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yk's Trip Report - 11 days of Art Nouveau in Vienna & Budapest Spring 2009

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May 6th, 2009, 09:00 AM
  #1
yk
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yk's Trip Report - 11 days of Art Nouveau in Vienna & Budapest Spring 2009

Hi Everyone-

I just got back last night after a 13-day trip to Vienna and Budapest. This again will be a very long-winded and highly-detailed trip report as usual. I hope it will be interesting for some, and helpful for others.

Unlike most of my other trips which I traveled solo, I went on this trip with 4 relatives. We stayed at apartments on this trip, which greatly helped curbing the budget. The 5 of us didn't do sightseeing together the entire time, so I can only report on the things I saw and did.

I have been to Vienna once before for just 4 days, in November 2006; but never been to Budapest or Hungary. You can read about my 2006 Vienna TR here:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...n-nov-2006.cfm

I love Vienna, and really enjoyed my repeat visit this time, with much better weather and more time to experience the city. Budapest is... totally NOT what I had imagined or expected, both in a positive and a negative way. I am glad that we spent 4 full days there, as I grew to like the city more and more during our stay.

Here's a brief snapshot of what I did:
5.5 days of sightseeing in Vienna:
Schonbrunn, daytrip to Wachau Valley (Melk and Krems), Naschmarkt, KHM, Leopold Museum, MAK, Art Nouveau walk, Haydn House, Royal Crypt, City Hall tour, plus lots of cakes and coffee. In addition, I attended the Sunday mass at the Royal Chapel with Vienna Boys' Choir singing, an opera and a ballet at Staatsoper, and a concert at Musikverein (standing room!).

4 days of sightseeing in Budapest:
Heroes Sq, City Park, Buda Hill, St Stephen's Basilica, Synagogue, Chain Bridge, Parliament tour, Central Market Hall, evening Danube cruise, Museum of Applied Arts, Hungarian National Museum, House of Terror, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Art Nouveau (aka, Bedo Haz), a soak at Szechenyi Baths, plus lots of cakes and coffee. I also attended an all-Mendelssohn concert at the famed Franz Liszt Academy, plus an opera at the Hungarian State Opera House.

As you can see, there's a lot I saw and hence a lot to write about. Plus, there are also plenty of photos for me to sort through, so I probably won't be able to start writing the full trip report right away.

But before I end here, a HUGE thank you to all of you who answered my questions (esp molker for Vienna), and all of you who have posted a trip report on Vienna and Budapest within the last few years. Chances are, I have read it and each one has helped, in one way or another, shape my itinerary.
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May 6th, 2009, 10:14 AM
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Hi yk!

I'm very interested in reading your trip report as I will be in Vienna and Budapest this summer.

Details! Details!

;-)
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May 6th, 2009, 12:59 PM
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Hey yk - I'm not planning on visiting Vienna or Budapest in the near future, but I always enjoy reading your trip reports, so I look forward to your next installments.

Robyn
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May 6th, 2009, 01:00 PM
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I'm anxious to read your report as well. I'll be in Vienna in July and am considering Budapest.
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May 6th, 2009, 01:49 PM
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Hi yk!

You shame me, I am soooo far behind on trip reports. I can't believe you are back already,too. Looking forward to hearing about it!
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May 6th, 2009, 02:11 PM
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Hi yk,
Didn't know you're back already. I'm reading this at an internet cafe in Trastevere. Looking forward to the rest, especially about that new museum.
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May 6th, 2009, 02:41 PM
  #7
yk
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Hi everyone - thanks in advance for your enthusiastic replies. I am still quite busy with errands (you know, laundry, mail, grocery shopping etc), but I'll try to get on it ASAP.

MlleFifi - I hope you're having a great time in Italy. Enjoy the rest of your trip! Also, a million thanks for all your tips on Budapest (though one didn't quite work out).
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May 6th, 2009, 03:20 PM
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hi yk -

hope it doesn't take you tooo long to do the Vienna portion, as we're off there in about 6 weeks time!

regards, ann
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May 6th, 2009, 04:03 PM
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Hi yk - looking forward to your report - maybe you'll tempt me back to Vienna and Budapest, two cities I've much enjoyed...
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May 6th, 2009, 06:49 PM
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yk-Looking forward to more, especially your take on Budapest. I had a hard time with that city, sort of love/hate. Just loved Vienna though.
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May 6th, 2009, 07:11 PM
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Yes, looking forward to reading about your trip. Vienna and Budapest are two of my favorites, although I like Budapest more. Interested in your impressions.
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May 6th, 2009, 07:53 PM
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Welcome back! we await more of your trip report.
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May 7th, 2009, 04:43 AM
  #13
yk
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Why Vienna and Budapest?

