I have danced with the city of Vienna for more than three years now – waltzing back and forth from the UK on a regular basis. I am no longer a tourist and know the city better than the one I currently work in back home. So I’d like to offer my suggestion for the best way to see this imperial city.
I am a fan of the public transport system in Vienna. It runs smoothly, has plenty of options and can be paid in one weekly ticket covering every form of transport in the main city zone. Word to the wise though, weekly tickets run from Monday to Sunday, not from the day you paid, so pick the right ticket for the time you have and make sure you have a valid one. Inspectors roam the transport high seas and it’s easy to get caught out.
The route I am suggesting involves lots of opportunities for food, wine, coffee and a ride on probably the most iconic form of transport in Vienna – the tram! To be precise, the D Tram.
The D tram starts or ends, depending on your perspective, at the Central railway station in Vienna. This is the newly developed main train station and impressive on many scales. However the best place to start your tour is a little further along the D tram line at the Belvedere Palace. It opens at 10 am, which is the perfect time for morning coffee, Vienna style, and a good place to survey the journey ahead. Stand in front of the palace and look to the distant wooded hill of Vienna, The Wienerwald. At the base of these hills sits the suburb of Nussdorf, where the D Tram terminates and your journey will end.
The Belvedere holds a large collection of works by Klimt and is well worth a look and, because you have arrived so early, you will be able to beat the best of the tourists.
Once you are full of coffee and culture, its time to begin the ride. Pick up the D Tram outside the main front gate of the palace on Prinz Eugen Strasse and ride down into the city. The tram will join the Ringstrasse, a circular route round the edge of the grand centre of Vienna. Here you will pass all the most famous landmarks – the Opera House, the Hofburg Palace, the main museums, the Parliament building and the Rathaus. At any point you may choose to get off the tram and disappear into the main heart of the city, but I would suggest, and it only is a suggestion, that you stay in your seat.
The Rathaus always seems to have some event or other taking place.The Christmas Markets are superb and run till Christmas Eve, when they are quickly replaced by the stage for the Silverfest, Vienna’s free, yes I said free, New Year’s Eve shindig. You pay for drinks and food, but music and fireworks come with no charge. By February you have an ice rink. While in spring the Easter markets take over. Then over summer the film festival. If you see something happening at the Rathaus, make a mental note to some back the following day.
Stay on the D tram as it turns off Schottenring and reaches Schlickgasse. You will find yourself in the ninth district of Vienna, an area called Alsergrund. This is the area of Vienna where Franz Schubert was born, Beethoven died and both Sigmund Freud and Viktor Frankl once lived.
A stone’s throw from the tram stop is the Sigmund Freud museum, while across the road you will see the street Servitengasse. This is one of my favourite finds in all of Vienna. On a weekday there is a great buzz to the street, and it’s a good place to pick up lunch. It’s cliental are business people, therefore at the weekend the cafes are less prolific, so be warned. However it is still worth a wander on any day, especially if you want great coffee. Café Casse is our “easy like Sunday morning” coffee shop. I buy coffee there to bring home to the UK (then use it sparingly, so I don’t run out before I return!)
‘Curry Me Home’, is another shop that your nose cannot walk by, without being drawn in for a sensory overload. I have bought several different spice combinations to try in recipes I have yet to invent. Yes this street has many delightful little shops, that will easily while away an hour or two of your time.
So I will leave you exploring and we will carry on together next week.