Our roving reporter Sian Collins takes in the sights and sounds of modern Europe in a series of guides for those looking to plan an enlightening journey… On a budget.
Looking at the grandiose, imposing buildings, one could be tricked into thinking that this is a city for the rich, but don’t let that fool you. There are plenty of places to visit and things to do that won’t break the proverbial bank.
Vienna is home to two of the former Imperial family’s residences, Schoenbrunn Palace and Hofburg Palace. These can be toured either with an audio-guide or a knowledgeable person for rent (also known as a tour guide). If you want to avoid palace overkill, don’t visit both. The Schoenbrunn is a far more impressive building, and with its vast ornamental gardens, it has the feel of a country estate, despite being in an urban area. These gardens are open to the public for free, and well worth a visit, especially the faux-Roman ruins hiding amongst the trees. The palace itself contains over a thousand sumptuously-furnished rooms, forty of which are available for viewing with the Grand Tour ticket (€ 13.20 for 19-25 year olds with a valid international student card). Follow in the footsteps of emperors and empresses; take in the painted ceiling and panelled walls of the Grand Hall; and try to contain your excitement when you visit the room in which Mozart played his first concert as a child.
- Walk to the hill behind the Schoenbrunn where stands the Gloriette, an 18th century structure which now holds a café but boasts excellent views over the palace and the surrounding Viennese streets. http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en.html
St Peter’s Church
Tucked in between hotels and restaurants, this green-domed parish church hides a breath-taking gilded interior, gold statues, painted frescoes, the most fantastic ceiling artwork, and a splendidly-decorated grand organ. If you only visit one church on your travels, make it this one.
- Keep an eye out for the incredibly ornate Baroque pulpit, sculpted in the 18th century by Austrian artist Matthias Steinl, who also designed the dome. http://www.peterskirche.at/home/
Vienna is chock-a-block with museums of all varieties. Enthusiastic about spherical maps? The world’s only Globe Museum houses over 240 specimens which chart the Earth, the Moon, Mars and the cosmos. Egyptian paper more your cup of tea? The Papyrus Museum presents the largest collection in the world. The Museums Quartier is a cluster of art exhibitions, and with the Sisi Museum’s display of Empress Elisabeth’s personal belongings, the Imperial Treasury, the Austrian Theatre Museum, the Austrian Film Museum amongst others, there’s almost definitely something to ignite interest in everyone.
- The Austrian National Library, which owns and maintains many of the museums, opens its State Hall to the public. Probably the most beautiful library you’ll ever have the privilege to see. http://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/sights/imperial/national-library
The Unmissable – Café Central. Even on the most frugal of trips, you can splash out on occasion. Vienna is famous for its coffee houses, and Café Central is a particularly grand example. At almost €5 for a coffee, and €6.90 for Viennese chocolate cake or appel strudel, this is a luxury experience, but the high-class environment and delicious fare is well worth it. It gets very busy though, so try to visit at an off-peak time. http://www.palaisevents.at/en/cafecentral.html
The Probably Missable – Trzesniewski sandwich shop. This little restaurant is famous for its range of sandwiches, and very boastful of them, but forget all images of hearty bread-and-filling constructions – these are finger sandwiches, and are sold at a very steep price considering their size. https://www.trzesniewski.at/
Coming Soon: Europe on a Budget – Paris. Click here for more in the Europe on a Budget Series.
Header Image Rights; R. Halfpaap