VIENNA | The highlights for first timers

by kimberley
If you’re thinking about going to Vienna, then you have certainly made the right choice. Read more to find out my Vienna highlights for first timers! 

As a first timer, I didn’t find 48 hours in this beautiful city long enough and I was unfortunately left yearning for more. However, with Vienna being a popular city break destination, I thought it would be useful to summarise my absolute Vienna highlights for first timers which are feasible to see in 48 hours.

*Disclaimer: I did not have time to visit the Schönbrunn Palace.. maybe next time!

1. Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere Palace was situated just around the corner from our hotel (Austria Trend Hotel Savoyen Vienna) so this is where our sightseeing all began. Built in the 18th century, this Baroque palace was the summer residence of  Prince Eugene of Savoy. It actually consists of two palaces; the Upper Belvedere and Lower Belvedere. Both palaces are also museums which showcase artwork from various periods and artists. Whilst we did not go inside, the grounds are absolutely stunning and we enjoyed walking between the two palaces, admiring the beautiful architecture.

2. St.Stephens Cathedral

When we visited the Cathedral it was a Sunday. Consequently, a Sunday service was being held and we were limited to viewing the church from the area just as you walk in. This was then sectioned off by gates to the entrance of the pews and were manned by ushers who were acting as gatekeepers (wittering out the tourists from the worshippers). That being said, this did work in our favour..

There are two towers which offer magnificent views of the City; the South Tower which requires you to climb 343 steps (costs €5), and the North Tower which is serviced by a very small lift that takes you to the top (€6). We chose the latter as we knew it also provided fantastic views of the cathedrals mosaic roof. It can be accessed from the lefthand side of the cathedral once you are inside. But remember when I said there was a service going on? Well we plucked up the courage to ask one of the ushers if we could go through and he let us..with absolutely no issues.. Turns out barely anyone knew they could do that either, so we had the viewing platform practically to ourselves!

3. Hofburg Imperial Palace

For me, this Palace absolutely epitomises the beauty and grandeur of Vienna. It is situated in the centre of the City so it is impossible to miss. You will also know you are near when you start to spot the horse draw carriages carting excitable tourists around! However, it actually comprises of a number of buildings and courtyards which serve as various museums. They explore the history of the Habsburg dynasty who took up residence here until 1918.  

4. Austrian National Library

Love Beauty and the Beast? Well this Library looks like something straight out of that! At €8 to enter, it’s not cheap but it is worth every penny. The library is 80m long and 20m high and exhibits over 200,000 volumes. It is also decorated spectacularly and is basically a work of art in itself.

5. Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz is the square situated in front of the Rathaus (Vienna’s City Hall). It holds various public events throughout the year, including the Film Festival which is held every summer. We were fortunate to be there during this time so it provided a great opportunity to give our feet a rest . There was also a food market vibe going on as there was an array of pop-up vendors serving food and drink from various cuisines. 

6.  Hotel Sacher for Sachertorte

Sachertorte is a famous Austrian chocolate cake (with a hint of apricot) which was invented by Franz Sacher in 1832. Whilst there was some dispute as to which establishment served the ‘original sachertorte’, it was agreed that Hotel Sacher could hold this title. So Hotel Sacher is exactly where we went.  Now onto the cake…

Was it good? Yes. Did it blow my mind? No. In fact it was quite a funny spectacle to watch the waiters churning people in and out to try this infamous cake. But it is an experience I would recommend nevertheless. 

7. Beer flights and Schnitzel 
When in Vienna, I wanted to try the classic pork schnitzel served with a potato salad and my partner wanted to try the local beer. There was a restaurant called Salm Braue which we had walked past several times to and from our hotel, which always looked busy. I was hesitant that it was a tourist trap at first since it is right next to the Belvedere Palace, but after some googling, we saw that it had excellent reviews; it boasted locally brewed beer and hearty Austrian food. Sounded perfect! And I am so glad that we went, because it was delicious and I would highly recommend. 
8. Other notable highlights
  •  Maria-Theresien Platz: This is a beautiful square that sits in the middle of two incredibly impressive buildings which mirror one another; the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts.  
  •  Karlskirche: Another gorgeous baroque church which provides a perfect picture opportunity!
  • Ferstel Passage: This is a stunning shopping arcade which was built in 1860, containing boutique shops and cafes.
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