To some, travelling to another city almost happens in summer, in spring or autumn. To countries experiencing winter, many would opt for a vacation to equatorial countries and territories as a means of escape from the cold. When you hear “winter travel” you think of snow and gloomy skies, that equates to being bored and lazy. Winter sports enthusiasts though would definitely maximize the short span of time they can enjoy skiing, snowboarding and such.
Austria along with its neighbouring countries are a popular winter destination. But if you are in doubt of coming over for some ice, here are a number of reasons why you should take advantage of a Vienna winter tour.
1. Shopping. Winter inventory sales offer customers discounts upto 70% off on items- making shopping twice the fun. The Mariahilferstrasse and the Kärtnerstrasse are two of the famous shopping streets (Strassen) in Vienna. These streets are lined up with shops and boutiques of international and local brands offering all kinds of clothing, accessories and other items. What’s best is…the items on sale are not only for the winter season, you get discounted products for spring and summer use too.
2. Have some winter street-food and glühwein (mulled wine) in a glowing, elegant street at night. You know those cookie cans you received from a relative abroad depicting a snowy night, snow-laden windows and pine trees? That’s how Vienna is in winter…well, almost. The wonderful smell of Kartofelpuffer (hash browns), geröstete Maronen ( roasted chestnuts), Langos (flat bread) and sweets would make you enjoy the the night markets all-over the city. These are especially available only in winter. Though you can cook them at home in a different season, the experience of having to eat them while walking around Vienna in a cool evening is priceless.
3. Coffee. The best time to enjoy Vienna’s famous coffee shops and their offerings is in winter! Vienna is sometimes nicknamed the capital of coffee and cakes. The words (and names) Melange, Julius Meinl, Demel, Hawelka, Frauenhuber, Gerstner and Bräunerhof would definitely stir your thoughts of aromatic coffee. (No pun intended.) Sip yours along with the famous sacher torte, mohr im hemd or apfelstrudel while listening to Mozart at one of those famous cafes.
4. Frozen lakes. When the weather gets below -10°, the lakes around Vienna and parts of Austria get frozen. Most of these are opened to the public for outdoor ice skating especially parts of the historical Danube. Don’t worry though since the city governments would make sure that it is safe to skate, that the area for skating are smooth enough and there are a number of safeguard personnels in the area.
5. Ski Resorts. Switzerland and France may hold the edge when it comes to alpine terrains, both would be first choices for seasoned skiers. Austria lag behind in this depertment but with better services, worth your money experience, lift systems – Austria’s ski resorts would fare well. Though Vienna doesn’t have a ski resort, head to a number of resorts worth visiting as St.Anton, Sölden, Kitzbühel, Unterberg, Innsbruck and more – just a few hours away from Vienna. You can even find one suitable for the whole family with activities suited for kids and adults. If snowboarding, skiing isn’t your thing, you can always build a snowman with the kids with all the snow around.
6. Visit the Christmas Markets. Vienna along with a number of German cities is a popular Christmas destination. Why not? The city sets decorations as early as the start of November; real pine trees with colored, shiny balls, giant chandeliers hanging at the city center and snow (for as long as their white) gives you a real feeling of the romantic movies Serendipity and Love Actually. Such markets have become increasingly popular throughout the years. Most popular among the season’s markets is the one at Vienna’s Rathaus, the building that serves as the mayor’s seat along with his council.
The market tradition started 700 years ago and it still as charming to locals and tourists then and now. The Rathaus’ front lawn, which serves many purposes, is erected with stalls selling trinkets, goodies, books and other stuff for children and adult.
7. Wiener Eistraum. After the markets come Vienna’s Viennese Ice dream (literally translated) or Wiener Eistraum. The same lawn at the Rathaus becomes a giant ice skating rink come January until March and kids enjoy discounted entrance tickets to skate outdoors and in front of the historic building too. There are also stalls selling traditional Viennese treats and drinks…Wurst (sausages), Palatschinken (crepes), Knödel (dumplings), hot chocolate, tea and a lot more snacks and whatnots to keep skaters going.
