Exploring Vienna for the first time

It turns out that three days in Vienna isn’t enough to scratch the surface of this gorgeous city, with its imperial heritage and jaw dropping architecture. Sprawling boulevards and avenues provide wonderfully theatrical backdrops to city living. We were lucky enough to have three days there this week, and I’ll share a couple of the sites that we went to in future posts. The weather was wonderful, if unexpectedly hot for May.

It’s a city which wears its heritage well. The home of Mozart, Klimt and Freud celebrates art and music (and cake!) at every turn. Museums abound and the wonderful opera house had just started its summer season of opera in the square. We need to come back with a plan to enjoy (at least) one of these performances.

Tbe Staatsoper stands at the centre of the 19th Century City. This was a time when the Imperial rulers expanded the city to form the majestic Ringstrasse and remove the city’s medieval walled fortifications. The Gothic StefansDom is a central point in that old city. It’s a good bit older than the opera. Building began in the 14th Century. It’s undergoing a clean up at the minute, but just look at that beautiful tiled roof! The Rathaus or city hall is neo-Gothic, but dates from the 19th Century.

Horse drawn fiakers provided olde-worlde charm and added to the transport options.

Building styles also vary throughout the city, from that quirky late 20th Century university library (top right above) to Jugendstil installations like the Secession (sadly currently under scaffold) and the Karlsplatz pavilions designed by Otto Wagner.  There was a real nod to Greece and Rome in buildings like the Parliament building.  The Karilskirche was near where we stayed, and it had been obviously influenced by Trajan’s Column.  Its columns share the story of St Charles Borremeo. We just made it in time for a  peek inside at the spectacular Baroque dome just as the last service of the day was taking place.

I don’t usually share pics of food, but with Sacher Torte and Vienna’s gorgeous cafes (see Ishita’s post on Italophilia for a great round-up to whet your appetite further) it would have been rude not to snap both the food and the gorgeous interiors. Cafe Sacher, Cafe Hofburg, Museum Cafe, Cafe Sperl and Cafe Mozart all feature below. A bank holiday, which May 1 was, would seem to be a great time to visit to get a choice of seats, although my photos make them look less busy than they actually were.  Those gorgeous chandeliers made my trip to the Sacher Cafe.

I loved the little sofas and marble tables that encouraged customers to linger.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but that didn’t stop me enjoying these gorgeous coffee houses. I was glad to see Haas & Haas, a wonderful teehaus tucked in beside the Dom. Their iced tea was so welcome as the heat soared. This one’s mango, pineapple and papaya flavour! And I couldn’t not have the appropriately named Etienne choccy treat.

Vienna’s shops were also gorgeous – I sadly couldn’t think of an occasion where I’d need a dirndl combo, but the modern takes on this very traditional Austrian garment were definitely lovely to look at.

The three day Vienna Pass made sightseeing and getting around easy. We had access to some 60 attractions as well as the hop on hop off bus routes, a walking tour and a river cruise. We didn’t use most of these, but having the pass was so convenient. As a famous Austrian has said a few times, we’ll be back and, next time, we’ll make more use of public transport and continue to explore all this beautiful city has to offer.

Watch out for future posts on Schönbrunn, the Hofburg Palace, the Albertina and more.

Have you visited Vienna? What were your first impressions of this city, and what’s on your wishlist for future trips?


  1. Saschertorte was also one of the few food pictures I ever posted – gorgeous, wasn’t it! Vienna is a glorious city but it takes some stamina to see it all in 3 days. I had to miss Schonbrunn as I ran out of time in the end. But I shall go back – I hope one day soon.

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed your first visit to Vienna. I’ve been there several times. The first time I came by kayak on the Danube, and the other times by train. On my most recent visit I saw five operas at three different venues.

    • What a coincidence – I’ve just been reading your post where you talked about your opera week – it’s definitely an amazing city! Getting to Vienna by kayak must have been fun!

    • I now would love to see Vienna round December or Christmas. It must be magical. A bit like you, I hadn’t expected to like it quite so much. I had heard others saying that about Sacher Torte – I was afraid it would be just too rich for me, as lots of chocolate cake is. So I was actually pleasantly surprised 🍰!

  3. Ohh, how lovely! I can hardly believe all these photos were really taken in Vienna. One or two could easily have been from Rome. My father used to work and live in Vienna for six years decades ago and I visited him often. I was young and was more interested in the city life and concerts than in museums and history. 🙂 I liked reading in coffee shops too, taking photos around the city and shopping for books, CD’s and magazines. It was a great time. I liked the most the Hundertwasser Haus. Did you get to see it? Great photos! The ones from the coffee shops bring back the aromas. Mmmm, Vienna.

    • Thank you! I must look for Roman influence subconsciously 😁. How lovely that you got to spend time enjoying coffee and shopping in Vienna. I imagine it’s a great place to grow up in, but that it takes time to appreciate all the artistic offerings. It must be overwhelming choice. We didn’t make it to the Hunterwasser Haus – sadly just not enough time to do all that we had on our list 😁.

  4. My favourite city in the world with Dresden coming in a close second plus Riga, Tallin, Rome and Paris. Combined beautiful history, architecture and ambiance.

  5. What great pictures!!! It’s very interesting to read about my hometown. And I wonder whether I should make a story about the coffee houses. The more hidden ones. Did you see the paintings from Klimt in the Kunsthistorisches Museum the “Stairway to Klimt”? If not, read my next article about Jugendstil.

    • Thank you! You certainly live in a beautiful city. We only managed a quick hour in the Kunsthistorisches before closing time and missed so much – I need a return visit. I’ll definitely read your next Jugendstil post.

  6. I am headed to Vienna next month. This post was so helpful to get me started on planning what to see and do. It is overwhelming in a city as full of history and beauty as Vienna. Thanks!

  7. Had my first visit to Vienna just last week, and it was amazing! You summed it up quite nicely and think almost everyone visits the same places when visiting for the first time 🙂 Loved reading about your trip and look forward to reading some more!

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