I actually had not planned any European trips for this Spring, as I already have 2 short CA trips for April and May. However, back in late March, I received an email from M, who is my first cousin once removed, asking me for my thoughts on Vienna and Budapest. M also posts here on Fodors as mmyk72, and she lives near me in the greater Boston area. Even though we are off by one generation, we are about the same age. In any case, M has a business trip to Belgium in late April, and she was thinking of tagging 10 days of vacation time at the end of the business trip, and she's interested in Vienna and Budapest. Naturally, I invited myself along. I have always wanted to return to Vienna (absolutely love it from my last visit), and I definitely would love to visit a new city.

As soon as her dates were set in stone, I immediately called American Airlines to claim a FF ticket, open jaw BOS-VIE; BUD-BOS. I was able to get the exact flights on the exact dates without any difficulty (connecting at Heathrow on both directions), for 40,000 miles and $130 fees and taxes.

A few days later, I found out that M has asked her parents (my first cousins, who are in their 60s) to come as well, and in the midst of conversation, M's sister-in-law, C, also decides to come. So all of a sudden, we have a party of 5!

Booking apartments
This was the most difficult and stressful part of trip planning. As a novice to apartment-booking, it was a steep learning curve in the beginning. Unlike Paris apartments which has lots of listings and reviews, trying to find a 3BR/2BA apartment in Vienna and Budapest just 4 weeks in advance was no easy task.

Given that there are 5 of us and no one wants to sleep on a sofa bed in the living room, we decided that the best layout is a 3BR/2BA. For Vienna, I first tried the two highly-recommended rental websites:
http://www.apartment.at/index.php3/eng/
http://www.netland.at/wien/

Unfortunately, neither has anything available for our dates, so I moved on to VRBO. Eventually, we decided on this one:
http://www.vrbo.com/124090 (full review to follow)

The owner runs her travel agency, and also has her own rental website:
http://www.hahnsvienna.com/vienna-ho...apartment.html

For Budapest, there seems to be even fewer "recommended" apt booking websites. We went through dozens of websites, including Ownersdirect.co.uk, VROB, and eventually stumbled upon travel-library.com. It was there where we found our Budapest apt:
http://www.travel-library.com/apartm...orosmarty.html

My biggest concerns were being scammed (imagine arriving in the city with my relatives, and the apt doesn't exits!), or the apts weren't anywhere like the photos shown. Also, I could not find any reviews on these apartments at all, which add to my fear.

In the end, it all worked out fine. And perhaps I have become an apt convert after this trip.

Pre-bookings
Apart from booking the apartments, which was our top priority, my next goal was to find out what concerts and operas are on during our stay. I ended up booking:
1) Manon at Vienna Staatsoper
2) Romeo and Juliet (ballet) at Vienna Staatsoper
3) Concert at Musikverein in Vienna
4) La Traviata at Hungarian Opera House
5) Mendelssohn concert at Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest
6) Reservation for Sunday mass at Vienna Hofburg Chapel with the Vienna Boys' Choir (M made the reservation)
7) Advance reservation for an English tour at the Budapest Parliament
8) Advance discounted train tickets (SparSchiene) from Vienna to Budapest via Austrian Rail website. The SparSchiene tickets are only €19 each.

Preparation and Resources
I read a lot of trip reports here, and also borrowed a bunch of guidebooks from my library.

For Vienna, the Fodors 2009 Austria is pretty good. But I ended up bringing a Lonely Planet Vienna with me on the trip as it's more relevant and compact (plus I love LP's maps).

For Budapest, I got the Fodors Top 25 Budapest, which gives a good, brief overview and very light. IMO, the Best guidebook is the Visible Cities guide (published by Blue Guide) because it focuses on lots of art and architecture. M got the Fodors Budapest, which we both thought was NOT that great. The sight description section is very limited, and it doesn't even have a section on the history of Hungary!

