Traveling in Vienna – Christmas Markets and Palaces

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From Prague to Vienna, we took a bus called Student Agency that took around 5 hours. Flying in and out of  Vienna is extremely pricey, so it seems that most travelers on a budget commute by bus. Student Agency was the cheapest bus out there and it was also one of the best bus I’ve been on! They had tons of movies to watch, free wi-fi, and even a cup of complimentary hot chocolate or coffee. Our bus did require us to switch to a different bus when we got to Brno, a city in Czech. The next bus wasn’t as fancy, but it was only another 1-2 hours, so we just slept it off. After dinner with K’s friends that night, they took us to the Vienna Christmas Market. Once again, there are multiple markets all around the city, but the most significant one is at Rathausplatz. It’s also where Vienna’s Town Hall is located. A gorgeous building both in the day and night. Here, the parks are decorated with lights and I feel like it was the nicest market I visited during my trip in Europe.

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You’ll find that Mulled Wine or “Gluwein” stalls all over the market. It’s super popular in Vienna and they have a huge variety of flavours for their punches too.

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I went for the original Gluwein, but I didn’t like it as much as my friends’ flavoured punches. The fruitier ones tasted much better. You pay a deposit and get it in a nice mug which you can keep if you don’t want your deposit back. Otherwise, just return your mug and you can get your deposit back. Other than drinks, there were a variety of food and arts and crafts.

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The next day, we went to tackle all the major tourist sites. However, one of our friends were a huge Sigmund Freud fan since she took a few psychology classes, so we ended up going to the Sigmund Freud Museum first. He’s basically the founder of psychoanalysis, and although I didn’t know much about him, the museum was pretty interesting. You get an audio player to listen to while walking around the museum. Freud had lived there, but there really isn’t much of his furniture left now and it really looks more like a museum. I would advise people who are into psychology and such to visit if they have time. It takes around 2 hours. Then we began to hit up the typical tourist spots. Here is the Austrian Parliament Building, which is huge and spectacular! basically around this area, you’ll find a bunch of other important buildings. We had a look at the Museumsquartier, where there’s a bunch of modern art museums.

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Then we came to Hofburg Palace, which used to house the Hasburg dynasty and rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, it’s where President of Austria lives. The only problem was that by the time we got here, it started to snow! And quite heavily too! It was our first snowfall in Europe, but seriously, we just wanted to hide indoors. We weren’t dressed for this weather!

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It took us forever to find food! Most places were packed with people since everyone wanted to wait for the snow to stop. We finally found this tiny mall on Mariahilfer Strasse called Gerngross. Inside, we found this restaurant called Brandauer with reasonably priced food. We found a seat and warmed up. I got the Ribs with Fries and they were so good! I felt like I was back in America eating that greasy food. It wasn’t even that greasy. Each rib had tons of meat on it too and it was roasted to perfection. It came with two dips too, which were perfect for the wedge-cut fries. After lunch, the snow stopped and we went to Karlsplatz, which is a square where the Karlskirche (St. Charles’ Church) is located. Also a must see!

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After that, we met up with K’s friends again, and they took us to see the  Belvedere Palace. Again, it’s a Baroque style palace  and was built for Prince Eugene of Savoy. Today, it’s a museum with art from the Middle Ages to today. K went in to see the collection, but the rest of us weren’t too into art, so we ended up taking a look at the Christmas Market which was just outside the building. It was a much smaller scale market, and I wouldn’t come here just for the market. The palace was really pretty at night though! The girls and I also ended up heading to the Schonbrunn Palace since it was our last night. It’s the former imperial summer residence and is known as one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria. However, we didn’t find that the Schonbrunn Palace looked as nice as the Belvedere! It was a bit more simple compared to the Belvedere. We didn’t pay to go inside, but there was again another Christmas Market! This one was much larger than Belvedere and had quite a lot of food. Not bad!

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We then met back up with the rest of the group, and they took us to Vapiano. It’s actually a German restaurant chain, but the largest restaurant is in Vienna! It’s a self-serve restaurant with Italian food like pasta and pizza. They make the food when you order which is really cool. I wish I took a picture of it. So what happens is when you walk in, they give you a little card. You find your own seat, then you go ahead and walk up to to kitchen to line up. There’s a pizza line and a pasta line. When it’s your turn, you scan your card on this machine and tell the chef what type of pasta you want, what sauce, and whether you want other toppings. Then the chef literally starts to cook it in front of you! Pasta doesn’t take long to cook, so you have your food ready in less than 5 minutes! You can add on drinks or other sides. Here, I got the Pesto Penne, which was quite delicious! Affordable pricing, and the quality wasn’t bad. They claim to have fresh pasta and such. I don’t think it’s the best pasta I’ve had, but definitely pretty good for what you pay. When you leave, you just give the cashier your card, and it’ll show how much you need to pay! Definitely a cool concept and the interior doesn’t even feel like a cafeteria! It looks pretty upscale!

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At night, K went out to party with his friends. The girls and I wanted to have an easy night and we headed back to our hostel. We stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner. It wasn’t our first choice and wasn’t exactly the cheapest, but everything else was booked up during that time! Always book early! Anyways, the hostel was fine and service was friendly. Definitely wasn’t the nicest one we’ve stayed at and it was also our first time where we had to share a bathroom with the rest of the floor. It’s fine when you’re the first one up in the morning, but once it’s the evening, the bathroom is a mess… Well we survived, and honestly I can say, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. Also at our hostel had a mini bar where many students and travelers hung out. The girls and I went to the bar and got some Punch! It was much cheaper than the market, and we actually thought it tasted better! And that ended our night. The next day, we would begin our adventure to Budapest!

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2 thoughts on “Traveling in Vienna – Christmas Markets and Palaces

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