Our flight from Dublin to Vienna was at 7 am. While not ideal, it did provide the maximum amount of time in a new city, and so when our alarms woke us up at 4:15, James and I trudged downstairs to be greeted by a tiny Irish man cab driver (he self proclaimed himself a leprechaun) who told us all his travel hacks to fly to Bangkok for $365 (okay, Euros but finding that shortcut on my keyboard was too difficult and the dollars almost matches it right now!).
We arrived at the airport around 5 am, checked our bag (I know, I know, we never check, but carrying ballgowns and tuxedos around has made us compromise a few things), and sat down to a full Irish breakfast. Our plane boarded via the tarmac, so our super early arrival ended up working in our favor, since the time spent at our gate was about five minutes. The trip was painless and quick, and we landed in Vienna around 11 am, picked up our baggage and were on the 11:45 train into the city.
We opted to stay in an AirBnb during Vienna, and I’m really glad we did. The apartment is beautifully light, spacious and perfect for our few day stay in the city. We immediately made our first home cooked meal since we hit the road on December 26, and then spent the rest of the afternoon running errands, grocery shopping and doing a little bit of exploring.
For dinner, I made reservations at Gauthaus Nestroy, which is known in the gluten free world for their gluten free schnitzel. We walked in to a massive cloud of cigarette smoke. I gagged, almost turned around, but made multiple inquiries about a non-smoking section. They had one, but if you were around in the 90s, you remember the “non-smoking” sections of restaurants. It’s a bit of a stretch. I had of course, the gluten free pork schnitzel (James had the same, but not gluten free) as well as a gluten free beer.
When we arrived back at our AirBnb I was notified by Aer Lingus that we were upgraded to Business class and I proceeded to do a happy dance throughout the entire apartment. Pro tip: want to fly business on Aer Lingus? If they have seats open, they offer you the opportunity to bid for them. I put in the lowest bid possible, and because no one else actually bid for these, I scored seats for James and I. (This makes our tickets home about $600 each, vs. the normal $2,500+ you pay for business class).
The following morning we booked a walking tour for 11 am. Learning from our past travel experiences, we decided to take it easy beforehand and relax in the AirBnb before picking up our tickets to the New Year’s Eve ball at Hofburg Palace.
The walking tour was booked through Prime Tours. Our tour guide, Wolfgang, expertly brought us around the city, with stops at the Opera, Crypt, Hofburg palace, Spanish Riding school, Imperial residences and more. Highly, highly recommend as you will learn a significant amount about Viennese culture and history in about 90 minutes. My only complaint was the cold, which is just unavoidable in late December.
Following our tour guide’s recommendation, James and I headed to Cafe Tirolerhof to warm up and for some lunch. I had the Maria Therersia coffee (Viennese coffee with orange liquor and whipped cream) and the farmer’s omelet (hoping to get some vegetables but it was really just frozen carrots and peas!). James had a pot of tea, the apple strudel and sausage. Finally being able to feel our feet again, we headed to St. Stephen’s cathedral to see the inside. St. Stephen’s is beautiful, filled with candles and stained glass windows.
Afterwards, we decided to go to the Albertina museum to check out their Still Film gallery (photographs taken on set during movies from 1901 – 1970s). The museum also happened to have an entire exhibit of pointillism, which I find fascinating technique. This exhibit included pieces from Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso and many, many more. There are also contemporary galleries, as well as impressionism (of course). It was small enough to conquer in under two hours, and an audio tour would have likely been doable, but we were itching to take a quick rest before our evening at the Spanish Riding School performance.
The Spanish Riding School is definitely something that you will never see anywhere but Vienna. The horses are trained for 5 – 8 years to perform the utmost fantastical and ridiculous steps (prances?!) you will ever witness. They unfortunately don’t allow photographs or videos, so we didn’t capture any footage, but if you’re in the city, it is definitely worth going. We purchased the standing room only seats, and I’m glad we did, because unless you dropped 150+ euros on a first row seat, you stood anyway.