How to Have a High Class Weekend in Vienna (& Bratislava!)

THE LITTLE SCOOP: [THE BULLET POINTS]
EAT & drink:

Prepare for heavy “stick to your ribs” cuisine in both Vienna and Bratislava! In Vienna we enjoyed lunch at the oldest restaurant in town (origins from 1566!) at Gosser Bierklinik  – soo much spaetzle, schnitzel, dumplings, and even pork knuckle if that is your sort of thing!

In Bratislava , we tried potato pancakes, bryndzové halušky (potato dumplings with sheep cheese and roasted bacon), and goulash at the popular Flagship restaurant! We nearly rolled home, but that could have also been because of the dark beers.

To pile it on further, the Viennese love their sweets! In addition to apple strudel, the most famous dessert is the chocolate and apricot jam Sascher Torte – we tried the famous Demel cafe as a post-dinner “walk home snack” and found it a little dry! It might be better enjoyed with coffee. I’d instead recommend the delicious Franz Josef cake from Hotel Regina! 

STAY: 

We stayed in this really lovely Airbnb about a 15-20 minute walk from The Hofburg- the host was so accommodating and flexible! A great common space and kitchen and more than baby friendly.

The perfect common room to work on standing up!
PLAY: 

Visit The Hofburg, the Hapsburg Palace, for a host of activities – a show at the Spanish Riding School, a tour of the Imperial Apartments, or a Mass performance by the Vienna Boys Choir. Walk through Old Town to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, check out the Opera House, take a spin on the Ferris Wheel the dates back to 1897.

THE BIG SCOOP: [THE WHOLE STORY]

After a weekend in Prague, we were psyched to have my mom “on the continent” to visit a city we had been lusting after… and fortunately, Vienna waits for you. After just two nights there, I can completely understand why it is so regularly championed as the best city in the world to live in, and had we not landed in Geneva, would have eagerly jumped on an opportunity to move there too! It truly felt like the epicenter of art- music, sculpture, desserts 😀 – just breathtaking all around. Just a 90 minute flight from Geneva, it could not have been more different from it’s fellow Austrian city Salzburg – which we also adored, but was definitely a “baby Germany”  – while Vienna had a style all its own.

Vienna has the all the glamour of Rome and Paris, the colorful touches of Budapest, and the cleanliness and efficiency of Munich. There is Bernini-esque opulence everywhere you look and the streets are spotless.  Klimt (of “Woman in Gold” fame), Freud, Beethoven,  and Mozart called Vienna home (though Mozart was born in Salzburg) and it is the pinnacle of high culture.

The name you will constantly come across when reading about Vienna is “Hapsburg.” To oversimplify a very long story of a very complicated family, the Hapsburgs were a European monarchy that ruled over a collection of lands (accumulated from a series of weddings, wars, inheritances, family divisions, political agreements, etc.) in central and eastern Europe from the 13th century to 1918.  The city of Vienna became the Hapsburg Empire’s headquarters.

The Hofburg – Hapsburg HQ

Their most famous rulers were Kaiser Franz Josef, the longest-reigning Emperor of Austria, and his wife Sisi, a beautiful but reluctant royal who met a sad end by assassination in Geneva of all places. They were very much celebrated and you will come across their names consistently throughout a trip to the city.

In combination with their vital significance to Vienna, the Hapsburg family had an enormous effect on world history. The assassination of one of the family’s somewhat minor archdukes, Franz Ferdinand, in Serbia triggered a series of events that began the first World War.  Following the assassination, Austria-Hungary and its allies (Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria)  declared war on Serbia, and then battled Serbia’s allies (Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States.) Ultimately with their loss, the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires were finished.

However- the Hapsburg gorgeous taste carries on. First stop on your list should certainly be The Hofburg (where you can still visit the Imperial Apartments!) – if you’re a horse lover, do book a a show at the Spanish Riding School – it was fully sold out for us and didn’t welcome kids under three unfortunately.

My mom and I were fortunate enough to reserve seats at an unforgettable Sunday Mass in the The Hofburg Chapel with a performance by world-famous Vienna Boys Choir (you can book online here! Or try to score a standing room place on the day of) – the talent of these kids! 

Take a walk by the Opera House and book a show if possible …

and absolutely don’t skip out on St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The exterior is done in the style of the it’s fellow empire buddy –  Matthias Church in Budapest. St. Stephen’s dates back to 1137 and has 230,000 glazed chevron tiles. It played host to many of the Hapsburg dynasty’s weddings and funerals throughout their reign and is really stunning.

Since we had spent the weekend before in the Czech Republic, we decided why not visit it’s old copatriot, Slovakia! It was a lovely place to bring in James’ seven month birthday in his tenth country. What a lucky babe! We took an easy 90 minute train to Bratislava and enjoyed our walk around the Old Town …

before a great lunch at Flagship and walking up the hill to the Bratislava Castle (originally built in the 9th century but which showed awesome views of the Danube River and St. Martin’s Cathedral.

On our return to Vienna …

just a quick break to show off James loving on his grandma

we got off the train and headed up to the famous Ferris Wheel built in 1987. Standing at 212 feet tall, it’s an icon of Vienna and prominently featured in the movie “Before Sunrise.” We were hoping to ride it, however, the Prater amusement park where it is located was also home to a big Oktoberfest party the day we were visiting, so lots of drunk people plus a stroller did not make it a baby-friendly spot to hang out.

It was another weekend for the books and we just loved having my mom along for the ride to celebrate her birthday! She joined us for it last year as well (remember gorgeous Grindelwald?!)  and as always she was game for everything! Her curious and adventurous spirit is a big part of why we’re able to say “why not?” when thinking about travel opportunities, and we feel so fortunate that James’ has such special family to see the world with. We love you Lolly!

Phew – thanks for sticking around for the Western Civilization lesson!

We’ve just returned from an amazing Swiss Alps weekend with our dear friend A – I’ll be sharing our visits to magical lakes Blausee & Oeschinen soon! We head to Portugal on Saturday to meet some of our closest friends and their little guy for a whole week of family fun. We can’t wait to see them and explore Porto, the Douro Valley, Lisbon, and Sintra together!

THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING! AS ALWAYS FOLLOW ALONG ON INSTAGRAM & CHECK OUT THE TRAVEL TRACKER FOR OUR ARCHIVE OF PLACES VISITED SO FAR!

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