Vienna: Must see and do

Well by now you’ll know that in Vienna you simply *must* drink lots of the excellent coffee, and eat copious amounts of cake and sausages. But what to do in between meal times?

We had such an amazing holiday in Vienna, and although a LOT of it was spent at the amazing Christmas Markets (half the reason for us going in honesty!) I think we did pretty well at soaking up what this gorgeous city has to offer….and here is what I’d recommend you do too….

You can’t really get away from Mozart in Vienna, although it’s not quite as Mozart-crazy as Salzburg! The beautiful statue of the composer in the Burrgarten is well worth a look, although you may have to fight through hoards of school trippers to get your photo!

I love the way you can see Vienna’s Gothic masterpiece, the Stephansdom cathedral from so far away, yet it sort of creeps up on you as you discover it up close. One side of the roof is decorated with a rather on-trend chevron tile design, whilst the other bears the Austrian eagle. Inside though is the real surprise, as we found it lit up in a rather crazy tie-dye effect!

The guide books said that if you only go to see one palace in Vienna, make it the Schloss Shonbrunn. And it is certainly worth the short U-bahn trip out of the city. The audio guided tour will take you through the palace’s tumultuous history and gives you an insight into the lives of its many occupants, including the famous Habsburgs.

The palace also boasts incredible grounds, including various themed gardens, fountains, a labyrinth and maze, and a stunning gloriette….the climb up to which is well worth the effort when you turn around to see the whole of Vienna before you.

And as if that’s not enough, your combined ticket will also let you into the palace’s own zoo, the fascinating Wustenhaus (desert house) and the breathtaking Palmenhaus (Palm house) which is actually a replica of the one in our very own Kew Gardens!

Vienna is home to the world’s first Lomography shop, and so a pilgrimage to its vast photo wall was a must for this analogue-lover. It also has a great little gift shop and the rest of the Museum Quarter in which it resides is worth a visit too.

We found out about the Globe museum by chance, and hadn’t planned it into our schedule at all, but as soon as we knew it existed we couldn’t miss it! The museum far exceeded our expectations, and not only houses some of the most visually impressive and historically important  globes in the world (including an entire room featuring globes from private collections) but also teaches you the history of globe manufacture using clever interactive exhibits….I had no idea it would be so interesting! A combined ticket also lets you into the Papyrus museum and the fascinating Esperanto museum!

Vienna is so famed for its musical history that it would be rude to visit without experiencing some live music. We opted for a rather touristy package at the Kursalon in the Stadtpark…..a sort of a variety show featuring chamber music, ballet and opera, this was the perfect taster and had everyone toe tapping along to the familiar tunes of some of Vienna’s greatest inhabitants.

And whilst we’re on music…..Vienna’s answer to the Hollywood walk of fame is great fun, with golden stars featuring famous composers’ names stretching from the Staatsoper, all the way under the U-Bahn station tunnels.

And whilst you’re there, take a look at the charmingly funny Opera loos! In London we have cockney cash machines, but in Vienna there is a public toilet where you can listen to opera! Love it!

I could also argue that no trip to Vienna would be complete without a good fix of Klimt either, and the Secession museum is a great place to get a feel for the artist. Home to his masterpiece the Beethoven Frieze, the building itself is just as impressive, with its owl motifs and Medusa heads over the door!

And just over the road is the colourful Naschmarkt, the city’s largest and most popular farmers’ market.

I personally couldn’t let the opportunity to visit an iconic Bond film scene pass me by, and so we took a bit of a walk over to the Wurstelprater Amusement Park (actually the world’s oldest amuseument park!) to see the Riesenrad…..those of you who are as fond of Bond as I will recognise the Ferris wheel and the sliding glass doors below from The Living Daylights. The 65m wheel also featured in the film The Third Man, as well as cult classic Sunrise.

Vienna really is one of those cities though that you can just amble around all day, and although we crammed in lots, I’d happily return again (in the summer perhaps) to simply soak up some of the lovely atmosphere there.

Ems x

About these ads

Vienna: Eats

Whilst I’ve never actually *chosen* a holiday destination based on the food I’d expect to get there, food is often the first thing that makes me fall in love with a place. And Vienna will certainly be remembered as one of my favourite cities for that very reason!

We were so impressed by the meals we had on our little city break there last October, whether it was in a traditional restaurant, a quirky canteen or from an outdoor vendor. The biggest benefit for us was that so much of the meat there is Organic…..Adam and I only eat free range meat, so eating out is often a bit tricky for us, although we do allow ourselves a little more freedom whilst on holidays. It wasn’t just the meat that impressed us though….everything we ate was of such high quality, served with a smile (not to mention a great deal of patience with my poor German-speaking-ordering!) and I’d definitely say the food was a highlight of our trip!

