A Place Like Vienna

Quote by William Blake
Quote by William Blake in the MuseumsQuartier

Ah, Vienna. Vienna is definitely in my top three favourite places in Europe. Even though I’ve only been there twice, I fell utterly in love with it. Vienna has got everything you could want from a cultural city break:

Architecture

Everywhere you turn, you are greeted by a fascinating building. Before I went to Vienna, a friend told me that it reeks of wealth, and she was right. Once the seat of the Hapsburg Empire for around 700 years, no expense was spared and its grandeur is overwhelming. The grand Gothic structure of St Stephen’s Cathedral is probably the most recognized building in Vienna, and the Austrian Parliament Building and the Austrian National Library are both definitely not to be missed.

St Stephen's Cathedral
St Stephen’s Cathedral
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Austrian National Library
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Austrian Parliament Building

It has its quirky buildings too. My favourite place in Vienna is the Hundertwasserhaus, a little gem of expressionist architecture. Bright and vivid, not only is it aesthetically impressive, but the philosophy behind it is also interesting. Hunderwasser wanted architecture to be closer to nature rather the reigning over it.

Hundertwasserhaus
Hundertwasserhaus
Hundertwasserhaus
Hundertwasserhaus


Music

Vienna is often dubbed as the capital of classical music and for good reason too. When considering the top ten composers in history, figures from the Viennese classical period consistently make the ranks. The ‘Vienna Four’ (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert) all worked in Vienna from 1750 to 1825, not forgetting Strauss and other greats who were either born in, or lived in the city.

Johann Strauss in Stadtpark
Johann Strauss in Stadtpark

You can see statues of famous musicians throughout the city, and can even visit some of their places of residence. If you wish to take a trip to the famous State Opera while you’re in the city, then you will need to book well in advance. Alternatively, there is a myriad of other concerts offered, which is what we opted for.

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‘An Evening with Strauss and Mozart’ performed by The Vienna Residence Orchestra
Mozart Haus
Mozarthaus


Museums

Vienna has such a rich history that it houses around one hundred museums. Many of them revolve around the history of the monarchy. There are an array of palaces open to visitors including the Hofburg Palace, the Belvedere Palace (home to Klimt’s The Kiss) and the summer residence Schönbrunn Palace, which is home to the oldest zoo in the world, founded in 1752.

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Schönbrunn Palace
Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace

There is also an entire museum in the Imperial Apartments dedicated to Austria’s most beloved member of royalty, Emperor Elisabeth, or ‘Sisi’ as she was known.

“Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Courtly Gala Dress with Diamond Stars” by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
“Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Courtly Gala Dress with Diamond Stars” by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Vienna is also home to some of the best art collections in the world. The Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum) is probably the biggest, with the Albertina coming in close second with an extensive collection. The Museumsquartier is an entire area full of museums and cafes, most notably the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (mumok). Also, be sure to check out the performances given by the Spanish Riding School. You can book online here. I’d definitely recommend doing so in advance, as they sell out quite quickly. We waited until we were in Vienna and could only see the morning exercises as a result (tickets for which can’t be booked online and have to be bought on the day). If you are a student, make sure you keep your student ID on you at all times as many museums offer discounts.

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Kunsthistorisches Museum
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The morning exercises at the Winter Riding School

 

Cake, cake, cake

Need I say more? Vienna has the best confectionery that I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. Purely on a research basis of course, I took it upon myself to sample as many as I could. It is home to traditional Austrian deserts like apfelstrudel and kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes with rum soaked raisins).

Apfelstrudel
Apfelstrudel
kaiserschmarren
Kaiserschmarren

It is also the birthplace of the famous Sachertorte (go to Hotel Sacher for the best one), the recipe of which was originally created for royalty. Demel, the famous pastry shop and chocolaterie which supplied to the royal family, was established in 1786 and is still going strong today.

