Vienna – Days 1 & 2

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that my photographs looked rather ‘holiday like’ last week, as I was sunning it up in the beautiful city of Vienna. With record temperatures since the beginning of records (yes really), my boyfriend Max and I had a wonderful time exploring what the city has to offer. And although I would have never previously considered a trip to Vienna as anything more than a ‘city break’, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a relaxing pace the city moves at and how much of a holiday destination it really is.

Day One

Setting off on an early flight from Heathrow on Friday morning, I was very excited to see Max (who had flown to Austria a few days before and was taking the train down to Vienna). Being half-Austrian, I was relying on him to know the ins and outs of the country (and the language) so felt a little daunted by the prospect of making the journey on my own – but it was actually surprisingly easy. A short 2 hour flight to Vienna airport (I flew British Airways, but EasyJet also fly there) brings you just 16 minutes from the city centre via the CAT train, which costs 19 euros return.

Once arriving at Wien Mitte, which is the main hub for the CAT train, I had to make my way to the Tram stop (O) for the final leg of my journey to the hotel. Stupidly, my common sense didn’t kick in at this point and I got into a bit of a fluster trying to find the tram stop, going down several escalators (to the underground station) before realizing that trams operate on roads and therefore, have stops next to the road also. As we had a room booked at the beautiful Daniel Hotel, I caught the tram to Fangasse and walked the last few metres on foot.

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Arriving at the hotel itself felt like an achievement in itself, considering I’ve never really traveled alone before (especially not when trams, trains and finding my way is involved), but I was a little relieved to see Max waiting in the lobby for me.

The Daniel Hotel is renowned in Vienna for being both ‘smart’ and ‘luxurious’, with its weekend brunches standing as the place of choice for the cities fashionistas, businessmen and families alike, and immediately, I could feel the vibe of the hotel was very relaxed and at ease. The friendly receptionist checked us in quickly and without any hesitation, gave us the key card to our ‘Panorama’ room.

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With floor to ceiling windows, a glass shower and a hammock, the room itself was certainly unlike any other that I had come across and gave us a real feel for how modern, yet relaxed the city as a whole really is. I must admit, it was a little odd at first not to have the regular ‘hotel room’ amenities, such as a kettle and tea and coffee facilities, or the vast selection of toiletries, but this isn’t what ‘makes or breaks’ a hotel room for me and we soon adjusted (and realized that we probably never used half of the stuff anyway).

With our city tour guide Beatrice meeting us at 2PM, we had a quick lunch in the hotel’s brunch room (and a glass of pimms), before getting ready to explore the city. As an English Speaker, with a very friendly demeanor and a wealth of enthusiastic knowledge about her hometown, we honestly couldn’t have wished for a better person to show us around the city and help us get our bearings. From talking us through the current activities and performances, to helping us buy a three day travel card, Beatrice walked us round the main areas of the city – before giving us tips on where to go and what to do.

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She took us to her favourite gelato shop ‘Veganista’, which offers the most intriguing (but delicious) selection of ice creams, all made from rice milk, oat milk or soy milk (so suitable for vegans), which each had a delicious creamy texture and flavour, but almost half the calories of normal ice cream! Max opted for ‘basil’ and ‘poppy seed’ flavours, whilst I went for the less adventurous options of ‘strawberry’ and ‘vanilla’. If I’m really honest, I actually thought they tasted better than your usual pot of ice cream – and were very welcome considering the 38 degree heat outside.

With the royal baby news captivating Austria, Beatrice and I had a very long conversation about Austrian royalty (if you get a chance to have a read of the story, it’s so interesting) whilst exploring the palaces, which was a really interesting way to get a feel for the history of Vienna.

With our legs no longer able to carry us, Max and I headed back on the underground to the Daniel Hotel, stopping off at Karlsplatz on the way to catch a little of the Popfest action. We were so tired (after an early start and a long day of travel) and so ate a light dinner in the hotel.

