I had received a lot of valuable information in this forum, which was very helpful. So here's my trip report.....
This was a last minute plan for a trip to Vienna. I had always wanted to see Christmas in Vienna, having read about it everywhere as one of the top Christmassy places in the world.
We did not have a plan in place for Christmas since our passports were under processing and we did not have a clear idea of what stage it would be in. So if nothing worked - we would take a last minute driving trip during our Christmas break - that was the plan.
Anyway things worked out well and passports were in our hands around Thanksgiving and so we had to decide in a hurry. After some research -the plan was to visit Vienna. Plane tickets were booked. Then I realized that accommodations were somewhat difficult to find - Christmas time was a popular travel season for Vienna. When we started our trip we were booked 5 nights in one hotel and the last night at a different one - very inconvenient to shift hotels for the last day but that's all I could manage.
Our flight into Vienna landed on Christmas day a little before afternoon. Everything was smooth despite our 2 stop-overs (Chicago, Madrid) and we received our luggage, a little bit amazed at that. We had about an hour at Madrid to complete immigration and customs and barely managed to board our connecting flight to Vienna. In spite of that our luggage made it - thanks to Iberian airlines for that.
We landed in a very foggy Vienna and the taxi driver said that it was usual in Vienna for this time of year. That did make us a bit concerned.
After checking in at the hotel we had to get lunch and went over to a restaurant recommended by the hotel. We later realized we had reservations for the next day’s lunch at the same place .
It was called Restaurant Schönbrunner Stöckl - just outside the gates of Schönbrunn palace.
That was our initiation to some very good Viennese food - something that would be re-confirmed by every other meal we had from then on. We ordered chicken salad and "Wiener Schnitzel" , fish and chips(Pan fried perch fillet Serbian style) and rice for the children and of course cafe mélange and pastries...
After a hearty lunch - it was time for a nap. Everyone was exhausted and to top it off, jetlagged too. Our plans for the evening were Christmas market at the Schönbrunn palace followed by lunch at Demi Tass (an Indian restaurant).
Well by the time nap was over we realized we were getting late and could only manage some very little time for the Christmas market before everything closed down. Nevertheless we walked over to the palace grounds and had enough time to enjoy some Glühwein and Christmas drinks for the kids. The festive spirit was amazing - shops selling Christmas wares, smell of chestnuts in the air, Christmas lights all around. It was almost like a fairytale. As the shops began to close down we also followed the crowds to the U-bahn to catch our train to the restaurant.
There was some walking to be done to get to the restaurant from the metro and even though we had directions with us - we were a bit apprehensive - that being the first day on Vienna streets with little knowledge of German. Anyway the maps did help us and we were at the restaurant in time to enjoy a good Indian dinner.
We had big plans for day 2 but jet lagged children did not co-operate well. By the time we were out of the hotel it was 11 in the morning and our first stop was the Schönbrunn Palace. We got tickets for a tour of the palace and got a view of the summer residence of the queen. After all the grandeur - we were ready for a grand lunch and what better place than Café Residenz in the palace grounds. We had not been able to get Christmas dinner reservations there but there was availability at lunch. Lunch was followed by an assortment of pastries and of course accompanied by Viennese Coffee.
After lunch – we were ready for a tour of the palace grounds, the gardens and roman ruins and the fountains (even though none of them were operational during winter). We marveled at the wonderful architecture and slowly made our way uphill to the crowning glory – The Gloriette. The Gloriette was used as a dining hall and festival hall as well as a breakfast room for Emperor Franz Joseph I. Today it houses the Café Gloriette. We stopped at Gloriette for some mulled wine and drinks before touring the other parts of the palace grounds. It was winter time and it would start getting dark around 4:30. As we walked back to the palace – the palace lit up in all glory. The Christmas Market was on in full swing and we once again stopped there to catch the festive spirit. There were children’s activities, games and children in spite of their zero knowledge of German – had a wonderful time, participating in activities and games.
For dinner on Day 2 we picked a Sri Lankan restaurant called Colombo Hoppers. The food presentation there was very impressive. We ordered a variety of godamba roti, beef pastries, baked fish pastries and pittu.
Day 3 started with a tour of the Ring on the yellow Ring tram. From Schönbrunn we were off to Schwedenplatz – that’s where we boarded the Ring Tram. In the mid-19th century Vienna’s old city wall was replaced by the boulevard which in conjunction with the Franz-Josefs-Kai now forms a ring around the city centre. Magnificent buildings such as the state opera house, the Hofburg, the parliament building, the Vienna city hall, the Burgtheater, the university, the Vienna stock exchange and numerous prestigious buildings line this splendid boulevard. The ring Tram provided us a first view of each of these as well as the location of the buildings on the Ringstrasse.
So after our initial tour – we decided that the Parliament building would be our first stop and so we boarded the Tram 1 and were off to see the Parliament building. From there we went on to see the City Hall, the Burgtheater and then onto the Hofburg Palace. Hofburg Palace is a palace located in Vienna, Austria, that has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It currently serves as the official residence of the President of Austria. It was the Habsburgs' principal winter residence, as the Schönbrunn Palace was their preferred summer residence. We skipped the museums which are part of the Hofburg – instead walked through the palace grounds viewing the old and new palaces and then emerged at Michaelerplatz. Michaelerplatz, a square in Vienna, dominated by the imposing Michaelertrakt, a Baroque wing of the imperial palace.
Right at Michael Platz was the famous pastry shop - Demel, and in spite of the long queues we stopped for the famous sacher torte and coffee. We loved the Linz torte that we tried here.
