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Presenting ‘Vienna, Austria’ according to my dear friend Noelle Liszkay
When Vienna waved its magic wand. I recently watched a film where they prescribed cities around the world a single word. I didn’t even hesitate with my word for Vienna – magical. Absolutely magical. As soon as I touched down, it felt like I had stepped into my very own fairy tale and was walking into my happily ever after. Vienna breathes love and light and you feel so alive and somewhat proud to be part of a setting so beautiful that you cannot wait to find out what is around the corner. Believe me, no matter what street you take or what turn you make, you will be met by some form of beauty that will make you gasp and immediately put your hand up to your chest as you stare in awe at the city that is renowned for its music and art.
In my two short weeks, I did and saw so much – everything was a highlight from seeing the ImPulstranz Dance Festival, to swimming at the palace to eating brunch at the Naschmarkt, getting lost and then surprisingly coming upon The Opera House, to falling asleep in Burg Garten. An impromptu road trip to the outlying lake regions and popping over to Hungary to see my folks — all of this made for an amazing experience. I felt so alive and free.
Vienna has been voted the best city to live in more than once, and I can totally understand why. My sister has lived in Vienna for six years now. It was meant to be a stopover for her as she made her way to Germany to start a new life and, well, she never left. I have visited Vienna before but never in the summer and though it’s still amazing in the winter, it is even more charming in the summer. I cannot describe everything as Vienna offers so much, but the one bit of advice I will give anyone visiting Vienna is – GO GET LOST! Get a map, don’t get a map but just get out there.
1. Adopt The ‘Love All’ Culture
What struck me the most was how much the people in Vienna LOVE life. They really live life to the fullest, eating the best food, drinking the best wine and beer, and really enjoying the outdoors. It was summer and they made the most of the blue skies and sunny days by lazing about in the lush green parks, eating and drinking at the many markets, swimming in the palace swimming pool or simply going for a leisurely jog or stroll around the city. They know how to take a vacation during the 2-week period when restaurant and shop owners go off to relax and recuperate, leaving citydwellers to their own devices.
The sidewalks transform into sidewalk cafes as all the restaurants move their tables and chairs outside for people to sit at and eat, drink, and be merry. There is so much love and appreciation for the simple things. A cup of coffee, a piece of pie, real homemade ice cream. You are forced to slow down and really take everything in. The day after I arrived, my sister took me for a walk around the city, and we ended up at this amazing deli. We bought some beer and stood outside enjoying every last sip when the owner came out and gave us a free dish of salted peppers and stood outside with us and chatted to us while customers went in and out. They are interested in the world around them and they really want to know about you, plus those were the best damn peppers I had ever tasted.
2. Sink Your Teeth Into Their Fabulous Local Dishes
One word of advice: if you are trying to eat healthy and get in shape, your diet will die the moment you arrive in Vienna. It is a feast for your taste buds – you just have to try everything! Vienna has some of the best pastries and bread I have ever tasted. However, the one dish I highly recommend and that you have to try is… *drumroll please* The Wiener Schnitzel. Yes this simple dish is a must! Have it with some potato salad or sauerkraut – it is ALL that. The moment I arrived in Vienna that is all I wanted and when I finally got to have it I really savored that moment as it was cooked to such perfection and presented in such a way that I did not want the meal to end. Schintzel washed down with some of the local beer and I was the happiest tourist in the whole of Vienna. Vienna has many delightful delis selling salami, cheese, frikadels, and pretzels to name a few things. Your mouth waters all day as you walk through the city and get a waft of apfelstrudel (apple strudel) and kaiserschmarm (shredded pancakes with fruit compote.) Vienna has developed its own regional cuisine, so eat, eat a lot and just buy bigger pants when you get home!
3. Take On The Art Scene at Museumsquartier
Vienna is all about art and music and this exciting art complex near the Imperial Palace offers not only renowned museums such as The Leopold Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Kunsthalle but also an array of restaurants, cafés and bars. In the summer, crazy cool “couches” take over the courtyard and you can see people just lounging around discussing art or just catching a snooze. My favorite thing was the music wall. There is a wall that when you touch it, it makes music so you can “play with the art” too. The motto of this Quartier is: See and be seen, and above all, enjoy. Oh, and I did just that.
