Vienna is a city of palaces, so we chose to tackle them one a day. On the second day we caught the tube over to the Schönbrunn Palace – beautiful, yellow and very large. This, like all the palaces, is accessible inside to the public, at a cost, but due to limits in our time and finances (and no raging interest in interior palatial design), we were happy to enjoy the external architecture and gardens only. The palaces – and the zoo attached – are perhaps better appreciated in the greener summer time. However, a winter benefit is the Christmas market: one of our favourites from the whole city. Here we enjoyed a potato and bacon hot concoction, and chatted to a stallholder about her beautiful handmade goldwork embroidered Christmas decorations. Many of these crafters are more than happy to speak about their work and methods, and (like seemingly all Viennese) speak perfect English. Another highlight of Schönbrunn is the ‘Strudel Show’, available every day at regular intervals, where for a mere €9.80 each you can enjoy a piece of apfelstrudel, a hot beverage, and a live demonstration of authentic strudel making (with a take-home recipe!) in a small café – definitely recommended.
Finding a nice restaurant that evening was more of a challenge. It seems that in terms of eating options in Vienna, you can largely only get an ultra high-class, expensive restaurant, or a Subway/McDonalds. There’s very little in-between. So if you’re planning a visit, I would recommend planning this part ahead a little, and having some restaurants in mind. As it was, we just wandered around until we eventually found somewhere which looked half-decent, which ended up being a greasy and unappetising disappointment.
The evening didn’t end on that bad note however, as we had booked in to an Advent Concert at the Stephansdom cathedral. Classical music is one of Vienna’s great offerings, and there was no lack of concerts to choose from, in locations all over the city. Many of these are obvious ‘tourist’ concerts, and very much pooh-poohed by locals as I found on TripAdvisor. The Stephansdom cathedral concert was beautiful visually and audibly, if perhaps a little too large a building for the size of the orchestra. Tickets can be bought outside (the evening of) and are priced according to seat location. The cheapest option is supposedly lacking a view – but get in early and certain seats in this price range have as good, if not better views, than those in the price range above. Just beware – food and drink is not allowed, so you’ll have to down your gluhwein before they let you in!
Top: view across Schönbrunn gardens. Above: Christmas market stalls (2), strudel, Strudelshow, Schönbrunn, inside Stephansdom (2).