Since my main interests are art (esp Viennese Succession, or art nouveau), and architecture, I got a DVD and a book on Gustav Klimt from the library. I learned a lot about Klimt from both, esp his early career.
http://www.amazon.com/Klimt-Post-Imp.../dp/B000KN7C1W

I also watched an architecture DVD series earlier this year which covered Otto Wagner's Post Office Savings Bank.
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May 7th, 2009, 05:35 AM
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yk
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Dates and Weather

Our trip was actually 13 days total, but when you subtract the travel days, we only had 11 days on the ground. Out of the 11 days, we did active sightseeing for 9.5 days. 1 day was "rest" day upon arrival to Vienna, and another 0.5 day was used to travel to Budapest.

We were in Vienna the last week of April, and Budapest the first week of May. Weather was pretty much perfect. We had sunny to partly cloudy days the entire time, and had about 5 minutes of rain on just one day. Temperatures fluctuate between mid-50s (at night) to mid-70s. Many, many flowers were in bloom in Vienna, including lots of lilacs, as well as wisteria, azaleas and tulips. Everywhere we went in Vienna, there were flowers. Budapest, OTOH, seems less green. There aren't as many trees and green space in the city, and most aren't flowering trees.

Day 0; Getting there
As mentioned earlier, I flew AA from Boston to London Heathrow, then connect on BA from Heathrow to Vienna. M was already in Belgium, while M's parents & C flew to Vienna together from Houston.

The BOS-LHR flight was pretty much completely full. Even though I had one of the best seats in economy (exit row 21H on the 763) with extra legroom, I was still pretty miserable. The guy next to me in the window seat had seriously offensive BO! Fortunately, not long after the plane took off, he decided to use the airline blanket, which helped diminish the stink.

I had 3 hours for transfer at LHR, which was plenty of time because all I did was a T3-T3 transit. (BA's flight to VIE and a few other destinations depart from T3). Even though I didn't have to change terminals, I still had to clear security after deplaning in order to return to the departure hall of T3. I immediately proceeded to the Sakura Lounge. BA is revamping its T3 lounge, due to reopen in mid-May, so in the meantime, pax are asked to use the JL lounge for AM departures, which are operated by BA staff during those hours.

I was able to reserve my seat on the BA flight in advance, so I got the exit row with unlimited legroom. Arrival into Vienna was on time, and I was very glad to see my cousins and C waiting for me in the arrivals hall at VIE. Their flight had arrived 30 minutes earlier.
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May 7th, 2009, 05:39 AM
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I have to agree with you about the Fodors maps. I took Fodors to both Vienna and Budapest, and found the maps infuriating. (Fortunately I also had Streetwise maps for both cities, but I don't need Streetwise with Lonely Planet.) I also find it annoying that sights are listed in the local language on maps and in the index - I don't speak German, and certainly not Hungarian, how am I supposed to know what, for example, Applied Arts Museum is in those languages?

Congratulations on finding the apartments!
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May 7th, 2009, 06:33 AM
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Hello, yk. I'm really devouring your wonderful report because we are leaving for Central Europe in a month. We, too, will be going by train from Budapest to Vienna. But I'm wondering which website you used. When I tried to book it, the 19E was available. However, when I went to the next page it said that it was not available online. Thanks in advance for your help.
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May 7th, 2009, 06:47 AM
  #17
yk
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Day 1; Arrival to Vienna

At the airport, we got € from the ATM (20 yards to the right of the info booth), then proceeded out to catch the Airport Bus to Westbahnhof. Our apartment is a 5-min walk from Westbahnhof, so taking the Airport bus is the cheapest and most convenient option.
http://www.oebb.at/pv/busplan2009/1187.pdf

The bus runs every 20 minutes, and makes 2 stops: Sudbahnhof and then Westbahnhof. The trip takes about 35 minutes to Westbahnhof, and costs €6 per person (you pay the driver).

The bus stop at Westbahnhof is located on the North side of the station, while our apt on Mariahilferstrasse is on the South side, so we had to walk through the train station to get to the street.

After an initial scare (I had trouble finding the apt owner's office), we found the owner and arrived at the apartment.

After being shown around the apartment, we settled in and showered/rested. A few hours later, we ventured out to the supermarket. There are at least 3-4 different markets within a few blocks, with the closest one just 1/2 block from the building.

M arrived at Westbahnhof a few hours later, also taking the Airport Bus from the airport. We stayed in and cooked dinner that night.

