I spent Sunday exploring Vienna’s inner city and later touring the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace. It was especially nice meeting several friendly Viennese locals who spoke English. I enjoyed our conversations about Vienna and traveling in Europe!
Innere Stadt is the first municipal district, the historic core of the city, and the legislative focal point of Vienna. The inner city is framed by Ringstraße, which follows the course of old town’s walls. First district has most of Vienna’s noteworthy medieval buildings, including the museum quarter, palaces, churches, houses of parliament, opera house, and city hall. It’s a very prestigious address!
Breath-taking Stephansdom Cathedral is the Innere Stadt’s focal point! It’s undergoing renovation. From the cathedral there are two areas to explore – the Schwedenplatz and the Donaukana. The less-interesting Donaukana was bombed during WWII and rebuilt mostly in concrete. The Schwedenplatz has the Jesuit Church and Medieval parts of the former University District where there are many small bars, cafés, and restaurants. It’s a fast-paced, fun area and the pastry and ice cream cafés are tempting and always busy – especially on Sunday afternoon. Of course the coffee in Vienna is always divine!
Attractions in the inner city include the Hofburg Palace (Burgkapelle), Spanish Riding School, treasury building, Austrian National Library, Michaelerplatz, Albertina Museum, and Burggarten and Volksgarten parks. It’s a lot to learn, write about, and look at!
One favorite tourist attraction is a slow carriage ride through Vienna’s cobblestoned streets. Beautiful horses and shiny carriages line up waiting for passengers.
Mid-afternoon I left the inner city and traveled to another area to spend the rest of the day at Schönbrunn Palace – one of Vienna’s most popular attractions. Construction of the mansion began in the late 1600s and ended almost 15 years later in 1712. The palace is southwest of the inner city but easy to reach via the underground. The palace complex includes the Imperial Gardens, Empress Sisi Museum, a carriage museum, a silver collection, and an imperial furniture collection. Stunning Schönbrunn Palace and its gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“The palace complex was designed by the von Erlachs, who were masterful baroque designers. It was built for the powerful Habsburg dynasty that ruled much of Europe for centuries. The Habsburgs had very refined tastes, which is clear when touring the palace, even the gardens are meticulous and dazzling.”
In the 1700s, the Schönbrunn Palace was a gift to Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, from her father. “The Archduchess enlisted a court architect to renovate her palace and give it a Rococo work over, including the gardens. Unlike the more grim Hofburg Palace, Schönbrunn Palace exhibits a much more lively and friendly appeal. It became the summer residence of Austria’s imperial family, and it remained as such until 1918, when the Habsburg dynasty saw an end to its long-running reign.”
Schönbrunn Palace’s Imperial Gardens are heavenly and separated into different areas. The French garden’s manicured hedges create an intricate and confusing maze – it was fun getting lost in them. There are many beautiful photographs of the palace and gardens, none of them do it justice.
Since it was Sunday Austrian families were out enjoying the day. There was a wedding at the palace and the bride and groom posed for photographs by one of the fountains.
Vienna is a lovely city with so much history and many exciting and interesting things to do and see. I’ll be leaving Austria tomorrow for České Budějovice – in the Czech Republic countryside.