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Trip Report Christmas and New Years in Austria - Trip Report

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Thanks to several of you who helped with planning advice for our wonderful 2007 trip to Austria for Christmas and New Years. Also thanks so much to Lady/Cathy, who planned our GTG in Salzburg for Christmas Day!

I’ve had a longtime dream to see the Christmas markets in Germany and after reading Thelrose’s trip report on Munich and Austria http://www.bensbauernhof.com/thelrosechristmasmarkets2006.html we decided to finally follow through on our wish. Also helpful was our son's wedding plans for early December, so all of our family would be together before Christmas!

I booked roundtrip tickets to Munich in March or April 2007 for $678 each and planned to spend most of our time in Salzburg and Vienna for Christmas and New Years.

Departing from Dayton, Ohio, and connecting at Washington Dulles (with it’s excellent wine bar in the international area) on December 21 on a 777, for what turned out to be quite a bumpy flight, we were on our way! Landing in Munich was a bit of a surprise, since we couldn’t see the runway until we were on it! Hoar frost was covering everything in sight! We had never seen anything like it. Here’s the definition off Wiki : “refers to the white ice crystals, loosely deposited on the ground or exposed objects, that form on cold clear nights when radiation losses into the open skies cause objects to become colder than the surrounding air”. What a beautiful site! It reminded me of the fake flocking the Christmas trees had in California where I grew up.

The train station at Munich’s airport is accessed by walking outdoors and across the plaza with Christmas market stalls. They weren’t open yet since it was only 8 a.m. but we found a ticket machine on the platform and bought a Bavarian Ticket for €27 which is valid for up to 5 people. This ticket covers all Munich metro, bus and tram lines for 1 day and also the local (RE or RB) train to Salzburg. What a deal! Print your name on the ticket where it says “blockshrift”.

I wanted to spend some time at the Munich Christmas market stalls, before traveling onto Salzburg, so we took the S-8 Bahn to Ost-bahnhof, or the Eastern Station. I was advised that the luggage lockers were much easier to access here than at the Western station. We easily found the lockers and put our luggage into 1 large locker, which took Euro coins. I think it was €4 for 1 large locker.

Marienplatz is the location of many of the market stalls, so we took the metro from Ost-bahnhof a couple of stops to the Marienplatz stop. It was so cold, but bright and sunny, we were quite bundled up. The markets were just opening at 9 a.m. and Gluhwein was already being offered, so we bought a stocking mug decorated with the city of Munich for our first try of this hot, spiced wine. A booth selling Tellerpfand for €2 looked good, (sausage) so we had an early lunch! The market booths here were quite good, but I didn’t buy much since I wasn’t sure what the markets in Austria would offer. My suggestion would be to buy here, if you find gifts you like. These are great booths although the atmosphere in Salzburg is better! It was wonderful to be here early, as it wasn’t crowded. We walked through the plaza again later, and it was quite crowed, and much more difficult to see the booths. We walked on to the Rindermarkt for the crib market, full of nativity sets and individual pieces. This market wasn’t as nice as I thought it might be, but if you have a nativity set you’d like to add to, there are a lot of pieces to consider. Another market in Munich is the Schwabinger Weihnachtsmarkt, a handmade art market. We didn’t have time to see it, but to find it take the U3 or U6 north to the Munchner Frelheit stop.

Munich’s open air market the Viktualien Markt was bustling, so we enjoyed a wander through it’s stalls, treating ourselves to some good cheese and bread. I was amazed at the fish shop which had live fish which you could select, then they would kill it with a thump on the wooden counter, and clean it right in front of the customers. Well, it was quite fresh!

Stalls were also selling Christmas trees. They were small, and looked like just the top of the trees we buy here in the U.S., costing €18 up to over €50.

We spent a few days in Munich a few years ago, so didn’t want to go to any museums. It was time to travel onto Salzburg where we were spending the next 5 nights. We returned to Ost bahnhof, collected our luggage and easily found the 12:50 regional train to Salzburg. Hora frost was still covering all the trees and bushes along the way. It was quite a beautiful ride.

A 7 day Salzburg netzkarte ticket, €12.50, was available from the ticket machines in the area where the buses arrive, just outside of the train station. It was less money to buy the 7 day card than it would be to buy daily bus passes. The bus transportation is frequent and on time. It’s an excellent system. We were staying at B&B Haus Reichl #52 Reiterweg off Moosstrasse, www.privatzimmer.at/haus-reichl, which is about 15 minutes by bus from the Old town. From the train station you need to take Bus 1 to the old town, then transfer to bus 21 which goes down Moosstrasse, bus stop Gsengerweg . The B&B was €52 a night for 2 people, with a large bedroom and bathroom with 2 sinks. A full breakfast each morning was excellent. I highly recommend a stay here if you want a homey atmosphere, not a hotel.

The Salzburg Christmas markets couldn’t wait, it was December 22 and I was anxious to see what the atmosphere here would be. Oh, how magical it is in Salzburg for Advent! Groups of friends gathered around the gluhwein stands, children met friends, families were everywhere enjoying the day. The streets were decorated, and the ice-skating rink was bustling. Small fires were lit for warmth with many gathered around. It was all I had hoped, perfect! After walking through much of the old town, and shopping some in the market areas, we took bus 21 to Augustiner Braustubl, the brewery just outside of the old town. This is self service, for both the beer and food. You can even bring your own food with you if you wish. The food booths line the area outside the beer hall, you can walk along them, deciding what to order. Pay for your selection, then carry it into the beer hall. No music here, and not lots of atmosphere. It’s probably more fun with a big group of friends.

Tomorrow we go to St.Gilgen and St. Wolfgang!

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    I'm enjoying your report. I've been to Germany/Austria three times in Dec/Jan. I agree that the Munich Christmas markets are nice. We've always reached Salzburg after Christmas, though.

    Looking forward to the rest!

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    I'm enjoying your report very much. When we lived in Vienna in 1984-85, I loved going to the Christkindlmarkt in front of the Rathaus. I still have many of the beautiful and unusual ornaments that I bought there. And the gluhwein and jagertee really does help keep you warm!