Apartment Review

The owner has just finished renovating the apartment in early April, so everything is brand new. We were the second tenants to stay there. It is spacious, very clean, and well-equipped. The owner is extremely nice and thoughtful. Apart from the basics (towels, linens, TP), she also supplied French soap, real shampoo (L'Oreal), paper towels, fully-equipped kitchen, sugar/salt, laundry detergent, hairdryer. Wifi is included in the price.

The building is over 100 years old and currently undergoing renovations and the elevator is out of service (we were warned in advance). Our apt is on the 3rd floor (US 4th), but since it is such an old building, the ceilings are high so a 3rd floor apartment is really equivalent to a US 5th floor apt. We did get tired of walking 80 steps up twice a day! However, the owner gave us a very good discount (€120 per night instead of €150; plus a €35 cleaning fee) so we were fine with the stairs.

The apartment is 107 Sq Meters, which is over 1000 Sq Ft. It has a living/dining area (a bit small/cramped), and 3 bedrooms. The largest bedroom has one double plus one single bed; plus an ensuite bathroom with bathtub. The other bathroom is shower only, and a separate toilet. The second bedroom also has one double plus one single beds, and the third bedroom has 2 twin beds. Therefore, the maximum people can stay there is 8.

Living/Dining area:
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3243.jpg

Ensuite bedroom:
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3246.jpg

Second bedroom:
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3244.jpg

Twin bedroom:
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3242.jpg

Kitchen:
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3248.jpg

Location
On my first visit to Vienna, we stayed at Pension Suzanne, a block from the Opera House. We loved staying inside the Ring. However, with our need for a large apt and budget, we were fine with staying at this apt which is a 5-min walk from Westbahnhof.

It turned out to be super convenient, thanks to extremely efficient public transit in Vienna. The U3 line from Westbahnhof zips us into center of town (St Stephen's or Hofburg) in just 5-6 minutes. During daytime, the U3 runs every few minutes, so from the time we leave our apartment to the time we arrive in center of town, it takes under 15 minutes. In addition, being close to Westbahnhof was convenient for us arriving from the airport, plus going to Melk and to Budapest (both trains depart from Westbahnhof). The last benefit is that Tram Line #58 runs right on Mariahilferstrasse, which takes us to Schonbrunn in 10 minutes. The tram 58 actually stops right in front of Schonbrunn, so it's closer than taking the U-Bahn.

At night, the U-Bahn runs less frequent, about once every 7-8 minutes. The apt neighborhood is totally safe. I went home around 11pm after the opera alone and didn't feel uncomfortable taking the U-Bahn then walking back from Westbahnhof.

Even though the apt is so close to Westbahnhof, we didn't hear any noise from the trains at all. None of the rooms face Mariahilferstrasse, so the apt is very quiet.

The only minor issues we had were:
1) Difficulty with the washing machine. Since it is new, the owner doesn't know how to use it and she has lost the manual. It took a few trials and errors before we figured it out
2) There were still a few cosmetic issues to be done at the apartment, but none was essential to our stay.
3) Construction work on the building started early in the morning, at 7am. But it won't be a problem for future tenants once it's all done.
4) There is no microwave, which would have been quite handy.

Apart from the above, the apartment is really perfect and the owner is super, super nice and accommodating. She responds to emails right away, and her home/office is in the next building, so in case of problems, she can come attend immediately. For the price we paid, I think this is an excellent deal!
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May 7th, 2009, 06:50 AM
  #18
yk
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jrjcolllins - If you are traveling from Budapest TO Vienna, I don't believe you can book online via Austrian Rail's website. AFAIK, the SparSchiene discount tickets are only available from Vienna TO Budapest but not the other direction. When I looked at Hungary Rail website before, I don't believe there was an option to purchase tickets online. Therefore, I think you need to wait until you arrive in Budapest to buy your train tickets.
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May 7th, 2009, 07:14 AM
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hi yk,

just found your 2006 TR on Vienna. it was very useful with the links etc.

any up to date tips ? anything to book in advance? [apart from the opera - I've already done that, and the Musikverein, which I read as not having a concert that I am interested in while we are there, sadly].

regards, ann

PS - my opera ticket information seems to say that I can pick up the tickets from a number of places, not just the opera box office, at any time before the performance. is that right or have I misunderstood? incidentally, I applied for standby tickets about three months ago, and they came through about a month later - way before the month before the performance that you mention. was I just lucky, or do you think they have changed the system?
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May 7th, 2009, 07:44 AM
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Day 2: Real sightseeing in Vienna begins! Naschmarkt & Schonbrunn

Today is Saturday, so Naschmarkt is a must because Sat is the largest market day; plus we want to get some fresh produce!

