It was a cold winter day when I arrived in Vienna. Fortunately, exploring Vienna is easy because of its pedestrian-friendly streets and extensive public transportation, so I went for it despite the weather.
Exploring the City on Foot
As I’ve traveled to different cities over the years, some of the best times I’ve had were spent walking for hours. I always make a mental list of the places I want to see, but nothing is set in stone. As the cliché goes “it’s not the destination,” but it’s about the journey or something to that effect. Vienna is a beautiful city with a mix of old and new that you’d rather experience on foot.
Vienna isn’t a big city like Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, or Metro Manila, but it seemed much bigger. Vienna is the capital of Austria, but it the past, it has been the center of an empire. The city has palaces, wide alleys, narrow streets, and grand churches.
Karlskirche is a stunning Baroque church that Charles VI had built and dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo. The church is unlike many of the churches I’ve seen before: the main difference was the two columns by the entrance. As I walked inside the church, I couldn’t help but admire the dome’s frescoes with its depiction of angels and saints.
I made my way to Vienna’s main square, Stephansplatz. Tourists and locals flow in and out of this square while buying at the shops, taking selfies and photos, or looking for a restaurant to eat. Right at the center of this bustling area is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The latter is the most recognizable structure in the city with its height, towers, and significant role in the country’s history. The interior of the church is just as attention-grabbing as its exterior. The high ceiling will draw your eyes to the top and the intricately designed pulpit and altar will keep your eyes glued to seek out every detail.
My trip to Vienna would be incomplete without a stop at one of the many museums in the city. I didn’t have much time, so I settled down on a trip to the Albertina. This museum is one of the most famous art galleries in the world with exhibits from contemporary and old European masters. I’m no art connoisseur, but I do admire beauty and detail. I was fortunate enough to see exhibits by Picasso, Andy Warhol, Cezanne, and other painters.
Vienna has been home to some of the most prominent figures in the world such as Sigmund Freud, Mozart, and Beethoven just to name a few. If you’re fortunate enough to get tickets, you can listen to and be mesmerized by performances of Mozart, Beethoven, and other musicians’ compositions in the Vienna State Opera.
Living Like a Habsburg
The Habsburgs played a prominent role in Austria’s long history. You’d see museums and palaces named after one of their members. A visit to the Schonbrunn Palace, a Unesco World Heritage Site, provided me with a glimpse of the monarchs’ opulence. The palace complex is hundreds of years old and reflected the changing tastes of the royal families that lived within it. As I approached the palace, it was hard not to imagine the horse carriages that took royal families from all over the former Austro-Hungarian Empire in and out of its premises.
The more than a thousand rooms and halls of Schonbrunn showcase the luxurious lifestyle of the Habsburgs. The Great Gallery glitters in gold, my eyes couldn’t help but admire the ceiling’s fetching mural. The Walnut Room extensively uses intricate walnut (what else?) paneling. Visitors can find a wooden candelabra covered in gold in this room. The rooms and halls of Schonbrunn are a visual feast; each room and hall bombarded me with paintings, ornate furniture (sofas, chairs, beds, tables, and others), chandeliers, glasswork, elaborate rugs, and curtains, and all the luxury money can buy at the time. The Habsburgs commissioned various artists and artisans to create these intricate and grand pieces. The palace was a symbol of the monarch’s power and influence. The monarchy may have ended, but Austria has retained its influential and prominent role not just in the region, but also in the world.
Vienna is a fascinating and beautiful city that is full of culture, art, and history. Too bad I only stayed for a few days, because the cold weather didn’t bother me anyway.
Image credits: Joshua Berida