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    Ha, ha! Now you know I can't read a word of German. They sure fooled me with that sign on the glass case:)

    Sunday, December 23 Another bright blue morning filled with Hoar Frost


    Several things are closed or have limited hours for several days around Christmas. You can work around this with good planning though. The one problem we had was working with the “Sunday” bus schedule which was the schedule on Sunday, Christmas Eve (Monday) Christmas Day, (Tuesday), and St. Stephens Day (Dec. 26 Wednesday). Bus 21, (our bus from the B&B into the old town) ran about 1 hour apart until 9 a.m. then every 30 minutes until the evening when the schedule would vary again. Mainly this meant we had to get up earlier than we wanted to in the morning so we could arrive in town in time to make a connecting bus. During the rest of the year this wouldn’t be a problem since the bus runs every 15 minutes.

    We wanted to see Mozart’s residence the Wohnhaus, and today was our only chance since the sound and film collection was to close from Dec. 24 – January 1. We arrived at 9 a.m. and bought the combo ticket which includes Mozart’s birthplace. You can use this ticket for 3 days, but can only go to each location once. This is a simple museum with a 30 minute film I enjoyed, and while we thought Mozart’s birthplace was much better, this is still a worthwhile visit. The map showing the trips Mozart and his sister Nannerl took is also interesting.

    Lake Wolfgangsee is not far from Salzburg, with St.Gilgen, Strobl, and St. Wolfgang lining the lake. Boat trips connect the towns. The towns also had great Advent booths. The bus doesn’t run very often to St.Gilgen on Sunday. Fortunately the Austrian oebb train web site http://www.oebb.at/en/ lists the bus, ferry and train connections. It was a great help to me in planning this trip. We took the 10:19 bus 150, from a bus stop close to Maribell Gardens in Salzburg, to St. Gilgen. This bus stop is a bit hard to find. We asked a kiosk selling day tours, along the side of the gardens where the bus stop was. I think the bus tickets were around €7 but I’m not sure. We met the Gills, another Fodor couple on the bus. It was great talking to them about the time they were spending living in Europe for several months while making our trip to St. Gilgen. We got off the bus here, while they traveled onto Strobl.

    I loved St.Gilgen! There were several advent booths, food booths, and cute shops. Horse and buggy rides were offered starting at just €10. This was the last day of Advent here and the last day of the Christmas markets. They didn’t discount merchandise though, although some booths did the next day in Salzburg! We bought our first Mozart Brezen here, which is a chocolate pretzel filled with jam. I love these pretzels, and bought several on this trip! I also loved the gingerbread heart cookies they sell, decorated with German phrases. I had one booth read many of them for me, so I could pick out an appropriate one for our granddaughter! (Since it’s obvious I can’t read any German!).

    Another interesting stop here is the cemetery, with many of the gravesites decorated with Christmas greenery, lanterns, etc. It’s backdrop are the most beautiful snow covered mountains, across the lake.

    We took the ferry across the lake to St.Wolfgang. The ferry is €5.40 per person, one way. The schedule was more frequent on this holiday weekend. It is also listed on the internet. The towns have a simple web site with a link to the schedule and events, www.wolfgangseer-advent.at.

    St. Wolfgang is a larger town, with even more Christmas booths, and while nice, we preferred St. Gilgen. Still, it was worthwhile to go here, and the boat trip is enjoyable. Also one booth has the best potato soup in a bread bowl we’ve ever had! We also walked a bit along the trail which links St.Wolfgang to Strobl, turned around and returned to St. Wolfgang. This trail is just past the ferry dock where you depart St.Wolfgang. The arrival dock is in a different location at this time, but only a 5 minute walk to town. I think the walk between Strobl and St.Wolfgang is a bit more than 1 hour. The ferry schedule linking St. Gilgen to Strobl, to St. Wolfgang really didn’t give you enough time in each town, so we didn’t go to Strobl. There is also a bus linking the towns, but it’s still difficult to do all 3 towns in one day. We took the ferry back across lake Wolfgangsee to St.Gilgen where I wanted to see the birth house of Mozart’s mother, Anna Maria. It’s close to the ferry dock. We found that it is closed now, as they are working to restore it.

    Stopping instead at Café Nannerl, we enjoyed hot chocolate and cake. We came to love our time in the café’s of Austria! The selection of cakes is large and a slice is usually around €3. There is a selection of newspapers available to read, while you’re relaxing! Thankfully one in French, since we can read French! Almost everyone we met spoke English well.

    Back in Salzburg we shopped more in the market booths, first by Maribell gardens. These booths aren't to great. Back in the Old Town I bought straw ornaments and candle holders, all on sale tonight. Also a wonderful tin Santa and reindeer which balance on a stand. There is a large selection of items here. It’s a delight! There are singing programs in the evening also.

    We had dinner at Zum Mohren on Judengasse, just up from the Getreidegasse. Wonderful food and good service. This was the best normal meal we had in Salzburg, although our Christmas Eve dinner at Herzl was outstanding, far better.



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    We stayed in St. Gilgen the end of September for 3 nights and also did the boat trip to St. Wolfgang. While we enjoyed St. Wolfgang and the gorgous views, we were glad we were staying in St. Gilgen. I'd love to go back during the Christmas season.

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    Thanks everyone. This trip was one I'll never forget! I'm so thrilled we could go for the holidays, and we want to go back some summer for all the hiking opportunities also!

    Christmas Eve, the most holy day of Advent for Austria

    Today is for Austrians what Christmas Day is to Americans. Tonight they will gather together with their closest family members, put the tree up, decorate it, have dinner, celebrate, and go to mass. Tomorrow they will scatter to family members that live further away and again celebrate, but tonight is the most important for them. There is no Christmas tree up yet in our B&B. The nativity set has been displayed, but without baby Jesus. He arrives tonight!

