Without a doubt, Vienna is definitely top of the list for your winter getaways in Europe! Get the Christmas vibe 100% (or more!)as the city is brightly lit up and with Christmas markets that are a must to explore. So, here’s my travel story two years ago, in December 2018; I touchdown Vienna on a Holiday Season!
The reason why I chose Vienna
Apart from the festive season, another reason why I touchdown Vienna on a holiday season is meeting one of my mom’s besties. They have lost touch for decades, even before I was born. In fact, I haven’t met her!
Thanks to Facebook for reconnecting people, each one of us has a story of finding someone through this social platform. But for my mom’s friend, it took a while to find her. We couldn’t find her on social media accounts and even asking friends coming from her hometown about her whereabouts. Another friend of my mom now living in London, found her social profile. To make a story short, she married an Austrian and lived in Vienna for almost forty years. Of course, with an Austrian surname, how do we know? So our communication started and off I go!
Wizz Air is a low-cost Hungarian airline having an extensive network all across Europe. Cyprus airport, Larnaca (LCA) is a new base for Wizz Air which is very convenient. Booked this flight with add on luggage for about 100 Euros. On off-peak season there is a 60 EUR roundtrip flight to Vienna from Larnaca. So tempting but not now…
With temperatures in Vienna -2 to 2 degrees, warmers are very handy and all sorts of winter get up. That’s why I need a check-in luggage.
A three-hour flight from Cyprus, I touchdown at Flughafen Wien-Schwechat (VIE), Austria airport almost midnight. Immigration is very swift and finally meeting her for the first time. So sweet! I get to see her first before my mom! We developed a bond instantly.
With my lovely host and new friends, I geared up for the freezing temperature from head to toe. Expect a lot of walking so pack your most comfortable winter shoes. So here we go!
1. Christmas Markets
I am raising both my hands because I love Christmas markets! Viennese Christmas markets date back to Middle Ages. The city has various locations of these markets where you can enjoy Weihnachtspunsch (an alcoholic drink to keep you warm and don’t forget to bring home that souvenir mug – it’s a tradition!), sausages, chocolates (to die for!), handicrafts, and more goodies.
Don’t you miss being around with people outdoors? Not minding keeping a certain distance. Sometimes you can be at elbow to elbow waiting for your turn in a food stall? Or just one of the curious onlookers at the shops. I wish we can still do these things again...
Where to catch these Christmas Markets? Check out this guide:
Unfortunately due to COVID19, Christmas markets in Vienna are canceled this year.
2. Schönbrunn Palace
In 1996, the World Heritage Committee added Schonbrunn Palace to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The history of this palace dates back to the 14th century. This is the main summer residence of Habsburg rulers. The family of Habsburg ruled Austria for almost 650 years; the emperors of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
Entry to the palace and other attractions requires admission tickets. You can also purchase tickets online to avoid queues. For further details find out here – Schönbrunn Palace website.
During my visit the itinerary is a surprise or rather me, going with the flow, I did not have tickets for palace access. Instead, we stroll to the park and drop by at the Christmas market. Look, how frosty the surrounding is!
This is one of the famous landmarks in Vienna with millions of tourists visiting. You need at least half a day or better an entire day to explore the palace and the grounds.
2. Vienna Glasshouse / Palmenhaus Schönbrunn
One of the largest botanical exhibits around the world. It houses plants all over the world about 4,500 species. This was opened late 18th century. The facility is built with cast iron and wrought aluminum. Just a walking distance from Schönbrunn Palace.
This is the largest amusement park in Vienna, also referred to as Prater. Located in Weiner Prater, a public park in the Leopolstadt district. One of the main attractions is the Weiner Reisenrad Ferris Wheel or known as Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel. And yes, I hop on and enjoyed the 360-degree city view!
During the summer season, the Prater is one of the famous places to go and have fun! It’s a bit deserted during the winter.
3. Vienna State Opera House / Wiener Staatsoper
Does Mozart and Johann Strauss ring a bell? Well, they are one of the world’s popular composers born in Vienna!
The Vienna State Opera House has 1,709 seaters built around 1860-1869. It also houses the Vienna State Ballet.
With stars like Luciano Pavarotti performing here, this has become an international destination to watch performances. For events, ticket admissions can be pricey and sells so fast!
But don’t worry, you don’t need a ticket to see the opera house. It has free guided tours!
Further Reading: History of Vienna Concerts
4. St. Stephen’s Cathedral / Stephansdom Cathedral
The mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Vienna since the 13th century. It stands on the ruins of the original churches dated 1147. Located at the heart of Vienna in Stephansplatz. The cathedral stands at 446ft tall, you will never miss it once you are in the area.
Aside from the cathedral, there are also guided tours of the catacombs, north and south towers. You will be at awe of the amazing architecture of the cathedral.
Useful link: St. Stephan Cathedral
5. Spittelau Waste Incineration Plant
While riding the metro rail, I saw this tower pop up and curious what this structure is? It looks like an amusement park around it. But no!
