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Exploring Vienna: A Guide to a Few Hours of Wanderlust in Austria

Updated: Jun 21

Have you ever wandered around a city and after only a few hours felt so comfortable that you could easily imagine spending weeks, or months, or even years, living there? This is the feeling one gets from wandering the beautiful streets of Vienna, Austria.



Downtown Vienna, Austria
Downtown Vienna, Austria


Visiting Vienna, was a stopover vacation, on the way to spend a week on the island of Mauritius. Knowing we had a nine hour layover when we booked out flights from Toronto, we had the opportunity to spend at least a few hours strolling through downtown Vienna, Austria.



 

What is a Stopover Vacation?

This is a term we coined to describe a short vacation added to the primary destination, usually as a result of a layover. The stopover can extend a few days or simply a few hours. As a general rule, if a layover at a given airport is more than six hours, there is usually enough time to plan a short leave from the airport and exploration of the nearby city. Learn more about Stopover Vacations, by reading: The Art of the Stopover.

 


We were travelling in February and Mauritius was expected to be hot and tropical, but there was a distinct possibility that Vienna would be very chilly (and snowy) when we landed. Having no intention of wearing winter-ready clothing on the plane, we packed our warmer essentials (sweaters, gloves, boots, etc.) into a small carry on luggage. On the morning we landed in at the Vienna International Airport, we changed into our heavier clothes and for only $8 Euro, stored the carry on luggage in an available locker.





We then purchased return tickets for $38 Euro each, for the express train direct from the Vienna International Airport to downtown Vienna. Prior to booking, we researched and discovered that the CAT (City Airport Train) express, ran every thirty minutes from the Vienna International Airport, but took only a short ten minutes to reach the city center.



LUXURY TRAVEL TIP: Want to see Vienna in style? Book a City Sightseeing Tour in an Electric Vintage Car. This private tour, for up to 5 people, is a luxurious way to see the sights of Vienna, complete with sparkling wine.



St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

Knowing our time was limited, we plotted out a path around the Vienne city center, so that we could make the most of our time and visit as many interesting places as possible. We chose to disembark the CAT at the Stephansplatz Station, so that we could easily walk to our first point of interest, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (also known as Stephansdom).



 

TIP: Give yourself some options when on a Stopover Vacation, especially if there is the possibility of inclement weather. We had considered going to the Vienna Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) during our short visit, as it was within walking distance from the Stephansplatz station and they offered an interesting and in depth backstage tour. Had the weather been too cold or snowy for walking, we would have opted for this tour so that we could stay warm but still experience some of Vienna’s rich history. It’s always good to have a back-up plan.

 


Inside St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Inside St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria



St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a marvel. With its iconic Gothic and Romanesque style, it towers over you with intimidating intensity. It stands on the ruins of at least two other churches from as early as 1147, the most recent build occurring between 1339-1365. Clearly having been rebuilt, one can easily make out the different sections as you walk around the massive structure, each one seemingly older than the last.


Previously believed to be built in an open field, construction in 2000 for a new heating system required excavations, that revealed graves which were carbon dated to the 4th century. It is now believed that St. Stephen’s Cathedral was built upon an ancient Roman cemetery.




Detailed Roof of St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Detailed Roof of St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria


The mosaic tile roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, with it’s bright colours and intricate design, is stunning and has become one of the most recognizable images associated with Vienna. The faces of the gargoyles were very intriguing and we found ourselves slowly walking around the entire Cathedral with our head’s raised so to look up at each one as closely as possible.


Guests are permitted inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to walk into the main alcove and visit the gift shop for free, but cannot access the bulk of the Cathedral without purchasing a ticket for $6.50 Euro. Guests can also opt to descend to the catacombs or climb the south tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, for what must be a spectacular view, for a small fee. Had it been a cold or snowy day, we would have spent more time inside and explored everything St. Stephen’s Cathedral had to offer, but with the sun shining, we decided to walk the city center of Vienna instead.




St. Peter's Church, Vienna, Austria
St. Peter's Church, Vienna, Austria


From St. Stephen's Cathedral, we walked to St. Peter's Church (also known as The Peterskirche). Much smaller than St. Stephen's Cathedral, St. Peter's Church is a Baroque Roman Catholic Church, given to the priests of the Opus Dei by the Archbishop of Vienna in the 1970. The church is open most days to visitors, but we opted to admire the beautiful architecture from the outside and make our way to the next stop on our itinerary.



UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: A very unique way to visit The Peterskiche is to experience a Vienna Classical Concert in the heart of the St. Peter's Church. Be mesmerized by the baroque beauty around you as you listen to classic works from Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and Vivaldi.


In a word, coffee! Vienna has had a long love affair with coffee and confectionary, and we had every intention of partaking in that tradition.


View from second floor, Demel Bakery, Vienna, Austria
View from second floor, Demel Bakery, Vienna, Austria

From The Peterskirche, we strolled down the Kholmarkt to the infamous Demel Bakery. Originally founded by Ludwig Dehne, Demel Bakery was later sold to Christoph Demel, the famoud bakery opened its doors in 1786. We could not leave the city without having a classic Viennese coffee and a slice of the world famous Sachertorte.