    After giving our wonderful hostess her gift, and enjoying a special Christmas Eve breakfast, we took the bus into Old Salzburg, where we transferred to bus 25 for our trip to Hellbrunn. This is the most direct way to go unless you have a car! The trip wasn’t long, 15 minutes from the old town. It was interesting seeing the grocery store parking lot so crowded. Although tonight is very quiet, the day is quite busy with everyone making last minute preparations. The bus dropped us off just outside of Hellbrunn, where we walked into the grounds. Many more advent booths were set up and just opening. We walked into the gardens, which were snow covered and gorgeous. Finding the gazebo from the Sound of Music was easy, and we took some photos before a tour group arrived. We walked the gardens more, watched the poor reindeer, behind a fence with their antlers removed, then were able to go inside of the Palace which was decorated for Christmas and where art booths were set up, selling handmade items. What a beautiful way to start our day.

    The Nonnberg Priory, where Julie Andrews stayed as a nun in the Sound of Music, is close to this bus route, so we got off nearby before arriving in the old town, climbing many steps to the top. We couldn’t go inside, but enjoyed walking around the exterior. We were doing our own Sound of Music tour! From here it’s an easy walk to St. Peter’s cemetery which is wonderful, with many of the graves decorated for Christmas. St. Peter’s church is beautiful as well. Notice the cave houses up on Monchberg’s rock wall. The Festival Hall was closed for the season, but we were able to climb some of the steps for a small view. Cannons were fired off the grounds of Hohensalzburg Fortress at 12 noon, and all the church bells were ringing! The celebrations had begun!

    Stiftskeller St.Peter is also in this area, where we have Christmas night dinner reservations for the Mozart Concert here. It’s decorated beautifully inside. The outdoor food market is also set up in this area, so we ate a quick take away lunch there, then walked to Bobs Tours office for our Silent Night tour.

    We booked this tour months ago, but others booked just a couple of weeks before at www.Bobstours.com . They offer a €5 discount if you pay in cash and show a guide book mentioning their tours. We met Lady from Fodors, and the Gills here, plus another couple we’d met at Hellbrunn. They had such a large group going on this tour this afternoon that we took a large bus, instead of a mini- bus which they usually drive. This trip is wonderful, a must trip for Christmas Eve. We first drove to Arnsdorf, where Franz Gruber lived. He wrote the music to Silent Night. We went into the church here, then into the schoolhouse where he lived and taught school. He had 12 children! A gluhwein stand was across from the schoolhouse so many of us bought some and thought it was the best of the trip!

    We drove to Oberndorf, we didn’t walk from Maria Buhl meadow, as I had read. Maybe this was a change in the tour. We arrived early, so were able to go inside the chapel, take several pictures of it, before dark, shop in the square, and buy refreshments, before the ceremony began. I bought 2 Silent night Christmas ornaments in a shop which backed to the river. The river is the border between Austria and Germany, and the church and homes on the other side are easily seen. Trumpeters were on the hillsides. It was so festive, and also very crowded. We were able to stand up front, next to the soldiers lined up in their red uniforms. We heard all of the ceremony of singing and a message, but couldn’t see it all. It began at 5 p.m. and was in German and English. When everyone was back on the bus, Bob’s tours handed out bags of cookies for everyone to enjoy later. We arrived back in Salzburg around 6:45. The next evening we met a man who took the train to Oberndorf, for just a couple of Euros and arrived on his own. He also thought there was a special free train that evening. Oberndorf is not far from Salzburg. If we return to this area at Christmas I think we’ll go to Arnsdorf on our own and attend the ceremony there, then walk in the torchlit procession where everyone lights their lanterns and walk the 3 km to Oberndorf.


    Dinner at Herzl, Karajanplatz, 7, after the trip to Oberndorf was outstanding. Herzl is a small restaurant, owned by the Goldener Hirsch, Salzburg’s most exclusive hotel. Noppinger, Florian [Florian.Noppinger@luxurycollection.com] was my contact for reservations with dinner costing €53 per person. This included sparkling wine aperitif, marinated salmon with dill-mustard sauce and salad, saddle of venison with mushroom, red cabbage, bohemian dumpling and cranberries, followed with a parfait of ginger bread with berries. Each course was outstanding, the atmosphere casual, but chic, with excellent service.

    We were exhausted after dinner and decided to return to our B&B instead of staying until 11:00 for Christmas Eve mass. We spoke to others who stayed for mass and it was glorious. This was one of the most special Christmas Eve's we've enjoyed.

    The bus service had ended for the evening, but taxis were available for about €8 to our B&B.



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    Christmas Day in Salzburg

    The snow was still on the ground, hoar frost in the trees. It was Christmas morning and the tree was up in the dining area with a very large Baby Jesus under it! Baby Jesus was also in the nativity scene now. The tree was decorated completely with straw ornaments made by the Reichl family, candles and straw garlands. It was simple, beautiful, and had just a few gifts under it. I don’t think gift giving here is very important, as it is in the U.S. where we go overboard.

    After a delicious breakfast we went to the Mozart Geburtshaus which was excellent. The church bells were ringing throughout town, and inside Mozart music was playing. What atmosphere! This and several other sites were open today.

    At 10:30 we went to Mass at the Dom cathedral, which had begun at 10 a.m. It was lovely and people came and went during the service.

    Hohensalzburg Fortress was open so we took the funicular up to the top. The view below was so picture some from the decorated courtyard. We took the escorted tour of the fortress with the audio guide. All the museums were free today so we visited them. I enjoyed the marionette museum. It was time to meet a few others who post on Fodors, so we headed back down on the funicular.

    Candy/Lady planned a GTG, a lunch time meet and greet at Café Tomaselli. Many were invited but we weren’t sure who would actually come. We’d already met Dale and Candy and the Gills the night before. It was wonderful meeting pgnewby, Kristen and her husband and children also. I think I want to move in with them, as they’re living in France now!! Café Tomaselli is wonderful, bustling and fun. Women bring platters of slices of cakes to your table, and you make your choice from them and pay the women for the cakes. The waiters are men and you order your drinks or menu items from them, paying when you leave. There are many newspapers to choose from, so it’s acceptable to sit for an hour, just reading the paper and relaxing! We did this the next day when we returned to this café. We had a lovely time visiting with everyone.

    On the opposite side of Salzach river is the newer town. We wanted to walk through Mirabell Gardens and see the Sound of music sites here. They were easy to pick out. I called our grandchildren from here to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, and told them about the location. We watched Sound of Music together just before we left on this trip, so they could see where we would be!

