My tips, tricks, and favorite things in Vienna, Austria
Vienna has quickly become one of my favorite places in the world. I had the wonderful opportunity of living in Vienna for a month while completing my intensive course before coming to Bremen. It was an amazing month filled with travel, history, music, and ice cream. I had such a great time that it was hard for me to pack up my things and leave to start the program in Bremen. Little did I know it then but I would return to my European home of Vienna 2 more times this year (once with my parents and once with the program). As part of the Dickinson in Bremen program we have the opportunity to go on a weeklong excursion to Vienna. We spend the week learning about the history of the city as well as experiencing all of the many facets of culture Vienna has to offer. In this blog I’d like to share some of my favorite moments from the excursion as well as some of my tips as someone who knows Vienna well. But as Julie Andrews says lets start at the very beginning…
- Stephan’s Cathedral
Located at the very center of the city, St. Stephan’s is the most important building in the whole city. It is an easy navigation point, many of the city’s sites are within a 10-minute walk from its front door, and it is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. We got an “All Inclusive” ticket which let us do the audio guided tour of the inside of the cathedral, a tour of the catacombs, an elevator ride to the north tower, and the climb up to the south tower. When I was living in Vienna, I never had the chance to do all of these so I was excited and St. Stephan’s didn’t disappoint. I learned so much about the church from the audio guide and the views from the towers just can’t be beat.
- The Austrian National Library
Just down the Graben (the pedestrian area at the center of the city) and around the bend is the Hofburg Palace of the Habsburg dynasty and within this gorgeous palace is the National Library. I’d been to the library before, but this time, we had the extremely fortunate opportunity of getting a special tour. We learned all about the care of the books and the history of the building. The best part for me was getting able to see some selected books like a Gutenberg Bible up close and even touch it. My nerdy book-loving soul was close to exploding. The trip to the library was an absolute highlight of our trip for me.
- Peter’s Church
My favorite place in all of Vienna is St. Peter’s church. Located right off the Graben, St. Peter’s is often overlooked. This church is beautifully decorated and offers free concerts almost every night around 7:30pm. They put out a schedule of the weeks events including concerts by violinists, singers, and most importantly (in my opinion) organists. My favorite thing to do in Vienna is to take a late night walk from the Rathaus through the Volksgarten and the Hofburg all the way to my final stop at St. Peter’s church just in time for the concert. There is something magical about sitting in the candle-lit church as a talented musician plays Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on the organ while the whole building shakes from the sound. I highly recommend stopping by if you get the chance. The price (just a tip for the musicians) can’t be beat.
- The Vienna State Opera
The city of Vienna is filled with music everywhere you go and the very center of that music is at the state opera house. Located between the Graben and the Ringstraße, the Vienna State Opera is housing performances every night including ballets and of course Operas. As a famous attraction in Vienna, the ticket for the Opera can be quite expensive and often go fast. If you really want to see a performance there you have two options. The first is acquiring a standing room ticket. If you wait outside the building in a line about 80 minutes (or more depending on what show is being performed) before the show you can get a ticket for around 3 euros. Though time consuming and often grueling on hot days, a ticket for that price is hard to pass up. Another option is the large screen outside of the opera house on Kartnerstraße. A couple nights a week the opera displays the performance of the night outside free to the public on a large screen. People bring chairs and blankets to sit outside and enjoy the good weather and beautiful voices for free. If you, like me, aren’t that interested in hearing the voices of the world’s best singers and are more interested in seeing what the inside of the opera house looks like tours are also provided during the day. For about 4 euros (with a student discount) you can go on a tour of the interior of the building and learn all about how the shows are organized and the long history and tradition of opera in Vienna. I highly recommend.
- The Prater
Right outside of the inner city of Vienna is the Prater. Founded in 1766, the Prater is essentially an amusement park. The park is open from 10am until 1am and housing tons of restaurants as well as rides. The most famous of which is the Wiener Riesenrad or Ferris wheel. The wheel is 212 feet tall and is famous for its appearance in the movie The Third Man. My favorite ride is not the famous Ferris wheel but rather the tower swings. The Prater Tower is 117m high and offers a breathtaking view of the whole city. If you are afraid of heights it will likely be too much for you but otherwise it is a great way to see the whole city for only 5 euros.
I hope that these tips/suggestions help you to get the most out of your visit to Vienna if you get the opportunity to go. If you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have this past year. Ciao!