We began our day buying transport passes for Vienna. Let me digress a little here:

Transport Pass options in Vienna
http://www.wienerlinien.at/wl/ep/cha...geTypeId=10220

There are plenty of different passes of various duration available, depending your length of stay as well as days of visit. A best deal is the 8-daycard for €27,20. It can be shared among several people, as long as they travel together. So, for 4 people, they can use the 8-daycard for 2 days (4x2 = 8); or 2 people can use it for 4 days; or 1 person can use it for 8 days (does not have to be consecutive).

Another good deal is the Wochenkarte (only mentioned in the German version of the website). It is a weekly pass but only valid Monday - Sunday for €14. So, if your stay is during that time and even for just 4 or 5 days, the Wochenkarte is still the best deal.

IMO, the Vienna Card is NOT a good deal. It is €18,50 for 3 days, vs €13,60 for a 72-hr transport pass. You have to do some serious sightseeing during those 3 days to make your money back, because the Vienna Card only gives a €1-2 discount at museums or attractions.

------------------------------
After we got our passes (I got a one-day pass, the rest of them shared a 8-daycard for the next 2 days), we had to do some housekeeping: picking up our reserved tickets from Musikverein and the Opera House, followed by a quick photo-op at Albertina.
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3249.jpg
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3250.jpg
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3252.jpg

We passed by Secession on our way to Naschmarkt. To the Age its Art, to Art its Freedom is the motto at the entrance.
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3254.jpg

The 3 masks represents: painting, architecture, and sculpture:
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3255.jpg

Naschmarkt was hopping by the time we got there. Getting through the narrow passageways was at times a challenge due to the crowds. There were lots and lots of different kinds of fresh produce, including my favorite: in-season spargel (white asparagus)
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3256.jpg

Towards the Western end of Naschmarkt are the Otto Wagner Wienzeile Houses, located at No. 38 & 40 Linke Wienzeile.
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3263.jpg

No. 38, on the corner, features gilded medallion reliefs on the facade
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3257.jpg
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3265.jpg

No. 40 is known as the Majolikahaus (Majolica House) because of the Majolica tiles forming the floral motif facade.
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3260.jpg

We grabbed a quick lunch from one of the take-out Döner kebab stalls (€3) then bought a bunch of produce and headed back to the apartment. We could have spent many more hours there as we didn't even venture to the flea market (only on Saturdays) but we had to go.

Schonbrunn
It was such a beautiful day - deep blue sky with no clouds - that we decided to change our itinerary and visit Schonbrunn while the weather is nice.

As mentioned before, we picked up tram #58 right outside our apartment, and arrived at the main entrance of Schonbrunn in 10 minutes.
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3266.jpg

We bought the Classic lite Pass for €14,90 each, which includes the Grand tour plus Gloriette, Privy Garden, Maze & Labyrinth.
http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/plan-yo...ets-tours.html

In retrospect, we could have just been as happy with Grand Tour tickets alone, because those "extras" really weren't worth the extra 2 euro price.

If you go, absolutely do the Grand Tour and NOT the Imperial Tour. The Grand Tour covers more room, and IMO, the best rooms in the Palace. While I have been to quite a few palaces in Europe (Versailles, Sanssouci, Schloss Charlottenburg, Würzburg Residenz, Hofburg Palace etc), the rooms at Schonbrunn are really unique. We were very impressed with the Chinese porcelain room, the lacquer room, the millions room, just to name a few!
http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/things-...he-palace.html

After touring the palace, we visited the Gardens. Most of the gardens are free, and the Privy Garden (included in our Pass) isn't worth mentioning. We hiked up the hill to the Gloriette, and our ticket allows us to climb to the top of it. I don't think the view is really that much of a difference.
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3279.jpg

On our way out, we passed by the garden to the west of the palace building, where wisterias are in full bloom.
http://i406.photobucket.com/albums/p...9/IMG_3286.jpg

We took Tram 58 back to our apartment and stayed in for dinner, cooking the produce we bought at Naschmarkt. We bought some white asparagus, but without the right equipment, they don't taste as good as I recall.
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