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 importantĀ  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

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Something from the weekend….. Dinosaurs, Sphinx and other friends….

So the weekend huh? Good weather huh?! It makes such a difference when the sun shines and I had such a lovely weekend…..

We didn’t start out with a weekend full of plans, so when we saw the blue sky and it was warm enough to have the windows open, we decided we just had to spend the day outside. We’ve been wanting to go to Crystal Palace on an adventure for ages, so on a whim we packed a lunch and headed towards the overground. I went once before but years and years ago, and before they refurbished the dinosaur trail, so that’s where we headed first and sat on the grass eating our picnic of falafel and tabbouleh looking down at the park below.

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Picnic finished, we began to make our way around the Dinosaur Trail. Created in 1953, this was the original Jurassic Park, and whilst the original Victorian stone statues are now known to be anatomically incorrect, the creatures are all the more charming for it. There is now even an online audio trail to follow as you take the path around the lake to look across to the Dinosaurs on their islands. The park itself is beautiful, with huge rhododendrons blooming everywhere and pre-historic looking shrubs.

Once we’d looped around we also discovered the little farm there, formerly ‘Pets Corner’, where we met lots of other creatures…… There are two very smiley and vocal pigs…. four handsome goats….. a pair of ‘short and brutish’ Shetland ponies…. rabbits, chickens, birds, guinea pigs…. and perhaps my favourites, two beautiful alpaca and some sheep with lambs! You can get really close to all of the animals so it was great to stroke them and take some photos. And chat to them for a bit of course.

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Next we made our way up to the main park, where the famous and iconic Crystal Palace used to stand. It’s incredible to think how huge it was…. I wish I could have seen it. It was built originally in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1852, then moved to this site in 1854. There have been rumours of re-building it for years, and if I won the lottery, I know that’s what I would do. There are plenty of bits of the Victorian architecture left, all falling into disrepair and weathering away. My favourites are the Sphinx which stand at the opening to several grand stair cases.

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From there we made our way into town and grabbed a pub meal on our way to Trafalgar Square. There we met our friends Kate and Jason to see the LSO Open Air Classics….. The London Symphony Orchestra were to play a selection of Stravinsky suites right in the square. The series is open to the public and free. The orchestra sounded incredible of course, and although a little was lost in terms of acoustics because of the location, the atmosphere more than made up for it. It was great to be able to sit and relax with friends, listening to such wonderful music, and so brilliantly different from a normal concert experience.

We were disappointed though that our friend Martin, who had come all the way in from Hitchin to see it, was delayed by the wretched tube and then wasn’t allowed in! He was told by security manning big barriers that the square was filled to capacity, but we had loads of space around us, and more in fact than where Martin ended up, crowded outside the barriers! I hope they work out the problem before the next one.

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Afterwards we went into Covent Garden for some drinks at the Punch and Judy pub (it was Punch’s birthday weekend after all) before making our tired way home to bed.

Our day of adventure left us needing a long lie in on Sunday morning, followed by a hearty brunch (recipe here). Then we took the bus up to Islington to see our friend Vixie and her stall at the Wonder Hill Market. As usual, I didn’t manage to get away without buying something (another brooch of a very cute spinning windmill!) and we had a lovely time snooping about the various crafty and vintagey stalls. We bought a huge slice of chocolate and Guinness cake and went to see it in the church grounds opposite in the sun. It seems so long since we were able to do that!

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From there, we had a little wander around the back streets off Upper Street, finding some gorgeous houses covered in Lilac and amazing smelling Wisteria, as well as the pretty Angel Puppet Theatre. Unfortunately we made it to the Chapel Road Market too late for the Farmers’ Market, but we made up for it by finding a brilliant ‘fancy goods’ shop called Zebedees which had stacks of cool stuff.

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Back at home and we were ready for a nice cup of tea and a sit down. I did a little sketching for some jewellery design ideas I’ve had, before making a start on our supper. We’d saved up loads of broccoli and leeks from our veggie box for the week and so I made a big batch of soup. I was super pleased with it…. in fact I think I’ll share the recipe here soon.

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And then we snuggled up on the sofa to watch Fantastic Mr Fox….. I haven’t seen it since the cinema and had quite forgotten how amazing it is! We were laughing out loud at all the brilliant and original funnies, as well as rocking along to the awesome soundtrack. After that, we were ready for an early night and so we sat in bed planning next weekend’s adventures!

Hope you managed to make the most of the better weather too!

Ems x