    San Sebastian Cemetery is on this side of the river also, where Mozart’s father and wife are buried. We were able to go inside, just 15 minutes before closing and find the graves. They are very punctual with the closing time here. This was also a good time to hike up Kapuzinerberg and to the Capuchin monastery. The views are tremendous from this hill. Steingasse street, just a block in from the river, below this hill, is a very old street from the Middle Ages. We walked this street seeing the house Joseph Mohr, who wrote the words to Silent Night was born. Stairs near here lead up to the Monastery.

    A couple of market stalls were still open, although 95% of them were closed. I found one selling more straw ornaments and straw garland rings. He was selling me the 5 foot long garlands for .50 cents each!

    Tonight we attended the Mozart dinner concert at Stiftskeller St.Peter. We arrived early and found a wonderfully decorated indoor courtyard, with 1,000’s of tiny white lights. You could buy drinks here. We were told to arrive at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. concert and dinner. The room was beautifully decorated for Christmas also, with a huge Christmas tree. We were randomly seated at a front table set for 10 people. One couple was from Wisconsin, another from Vienna, some women from England, and one man from the U.S. traveling alone. It was a long wait until the program began. Water and Wine were very expensive. ½ bottle of wine was €25, water €6 a bottle. The dinner/concert was around €48 each and they charged it to our Credit Card when we made the reservation, long ago.

    The concert was excellent. We enjoyed every minute of it. It was performed by candle light with 2 opera singers and 5 musicians. It’s a 3 part program from operas, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and The Marriage of Figaro. The dinner was very poor. The English women complained about each course and sent most of the food back. That was very uncomfortable for the rest of us. Here is the 3 course dinner menu:

    A cream soup flavored with lemon, wine and a hint of cinnamon
    Roasted Capon (kind of chicken) breast on a bed of polenta with a truffle sage cream sauce, potatoes and vegetables from Father Prior’s garden
    A semi fredo honey parfait with fruit and sauces

    The contact information to book is web: www.skg.co.at
    P.Toscany@salzburg-concerts.com toscany@skg.co.at

    Buses again stopped running early this evening, so we took a taxi back to our B&B.

    Tomorrow we go to Berchtesgaden and Lake Koniggsee!


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    Wednesday, December 26 St. Stephen’s Day


    Another beautiful morning in Austria. It’s to cold to snow, as the saying goes. There’s been an inch or 2 of snow on the ground, just enough to look beautiful, but no new snow. The fog had lifted and we noticed our B&B has mountains around 2 sides of it, not far off! They weren’t visible earlier. We stayed warm wrapping up in several layers. The bright sunshine was wonderful.

    This morning we took our bus 21 into the old town, then transferred to bus 840 which goes to Berchtesgaden, Germany. It’s only a 40 minute trip, 12 miles, we sat in the front seat of the bus enjoying the beautiful mountain views on the way.

    The bus stops at the train station in Berchtesgaden. We wanted to travel onto Koniggsee lake so we waited a few minutes for bus 839 which went to Schönau. This is only about 10 minutes further down the road. There are a few shops and cafes here and an area where different buses stop. It’s just a short walk from this bus stop to the lake. This area is so gorgeous. We wished we had planned to spend the whole day here. Deciding not to take a boat trip out onto the lake, and to St.Bartholomä, (boat web site http://www.bayerische-seenschifffahrt.de/ ) instead we walked to the left of the lake and found a hiking trail. We didn’t come prepared to hike on snow, but several others did. We followed the trail for awhile thinking this was the most beautiful place we’d seen on our trip. You could look down onto the lake and town from the trail. It would be excellent to return here in the summer for hiking. We found another trail closer to the town for more hiking. It was accessed directly across from the bus stop.

    I wanted to go to the salt mine in Berchtesgaden so after a time, we returned by bus to the train station. No buses were making the trip back, by the salt mine, so we walked. It was a 25 minute brisk walk. It’s good to have a map of this area so you’re aware of where the salt mine is! There was no line for the tour, so we received our coveralls to put on over our clothes. Then you take a little train, into the mine where you slide down wooden chutes. This was quick and fun! We actually slid down these slides twice on the tour. In addition there is a very short boat ride across an underground lake. You see no salt in the salt mine though! The process of getting the salt will be explained on the tour. If you want to go to the Salt mine before arriving in Berchtesgaden, the stop is from bus 840 about 3 stops before the train station. www.salzwelt.de

    Walking back to the train station it was time to climb up and up to the town of Berchtesgaden. It’s high above the train station. I’d hate to live here and make this climb frequently. The town was very nice, but we didn’t have a lot of time to spend in it. I’m sure we missed a lot.

    Eagles Nest, Hitler’s retreat is closed in the winter. I had hope to go to the Documentation Center, but the bus schedule wasn’t cooperating. The bus schedules can be found on the OEBB Austrian train site.

    Back in town we window shopped and just enjoyed the atmosphere. We also spent another 1 ½ hrs. at Café Tomaselli. Unfortunately we didn’t put any effort into selecting a restaurant for tonight and walked into Spaghetti & Co. The pizza was horrible. Don’t make our mistake of eating here.

    There is an internet spot by Demel’s which is very convenient. We used it almost daily, but it’s pricy. Most of the fountain’s in the plazas are covered in the winter, so you can’t enjoy their beauty. Be sure to ask the TI for a map of Salzburg before you arrive. They were happy to mail a packet of information to us. The map has all the bus routes clearly marked.

    We loved Salzburg. It’s a cozy, attractive town. I’m sure we’ll return someday, but tomorrow we’re taking the train to Vienna!

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    Thank you, thank you for your wonderful report! I hope one day to make such a Christmas trip. I love Salzburg and can only imagine how beautiful it must be during Christmas. So glad you enjoyed your trip. :)

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    Thanks Lucy, I to hope you can make this trip sometime. We asked our family about us not being here for one Christmas. They agreed we could celebrate at home early! Still, when Christmas Eve arrived our 32 year old daughter missed us terribly.

