You are in Vienna. Give yourself a good deal of time. Well, actually, loads of it. Hope you have packed a good pair of shoes that will ‘allow you to walk all day’? A few more things that you need to have — map of the city, bottle of water, comfortable clothing as per the weather forecast. And now, you are set. Here is a city steeped in history and magnificent…..there is so much to see, that we urge you to loiter around…….
Start by reaching Maria-Theresien-Platz, the Maria Theresien Square, named so because of the large stautue of Maria Theresa (Austria’s most famous empress) in the middle of the square. Flanked by the impressive buildings of the Natural History museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) and the Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum) on either side, this is where you start getting a good dose of the history of Austria 16-17th century onwards. Makes sense to reach the square early – you not only beat the crowd, but also get good pictures.
Now turn left and walk up to the Ringstraße boulevard for Austria’s Parliament. An impressive building inspired by Greek architecture and dating back to the 19th century, together with statues of horse tamers on the roof and an impressive Athena fountain, the Pallas Athene Fountain, right at the front, the place brings you up to date with the times Austria has seen over the last two centuries…
Keep walking left from the parliament and you will soon reach the famous Rathaus, Vienna’s City Hall, the seat of the city’s administration. Another majestic edifice of the 19th century, it captures your interest by its neo-Gothic style of architecture. The ground in front of it is often the venue for fair and festivals. When we went visiting, they were having some sort of a ‘village fair’, with a whole lot of wares and clothing from the villages being sold there. Food and wine and beer made it a memorable experience at the Rathaus.
From here, we hopped into a bus and got down at the Hofburg Palace stop. That’s 2 stops away from Rathaus, and exactly opposite the Maria-Theresien Platz. Be prepared to be spellbound by the architecture of the Palace and its adjoining buildings. Massive and authoritative, the place tells tales of the Austrian history from the days of its first rule in the 13th century. The architecture have touches of all forms — Roman, Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque. We hovered around the Sprawling palace for a long time, soaking in its history and splendour.
The other side of the Palace’s road opens into the Kohlmarkt. The once-Coal-Market-of-Vienna, is now a vibrant street of lovely age-old buildings, cobbled all the way and flanked by stores of high-end lifestylebrands.And many cafes and restaurants too. Waking down this street is a must if you are a first-time visitor in Vienna.
Turn right from the Kohlmarket, and you will see the spikes of the gothic St Stephens. Follow the spikes and you will soon reach the next famous platz, Stephensplatz. Extremely beautiful from inside, there much to ponder on its history, its spectacular choir and the chapels.
Not sure how much time you have in your hand right now, but if you do, between the ice-creams and pastries, we urge you to definitely also see the Vienna State Opera House on the main road (involves a bit of walking from Stephensplatz), the Kalskirche on almost the other side, have a plate of the most famous Sacher Torte at Hotel Sacher which is close to the Opera House.
Well, we told you, you have to walk when in Vienna. You really have to. The best way to do it is by stopping by at the lovely cafes and treating yourself to pastries, ice-creams, even a glass of beer or wine!
P.S: For a complete Austria itinerary and tour details, read — A Perfect Summer Holiday in Austria