It being early morning, we decided it was imperative that we have coffee and breakfast first. Past the bakery entrance and gift shop, we sat upstairs in one of the small rooms Demel Bakery offered and relaxed.


After a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs (baked and served in a glass), we ended our meal with an Apple Strudel and slice of Sachertorte. Neither of us are big fans of the jam and chocolate combination in baked goods, so our expectations weren’t high, but the Sachertorte is surprisingly rich and delicious.




 

Did you Know?

The original Sachertorte was invented by Franz Sacher and has two layers of apricot jam between the chocolate icing and the cake, but the Demel Bakery version of Sachertorte has only one layer.

 


Sachertorte and Apple Strudel

We had every intention of purchasing a full Sachertorte, beautifully packaged in a wooden box, but discovered at the cash register that the cake would expire while we were in Mauritius. Unless we intended on consuming the entire cake while staying at LUX Le Morne Resort, we needed to leave it behind.


Remembering that Demel had a store in the Vienna International Airport, we decided to try our luck and hopefully purchase one on the way home. Unfortunately, the Airport store were all out of Demel Sachertorte and we left Vienna sad and empty handed. In hindsight, we should have purchased it when we wanted to; we could have easily eaten it all during our stay in Mauritius.


Yes, it was that good.





 

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After a stop a Demel Bakery, we had planned on visiting Michaelerplatz, strolling down Kholmarkt, followed by a visit to the Vienna Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper), but we found ourselves exhausted. Though we had planned for almost everything, the one thing we hadn’t considered was the six hour difference between Vienna and Toronto. No matter how much we managed to sleep on the plane, our bodies were not rested and to us, it was the wee hours of the morning.




Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Hofburg, Vienna, Austria


After a long rest at Demel Bakery, tired and stuffed, we decided to cut the rest of the itinerary and just stroll slowly down Kholmarkt street to Michaelerplatz (St. Michael's Square) and admire the beautiful buildings, including the impressive Hofburg along the way. We slowly maneuvered our way through the narrow cobbled streets and headed back to the Stephansplatz Station, from whence we first arrived. Even with a number of streets under construction, the streets of downtown Vienna were very comfortable and easy to navigate.



 
Einbahn Sign, Vienna

Why are so many streets named Einbahn?

Navigating the city center of Vienna and noticing multiple streets with the same name (Einbahn), we wondered how locals distinguished one from the other. It was only after we passed the fifth or sixth street Einbahn street that we realized it wasn’t a name, but a direction. Einbahn is German for one way. We were so exhausted, that we didn’t notice the arrow on the street sign.

 


We cut through a nearby park and sat on a bench for a short while, watching the locals and enjoying the sounds of the wind in the trees. It was lovely. Had we been able to keep our eyes open, we would have sat on that bench for hours. We could have easily afforded the time to sit longer or walk around and explore Vienna more than we did, but decided it was best to head back to the Vienna International Airport early.


We hopped on the CAT express train once again and were back at the Vienna International Airport in no time. We quickly changed back into our travel clothes, our winter clothing packed away again in the carry on luggage. We relaxed in the Vienna International Airport Austrian Airlines Lounge and waited to board our flight direct to Mauritius. We had a long ten hour flight ahead of us, but luckily we were seated in Business Class on our Austrian Air flight, and would have lay flat beds. Sleep would come.





There is much to see and experience in Vienna, even in a few short hours, and though exhausted, we were grateful for the opportunity to visit and experience this welcoming city. This stopover vacation to Vienna, Austria peaked our interests, and inevitably added Austria to the list of countries we need to return to and explore more in depth.


If you have the opportunity, take it, even if it’s just for a frothy Viennese coffee and decadent slice of Sachertorte. Auf Wiedersehen Vienna!







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6 commentaires


Vienna has been on my bucket list for a while, to be combined with a trip to see the Spanish Riding School. Love the sound of the electric vintage car tour, that would be a real treat!


Lisa's Notebook | www.lisasnotebook.com

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D Marino
D Marino
18 mars
En réponse à

Doesn't it? I'm sad we didn't do it, but will have to when we return!

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D Marino
D Marino
09 févr. 2020

Thanks so much Stefan! Can't wait to go back and have more cake!

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Stefan Hacker
Stefan Hacker
09 févr. 2020

Great post, guys. We love Vienna (and Demel) and usually visit for a few days every other winter around New Year. 😊

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D Marino
D Marino
04 févr. 2020

Thanks so much Karen! It really is a lovely city to visit. And next time, we will spend more time in the church, it was stunning.

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Karen Smedley
Karen Smedley
04 févr. 2020

A great read. You have sparked my interest in Vienna. We had a similar situation with a layover in Lisbon, Portugal. It is somewhere I would like to revisit and stay longer. I have never really thought about visiting Vienna but it is on my list now.


ps the cathedral photo is stunning.

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