    It's such a beautiful, festive time to be in Austria. We were so fortunate with the weather. There was 1-2" of snow on the ground when we arrived, so the beauty was there, but no more snow fell until New Years Eve in Vienna! You would love it!

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    Thursday, December 27

    Franziska Reichl graciously drove us to the train station for our trip to Vienna. We bought a Einfach-Raus-Ticket from the machine. This was good for the 2 of us and cost just €28. We had to use regional trains though. The tickets prices for the fast train were very high, and we had the time, so decided to use this option. Here’s the schedule we followed, which would discourage many:

    Depart Salzburg 9:38 on REX or R 3015
    Arrive Linz 12:00 Depart Linz 12:21 for St. Valentin on REX 3615
    Arrive St.Valentin 12:41 Depart at 13:21 for Amstetten (A) on R6073
    Arrive Amstetten (A) at 13:56 and depart at 14:09 for Wein on REX 1633
    Arrive Vienna at 15:55

    The trip took 6 hours 17 minutes and used 4 trains. It was easy and we had time for lunch in St. Valentin at the station.

    Once we arrived in Vienna we had a few options for the local transportation: (The Vienna Card didn’t seem worthwhile at all)


    Buy a Die 8 Tage Karte 24€ = The 8 day card is valid for any 8 days, doesn’t need to be consecutive days. It’s a rover ticket, which means you can travel all around Vienna. You can use the ticket for several people traveling together – punch one strip for each person. 1 day = 2 punches, 1 for each of us. This = 3€ a day for each of us. www.wienplan.com

    24-hour season ticket 5.70 Euro Good for 24 hrs. from when you punch it.
    72-hour season ticket 13.60 Euro Single ride tickets 1.70 Euro



    We stayed at Pension Suzanne for the next 6 nights which is only 1 block from the Opera house. www.pension-suzanne.at We paid €98 for a double room including a full breakfast. We had a safe in our room,CNN & BBC on the TV, which I appreciated since the breaking news was the death of Benazir Bhutto today.

    Breakfast started at 7:30 a.m. There was a computer terminal in the office for guests to go online. Our room was very comfortable, great bathroom, but to much heat. We had to open the window at times to cool the room. This pension is located in an apartment building which looks gray and sad, but you just go upstairs to the office and upstairs again to your room, (there is an elevator) which is great! This is one of the most friendly places we’ve stayed, and I highly recommend it for the price.

    Many hotels were charging more for the days around New Years. Pension Suzanne didn’t. We had tickets to the opera house 3 different nights so this location was fantastic!

    The Ubahn station Opera, in front of the opera is a huge underground shopping mall. It’s miserable, filthy, smoky, many men just hanging out, a place to avoid. I have no idea why such a beautiful town as Vienna, would have such a horrible metro stop.

    Stopping at the ticket office of the Opera, we picked up our tickets for all 3 nights, then went to Café Mozart close to the opera at Albertinaplatz, 2. It’s a beautiful café with crystal chandeliers and good food. www.cafe-wien.at/ We waited about 10 minutes for a table, then enjoyed some yummy apple strudel and a cake which looked wonderful, but tasted awful! Oh well, it was shaped like a round brown ball with spaghetti shaped topping all over the ball. Walking back to the opera I noticed a woman with a full length lavender fur coat. There are many fur coats in Vienna, but this is the first lavender one I’d ever seen!


    Opera tonight was Mozart’s Die Zauberflote or the “Magic Flute”. We had good center facing seats and enjoyed it very much. This is the first Opera we've ever attended. I rented a DVD of it to watch before we left, so I'd know the story! I used Vienna Classic to get these seats, which cost me a bit more, but I was very happy with the seats, and I couldn’t time it right to get them on my own.

    For the other opera and the ballet we saw, I bought tickets on line, 1 month or so before the event. At that time, only mediocre side box seats were available. http://www.staatsoper.at

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    Sorry this isn't completed. We've had a tragic death in my family and I've been away. Here's a bit more.

    Friday, December 28

    A good selection of breakfast food was offered, and a delightful woman from Croatia was working in the breakfast room. She was fun to talk with since we were in Croatia last summer.


    Karntner Strasse is Vienna’s main pedestrian street, connecting the Opera with St. Stephan’s Cathedral. As we walked it we saw the Christmas market stalls being removed and the Silvester ones going up. They’re triangular in shape. Huge chandeliers were hanging over Graben Street! Demel’s window, on Kohlmarkt was lavishly decorated. We went in to see the shop, but decided not to stay and eat again! The Cathedral was interesting but we didn’t stay for the guided tour of the crypt. It was so, so cold outside, it was time to go indoors!

    The Kunsthistorische Museum and it’s Bruegel room was our next destination. It houses an outstanding collection of art. We spent about 1 ½ hrs here with the Bruegel room being our favorite.

    Buying the Sisi Ticket at the Imperial Apartments, we braved the crowd here. Maybe it’s best to start here earlier. It was quite crowded, but not as crowded as it was the next day, the weekend. The city swelled on Saturday. The Sisi ticket includes Schonbrunn Palace where you won’t need to wait in line. I thought the apartments and the Sisi museum were quite interesting. The Imperial Silver Collection is included which was extensive. Much more interesting than I expected.

    The parking areas around Hofburg Palace were full of campers. So many Italians come to Austria for New Years/Silvester in their campers. Salzburg and Vienna are more crowded for New Years than for Christmas.


    Tired and hungry it was time for a real meal. We walked over to the Palmenhaus which overlooks the Burggarten. It was damaged during wartime bombings, but was restored in 1998. The café served excellent food. It was only 4:00 but we ordered a full meal. I ordered Lamb chops with artichoke risotto and my husband ordered the choucroute, the best he’s had. Our server was very friendly and wondered where we were from. Yes, the U.S., not England. She was impressed with the amount of time we were spending in Vienna. She noted that most Americans only stay for 2 days, then move on.

    We needed some rest after our late lunch because tonight we have tickets to Der Nussknacker Ballet at the Opera House!

