Vienna Day 1

Vienna Day 1

1st September

Emirates Airlines Dubai to Vienna Emirates Airlines Dubai to Vienna Hotel Bristol Vienna Staircase Hotel Bristol Vienna Room 

Dubai to Vienna

The day we finally fly to Vienna and visit the EU again after 5 years. We haven’t been to Central Europe and it was about time to explore some of these countries. We will be travelling to six different countries (Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and France) and to ten different cities/ towns/ villages (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Prague, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Lucerne, the Jungfrau region/ Bernese Oberland (Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Iseltwald), Colmar and Zurich)).

We arrived in Vienna at 12:55, it was a 6-hour flight. Vienna airport was straightforward, we didn’t have to walk far to reach the immigration counter – from the plane, we went down the escalator and the immigration counter was already right there. The queue was fast and the airport was unpretentious and efficient. We got our luggage and directly went to a kiosk to buy train tickets from the airport to our hotel.

We purchased a 72-hour Vienna City Card online (and added it to our ivie app) beforehand but this does not include the area/ zone from the airport to the city centre. We also subscribed to roaming data from our local network as we needed to have internet connection on our mobile to access our Eurail app and other public transportation apps we needed during this trip.

Since it was our first time to navigate the city’s public transport, it was expected that we got a bit lost, but having the 72-hour Vienna City Card made it less of a hassle because we don’t have to keep buying public transport tickets every time. We just had to change/ switch trains as much as we like or as much as we keep getting lost. We eventually got the hang of it though after the first trip from the airport to the hotel.

We enjoy taking the intercity, country or regional trains around Europe and using the public transport system in each city, town or village. It keeps our senses extra heightened and aware and it’s also one of the best way to learn about the city, its people and its culture. The pros far make up for the cons and as long as we still can and we know it’s relatively safe we would always explore a new place using their public transport system.

Vienna’s city public transport system is my favourite from this trip.

Hotel Bristol

Hotel Bristol Vienna Hotel Bristol Vienna Hotel Bristol Vienna Hotel Bristol Vienna

Our hotel (Hotel Bristol in Kaerntner Ring) is right smacked in the city centre of Vienna. Next to the Opera House no less and with the Opera House views from our room to boot! Thank you to my friend and travel buddy for earning enough loyalty points, the reason for the room upgrade, and for tagging me along!

Hotel Bristol is an integral part of Vienna’s history. It opened in 1892 and it felt like living in a different era – they have the first electric elevator in all of Austria and it still works! The lift has two tufted leather seats on each back corner and the interior looks like a time machine lounge ready to take you to another time in history.

The room was filled with patterns, from the wall paper to the floor to the curtains. There were chandeliers, wall sconces, a fireplace, comfortable lounge chair. It was like being cocooned in a czarina’s jewelry box.

The concierge who assisted us to our room was very informative and an all-around lovely person – it felt like he was proud of what he does and is happy doing it.

After admiring the opulence and soaking in the time machine effect of the hotel, up next is to drink water from the tap. Where we’re from, it is always not safe to drink directly from the tap, but the concierge told us that water from the tap in Vienna is potable and even good for the health so I just had to try it asap. It was refreshingly cold and good. I hope people in Vienna don’t take this for granted – having potable water from the tap is a luxury for most.

To Griechenbeisl

Donnerbrunnen Vienna

It was time to head out and explore. We decided to walk to Griechenbeisl, Vienna’s oldest restaurant. I booked a reservation 2-3 days in advanced for 6 pm in the Mark Twain room. I was not able to really have a proper birthday dinner (August 30) as we were busy packing and preparing for this trip so I decided to have my post birthday dinner somewhere special.

We were at the city centre so once we got out of our hotel and started walking towards Griechenbeisl we passed by popular places visited by tourists (like us). The Opera House was just across the street, walked along Karntner Strabe, took photos of the Donnerbrunnen fountain at the Neue Markt (they have massive fountain sculptures) – Providentia being the central figure of the fountain: the personification of the virtue of making provision for the future – I love this fountain, mainly because it was less crowded than the main street Karntner Strabe, and then we saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral beckoning at the end of the street. I was awestruck by the structure of the church, even though Stephansplatz was filled with groups and crowds of tourists it didn’t distract me from the cathedral’s presence.

There was much to see in the plaza/ square. People rushing and going, centuries old structures towering above – so I intentionally focused myself to look at the cathedral and created a calm around me despite all the chaos. We plan on going back to the Cathedral for Sunday mass but decided to take photos (as the sun was illuminating the church at that time) and to take a look inside, since we still have time before dinner. We walked a bit more to quieter streets. It was a relief to be walking the streets in a new city away from the noise and crowd.

The restaurant was still quiet when we arrived as I think it was still early for people to have dinner but it was a welcome respite. We told them we had reservations and we were about to be seated near the entrance by the windows, but someone checked the reservation list and confirmed that we were supposed to be in the Mark Twain room – so they guided us to the room where the signatures of famous people were up on the walls, and yes, including Mark Twain.