8. Ball and Opera/Concerts. Vienna’s famous Opernball happens in winter (within February 4 and March 10). There are a number more balls happening in the season in the different settings and dates. You can be sure to get a feel of the rich Austrian culture when you attend one.
Concerts, theatre, opera are open all-year round. The Vienna Philharmonic, considered one of the finest orchestra in the world, prides itself of playing pieces composed by fellow Austrians Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Strauss Sr., Johann Strauss Jr., Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and a lot more. You will also enjoy those angelic voices in sailor suits, the Vienna Boys’ choir.
Vienna’s top destinations during other seasons are still of importance on a winter vacation. The charm of castles Belvedere, Hofburg and Schönbrunn with snow-laden gardens as if sparkling when some rays of the sun shines on them is such a lovely view. The museums, more than a 100 of them are open and just perfect for your viewing pleasure. Be sure to coat yourself with a warm jacket, snow-ready boots, gloves, scarf and bonnet to enjoy the clean Viennese streets even when it’s full of snow. Here, you get to see the best when…in Vienna you do as the Viennese do, walk.
The grand imperial city that is Vienna stands proud, claiming its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ninth most populous city in the European Union is also one of the most preferred locations for the headquarters, conventions, and events of international organizations. Even as Vienna has retained its old world grandeur, it has kept up with the developments of the modern world. The city has been ranked in global studies as one of the most innovative cities the world over. Not lagging behind are its rankings in terms of the quality of life it provides its residents. There is no wonder that tourists have grown fond of Vienna whenever they want to take a break from their daily grind.
Here are some of the 5 reasons why you should put down Vienna as your next vacation destination:
2. Gustatory Journey – The unique gustatory offerings of Vienna are among the best in the world. Most popular of Viennese cuisine are the Wiener Schnitzel, the Tafelspitz, and the Geröstete Erdäpfel. Of course, no one should forego the Viennese cakes and pastries that provide the perfect crescendo to any meal. Cap your gustatory journey with Vienna’s versions of the hot Apfelstrüdel, Palatschinken/sweet pancakes and Marillen Knödel/apricot filled dumplings. Make it a point too to try out the Sachertorte that the Sacher Hotel is world famous for.
3. Treasure Trove of Art – Vienna is known as one of the major centers of contemporary art what with its extensive collection of works from old masters like Rubens and Raphael. The city boasts of a museum complex where Hofburg’s imperial stables used to be housed. Tourists can visit the Museum of Modern Art, the Belvedere Palace Museum, the Albertina, the Leopold Museum, and the Liechtenstein Palace Museum.
4. Palaces and Gardens – You will be transported through time with the preserved imperial palaces that are full of interesting stories and artifacts. At the Hofburg Palace are massive tapestries as well as the Schatzkammer which holds priceless imperial jewels and other treasures. The Hofburg Palace is also home to many of the balls held in Vienna throughout the year. Around these palaces and other buildings in the city are vast gardens where tourists can join locals in strolls through the greenery.
5. Coffee and Company – Viennese cafes trace a tradition of their own, surrounded by legends dating back centuries. Just about every corner of the city has a Kaffeehaus serving up coffee concoctions and perfect pastry pairings. Hanging out at Cafe Diglas, Cafe Pruckel, Demel or any other cafe in Vienna is a great way to enjoy Viennese coffee. One of the must try is the Wiener Melange (German for “Viennese” and French for “Blend”), it is “properly” coffee with milk and is similar to a cappuccino but usually made with mild coffee (e.g. mocha), preferably caramelized. Drop me a note if you happen to be in the city, I’ll treat you to a cup.
“See how the sacred old flamingoes come,
Painting with shadow all the marble steps:
Aged and wise, they seek their wonted perches
Within the temple, devious walking, made
To wander by their melancholy minds.”
-William Butler Yeats quotes
My son’s class visited the Schönbrunn gardens and Zoo sometime and the flamingos surely were attractive not just to the kids but to us, moms and dads.