Day 21: Vienna
After a good night’s sleep at Moxy Vienna Airport, we got up bright and early, ready to explore our final destination. There wasn’t much in the way of amenities at Moxy and breakfast was an expensive 15 euros for very basic continental fare. We opted to skip it and checkout.
We stepped out to beautiful clear blue skies and a temperate 20 degrees. This was so welcoming after the gloomy clouds over Mallorca. We took the S-Bahn from the Airport to get into the city, which was much cheaper than the Airport train and just 7 mins slower.
As we pulled into the city, we saw some graffiti, including this one correcting their grammar.
It was a easy transfer over to the U-Bahn (subway) which took us directly to our hotel of the day, the Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront.
We got in just past 10am and were pleasantly surprised that our room was ready. We had a small upgrade to a Junior Suite on the ground floor with beautiful views of the famous Danube River.
Best of all, as a Diamond member, we also got free breakfast in the executive lounge even though we checked in early. It was pretty standard European/American fare. The lounge itself was very long, but narrow. It had plenty of seating and beautiful panoramic views of the Danube and the city.
Before we headed out, we stopped by a local supermarket and were shocked at the price of alcohol here. Wine is literally cheaper than water.
After fumbling with the ticket machine before a couple of friendly locals helped out, we got on the U-Bahn back into the ring. Vienna City Centre is defined by a ring road that encompasses most of the historic and tourist landmarks, known as the Ringstrasse. This makes it really convenient to do short trips in Vienna while still getting to see a lot of the city.
As we emerged from the subway, we came out to the Vienna State Opera House.
This majestic building holds some of the most important musical events and shows in Vienna, nicknamed the City of Music. There is a famous standing area where tickets are priced for just a few euros so anyone can afford to see the shows. I initially planned on doing this, but there was a ballet performance during the days I was there and I was looking for classical music.
Outside the Opera, there were many people dressed up like Mozart (who was Austrian) selling tickets to the shows. I talked with one of them and they said there were two daily shows - one ballet at the Opera and one classical music show at Schronbrunn Palace. I was planning on visiting Schronbrunn anyways so I was interested. I said I would think about it and walked away. While the shows were legit, I’m not sure if those salesmen were. I ended up buying the tickets online and picked it up at the box office. As we continued through the city, we passed by Hotel Sacher, the birthplace of the Sacher Torte - Vienna’s favourite dessert. This is an iconic chocolate apricot cake that has since been replicated at pretty much every cafe in the city and must-have for tourists.
By now it was around lunchtime and I had my Amex Platinum Concerige make a reservation at Figlmüller, the most famous schnitzel house in Vienna. When we got there, there was a huge line out the door. Luckily, we could bypass it since we had a reservation.
We weren’t too hungry and we saw the portions were quite big, so we got 1 Schnitzel and 1 salad. Instead of paying for water, we got some apple spritzers, a popular drink here that was quite refreshing.
The schnitzel was very big and delicious. The meat is very thin so there is a nice crispness to it. It is also extremely tender and the thinness makes it feel lighter than it looks. The salad was also surprisingly good. It was very unique, made with potatoes in a sweet dressing – another local specialty. We were just right after the meal, while the table next to us was unable to finish the schnitzel that they ordered by the person.
After lunch, we went shopping in the city centre. Tourists in Vienna get their sales tax refunded and many European brands have much lower prices here. We first stopped by Swarovski, which I learned is actually an Austrian brand. Their flagship store in Vienna spanned three floors.
My mom picked up two broaches and I got a bracelet for my girlfriend. There was a large Chinese clientele, so much so that Wechat and Alipay are accepted. Some cashiers and staff were also Chinese. Afterwards, we headed to the huge three story Louis Vuitton store, which had a line and was packed.
I was looking for a wallet and my mom was looking for a small pouch. This was important because the attendant needed to know so they can get you right where you need to go and keep the line moving. We tried out a few different wallets and I was very happy with the one I picked out. My mom wasn’t quite sure how to describe the thing she wanted but the attendant somehow understood. The price was really good – almost 50% cheaper for the same items in the US! We were both really happy with our haul.
The architecture around the city centre was gorgeous. All the buildings were beautifully kept and very ornate. There were numerous plazas and intricate statues. The roads were mostly pedestrian, with the occasional horse carriage filled with tourists. At the centre of it all was St Stephens Cathedral. The roof was restored by the citizens after WWII, which decimated most of Vienna. That is partly why most of the historic buildings appear clean and well maintained since they’ve all been rebuilt after the war.
After the shopping, we went to get our tax refund. There was a long line so I went outside to explore some other parts of the city centre. Since everything is so close by, I made my way to the Hofburg Palace, which was the main palace for the Austrian ruling family and is now the Prime Minister’s residence.
After getting the tax returns, we headed back to our hotel on the Danube. We were just in time to catch the stunning sunset on the water. The panoramic views from the executive lounge were great.
Dinner wasn’t half bad either – they had more of that delicious Vienna potato salad from lunch too. I paired this with some Viennese sausages and German beer. Best of all, it was free!
This was a great first day in Vienna, hitting up the major sites in the city centre, trying the local food, and getting some great shopping in.