Useful link: The Spittelau incinerator
Waste incineration is the process of converting organic substances to ash, fuel or heat. What a good way to reuse tons of wastes we have everyday.
Originally built in the 1960s by Friedensreich Hundertwasser (an Austrian visual artist who worked in the field of environmental protection) and redesigned in the 1980s. This is one of the spectacular architectural landmarks in Vienna. Who would think this is a waste incinerator?
Though I didn’t get the chance to view the tower up close. So if you are interested in marveling the architectural design you can find it at subway stations U6 and U4 lines.
This is the part when I go solo, usually at the end of my trip. I stop at Stradpark before I meet my lovely host for lunch since it’s on the same route.
This park links two locations, the city center and the third district, Landstraße where commuters pass through. Having an area of 65,000 square meters here you can see Viennese Art Noveau if you are coming from Stadtbanh railway pavilions or Steel Sculpture by Donald Judd from the third district side. Also statues of Viennese artists, writers, and the famous composer Johann Strauss, the principal composer of Viennese Waltzes.
I always have a mobile issue when it comes a freezing point, battery dies and I have limited photos here.
Useful link: City Walk Info at Stadtpark
7. Albertina Museum
I can’t say goodbye to Vienna without exploring an art museum. On this day, I finally get the chance to see snowfall. Filled with delight, I hop on a train and found my way to the Albertina museum.
The museum has a collection of 65,000 drawings and about one million master prints. Aside from these art exhibits, you can also explore the Habsburg staterooms; the museum was once the residence of the Habsburg archdukes and archduchesses for 100 years.
Useful link: Albertina Museum
With my four-day trip to Vienna, I am very satisfied with the sights I’ve been or took a glimpse. Of course, if the schedule allows, how I wish I can stay longer.
Shopping in Vienna
I find Vienna a little bit expensive when it comes to shopping. But one thing for sure is that you are getting quality products with the German brands. So, where are the shopping districts?
For luxury shopping you can head to The Graben and Kolhmarkt, brands like Jimmy Choo, Long Champ, and Gucci.
Mariahilfer is another shopping district with local stores and you can find brands such as H&M, Pull&Bear, and the like.
Also, they have malls such as Donauzentrum with about 200 shops; Millenium City with 100 shops, etc.
So if you plan on serious shopping then be prepared for it!
Useful link: Shopping Guide in Vienna
Getting Around in Vienna
This is definitely the least of your worries. I enjoyed riding the train, they also have buses, trams and taxis. You can get a handy metro rail guide, and it is easy to navigate. And even if you are feeling lost, sometimes at the look of your face, the locals are happy to help you out!
Depending on the number of days you will be in Vienna, they have transport passes to maximize your transport cost.
Here is your ticket guide in Vienna.
What is surprising is that you don’t have to tap your ticket all the time. Why? Because they operate with honesty. But at any time, an inspector boards the train or tram and if you are caught without a ticket, that’s the time you get a fine of EUR 103! I’m sure you have other ways to spend that amount, right?
Where to Eat Out?
Having Vienna based tour guides, I don’t need to check where to eat out. On my first day, we had a buffet lunch at Brandauer Schlossbrau, and I get to taste various selections of local cuisines. Expect a lot of steak or ribs and of course the famous Schnitzels and sausages.
Vienna is also known for its coffee and pastries! So don’t forget visiting a coffeehouse!
Here is a food guide, when you’re in town:
How about you? What’s on your mind once you touchdown Vienna for the holiday season?
Being a Tourist in Vienna
These are the reasons why you will love being a tourist in Vienna.
- Vienna is one of the safest cities and tourist-friendly cities to visit. According to the 2020 Global Peace Index, Vienna ranks 4th.
- Accessible transport services with 5 underground lines, 29 trams, and 127 bus lines. And if you wish to visit other European nations such as Prague and Hungary; you can easily go by train.
- The city has several wifi access points, hence you don’t necessarily need an international data package.
- With four seasons, you don’t need to wait for the next winter to plan for your trip. Vienna is more colorful during spring and with milder temperatures, it is more enjoyable outdoors.
- There are so many things that you can see and do from art and history, entertainment, adventure, and more! Vienna is just one of the states in Austria, and there are other states to explore, Salzburg is on my list!
I’m so glad that this trip happened. I left Vienna with so much joy in my heart! By summer 2019, my mom finally saw her bestie again as she visited home. With my mom’s passing early this year, I’m glad they were able to reconnect and spend time together.
Also, this is my first feels of snowflakes falling. Many of us are dreaming of white Christmas holidays. So, that’s one tick on my bucket list!
Before ending this post, I am thanking my host, Tita Jovie for the heartwarming hospitality.
To my new friends, Baby and Margie thanks for spending time with me. I had fun with you all!
I love to see all back again, we are just three hours flight apart!
(Did I say it correctly?)
Hello readers, I really appreciate you have come to this end! Hope you enjoyed this travel story and gained insights.
Has anyone been to Vienna? Raise your hands and share your memorable experiences and recommended places!
If you haven’t, has this trip inspired you?
Or share your favorite winter holiday experience here.