On my last day in Vienna got up early for a very full day of touring. I was kicking myself for booking a 9am tour outside of the city center but as Schönbrunn Palace is the most popular destination in the Austrian capital it was a good decision. After quick European breakfast I took a ten minute walk to one of the big parks to catch the subway straight to the palace.
I have decided that any major city with a semi-decent mode of public transportation will be packed at 8:15 on a Thursday morning, by default. I boarded the train with dozens and dozens of Viennese citizens and while I was quite squished (and holy heck, people need deodorant) the good thing was that the trains came every three minutes. Because of this I arrived quite early and was able to take dozens of photos before my tour. These are some of my favorites:
I began my grand tour of Schönbrunn Palace, the summer imperial residence of Austria, by walking up the beautiful blue staircase with my audio guide. Over the course of two hours I knocked my double pearl earrings off three times pressing the audio guide to my ear. Chasing after them was quite and adventure it was the definition of a first world problem.
In a place this big the clearly labeled rooms and audio guide markers were much appreciated and I love that the information was in 30-45 seconds quips. The narration was a strictly need to know basis, as no one has time for 5-7 minutes per room in a palace this size. There was no photography allowed inside the palace so I will have to leave you with a few postcards of my favorite rooms.
The first, on the top left, is the Mirror Room where Mozart first performed when he was 6-years old. I am not a history buff but cool tidbits like this get me really excited. When touring through imperial apartments I love knowing famous people lived in these rooms and this was a tangible example that gave the room a more realistic feel.
My favorite room was the Great Gallery, on the bottom right, as I looked at it a dozen times online when booking the tour and planning my trip so it was bit of a pinch me experience standing in the center looking up. Oh, and those double pearls I mentioned? Well, the audio guide knocked one off and I went chasing around the room for it. #sillytourist Oh, and JFK had meetings in the room. Causal.
All of the rooms on the back side of the palace looked out to the garden and the museum staff had some of the windows open which provided a wonderful breeze and as this was the summer palace – and the high for the day was 91 degrees – it gave it an air of authenticity. I am so glad I booked the grand tour as I was able to walk through 38 rooms and peer into a dozen more. Thanks Tripadvisor for telling me I wanted this extended tour as after 20 rooms the Imperial tour had to return their audio guides and exit the palace. My mantra, as it was all trip, I am here, let’s do the full thing. Once done with the tour I headed out towards the gardens
The gardens were just as picturesque as all of brochures and Google Image photos showed. I spent more than an hour walking through them and climbed up to the Schönbrunn Palace Garden Gloriette at the top. Once there sat on the ledge for 15 minutes enjoying the lovely sunshine. I felt bad for all of the people dressed in long sleeve shirts and jeans, it may have been September but 32°C (91°F) is hot regardless of where you come from. And while sitting on the ledge I must have been in at least 50 photos.
After my visit to the palace I took the scenic route back to the subway and headed to Gasthaus Pöschl, the spot my friend recommended for lunch. I had actually walked by it the previous day and not even known it. Unfortunately there were no tables available outside so I sat down at the bar with a drink to wait but when they told me it would be 45 minutes, I just stayed inside. With my new found love for Aperol Spritz I ordered one as I perused the list of constantly changing specials and decided to go with the pumpkin soup, despite the heat, and the beet salad.
That salad. Wow. Sometimes you have a dish that is so good you don’t try and decipher all of the flavors, you just enjoy. It was excellent and that is all that matters. After a few bites the waiter asked if I wanted fresh bread. Kind of like climbing the golden stair case, the answer to do you want bread is always yes, especially on this trip where all of the baked goods were excellent. Some things are funny though, when I asked for a glass of tap water the server asked if I wanted it cold. Um, yes?
After lunch I did a spot of shopping and bought an amazing shoes that will get their own post. Along with the heels I bought two dresses and then I went back to the hotel for a quick rinse because the gravel of the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace left dust everywhere. And because I would be visiting a church and as I learned in Budapest, you need to have your shoulders covered so I switched dresses.
The next stop was to the city’s most famous collection of paintings, the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Even though I have a limited art history background even I know a museum is massive and very, very famous when there is an entire room of Titan and only one piece is featured on “highlight works” even though it is the second largest collection in the world.
I appreciate understanding docents and sympathetic staff at information booths and the one at Kunsthistorisches was particular helpful – take this map, see these things, and skip the whole second floor, it is just coins. Sure audio guides are dorky but I usually find they are worth the money especially in a museum filled with works by with Rembrant and Vermeer.
In college I never took an art history class so I need all of the help I can get so, for instance, when this massive 10 foot tall Caravaggio was highlighted as one of the top pieces at the museum, I would have assumed because it depicted the virgin and child. Nope, this work, The Madonna of the Rosary, is famous because the people kneeling have dirty feet. Okay, Caravaggio, you do you!
I also loved the “View of Vienna from Belvedere Palace” by Canaletto because I had been there the day before and took photos of that 2015 view and could really appreciate how magnificent his 1758 depiction is, so realistic!
After leaving the museum I took a wander through The Museumsquartier in the 7th district before heading to the center city. Once back in the 1st district I meandered down different roads I had not yet traversed, including the Mariahilfer Straße, and took a long detour to the river that runs through Vienna, as it would be my last opportunity. After the river I Google Mapped the route to dinner and on my way to the restaurant passed an ice cream shop packed to the brim and vowed to go back for dessert.
A few blocks after the ice cream shop I maneuvered through small back streets and found Xpedit. It was exactly how my friend described – quaint, delicious, and local. For the first time all trip I only took photos in natural lighting, not wanting to be that obnoxious tourist ruining people’s meal with a bright flash.
As I sat down and surveyed the menu with a glass of wine and I remembered what Johannes had said about this place – the two owners are Italian and every week they drive to Northern Italty and pick up fresh meats, cheeses, and produce and bring it back to Vienna. I ordered the homemade ravioli and was very pleased with my dish.
I skipped dessert at Xpedit and instead wandered my back to the famous ice cream shop. When I got there I was faced with two options a storefront where you order a cup or cone and then wandered away or a sit down section. I decided to sit down and spent a good ten minutes reading through the dozens of menu options before settling on the Sicilia Coup; chocolate and vanilla ice cream with sponge cake, manala wine, whipped cream, and chocolate mouse.
A great end to my last day in Vienna! I hope you have enjoyed my Europe adventures thus far chronicling my trip to Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria. Stay tuned for three more posts about the end of my adventure and the time I spent in Prague, Czech Republic!