Day Two

After a very restful night’s sleep (I even contemplated sleeping in the hammock at one point, as it looked so comfortable but opted for the bed), we were welcomed down to the hotel’s famous ‘brunch’ and were seated at a table outside. With a variety of cereals, fruits, pastries, cheeses, meats and teas on offer, I chose a rather unconventional breakfast option – chocolate brownies. Before you start wondering why on earth I turned down a parma ham roll in favour of a brownie for breakfast, I will justify my choice by saying that the hotel itself has a bakery, which is stocked up with delicious delights (including brownies in the morning) by a local baker (who clearly, like me has a penchant for sweet things). In other words, the brownies are to die for. What better way to start your day!

In prime location, just outside of the main square, but adjacent to the Belvedere Palace, we were lucky enough to walk through the beautiful palace gardens each morning to our tram stop, past the crowds of tourists gathered to see the famous ‘Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt. We had packed so much into our four day trip that we didn’t actually have the chance to see the painting ourselves, despite staying so close by, which is a shame – but if you do fancy dropping by, the gallery where the piece if located is 19 euros per person to enter. If you purchase a Vienna Card before your trip, the entrance fee is significantly lower.

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Just a short tram ride away was the museum’s quarter, which Max and I had decided to explore when Beatrice showed it to us the previous day. With many of the museums having an entrance fee of around 20 euros, we eventually decided to put our travel money budget (for the day) towards two tickets for the National History Museum, partly because Max seems to want to visit every NHM in the world and partly because they were hosting a special exhibition by Gunther von Hagens, entitled Bodyworlds. As someone who has a rather morbid curiosity when it comes to the body and how it works, the Bodyworlds exhibition had been high on my agenda for several years, after my mother and several friends recommended it to me.

If you haven’t heard of Gunther von Hagen’s (who rather aptly, is from Austria) exhibitions before, the basic premise is that he (as a medical scientist) invented the ‘plastination’ process two decades ago, which allowed him to essentially ‘freeze’ real human bodies and display their bodies in exhibitions. It sounds rather gruesome and morbid, and to be honest it is quite shocking initially, but it’s very fascinating and rather strange to see real life human bodies, with different ‘layers’ of muscles, bones or the nervous system on display. Many disagree with his work, but all of the body donors gave their full consent prior to their death and so everything about it is legal and safe. Personally I think the exhibition itself (which wasn’t the full one – but a smaller one based around the body’s aging process) was a real mix between art and science, with the bodies positioned as dancers, basketball players and archers to show how different muscles work. Interesting, but very strange. I had to keep asking Max whether it was real or not as the experience was very surreal. Definitely worth a visit, but not for the faint hearted.

After a rather intense experience looking around the exhibition, we exited the Bodyworld’s section and entered the main section of the National History Museum, which was equally as fascinating but perhaps not as shocking. Vienna’s NHM plays host to the largest collection of meteorites in the world, which was very interesting – as I had never seen a meteorite before, let alone hundreds in one room – and so seeing them in the flesh was again surreal. Each labelled with the time, date and location they were found, the meteorites from space give indication of the forming of the world and each had an amazing metallic pattern on the side of them, which honestly looked (excuse the pun) out of this world. I don’t really believe in other worldly beings, but some of the objects on show looked like they had come from futuristic planets with new metals and technology. It was amazing.

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With our brains (well, my brain) positively blown, we decided to leave the museum and find a little cafe for lunch in the museum’s quarter. After spending several minutes deciding, we finally opted for a little cafe in the square which served halloumi burgers (my favourite) and himbeer soda (a raspberry flavoured soda water which I’m absolutely obsessed with). Despite rather bad service (we were warned the previous day by Beatrice), we had a lovely lunch and headed over to the canal for a light stroll – and cocktails.

With several man-made beaches, offering cocktails from their beach hut – the canal is a delightful place for a walk, and we had a lovely afternoon wandering up and down the main canal (nearest stop on the underground is Schwedenplatz) before settling on a terrace bar overlooking the boat port, which offered gorgeously refreshing Watermelon Martinis (mmm!).

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After a quick trip back to the hotel to change into our ‘evening wear’, we caught the tram back to the main square and found a small little Italian restaurant (complete with serenading waiter) near to the Opera House. I was still a little scarred from the exhibition earlier in the day (honestly, I was rather pleased to be a vegetarian) so Max and I shared a seafood pasta platter and a plate of profiteroles, before heading back to the hotel and collapsing into bed.

For any information on booking a trip to Vienna, or what to do please visit the Wien Travel Guide here.