    Sitting in boxes along the side of the Opera house, our view wasn’t great, but we could see ½ of the stage. These aren’t great seats, but they were all that were available, and were cheap! I still loved the performance although it seemed quite different than the performance I remember here. I found somewhat of an explanation here:

    “Gyula Harangozo, the star dancer of the Hungarian National Ballet who became artistic director in Budapest from 1995 to 2005 before being appointed general director in Vienna 2 years ago. This is only my third season and I'm still getting to know my audience", he continued, "and so for the Christmas season, we're programming The Nutcracker, but in a new version of my own which keeps very close to Petipa's libretto. The novelty lies in the fact that we are using pupils from the school in many of the main roles. The ballet opens on a celebration of Christmas today before leading into Petipa and Tchaikovsky's fantasy world. “


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    Saturday, December 29

    The Naschmarkt, Vienna’s produce market along Wienzeile Street was an easy walk from Pension Suzanne. The market is outside, but there are two rows of permanent enclosed shops but many were closed. We love walking through these markets, and buying some of the produce, nuts, cheese, bread etc. Huge Jackfruit caught my attention, but I have no idea what it is! Marzipan pigs, brioche pigs, pigs, pigs, and more pigs. This is the main symbol of New Years here. They represent prosperity. 4 leaf clovers, chimney sweeps, ladybugs, gold coins, more symbols for the new year. Trinket stands abound selling little gifts for your friends and family.

    After shopping here we noticed the flea market that was also set up. There’s a great variety of items here, from fur coats, crystal chandeliers, old books, junk. I found a very old book in good condition, Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, with pages of cardboard. I had to buy this book with all the little Austrian touches inside. The gingerbread heart cookie is given to the infant Jesus, angels are buying gifts at a advent market booth, the trees are decorated with candles, and angel is walking down a path with the same lantern which decorates this whole area!

    We stopped at the Monument against War and Fascism, which remembers victims of the Nazi rule of Austria. Rick Steves book explains the monument well. It stands on the spot where several hundred people died in a WWII bombing attack.

    At 11:30 we walked by the Spanish riding school and went inside to see if they had any last minute tickets. For €6 we could go watch the end of the practice session. Hurrying upstairs, we saw the last 30 minutes of practice of the beautiful horses. It was just enough time for us. The riding hall is beautiful also! We stopped by the chapel where the Vienna Boy’s Choir sings, but it was locked up tight.

    Touring the Treasury next, which wasn’t crowded, we decided we’d seen enough treasuries over the years. It didn’t hold our interest, had a very steep admission of €10 + €3 for the audio guide. You can also buy an English paper guide for .80. I did like seeing the royal cradle, Napoleon’s son’s, who was born in 1811.

    Nearby is the Neue Burg, or New Palace. I was very interested in seeing the Ephesus collections. There was so much to see here, we decided to wait, and come back tomorrow.

    Instead we decided to take a break at Café Central. Walking through the Volksgarten, hundreds of plants are covered in burlap, wrapped up like packages, awaiting spring! Café Central is beautiful, if you sit in the front dining area. We spent a very relaxing hour here, reading the papers and enjoying yet another slice of cake!

    There are some great hat shops in Vienna. Basque hats, artistic berets, fur hats, expensive, but artistic. Window shopping is all I did, although I do need a warm hat!

    Walking along, we came to an area where we saw the Spanish riding horse stables. We saw several of the horses, between scaffolding. They are working on restoring the area of the stables. I think these are at the end of Kohlmarkt around Michaelerplatz.

    Finding the Kaisergruft, where the remains of the Hapsburgs are located, we bought the .50 guide with a Hapsburg family tree and a chart with the coffins locations. This wasn’t to helpful. The vault lies below the Capuchin Church. Hundreds of ornate coffins are inside. It’s very interesting. The tomb belonging to Elisabeth or “Sissy” is here alongside Franz Josef as well as their son Rudolf who committed suicide. We spent at least an hour here.


    Time to find a Heuriger, which is a rustic local wine producer, on the edge of town. Thanks to others on this board with their suggestions. We took tram D to its end point of Nussdorf. It was so dark, there were few people in the area. Humm, it didn’t look like anything was open. This might not be the best area in the winter, but we walked down a long narrow walkway to Steinschaden, at Kahlenbergerstrasse 18 (open daily 3-11p.m.) It was dark, we had no idea what we’d find. We opened a large wooden door, and were surprised to find a lovely, long, narrow room, decorated with Christmas greens, filled with wooden tables and local families enjoying the new wine and eating dinner! It was so authentic! Red and white wines were available, food from a menu and also food you could go look at and make choices. We had fried cheese with sauce and fruit toppings, vegetable tarts and lots of wine! This is a very friendly atmosphere, and a lot of fun.


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    Sunday, December 30

    Our original plan was to take the train to Melk today. Maybe we should of done this, using the Einfach-Raus ticket which was €28 for 2 people and is good all day on regional trains. English tours of the abbey are limited to 2 a day on Sunday’s in the winter so we needed to leave on the 9:04 train for the 11:00 tour. We were lazy, so decided not to go but this was my proposed schedule, it might be of help.


    Leave for Melk on the 9:04 train for the 11:00 tour
    Schedule:
    9:04- 10:16 train Vienna Westbahnhof to Melk
    11:00 English tour of Abbey
    1:00-1:45 Bus to Spitz /Train to Durnstein
    1:45 – 3:11 See Durnstein
    3:11 – 3:24 Train to Krems
    3:30 – 5:00 Tour Krems
    5:00- 6:04 train to Vienna

    I noticed Melk’s abbey when we were on the train between Salzburg and Vienna. It’s huge and would be a wonderful place to see. We’ll just have to return in the summer some year and visit this area!

    Hoping we could hear the Vienna Boys Choir in Vienna, we walked to the Imperial Chapel of the Hofburg. We had no seat reservation, but easily found room in the standing room area inside the room just outside of the chapel. One of the chapel doors was open, but only a couple of people at the front could see inside. There is a very old, small TV monitor which shows the service and the boy’s as they sing with the adults. It was difficult to hear them. I think the Chapel could invest in a better monitor for all of us who can’t sit inside. I enjoyed the choir, but was very thankful they had actually been to Northern Kentucky just a couple of weeks earlier, where we were fortunate to attend their Christmas program.

