Vienna like any major European city has a lot to offer in terms of things to do in your free time. If it’s grand imperial palaces and crown jewels you want, Vienna has it. If you’d rather enjoy some fine art both new and old, Vienna has got you covered as well. If it’s outdoor activities you’re looking for then why not visit the beautiful Wienerwald rent a city bike and ride along the Donaukanal. Some cycling and a bit of art is all very well though, but what sort of thing can Vienna and Austria uniquely offer for you to do in your spare time. Depends what you want really. Für jeden das Passende!
To kick things off, why not a night at the opera? Now first of all I will admit two things, I go past this building pretty much every day on my way into university or into the city so I’m well up for writing about it, and secondly I’ve never actually seen an opera. Despite that second admission I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Wiener Staatsoper. Guided tours are offered in English and German and even ignoring all the culture and history you can find in a building like that the tour is well worth it for a glimpse at the massive chandelier (about as large as a medium sized UFO) that hangs above some of the more expensive seats in the house. Of course though if a night at the opera is your kind of thing then there is a production on literally every night of the week, including an occasional ballet for those also interested. What better place to listen to Strauss or Mozart than in the city they called home?
The first place I went to when I arrived in Vienna (after my hotel) was the Prater. I’d heard a lot about its practically ancient Riesenrad and creaking Achterbahnen and seeing as I was staying just around the corner and I couldn’t resist. I wandered through late at night not really knowing what to expect. The whole place was alive with ghost trains, giant dinosaurs and coupled with German accents I couldn’t really understand, which turned out to just be the local Viennese, it all felt a bit surreal. Still though it was really great fun! I’ve been back countless times now and it really is just as mad as my first visit. On a sunny afternoon the place is full of families enjoying a day out and it even still feels alive late into the night when the combination of Würstel, local beer and Geisterzüge prove a big hit with party people as they wander between attractions to some of the bars and clubs scattered around the place. The Prater was originally a large forested area on the edge of Vienna but over time it evolved into a public park and now a corner of it is dedicated to a fairground with some attractions surviving from more than a hundred years ago. To choose a local phrase, der Prater ist leiwand.
Did you know that Vienna invented both the modern European cafe and croissants? Except from in Vienna a croissant is a Kipferl and coffee comes in countless varieties. Like always the Viennese like to do things a little differently. A Kaffeehaus in Vienna is quite far removed from your typical Starbucks or Costa Coffee. Typically a Kaffeehaus is somewhere with a few Stammkunden tucked away in a corner sipping a Verlängerter or a Melange and perhaps reading a newspaper or playing cards. Though of course new customers are always welcome! And what better to go with a proper coffee than some proper cake? In this regard Vienna is certainly not lacking. You might want to try a slice of Sacher Torte, a couple of Marillenpalatschinken or maybe a Krapfen or two to go with your coffee. My personal favourite combination has to be an Einspänner, a kind of espresso with whipped cream, and an Esterhazy Schnitte which is a slice of cake with almonds and icing. Whilst it’s not the healthiest option in the world you can’t get a more Viennese experience than relaxing with Kaffee und Kuchen im Kaffeehaus!
Winter sports are to Austria what rugby and football are to Wales. Though whilst skiing probably isn’t as accessible as a quick five-a-side, what with the ski boots and poles and winter wear, it really is just as fun. Austria has some really incredible scenery with much of the country being dominated by mountains and valleys, so much so that it’s often referred to as the Alpenrepubublik. Now of course you can enjoy the Austrian great outdoors in the summer and see its many peaks and lakes that way, but what makes die Alpen a little bit different from the Brecon Beacons is the Skisaison every winter. Austrians really do love a bit of skiing, if you switch over to a sports channel during the winter for example your pretty likely to come across some kind of ski event on the telly. I’m very lucky to have been skiing once or twice and whilst it can be a bit difficult to organise the equipment and dragging it up and down mountains all day, it really is very rewarding looking back up at a peak and see how far you’ve come. I can see why the Austrians enjoy it so much. Perhaps the only thing Austrians like more though is the Après-Ski party and to partake in a bit of schnapps und jausnen whilst listening to some so bad it’s good Austropop. “Anton aus Tyrol” is a particular favourite of mine! You can ski in almost every part of Austria and the nearest ski resorts to Vienna are little more than two hours away by car or train. Die herrlichen Aussichten lohnen sich!