I recently spent 5 days in Austria, 3 in Vienna followed by 2 in Salzburg. I was staying in Bratislava for the weekend and took the ferry across the Danube to Vienna. It was amazing to see how different Austria was to Slovakia, while only a 75 minute ferry ride away. In this post, I highlight the best sites in the King and Queen Austrian cities – you tell me which is which.
The best way to see Vienna is on foot. There are 3 main attractions are particularly worth seeing in the city that you need to be sure not to overlook, even though they are quite popular. (It’s for good reason!)
The Belvedere has 2 palaces, the Upper and Lower Belvedere – built in the 18th century and is one of the world’s finest Baroque landmarks. The Belvedere Palace, also called the Baroque summer residence, was the home of the Prince Eugene. Tours round the palace (with an audio guide) are well recommended and at a cost of just 11 euros for adults, they are good value for money. In the Upper Belvedere, there is the largest Klimt collection (paintings by Gustav Klimt) in the world. There are also beautiful gardens surrounding the palace.
Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser is one of the most well known artists of the 20th century. He designed the Hundertwasser House (Hundertwasserhaus) with architect Joseph Krawina which was built between 1983 and 1985 in the Landstrase area of Vienna on the corner of Kegelgasse and Löwengasse street. What is unique about this house is that not only is it a mix of residential flats and terraces and offices, but there are 250 trees and bushes. Friedensreich did not ask for a fee to design the house, he wanted architecture that was closer to nature, no “godless” lines and bright colours in and on the building.
Since its construction it has attracted tourists daily. Entrance into the apartments is not possible, only in the café underneath. Fridensreich also created a shopping arcade opposite the house in the same style so that visitors would have an alternative attraction to the Hundertwasserhaus.
St Stephen’s Cathedral
Located in the heart of the city centre, St Stephen’s Cathedral (The Stephansdom) dating from the 14th century is one of the top attractions in the city, with more than 3 million people visiting a year. For those that want to attend a service, there are 7 every weekday and 10 services at different times on Sundays. There are also tours in and around the Cathedral and you can even climb up the South Tower (Türmer Stube). The Cathedral was the where Mozart was married in 1782 and also where his funeral took place just 9 years later. The cathedral is seen as a symbol of freedom after surviving extensive damage during the two World Wars (which have since been repaired).
Salzburg is located just 2 hours (on the fast train) from Vienna. As we were only here for a weekend, we were limited on time, so it was important to be able to see the main attractions in the Salzburg.
Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Gardens
The gardens are south of the city centre, accessible by bus, taxi or the hop on and hop off tour bus. The main building is the Hellbrunn Palace, also called the Schloss Hellbrunn Castle. You can only enter the palace by first having a guided tour of the gardens. A unique feature of these gardens were the fountains. The were mystical figures which suddenly started to spout water as we passed by and there was also a stone dinner table with chairs with water shooting up through the seats. The Hellbrunn Palace was the idea of Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems who had the Italian architect Santino Salari design the palace as well as the latest trick fountains at that time in the adjacent park.
The Honhensalzburg is a medieval castle and modern fortress in Salzburg which can be seen from miles away. It is open every day 9:30 – 17:00 during the winter and spring months and 9:00 – 19:00 May to September. At a cost of11 euros, there is access to the funicular (taking tourists up the mountain to the castle), the interior area with audio guide, the state rooms, the fortress museum, Rainer Regminet Museum. It is possible to spend a whole day here and it is well worth taking the funicular up to the top and then climbing the additional 3 stairways to the state rooms to get the best view of Salzburg.
The gardens are located in the centre of Salzburg and was the setting for one of the scenes in the Sound of Music. It was opened to the public in 1854 by the Emperor Franz Joseph and is a wonderful place to visit and relax on a warm summer’s day. The park was partly designed by Fischer von Erlach and has four large groups of statues in the park which represent water, fire, air and earth. The Mirabell Palace, built in 1606 under the Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, is now the home for the offices of the Salzburg’s mayor and the municipal council.
Austria is a stunningly beautiful country and often away from the well trodden tracks which in many ways is an advantage. There are a great variety of things to see and do, a superb transport system to get you anywhere you want and modest entrance fees to visit palaces and museums. Salzburg and Vienna are both great cities to explore, either on foot or on the hop on hop off bus. For an alternative view of the cities, visit the Christmas markets, which are a major attraction.