To that end, I thought I’d share with you some of the places we most enjoyed eating whilst in Vienna….I hope you’ll want to try them if you’re ever there!

One of our most memorable meals was the incredible lunch buffet at Brandauer’s Schlossbrau. A grand ‘beer hall’ (and huge beer garden in the warmer months!) set inside one of Vienna’s last Biedermeier dance halls, this place feels both fancy and informal, with dozens of tables all over the former dance floor and even on the old velvet-draped stage. There is a wonderful beer selection (I’m afraid I can’t remember which one I had, but it was the waitress’ recommendation and very yummy!) as well as an incredibly good value all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Never one to turn down such a challenge, I relished the chance to try all the different traditional Austrian dishes, and I would heartily recommend doing so yourself, especially for the bargainous price of €7.50 (Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 3pm). I devoured three plates full, including an amazing potato soup, sauerkraut, schnitzel and goulash. I can imagine it pays to get there early during the summer months, especially if you’d like a pretty table outside under a chestnut tree, but it’s certainly an excellent place to visit if you’re going to see the nearby Schloss Shonbrunn…..Get the U4 to Shonbrunn (just about half a dozen stops from Karlsplatz going towards Hutteldorf) and visit the Schloss in the morning, and then walk off your big lunch around the Schloss grounds, zoo and very good copy of Kew!

I love a foody market, so Vienna’s Naschmarkt was a must for our trip. The Borough Market sized treasure is a few minutes’ walk from the centre (about ten minutes from the opera house and just over the road from the stunning Secession gallery) and is crammed with cute wooden stalls bursting with fresh produce. There are a good few sit-in restaurants and cafes there, but you’ll possibly be even more tempted to buy up lots of treats from the various stalls.

And still on markets, I couldn’t resist raving about the famous Viennese Christmas markets, which provided me with some of my favourite meals during our trip! There are a number of wonderful traditional dishes available at the various Chistkindlmarkts, and all of the ones I tried were AMAZING! I adored the savoury Pretzels and Langos (huge deep fried bread smothered in garlic sauce), but most of all the incredible Kartoffelpuffer (a sort of giant hash brown brushed with a yummy garlic sauce). We also enjoyed some amazing sweet things, like Lebkuchen (gingerbread biscuits), Maroni (roasted chestnuts),  and the yummy marshmallow-filled pastry rolls (can’t remember the name, but it was like the Hungarian Chimney Cakes, only filled like a Tunnocks Tea Cake!) as well as several mugs of the glorious Gluhwein (mulled wine). The biggest market is the one in front of the Rathaus, but you’ll find Christkindlmarkts all over the city from November onwards.

Still outdoors, I just have to share in the joy of the amazing Bitzinger Wurstelstand. You can find this gem right behind the iconic Staatsoper opera house, just around the corner from the famous Cafe Sacher. Famous in its own right, this sausage stand is often frequented by smart businessmen on their way home, as well as glamourously dressed opera-goers, all yumming up the no-frills offerings. There’s a good range of different sausages, sauces, breads and sides, and I just loved standing at the tall table integrated into the stand, underneath their heat lamp. This is how fast food should be!

Lastly, and probably our best meal whilst in Vienna, I can’t recommend enough the delicious offerings at Shone Perle. It’s a bit of a jaunt out of the main hub (nearest U-bahn station is Taborstrasse on U2), but this all-orgainc canteen style Neo-Beisl serves the most amazing food and is well worth the trip. I chose the Wiener Schnitzel (massive favourite of mine) which came with yummy potato salad, whilst Adam had the incredible Tafelspitz (prime boiled beef) which came along with a sort of giant potato rosti. Both dishes were accompanied with lovely sauces and sides, and we were delighted with the Austrian wines we chose too. I’d happily take the trip back here at the first chance….whilst the place isn’t fancy or terribly convenient to the main tourist attractions, I’d say you can’t beat it for quality and value.

Mahlzeit!

Ems x

Living for the weekend…. alternative Christmas shopping ideas

It’s getting rather close now! The tree is up, the mince meat has had its last feeding of brandy, and I am starting to panic about not being organised enough! It’s not like me at all to still have Christmas shopping to do so late…I always get so excited so early on that everything is bought by September! But because this year I’ve been so busy making Christmassy things to sell on my stall and in my Etsy and Folksy shops, I’m rather behind with the gifts I want to give!