Griechenbeisl

Oldest Restaurant in Vienna Oldest Restaurant in Vienna

Aside from a couple who were taking photos of the place and eventually left after a few minutes, there was only us in the room, which was a big bonus, having this room all to ourselves for about 30 minutes before a family came in.

The restaurant was founded in 1447! It is the oldest restaurant in Vienna and where Mark Twain, Beethoven and Mozart once dined.

I have read of reviews of restaurant hospitality and services in Vienna/ Austria that were mostly not good, but I was pleasantly surprised that we did not experience any bad service that would ruin our stay while we were in Vienna. Some services can be a bit rushed and some can be straightforward and you’d have to wait a bit to be seated but I did not find the service people rude. They were fast and efficient but not rude although probably sometimes people might construe it as being rude if you’re used to the ‘jumpy’ and always-smiling kind of service.

Okay, back to Griechenbeisl. The server was kind enough to show us the signatures of some of the famous people on their walls and also suggested which food to order. The room is named after Mark Twain because, as the server explained, Mark Twain used to live in the upper rooms of the inn when he lived in Vienna. After a post travel research, Mark Twain loved Vienna and a small village just outside Vienna called Kaltenleutgeben.

It was awe-inspiring to be under the same roof, in the same place as these geniuses. One of the reasons why we chose Vienna as our first destination for this trip – being the city of music, art and culture.

We ordered the Wiener Schnitzel vom Kalb (classic veal weiner schnitzel with potato-field salad) and the Wolfsbarschfilet in Krauterkruste (sea bass fillet with chanterelle risotto and fennel). Both were delicious!

While we were eating, some people passing from outside the window were peeking and taking photos of the wall. Grateful that we had an unforgettable post birthday and first meal on this trip!

Walk back to the hotel

The Power at Sea Fountain Vienna St. Peter's Church Vienna The Hofburg Vienna The Hofburg Vienna

After that sumptuous dinner we decided to walk back to the hotel.

First stop was the Ankeruhr Clock. We heard the clock chimed when we got there but did not really see the figures moved – but from what I’ve read, all 12 figures (important people from Vienna’s past) parade/ rotate/ do a complete turn at noon (we didn’t get to see this, next time Vienna). It was built in 1914 and was commissioned by the Anker Insurance Company. Franz Matsch (once a close associate of Gustav Klimt) designed the clock including its mechanical elements.

Just next to the Ankeruhr Clock is Hoher Markt with the Vermahlungsbrunnen Fountain at the center. It was dedicated to the wedding of Jesus Christ’s parents, Mary and Joseph, that’s why it’s also called the wedding fountain. It was revealed in 1732 and the marble figures were made by a Venetian sculptor. It was my first time to see a sculpture depicting the marriage of Mary and Joseph. Vienna is overwhelmingly (in a good way) filled with squares and plazas with interesting sculptures, fountains, and buildings.

We walked a little bit and ended up at St. Peter’s Catholic Church (Peterskirche), an 18th century baroque church. But before going inside we sat at a nearby bench (basically because we were just a bit tired) just outside the church and took photos of the horse-drawn carriages passing. I was amazed at how many functioning Catholic Churches there are in Vienna and are open for tourists (especially to Catholics like us), most European countries I’ve visited only have one or two accessible functioning Catholic Churches. It is an impressive dome church, when you look up you’ll see a dove (representing the Holy Spirit) at the center. Ornate and amazing walls, paintings, windows – and the place was relatively quiet as it is in a quieter street, a bit further away from the crowd.

Just around the corner, is Grabenstrabe or Graben street, a road filled with, again, historic architecture. To add to the ambiance, someone was singing an opera near the Josefsbrunnen or Joseph’s fountain. Next to it is the Wiener Pestsaule or the Memorial column for the plague victims’ statue. We weren’t able to see the statue next to it, Leopoldsbrunnen as it was getting a bit dark and we were off to see The Hofburg at night.

Going to The Hofburg, we passed by Michaelerplatz. Sisi Museum and all the art, architecture and sculptures surrounding it is very impressive, beautiful, massive and ornate!

The Power at Sea fountain was beautiful with the night lights. The marble figures were expressive, created by Rudolf Weyr in 1897. It’s astonishing to see all these preserved and just outside for all to see and thinking about all the artists and artisans living at that time. The dome just outside the Sisi Museum and the Spanish Riding School is beautiful with several marble statues in all corners. Then we went inside to a courtyard with a huge statue of Kaiser-Franz-Denkmal. An 1846 statue of Franz II/ I, notable for being emperor of two entirely different empires. A group was doing a photoshoot so we only took one photo of the statue. Then finally we reached the Neue Burg palace wing and the park just across it were full of people, some were I think practicing a dance number, others were having a night picnic and others were just walking and taking photos (same as us).

We continued walking and it was already around 9 pm at this point, but the atmosphere didn’t feel like we weren’t safe walking around at night. We passed by the Burggarten garden walls (it closes at 10 pm), a statue of Goethe, and a Steinway & Sons Flagship store before finally arriving in our hotel, exhausted but a very full first half day in Vienna.
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