When you only have 24 hours to see all that is Vienna, Austria, this self-guided walking tour will give you a good taste of life in this high society city, as well as a good bit of fresh, Viennese air.
Morning walk at Schönbrunn Palace
Originally a hunting lodge/grounds turned summer palace of the Hapsburg’s – the ruling family of Austria for almost 700 years – Schönbrunn is a spectacular sight. The sunny-yellow Baroque style palace holds over 1,400 rooms within, including an opera theater, café, and kid’s museum. Only 40 of the Rococo style palace rooms are open to the public and with two different tours you can opt to see half or all of the 40 rooms. But don’t be fooled, while the palace within is interesting enough, if the weather is nice, take advantage of the sights to behold in the Baroque gardens and Schönbrunn park. The park is acres and acres of woods, perfectly trimmed tree-lined dirt paths, hidden fountains, statues, labyrinths, gardens and flowers, and the world-class Schönbrunn zoo – the oldest zoo in Europe. Take a moderate hike up to the Gloriette and get a royal view of Vienna.
Naschmarkt Picnic at Volksgarten
When the Vienna River was covered up in 1898, the Naschmarkt – a world class market filled with reasonable eateries, exotic far-away foods, and off-the-market goods – was born. Be adventurous and make a picnic out of the wide variety of meats and cheeses, wines and chocolates, fruits and vinegars – then take it all to the lovely Volksgarten. Literally the “People’s garden”, the beautiful, rose-filled imperial garden sits in the middle of six must-see architecturally unique buildings in Vienna – the impressive Rathaus (City Hall) built in the Neo-Gothic style; the Classical Burgtheater; the Neo-Greek Parliament with statue of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom; the Museum’s Quarter comprised of the twin Natural History and Art History Museums, and the Museum of Modern Art; and the Hofburg, the Imperial central palace and government building of Vienna. If you don’t have time to make the trip out to Schönbrunn, the Hofburg is an equal substitution.
An afternoon on the Kohlmarkt and Graben leading to Stephansdom
Walk towards the Hofburg from the Volksgarten and hang a left when you get to the horse and carriage-lined street. Pass through to In der Burg Square and out to Michaeler Platz – which holds a tiny portion of the original Roman foundations of Vienna – and crossover to the Kohlmarkt. With designer shops such as Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Demel (the ultimate Viennese chocolate shop) and Tiffany it’s a nice place to dream about the over-priced niceties displayed in the windows. At the end of the Kohlmarkt take a right and you are now in the Graben, or “ditch” – formerly the moat for the Roman military camp. In the middle of the ditch is the rather tall Trinity Column, a memorial of the plague that took hold of Vienna in the Middle Ages. Beyond the Graben is the most well known attraction of Vienna, St. Stephen’s Church. This massive Gothic cathedral still stands as a proud symbol of Vienna after numerous wars and struggles. Mozart died here in 1791 and it is the national church of Austria, most recently visited by his Holiness, the Pope in 2007.
Evening on Kärtnerstrasse, Dinner and an Opera
Kärtnerstrasse is “main street” Vienna. A “foot zone” (no cars allowed here), this street is a haven for tourist and ritzy shopping, Viennese cafes, and street performers. Any of the side streets will provide you with a great dining or coffee house experience. A short walk down this famous street will lead you to the world-class National Opera which boasts over 300 productions per year and is one of the most important opera houses in Europe. The building seems to have a haunted past – not only did Allied bombs destroy the opera house during WWII, but it was so criticized after being built that the two architects responsible for the building both died in the same year (one from heart attack and one committed suicide) from the stress. Such illustrious singers and conductors as Gustav Mahler, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and Richard Strauss performed and made the Vienna State Opera a shimmering example of great opera. Wind up your visit in a truly Viennese style by seeing a production and going for Sachertorte at the world famous Sacher Hotel directly behind the opera.