Vienna: The Imperial Palaces, Magnificent Museums and Iconic Cafés

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Belvedere

We went to Vienna last weekend for a three day holiday and I was completely blown away by the city. The buildings were magnificent; I’d never seen so many beautiful buildings in such a concentrated area before. Every corner we turned, there was another amazing structure to be awe-struck by – I’m pretty sure we walked around the city centre dragging our jaws along the ground with us!

Vienna or Wien is the capital of Austria and it used to be the imperial capital of the Austrian Empire which was ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy. The city is known for its musical and artistic legacy and is considered one of the most livable cities in the world.

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Upper Belevedere

Our hotel was located near the famous Belvedere complex, so naturally we went to check that out first. The Upper and Lower Belvedere are Baroque palaces that were built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was a general in the imperial army.

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Lower Belvedere

The two buildings are used as art museums and have beautifully manicured lawns, fountains and flower gardens surrounding them (look at those perfectly pointy trees!).

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Hall of Grotesques, Lower Belvedere

The Lower Belvedere holds temporary art exhibitions and the Upper Belvedere is home to Austrian art dating back to the middle ages. It is most famous for its huge Gustav Klimt collection including The Kiss. I am still so disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to go into the Upper Belvedere exhibition!

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Karlsplatz

We had perfect weather while we were in Vienna – three days of temperatures over 30 degrees with not a single cloud in the sky! After visiting Belvedere we stumbled upon the fountain at Karlsplatz, which people were swimming in to cool off in the heat.

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Stephansdom

The St. Stephan’s Cathedral or Stephansdom is the most important religious building in Vienna. There is also a Stephansdom in Passau (where I live) which was supposedly built in a similar Gothic style to the Vienna one before it was burnt down in a town fire and rebuilt in Baroque style.

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Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace in the centre of the city was the residence of monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty and also houses the Winter Riding School of the famous Lipizzan horses of the Spanish Riding School. I remember reading a book called The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson when I was younger which featured the Spanish Riding School – does anyone else remember reading that book?

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Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth

In the Hofburg Palace we went to the Sisi museum, which showed the life of the beloved Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary. I found it fascinating to learn about her life and she seemed very modern minded, which was sometimes not taken so well in her own time.

Sisi

Sisi was born in Munich to Bavarian royalty and met Franz Josef when she was fifteen, who became infatuated with her even though it was Sisi’s older sister he was there to meet. They married and Sisi moved to Vienna to start her royal duties. Throughout her life Sisi disliked Viennese court life and preferred to travel and do things on her own. She was famous for her beauty which she kept a strict routine of daily exercises and hours of dressing her long hair to upkeep.

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Imperial Apartment tour

The museum also included an audio tour of the imperial apartments where Franz Josef and Sisi lived. The rooms were gorgeous and rich with detail!

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Kunsthistorisches Museum

The Museum of Fine Arts or Kunsthistoriches Museum holds the Habsburgs’ art collection and it was amazing from the inside and out.

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Inside the museum

Marble staircases and gold leaf decorations adorned the main hallway, along with the huge fresco painted on the ceiling.

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Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

The Austrian National Library or Österreichische Nationalbibliothek is also located in the Hofburg and is also another gigantic building which includes four museums and boasts the title of being the largest library in Austria.

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University of Vienna

The University of Vienna is one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe. It really looks more like a palace than a university, doesn’t it?

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Rathaus (City hall)

 

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Austrian Parliament building

 

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Café Central

Vienna is also famous for its traditional coffeehouses, one of the most iconic being Café Central. The café opened in 1876 and famous people of Austria were noted to be regulars there.

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Delectable sweets in Café Central

 

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The arches and columns inside Café Central

A pianist was playing live in the café while we ate and the ambiance was just beautiful.

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Our Vienna Cards (Wien Karte)

When we got to the main train station in Vienna, we went to buy the Vienna Card, which cost 21,90 Euros and it was a great investment for our trip. You can buy the 48 hour card or the 72 hour card (which we got) and it enables you to travel on all public transport for free (buses, trams and subway) and gets you discounts for the main attractions and museums in the city. When every museum or palace costs 10 Euros or more to get in, this card seriously came in handy for a cheaper deal.

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As you can probably tell, there was A LOT to see in Vienna – almost too much! There is so much fascinating history there, especially involving the Habsburgs that what we saw was just the tiniest tip of the Viennese ice berg. Three days was definitely not long enough!

I already have a mental list of things I missed that I want to see when I go back there, starting with the Upper Belvedere art collection, Albertina, inside the National Library, National History Museum and maybe even a show at the Spanish Riding School.

I’m really looking forward to going back there sometime!


So, did you enjoy my Vienna post? 

Watch this space for my next Vienna post about Schönbrunn Palace!


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