a tram or metro here, to the museum quarter, not far from the city centre and Opera House.

The Neue Berg, Vienna, Austria
The Neue Berg, Vienna, Austria

The Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) 

The Opera House has daily evening, and matinee performances, you can check the schedule and buy tickets online. The building from the outside, and from the sneak through the front door, looked incredible, but we were not allowed in, as there was a performance happening, for which we did not have tickets.

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St Stephan’s Cathedral

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After arriving out of Stephanplatz metro station, this building is one of the first you will see. You can go on guided tours, which cost anything from 5 to 17 euro. It does still function as a place of worship though, so if you are visiting, be careful not to disturb the services happening.

Shopping

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Christmas markets

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During our visit, we came across 4 areas which had Christmas markets set up, they varied in size, but each of them gave us a real feeling of Christmas. We spent so long at the Christmas market near Neue Berg, that we missed our last bus to tour the city.

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There were a variety of things for sale, but we were mainly content to walk around drinking mulled wine, and viewing the pretty lights. I ended up buying a new Chistmas tree decoration and some biscuits.

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Tours

If you are short on time, like we were; it is a good idea to jump on the hop on hop off buses. However, word of warning – check the schedule! As we only arrived in Vienna by lunchtime, we decided about 2pm that we would do a tour, and the buses (in the winter) finished about 5pm, so in the end up, we paid 15 euro each to be driven one stop from the Opera House to Neue Berg, which we could have easily walked. We were intending to do the full tour, which would have taken us to about 10 of the sights in the city. Poor planning, and a loss of money, but I would return to do it, the buses have free WiFi and a free audio guide, so are worth it, if you get the timings right.

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The oldest Ferris Wheel in the World

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One attraction that my sister and I were looking forward to visiting was the Wiener Riesenrad. A ferris wheel constructed in the late 1800’s and rebuilt on two occassions, due to damage (in the World War, and by Fire). The Wheel has 15 wooden Gondola’s, which can be hired out privately for a romantic dinner date, or you can use it with other members of the public. The cost to have a ride on the Riesenrad is 9 Euro.

My sister and I on the Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna
My sister and I on the Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna

How to get to Vienna

Vienna is the capital and largest city in the country, and is has great transport links to get you there. After booking a spontaneous trip to Bratislava in Slovakia, my sister and I realised how close Vienna was; so on our second day in Eastern Europe, we took another spontaneous trip, to Vienna; by train this took 1 hour, and cost 17 Euro return.

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You can also fly into Vienna International Airport from various European airports. It also ha connections to countries as far as Asia, and the Middle East.

In seven hours in the city, we managed to explore several histoical sights, get lost, miss buses, ride on an old ferris wheel, shop at Christmas markets and ride on the Metro for free*

*We couldn’t find the pay point for the metro, and noone ever asked us for tickets, so our journeys around the city cost us nothing!

I’ll definately be returning to this beautiful city one day, there is just so much more left to explore.

“When will you realize, Vienna Waits for you?” – Billy Joel 

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