    We visited the Neue Burg with it’s 3 museums, Armory, Music and Ancient Greek Statues, or Ephesus museum, instead. This is really excellent, and on a Sunday morning, almost empty of visitors. Admission to all 3 is with one ticket and the audio guide, which is excellent, is included. I’ve never seen such an large collection of armory and medieval weapons. My grandson would love to see this! The audio for the music area lets you listen to what the instruments sound like. The section on Ephesus is also superb, and I enjoyed it more, since we’ve been to Ephesus. This museum is worth at least 2 hours.

    Walking back through the area around St. Stephan’s Cathedral we saw the plague monument at Brauner Strasse, the Mozarthaus, which we didn’t pay to enter, and explored the back streets. We then decided to walk to the Danube river and to the Prater, walking through the Stadt Park with statues of musicians. First we came along the Danube Canal, thinking it was the river. We were quite disappointed! Thankfully we figured out after a short walk along the canal, that this wasn’t the great Danube river! Walking to the Prater isn’t that smart. It’s a long, long walk. We must not have had a good map, because we kept trying to sight the ferris wheel to lead us in the right direction. It began to snow.

    At last, we found the giant ferris wheel. Many were riding in it’s cabins, then going into the gift shop which was so crowded you couldn’t walk inside. The amusement park/roller coaster area looked poor. We decided to see the small Prater museum described as having a collection of old posters, photos, including curious circus photos, old signs and merry go round items. It’s really a poor museum, don’t waste your time or money on it. I was happy to see the ferris wheel, but I think this park would be much nicer in the summer!

    There is a brand new train terminal area at the Vienna North station. It just opened December 19 so there isn’t much there yet, but the office was an easy place to pick up our return tickets to Munich which we reserved and purchased ahead of time for a lower price. The ticket is a 29€ Sparshiere ticket, from Vienna to Munich and we had to buy it over the phone. These are very limited, and we were only able to purchase one. The other ticket was €59.

    Church Franz von Assisi near Mexikoplatz, is striking and borders the Danube river. We looked around this area then walked along the Danube river. The walkway provides wonderful views, and the riverfront is quite nice with river boats lining it for cruises. There is also a long, wide walking path along the river. In the middle of the Danube is a large park area, where the metro stop Donauinsel is located. We returned by metro!

    Dinner tonight was at an excellent Italian restaurant, Vecchia Genova in the Spittelberg quarter. There are only a few streets here, Spittelberggasse, Schrankgasse, and Gutenberggasse, but they are charming and filled with restaurants. They were setting up their own booths for New Years Eve here. The mushroom ravioli was excellent and ½ liter of Barbara d’Alba was 12€. They were taking reservations for New Years Eve dinner for €42 per person. The owners are from Genova and drive home to buy wine from Liguria.


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    Images2, My condolences for the death in your family. thanks so much for sharing your trip report anyway.

    I leave on Tues the 12th for Munich, Salzburg and Vienna so I am reading avidly, especially about all cafe and restuarant suggestions. I will be 2 days in Salzburg and 1 week in Vienna.

    what sort of coat did you take? I'm still debating. I won't have a lavendar fur however!! lynda

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    Thanks lyndash, it's actually helping some to think about something else today, after the last week of such sorrow.

    We really enjoyed some of our meals in Austria. I've just finished the report, so I'm about to post the remainder. Palmenhaus and Restaurant Kutschker 44 in Vienna are wonderful! Have a great trip!

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    Oh, as to my coat, it was just a wool coat, but I layered alot with a down vest and sweaters.


    Monday, December 31 New Year’s Eve


    I’m not to sure many are following this, so here’s a quick finish.

    Belvedere Gardens and Palace was open this a.m. We took tram D there to see their collection of Gustav Klimt. Very nice area.

    Zentralfriedhof, Central Cemetery on Tram 71 to see Beethoven’s grave, along with other musicians. The cemetery is huge. The grave is easy to find, it’s to the left of the central lane which leads to the Karl Lueger church. Beethoven is buried next to Schubert. There is also a tribute to Mozart here, but he’s not buried here. The tram stops at another entrance to this cemetery. Make sure you get off at the right exit.

    Around 2 p.m. the festivities for Silvester begin. Programs were distributed from a central booth. It was snowing, and beautiful as we walked under the huge crystal chandeliers hanging above Graben street. We bought street food and drink and enjoyed the bands. The route begins at Rathausplatz, where we enjoyed waltz lessons with a large group of others in front of the large stage. It continues along the following locations: Lowelstrasse,(karaoke, tunes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and disco fever), Freyung,(international folk music) Am Hof, (the best hits of 2007, video clips and pyro show) Hoher Markt,( Kids area early then Radio Wien Band with rock and roll, and hits and oldies) Friedmannplatz,(future telling with ask the stars and cards) Lugeck, (boogie and rock and roll dance courses then voices of America, Elvis Presley, the Ratpack and Bruce Springsteen hits) Graben, (large ballroom under chandeliers , waltzes and classical) Neuer Markt,(karoke, then classic New Year’s hits, rock and roll show, and best hits of the last 40 years) Karntner Strasse, (salsa groove, disco beats and fine dance music) and ends at Haus der Musik (danse the salsa, samba, and waltz.

    After much consideration we had dinner at Restaurant Kutschker 44 address: Kutschkergasse 44 Telefon 01/47 020 47 eMail restaurant@kutschker44.at Web www.kutschker44.at Dinner was around €50 each. The menu was 7 courses, and was excellent. We highly recommend it! Their regular dinner menu is quite a bit less expensive and said to be excellent. The New Year's Eve dinner was actually the courses that their customers most liked during the year.

    Sparkling wine & Viennesse sushi, 2. Jelly of soured boiled rump, roast beef & consommee with sherry 3. Clear soup of halibut with safflower, fennel & prawn ravioli, 4. Salmon stuffed sea bass with braised cucumbers and lemon jelly, 5. Braised and roasted lamb with parsley risotto, ham & horseradish, 6. variation of cheese with Kutschker 44 chutney, 7. a taste of: sour milk, yogurt & quark with pomegranate – mint, mango – chili & passion fruit, chocolate. This is the only course we didn’t care for.