Still, there’s plenty of opportunity to cram all those last minute things into a weekend….especially when you can buy all you need under one roof at a local craft market! I love the idea of buying special, hand-made, one-off gifts, and as a designer-maker myself I think it’s so important to support local businesses. So I thought I’d collate some ideas of where to go this weekend to stock up on those last few treasures…..

Hitchin Christmas Gala

Well I would say that, because I’m going to be there! Right in the historic market square, and along the pretty High Street will be lots of stalls selling local produce and hand-made treasures. There will also be music, carol singers and other entertainment to make your shopping experience all the more jolly! It starts at 9am this Sunday the 9th and runs until 5pm. Oh, and there is lots of free parking on Sundays!

Selby Abbey Christmas Festival

Accompanied by a concert by the Barlby Foot-Tappers, this festive fair will host a range of craft stalls inside the beautiful Abbey. Open from 9:30 to 3:30 it’s a stunning venue to find your last few Christmas gifts.

Screen shot 2012-12-07 at 15.00.31

The Crafty Fox

If I were still living in London I would most definitely be in attendance at this one. This two day market at the Dogstar in Brixton is just rammed with creativity, and as well as the opportunity to buy unique gifts you can also take part in workshops to make your own! There are also DJs and refreshments, and it’s free to get in!

Magpies & I Vintage and Handmade Christmas Market

I bally love a Spiegeltent. There are few things more stylishly glitzy in my opinion. And this market in Bristol is going to take place *inside* one! From 11am this Saturday you will find wonderful gift ideas from local crafters, illustrators, knitters, and vintage traders. And in addition to over 50 stalls, there will be a Spiegel Grotto, Christmas-themed craft workshops, a vintage hair salon, full bar and cafe, and live music acts!

Wood Green Animal Shelter Christmas Crafts, Cambridgeshire

This indoor market is open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th December, and hosts a wide range of arts, craft and gift stalls featuring accessories, handicrafts, hand made cards, photography, candles, aromatherapy products, ceramics and wood turning. It’s £2.50 to get in, and can be found at the shelter’s Godmanchester Centre.

Kingly Court Craft Jam

This is a mini Christmas craft fair and market showcasing independent designer-makers, illustrators and artists at the lovely Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street. Things British are hosting a range of stalls, featuring quirky products and festive foods.

 

Happy shopping!

Ems x

 

Sunny Southbank Sunday

This morning we awoke determined to make the most of the day, without tiring ourselves out and trying to cram in so many things that we’d feel we needed another Sunday to get over it all. And so with the help of my weekly ‘Something for the Weekend’ newsletter from LondonTown.com, we set about making plans. Just a little bus ride away for us (and on the best bus London has to offer…the wonderful RV1!), we found plenty of bits and bobs to keep us busy for a few hours at the Southbank Centre and around, and so off we went for adventures.

First we hit the gorgeously twee and kitsch Christmas Market, which currently stretches along the Thames from the London Eye to the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Cutesy little wooden huts, decked with festive adornments are filled with all kinds of gifts and Christmassy things, as well as yummy hot seasonal food and drinks. We spent an age trying on some beautiful alpaca yarn jumpers, which were a real favourite, as well as the charming glass blowing stall where the ceiling is filled with intricately made Christmas baubles.

Next it was indoors into the Royal Festival Hall to see the World Press Photo 2011 exhibition. A real eye opener, the display made me think more than about the quality and artistic merits of the photographs, as the incredible collection included many challenging images of war, the environment, and contemporary issues. The exhibition runs until 29th November and is free entry, so I would recommend a visit.

And then it was on to the Tea and Coffee Festival, just behind the hall in Southbank Square. The festival was really a sort of extension to the usual food market which is there every weekend, but there were plenty of treasures for the caffeine fiend to find. Comins Tea House had a lovely little stall, displaying their darling fine tea and British Tea ware. We loved the charming little metal tea caddies and cherry wood spoons. Sweet Tooth Factory were there to tempt those of sweet tooth (naturally) and with their Green Tea cup cakes, I was ever so tempted I have to say. And with cookies the size of which I had never seen (very large that it!), Galeta promised to take us to ‘cookie heaven’ whilst in their search for the perfect cookie. On the coffee front, Rococo Pod (also stocked at Waitrose I believe) boasted chocolates, coffees and ice creams in the most wonderful packaging of all. And then our best tasters of the day came from Kopi, who offer a clever monthly coffee club / subscription whereby you sign up for a regular delivery and their coffee experts send you amazing beans of all kinds to taste each month.

And after all that, it really was time to head home and spend the rest of the day in lazy Sunday mode….but not before a walk along the Southbank back to the bus stop to take in a little of the winter sun and some of the fun along the way…..