Touring the Imperial City of Vienna

For four months, I studied abroad in London, England. These notes are select entries from my experiences in the United Kingdom and Western Europe from that time.

Sunday, November 29 –

I awoke at 8 a.m. and showered before going downstairs for continental breakfast. One trick I have learned is to pack an extra baguette with meats for lunch during the day.

I took the metro to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which is one of the most impressive cathedrals I have ever seen. Stephansdom is almost 800 years old and is the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. The intriguing mix of Romanesque and Gothic style towers over the Stephansplatz, the most important plaza in Vienna. Many of the biggest events in Habsburg and Austrian history have happened at the Stephansplatz and the church. With its multi-coloured tile roof, Stephansdom is the symbol of the city.

I saw the graves of St. Valentine and Holy Emperor Frederick III inside. I also saw a piece of the table cloth from the Last Supper. Additionally, I attended mass and then climbed the South tower for some great views of the city. In the tower I bought a book and some postcards.

The Ring, Vienna's grand boulevard

The Ring, Vienna’s grand boulevard

I then toured other parts of the city starting at the Ringstraße before seeing the Royal Apartments, Kunsthistorische Museum, Volkspark, Mozart’s House and the Imperial burial vault all before lunch. It seems like everywhere you go in Vienna, you see royal connections or landmarks tied to classical music greats like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – it’s most famous son.

The Ringstraße (Ring Road) is one of the most famous streets in the world and is a circular road surrounding the Innere Stadt district. The street was built to replace Vienna’s walls which were designed to repel Turkish expansion. Its architecture inspired its own movement — Ringstraßenstil — in the late 1800s. I first toured the Kunsthistorisches Museum, or Museum of Art History. The building is as famous as it’s contents due to its massive octagonal dome. It opened around 1891 at the same time as the Naturhistorisches Museum, which shares an identical exterior design. The two museums face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz and we designed by the Austrian emperor to host the Habsburgs’ art collection.

Afterwards I visited Imperial Palace to see the former private apartments of the imperial family. I saw the emperor’s quarters, the large Audience Hall and other incredible rooms. When I finished my tour, I took the U-bahn to Belvedere Palace, which was very beautiful with great views, full of paintings, beautiful ceiling vault murals and peaceful gardens.

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Hofburg Imperial Palace

Then I walked to the fabulous Wiener Staatsoper (Opera House). The Wiener Staatsoper is an opera house designed in the neo-Renaissance style and dates back to the mid-19th century. It host the Vienna Philharmonic and is one of the world’s most famous opera venues. I learned a lot of interesting facts on my tour. On March 12, 1945, the opera was set alight by an American bombardment. Many sections were undamaged, but the auditorium and stage were destroyed by flames.

After my Opera House tour, I traveled via the U-bahn to Schönbrunn Palace. Built in 1569 by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, Schloss Schönbrunn was a former Habsburg imperial palace and contains a staggering 1,441-rooms! And to think it was only the summer residence! Today it is the number one tourist attraction in Austria. The gardens were as pretty as the inside, but the highlight for me was the Weihnachtsmarkt, Christmas Market, outside that was taking place from late November to New Year’s. Vendors offered ciders, wines, pastries, chocolates and Vanillekipferl. Crafts artists sold handmade Christmas decorations and nativity sets under the beautiful Christmas lights. It was so pretty at night. I bought some gifts for my grandparents while there.

Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace

Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace and Weihnachtsmarkt

I then returned back towards the Hotel, stopping at the Westbahnhoff to get some more money and a sandwich. I returned to my room and ate my supper while watching some television. I then left for a last stroll of Wien past the palaces, Stephenplatz and the Stadt Operhaus by night. I also took a stroll by the world-famous Blue Danube River. Surely this must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I returned on the metro to my hotel where I packed and made plans for tomorrow going to bed at about 2 a.m.

Categories: Austria, Europe, Vienna

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