4. Hear the Bells Chime at St. Stephen’s Cathedral
This beautiful church is conveniently situated in the middle of all the main shopping streets and great eating spots, so you can do something cultural and then go shopping or grab something to eat afterwards. It has become the symbol of Vienna. Built in the Gothic era, this majestic place of worship has become the most important Gothic structure in all of Vienna. It is the burial place for many important historical figures such as Emperor Friedrich III. It also houses the well-known bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, called the Pummerin, which is located in the 68.3 meter-tall north tower. It is the second largest, free-swinging, chiming church bell in Europe. DING-DONG-DANG!
5. Find Some Fresh Pickings at Naschmarkt
This is Vienna’s best-known outdoor market. Looking over the Wien River, it has around 120 market stands and restaurants offering food ranging from Viennese to Indian, Vietnamese to Italian. It is the perfect meeting point and place to have first, second, and perennial date nights with anyone you so wish. My sister and I went for brunch there one day and ended up having eyes bigger than our stomachs. We ended up ordering two brunches because the food was too good to resist. This year it is celebrating 100 years and they are having a big party in September so if you are around…
- Go for a swim at the palace pool in Schnbrunn Palace, the former summer imperial residence.
- Catch a free music concert at Karlskirche church, an 18th-century baroque church located in the Karlplatz district.
- Don’t forget the parks! There are so many beautiful parks! My favourite one was Burg Garten, which has a statue of Mozart – I dig the guy so if you do too, go say hey to him and then fall asleep under a tree.But the one thing that really stands out for me is, my sister took me on a trip just outside the city up to the woods and vineyards.
- Take a short, picturesque drive to the little town of Grinzing in the 19th district of Vienna. It totally took my breath away. The quaint houses were so beautiful, the cobble streets so inviting, and everything just looked perfect in its place. We started with a bench picnic of delicious coffee and pastries and then headed up into the mountains for a hike in the surrounding woodlands.
How To Get Around
I was lucky I was armed with my sister and a great map she had bought for me which now looks like the dog ate it. Having a local helps out a ton but even if you don’t have a local, Vienna is the easiest place I have ever traveled around. Everything makes sense, signposts are everywhere, and everyone speaks English so you can just stop and ask someone for help, or take your map flapping around in the wind as a sign of struggle and come rushing to your aid. They have every form of transport available at your disposal from buses, to trains, to subways, to bicycles. My favorite however were the trams. I loved seeing such an old mode of transport still in use and they are so effective. You can hop on a tram on almost every corner and street in Vienna and they run every 2-3 minutes. Transport is also relatively cheap, I got a week pass for only 16 euros and I could go on any form of transport – bus, subway or tram.
Vienna is kind of like a circle, all the streets meet up in a central point or at a landmark like St. Stephen’s Cathedral or The Opera House so it is literally impossible to get lost. Sure going around in circles may be a bummer, but even that presents a silver lining as you’ll just dive deeper and deeper into the city. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by its buildings and sculptures. And rest assured, you will always pop out somewhere that you recognize. That is why I say go get lost – the city swallows you up but brings you back to a place where you can start all over again or just go home.
The Final Word
I left Vienna, Austria reluctantly, I have never felt so low leaving a place before – it stole my heart, it waved its wand and cast its spell on me. I will be back and this time it will be for good. I know why it is the best city in the world, you will just have to visit it, to see why yourself. But be warned, you might just end up staying, my sister did. 😊
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Noelle Liszkay is a globetrotter. From South Africa to South Korea to… wherever. She took a risk, packed up her life, left her career, and decided to go on an adventure. Almost three years later, she’s been to eight different countries, fallen in love with teaching, discovered that she’s an explorer at heart and will not stop until she sees it all. She adores the world and all its people. She absolutely loves indulging in different cuisines and mingling with great people. She’ll never say no to a great cup of coffee or a plate of French macarons. Noelle is excited for the next step and has no fear restarting up in a new place. Follow her on Instagram at @noelleteacher.