The famous sachertorte
Sachertorte
Demel
Demel

 

 

48 Hours in Zadar

In the last five years, Croatia has seen a huge increase in tourism. Breathtaking scenery, affordable prices, and great weather is making it the ideal spot for many, especially during the summer. While many young people go for the big name music festivals like Outlook and Hideout, Croatia has a lot more to offer. This is especially evident in Zadar, an underrated port city on the Dalmatian coast. It is an eclectic mix of modern and ancient architecture and is in an ideal location with both national parks and party islands nearby. You can definitely cover Zadar in 48 hours although you’ll undoubtedly want to extend your trip. If you have any more time to spare here, then the hostels often run trips to the two most popular national parks, Plitvice Lakes and Krka.

Where to Stay

The Drunken Monkey Hostel. You have everything you need here: clean facilities, a lively common room, a swimming pool, wifi, and a bar with cocktails galore. Its only downside is that it’s a fifteen minute walk from the Old Town (and it’s in a residential area so you have the keep noise down after hours), but in terms of facilities it beats any of the more central hostels. 
Prices start at £12.46 for a standard mixed dorm in low season, and £19.04 for the same in high season.

Getting Around

Most of Zadar is easily explored by foot. The majority of the things to see and do are in the Old Town, and you can walk around that in about an hour.

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Getting There

Direct flights using Ryanair. Cheapest to fly from London. Typically ~£90 single in high season and ~£80 single in low season. Flying time 2 hours 25 minutes. If you have more time to spare, I’d highly recommend flying into Split and taking a coach up to Zadar to get more of a taste of Croatia.

Time difference

+1

Currency

Croatian Kuna

Day 1

Arrive early and spend your first day wandering through the cobbled streets of the old town and doing the majority of the sightseeing. Not to be missed is the city gate, Zadar Cathedral and the Church of St Donatus. The People’s Square is home to a fantastic set of roman ruins for history buffs to peruse.

The City Gate

Have lunch at The Garden which prides itself on the art of raw food. Here you’ll find delicious smoothies and snacks, and an array of impressive cocktails if you want to see the atmosphere change after dark. The bar is the ideal place to relax with lounger beds and views overlooking the sea. Zadar is home to two unique art installations, both by architect Nikola Bašić. The first, the Sea Organ, is an immersive experience which generates music using the waves. The second, The Greeting to the Sun, is a unique solar panel which absorbs the energy from the sun in the day and is brightly colored after dark. Stroll along the promenade and watch the famous sunset, which Alfred Hitchcock called the most beautiful in the world, and then watch The Greeting to the Sun light up.

Greeting to the Sun
The Greeting to the Sun

When you’re finished, head to 2Ribara (The Two Fishermen) for dinner which serves fresh seafood for a fraction of the price you’d pay at home. Pre-drink either back at the hostel or in one of the many bars in town such as Q bar. Then head to Ledana, an open air nightclub which overlooks the city. It’s free entry and is open until 4am.

Ledana
Ledana

Day 2

Have breakfast at the nearby sister hostel, The Lazy Monkey, and then go to the beach to cure your hangover. Croatia is notorious for its stoney beaches but its turquoise water makes up for it. The beach and cocktail bar Bamboo is in a fantastic location on the edge of the sea, and you can grab lunch there too. If you’re feeling adventurous, Zadar is also home to various spots to cliff jump, as well as offering a wide variety of water sports. Head to Bruschetta for dinner where they specialize in classic food with a twist (the squid ink gnocchi is my favourite) and then go to Donat for dessert, where you’ll find the best gelato in Zadar. It’s probably wise to make a reservation for Bruschetta as it tends to get very busy, especially in summer.

Bruschetta

For your second night out, go to the nearby party island Pag for nightlife, home to Zcre Beach which is dubbed the Ibiza of Croatia and is an hour away by bus. If you’d rather stay local, check out bars such as Factory Bar and Maraschino. In a similar fashion to Rome, crowds congregate in the streets to drink during the evenings, so there is always a vibrant atmosphere in the city.

 

Originally featured on Exepose.com