24 Hours Walking Vienna

(note: this blog was updated in January 2019)

Our fast adventure through Europe continues with our next stop, 24 hours in Vienna.


We got to Vienna late. The Hilton Danube, although nice, was not convenient and a bit out of town. I wouldn’t recommend it, especially since the guidebook said they had a free shuttle to downtown. They didn’t. But it had a pretty view, and we were able to grab a club sandwich in the bar while watching the World Cup. There’s nothing like being in Europe during good soccer matches. We actually rooted for Amsterdam and Germany while there…

Be Sure to Buy a Metro Pass

The next morning, we grabbed our metro pass and headed into the heart of the city. Vienna is gorgeous–it reminds be a lot of Edinburgh, but bigger. Miles after miles after miles stand 1900 and earlier buildings. It’s simply scrumptious. Although there were tourists everywhere, because there are many places to visit in Vienna, we didn’t feel totally bombarded by them.

Our first stop was St Stephans Cathedral. Steve had never been to Europe, and thus he’d never seen any really old churches. St Stephans, built in the 14th century, shined as a perfect example. Of course we climbed to the top of the north tower and viewed the architecture and city from above. When we got back into the church, I was suddenly overcome by how many people over so many centuries had passed through the front doors, all praying and wishing for something. So we took a few minutes and passed some time in the pews and the altar. I said a prayer about extending love to all those who had come or will come to this place. Throughout my trip, I found several places that just seemed appropriate for little prayers.

The Quickest Way to See Vienna and Learn Something

We left the church and decided to take an Hop On Hop Off tour. With so much to see and so little time, this was a good option. Although I would have liked a live guide, there was a pre-recorded tour to listen to while the bus traveled its circuit. The tour also intertwined the famous music from Vienna and talked much about the composers of the time. It was nice to have the multifaceted presentation rather than just a bunch of dates honoring a bunch of dead white guys. And often, the tape played the music of the composers to fill the time. It was actually quite nice.

The Vienna Opera Tour Is Worth It!

Inspired by the tour (we saw where Freud drank coffee every afternoon, where Mozart was born, several buildings of architectural relevance, etc), we concluded that when in Vienna, one must go to the Opera. This explained all the salesmen dressed like Mozart who accosted us everywhere. We quickly figured out that the State Opera House is the place to experience opera, not the touristy one-offs our Mozart friends tried to sell us.

But Bring a Dress….

Feeling enlightened and high-class, we arrived at the Opera’s house ticket booth. That night’s opera, which was the second-to last night of the season, would be 143 Euro per person. A bit steep for us, especially since we had no idea what opera we were seeing and why it mattered, we inquired about others seats. Voila! Standing room only seats were available an hour before the show for only 3 Euro a piece! Off we went to stand in line.

Enter bad American tourist behavior: the maitre’d of the ticket line approached us, pointed to my knobby knees and stated, “No shorts.” He then looked at Steve and said, “Collars please.” Well, we weren’t nearly appropriately dressed, nor did we have time to run back to the hotel and change (Steve did have appropriate clothing) or to buy something (for me). So we said ciao to the Opera, and instead, we did a bit of shopping. We also learned that the museum we wanted to visit would be open the next day and that we would also have time to take an Opera tour.

Hello Masters

We trekked back to the hotel, slept, and then trekked back to the train station. There, we purchased our tickets to Prague, stuffed our backpack into a locker, and metroed to the Museum. Vienna’s museums are gigantic. Think of the biggest museum you know and then multiply by two or three. My goodness, which one should we pick? We decided on the old masters again, and enjoyed a quick tour of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Botticelli and others. From there, we squeezed in an Opera House tour. I’m ashamed I can’t even tell you all the names of all the composers we learned about, but I can tell you that we were overwhelmed by the musical talent of Vienna over time!

With just a few minutes to spare, we dashed to our train bound for Prague, where the vacation turns reflective and very romantic.