For starters, Vienna is probably the cleanest European city we have ever been to. I can't think of another city that comes close - at least not yet as far as major cities go. I mean, I would eat off those streets. Well, staying clear from the paths of horse-drawn carriages; though they add unmistakable charm trotting through the cobblestone streets.
We stayed at the grand and overall incredible Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof Wien located in the heart of the old city. You will be within 10-15 minutes walking distance from nearly everything, and situated on one of the cleanest streets with all sorts of lively shops, the walk to anywhere is so enjoyable. Also, if you're into jaw-dropping breakfast displays, look no further than the Steigenberger. Two years later, we still talk about their breakfast spread (and we are so bummed we were too busy eating and didn't get any pictures)!
Visit their hotel website here.
Austria's Globenmuseum der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Globe Museum of the National Library) is an extremely unique and interesting exhibition about everything to do with geography, astronomy, and cartography.
This particular museum specializes in globes and associated instruments prior to 1850, with a multitude of specialized terrestrial and celestial globes from the 16th century. In fact, the oldest terrestrial globe in Austria is located here - the only one of its kind - dating back to 1536. The entire building is also just so elaborate.
Find out more information and book tickets at their website here.
On our way to find some lunch, we stumbled upon St. Stephen's cathedral, one of Vienna's iconic landmarks, and the most important Gothic church in the city dating back to the 12th century. Though you do tend to "stumble" upon its full grandiosity, you are teased by its tallest spire that peeks through narrow side streets as you approach closer to the large city square.
St. Stephen's cathedral is just on the edge of Stephansplatz main square in Vienna's city center. We were fortunate to find a cool restaurant that would take us for lunch without reservations. Fabio's was just down the street from the main square, and surprisingly not touristy. We'd 100% go back! Check out their site here.
We opted for some light dishes with tasty greens, but that bread platter was also gone by the time we finished. This was our European wedding trip, so I still had a dress to fit into in a couple of weeks! Eeek. (Another reason why we took the 16 flights of stairs up and down to our hotel room each time while staying in the grand Steigenberger!)
And to my even greater surprise, as we wandered the streets, we came across this amazing, old, and quirky bookstore nestled into the cracks of a tiny side street. Behold, Shakespeare & Company
This bookstore is the thing that readers dream of. Towering shelves of books, winding staircases lined with books, and nooks and crannies filled with toppling books. All of the best little bookstore vibes. Amidst the organized chaos, the owner new exactly where to find the exact Harry Potter book I was in search of. It was such a treat, and a great addition to my HP collection from abroad.
Okay, onto today's main event. If we are able, we try to find unique and interesting experiences in each destination that the average tourist may not know about. We were excited to learn about the Habsburg Imperial Crypt (Kaisergruft) in Vienna.
This crypt holds the remains of 143 Habsburg royalty, one of the major imperial European dynasties until their downfall around World War I. With each death of the royal family, an elaborate sarcophagus was created to be placed in the Imperial Crypt beneath the Capuchin Church. A seemingly small and unsuspecting church when we entered, the crypt below was nothing we could have imagined.
All of the sarcophagi are metal, except one made of stone, making their ornate designs even more incredible. Balthasar Ferdinand Moll, the royal sculptor, is the mastermind behind it all.
We simply showed up at the church, bought tickets at the door, and waited maybe 15 minutes to be part of the next group to go in. It was a self-guided tour, but I'm sure they do guided tours as well. Learn more about it here.
Day 2: Visit the Sigmund Freud Museum. And this isn't just a museum, this is Freud's actual apartment where he lived, and of course, his famous office.
There is a sign outside indicating you are at Freud's practice, but no greeter, no ticket booth. So we wandered into this unsuspecting apartment building. Still nothing. We kept going, climbing the old, stone steps up several flights. No one else really in the halls. Usually museums like these are bustling. Or at least someone else in the vicinity.
And then, we reach Freud's waiting room. His actual waiting room.
So we approach the door. Push, pull. It's not budging. We stand awkwardly for a few seconds. Are we being watched? I'm genuinely confused, but we can hear people chatting happily on the other side. After a bit more awkwardness, I test the door again. Nothing. But then, is that a legitimate doorbell? I push it, and ZERRRRRRRRRR ZERRRR. That classic, harsh 1930's office buzzer screams out.
And the grand, iconic door to Sigmund Freud's office creeks open for us. A cool touch, once you figure it out... And maybe Freud is still testing the human psyche today.
We then entered into the former living quarters of the founder of psychoanalysis. Freud lived and worked in this apartment from 1891 until 1938, when he was forced to flee to England. The museum slowly came to be in the 1970s, and with the help of his daughter, Anna Freud, many of his original furnishings, antiques, and first edition works, were preserved and put on display.
There is also an interesting room showing a biography/documentary/home video of Freud, his life, his work, and his family in the 1930's, all narrated by Anna Freud. It gives you a unique glimpse into not only his life, but life in general in the 1930's.
The last few rooms hold additional photos, news and media clippings, different works by Freud, and other important and insightful pieces of this history. It is such a well-thought out display, and an intriguing portrayal of his life, theories, and overall practice. I would highly recommend a visit! Check out their website here.
Our third and final day was spent mainly wandering around the city, visiting small shops, people watching, snacking. We had two main activities for the day: visit Vienna's famous Naschmarkt, and explore the actual apartment where Mozart lived while in Vienna.
Vienna's Naschmarkt is the largest and most popular market in the city. It's about 1.5 kilometers long (almost a mile) and has been in operation since the 16th century. What originally started out as a central distribution for milk bottles, has expanded into 120+ vendors selling fruits, veggies, tea, baked goods, other trinkets, etc. And the market not only provides fresh goods daily, but also hosts a plethora of amazing and diverse restaurants.
Growing up being classically trained on the violin, I was familiar with Mozart. I could recognize and play some of his most well-known works, but that was the extent to which I knew of him... Until Vienna.
You can visit the Mozarthaus where Mozart and his family lived from 1784 to 1787. Of interesting note, in this apartment is where he composed the world-famous opera "Le Nozze di Figaro" among several others. It is the most elaborate residence that Mozart ever occupied, and the only one still intact today.
Admittedly, the apartment is a little bare. There is some furniture throughout the rooms, but the museum is dedicated to being just that... a museum. There are a few interactive musical exhibits, some original works, and a whole lot of information. If you are looking for something else to see while in Vienna, meandering through Mozart's grandest apartment is a nice way to spend an hour or two.