    Marzipan pigs were on the table, along with little chocolates and new year’s charms. This was an excellent choice for us. Kutschker 44 is just outside the ring, easily accessable by tram.

    After coffee, around 11:15, we took the tram back to the Rathaus, where a large crowd was gathered. The live brass band was playing beautifully and excitement building for the arrival of 2008. We waltzed along with others, and at midnight champagne was flowing throughout the crowd. The only fireworks were from individuals, but there were many of those. Officials came outside on the balconies of the Rathaus.


    January 1, 2008

    Schonbrunn Palace on the U4 metro. Open in the a.m. with no crowds. We used our Sissy Card for entrance and the Grand Tour so wouldn’t have had to stand in line if there was one. When we left, hours later, there was a decent length line for entrance. The audio guide was fairly interesting and included. After touring the interior we hiked up to the Gloriette. It was a nice walk, but snowy and icy. We couldn’t go up the zig zag pathway, which was very icy and slippery. The side pathways were open and acceptable. We had a nice lunch and hot chocolat in the cafe of the gloriette.

    Christmarket stalls set up around the Schonbrunn Palace were of course closed.

    The grounds of the palace would be an excellent area to go just to walk, like Versailles in France.

    We returned to the Rathaus and enjoyed more outdoor waltzing and the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert which was shown on the large, outdoor screen. It was excellent!

    This evening we attended the Opera Die Fledermaus at the Opera House. Again, our seats weren’t excellent, but we could see the whole stage. This is a very, very long opera, with 2 intermissions. An excellent way to end our time in Vienna.

    January 2 Wednesday

    Vienna had emptied out. There was nothing going on. If you’d like to see Vienna without crowds, come on the evening of January 1!!

    We took the train to Munich today using a 29€ Sparshiere ticket and a €59 ticket. Sparshiere tickets are very limited, and we were only able to purchase one. We had to buy the tickets over the phone weeks earlier, since we tried to get the discounted sparshiere tickets. The train was direct and took 4 hours.

    Upon arrival in Munich we walked to the Mercure Hotel, Munich City Center. Our room was reserved earlier on line at the rate of €94. I mapped out the location before we arrived so we didn’t have a problem locating it. It’s only about a 5 minute walk from the station, the neighborhood is fine. The rooms are excellent, modern, with a flat screen TV, very comfortable beds, excellent bathroom. We enjoyed lunch at Augustiner Keller, a beer hall (with excellent pretzels!) then enjoyed walking through the pedestrian areas. The huge ice skating rink and area around it are wonderful!

    I finally found a hat I loved and could afford in Munich. The shop Breiter, close to Marienplatz. I think this is the location and it has a wonderful selection:

    Breiter Filiale Kaufingerstraße am Dom | Tel.: 089-599 884 12 + 13 | Mo – Sa: 9.30 – 20.00 Uhr

    At the end of a wonderful day we had dinner at Ayingers, across from the Hofbräuhaus. The food is excellent and portions very large.

    We flew home on Lufthansa, after the plane was thoroughly deiced. The flight was fine, but full of kids.

    Thanks so much for your patience. If you have any questions, I’ll try and answer them. We’re taking our grandson to France and Italy in March for Spring break, and I have a lot more planning to do for that trip, only 6 weeks from now!





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    Images2, you'd probably be surprised how many are silently following your report (and of course future people researching their trips!)

    I'm also sorry to hear of your loss, and have said a quick prayer for your family's peace of mind.

    Your report is great to read. I've spent one New Year's in Salzburg and one in Vienna (and Christmas both times in Regensburg). It's a wonderful part of the world to be at that time of year.

    We always go to the Kunsthistorisches museum when we are in Vienna - and I always have to visit the Breugels and the Altdorfers and Cranachs as well. Sisi was a bit too crowded for me, but interesting, although I'm really not a palace person. I did get some earrings that were replicas of some of her jewelry, and I get compliments every time I wear them.

    Thanks for all the details in your report, and I hope that you will find comfort in this difficult time.

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    Images, So sorry about your family's loss. Thank you for taking time to share with us. I absolutely WILL make this trip at some point in my life. Don't know how or when, but it will happen one day. Thanks, again, for your report. :)

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    Thanks so much for taking the time to finish during this difficult time. Your report is full of fantastic information and is greatly appreciated. Even though we hope to go to Germany/Austria in May 2009 I am soaking up all the information.

    Kind regards.

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    Images - I thoroughly enjoyed your report. It put me in the holiday spirit all over again. We are hoping to take this same trip for Christmas this year. Right now flights are around $1,000, though, so we're hoping they come down a bit over the next few months.

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    Thanks so much everyone for your prayers and thoughts. It strengthens us.

    To those of you planning this trip, I hope the flights and details will work out for you. Austria is such a wonderful country to spend Christmas in. We will never forget the time we spent there, and maybe will return before Christmas again. I don't think our family will let us be gone on Christmas day again, but this once was perfect.

    I bought our tickets on March 22,2007 if it's of any help. Salzburg was easy to get low priced accomadations, at B&B's but Vienna didn't have any I could find. The B&B's there were still around €95-100. I was very happy we stayed inside the ring, and Pension Suzanne rooms were great. I think they may fill up quickly since so many of their guests return each year.

    Enjoy your travel planning and have a wonderful year!

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    We are headed to Salzburg, Vienna and Munich on Thanksgiving day and found a wonderful pension in Vienna for bargain prices. Aviano, My Secret Home. Great reviews, very responsive on email and in a perfect location.

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    Just want to say what a wonderfully organised and energetic pair you are! We live in the UK and have been to Munich, Salzburg and Vienna many, many times over the last 15 years or so, but have never managed to fit in as much as you did. We also learned so much from this report too. Thank you for taking the time to write it. We are going again in December 2011 with our 2 young boys (really looking forward to it)and I found that this has helped us to plan so much.

    Take care, and please keep on posting!

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    My husband and I did a similar trip in early December 2011. Your trip looks spectacular! I plan to use your excellent and detailed information for future Christmas Market trips to Germany and Austria. I agree with you about Munich having great booths at the Christmas market.

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