We were then ready for a walk down the Kohlmarkt - the street is home to some of the most famous brand names in the world. International designers such as Chanel, Diesel, Armani and Vuitton are represented here.
We woke up to a rainy Vienna and realized that there would be no walking around the streets of Vienna in this weather. So alternative plans had to be made. So we planned a trip to Melk to visit the Melk Abbey. We were off to WestBahnoff to board the train to Melk.
After a long day – we stopped for dinner at Café Central. Café Central in the late 19th century had became a key meeting place of the Viennese intellectual scene. Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler were patrons of the establishment. The cafè was the inspiration for The Chestnut Tree in George Orwell's novel 1984. We enjoyed dinner with piano playing in the background. The interiors of this café were gorgeous and the desserts – just yummm.. So we scored points in all aspects - elegant atmosphere and interesting history: grand cathedral ceilings with marble columns, live piano music at night, and the ability to boast its past guests to include important political/literary figures.
Our first stop this morning was at Naschmarket. The Naschmarkt is Vienna's most popular market. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, exotic herbs, cheese, baked goods such as bread, kaiser rolls, and torte, meats, and seafood. Being from India originally – this was not really a new concept to us. Nevertheless it was interesting to see this side of Vienna. On our way we stopped to take pictures of the Secession Building the statue of Mark Anthony – the Roman Emperor outside the building. We then took the train back to St. Stephens Cathedral. Before visiting the Cathedral we stopped for a quick lunch at McDonalds at St. Stephens Square.
The St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) is the most important Catholic Church in Vienna. It has a multi-colored tile roof with a diamond pattern and two tall towers which are the most recognizable symbols of the city. It was a great feeling to light a candle at the cathedral. We took the elevator up to the top of the tower for a view from Vienna. But it was extremely windy and cold and we were out of there after a few photographs. We were also able to see the largest bell which is officially named for St. Mary, but usually called Pummerin ("Boomer").
After our tour of the St Stephens cathedral we stopped for some cakes and pastries at Aida. Aida is a chain - another popular cafe which has achieved near-cult status. My daughter loved her Hello Kitty cupcakes there, while we enjoyed an assortment of Apple strudel, Sacher torte and Mozart torte. We also needed the coffee to warm up.
The square in front of the cathedral is one of the popular gathering places. There were artists at work or displaying their creations. There were student groups singing carols. There were musicians playing – it was a wonderful festive atmosphere. We walked along Graben which is another famous street in Vienna with brand name and designer shops on either side. It is also beautiful with all the holiday decorations around this time of year. The Pestsäule monument that was commissioned by Emperor Leopold I following the devastating Great Plague of Vienna toward the end of 17th century is along Graben. We also saw the beautiful Romanesque St. Peter’s Church, which many say is the oldest church in Vienna. We spotted Treznewski and stopped there for snack sandwiches. It's a tiny little hole in the wall on a street just off the Graben (there's a big sign with an arrow you can see from the Graben). It is another Viennese institution and word has it that this was frequented by Franz Kafka. The waitresses have old fashioned waitress outfits, in yellow, with white trim, handkerchiefs in their pockets and those little white "waitress tiaras" on their heads. The whole thing is about a 10 foot long glass encased counter of open faced sandwiches - about 25 or 30 different kinds and they all looked good. We ordered an assortment and they all tasted scrumptious.
While looking around for a place to have dinner we spotted Gelateria Castelletto @ Schwedenplatz. Now this place is known for its ice creams and gelatos – nevertheless we stopped here for dinner. This was also the place which informed us at the end of dinner that only cash was accepted and they also did charge us for the ketchup that came along with the fries. Interesting!!!!
This was our final day at Vienna. We took the train down to Karlsplatz and started walking towards the Opera house. Our plan was to try the Original Sacher torte at Café Sacher – after having tried it at various other cafes over the last few days.
We were extremely lucky to be the first one in line and no wait when we reached the café. While leaving the café, the lines had reached the road outside. Anyways, once in the waitress led us to the coat room where we were asked to leave our coats. We would later realize that this was a way to gather up tourist dollars and we were charged 1 euro per person for this service. We had a Maria Theresia coffee and a Melange along with the sachertorte. It was delicious and we did not see any recognizable difference in taste compared to the Demel.
Next we walked around to AlbertinaPlaz and the Albertina Museum. Albertina houses one of the largest and most important print rooms in the world with approximately 65,000 drawings and approximately 1 million old master prints, as well as more modern graphic works, photographs and architectural drawings. Outside the Albertina are an ensemble of figures dedicated to all victims of war. There is a white block is dedicated to all victims of the mass murders committed by the National Socialists in concentration camps and prisons.
After lunch, we moved on towards the Museum Quarter and then onto the Hofburg palace leading us to Michaelerplatz. We stopped for Afternoon tea and pastries at Café Griendstal. We spent our evening walking around Kohlmarkt and Graben watching artists at work, shops setup for New Years day. There were people getting ready for New Years day, setting up temporary booths and stages. That evening, while walking around at St. Stephens Square – the kids and I suddenly realized that we could not spot my husband– who was enjoying his cigarette. The place was so crowded – that it took us a while to again find each other – not before a few walks up and down Graben. Thanking lucky stars…….
Dinner was at an Indian restaurant near Schwedenplatz – the OM. It boasted a shisha bar but with kids in tow we did not have that luxury.
December 31st – we were up bright and early – a little bit too early getting ready to leave for the airport. The taxi driver was already waiting for us as we checked out of the hotel and we were off on our way to the airport. New Years Eve was spent quietly at home, everyone tired and jet lagged at the end of a wonderful trip to Vienna.
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I had received a lot of valuable information in this forum, which was very helpful. So here's my trip report.....