Three days in Vienna – classic sights in the footsteps of the Habsburgs – day 1

Though Vienna has definitely modernised and become a trendy travel destination, many still know it as the Grand Dame of European Capitals - old, elegant, and set in its refined ways. With stately architecture, baroque design, magnificent squares, horse-drawn carriages, cobblestone thoroughfares, grand palaces, and sophisticated cultural offerings, the city still dazzles with its regal feel. For our first day in the city, we’ll follow in the footsteps of the Habsburgs, the royal house that ruled from Vienna for centuries.

09:00 – sweet treats and palaces

Cafe Demel by bestbib&tuckerBegin your day at Demel. Officially a pastry shop and chocolatier, this confectioner was founded in 1786 and was once a supplier to the Imperial and Royal Court. Located on one of the inner city's most beautiful streets, Kohlmarkt, the café hearkens back to the past with its baroque interior and elegant atmosphere. Though a staple for tourists, it’s still worth a stop for the quintessential experience it offers. Enter on the ground floor and eye up the day’s array of cakes, set up in splendour in the vitrine to the left. Head to the back and find one of the city’s most special sights – floor-to-ceiling windows that give a generous glimpse of the bakers hard at work. Whether a wedding cake or one of the famed marzipan window displays, it is always a treat to see such culinary artistry up close. Make your way upstairs to one of the lavish dining rooms for a traditional breakfast. Before heading out, indulge in something sweet.

Hofburg by Tjflex2Afterwards, head straight to the Hofburg, the city palace of the Habsburg Empire. An impressive and monolithic sight to see, its many highlights include the Swiss Courtyard, the Royal Chapel, the Imperial Treasury, the Spanish Riding School, the National Library, and the Imperial Apartments. The Imperial Apartments are especially popular because they were once the official living quarters of Austria’s most beloved empress, Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ and her husband Franz Josef. Untold opulence awaits you inside.

Although incredibly touristy and overpriced, there is no better way for a regal tour of Vienna than in a traditional fiaker. These horse-drawn carriages and their drivers will take you on a tour of Vienna’s first district and point out all the main sights along the way. Don’t miss Stephansdom, Vienna’s gothic cathedral, the MozartHaus, where the classical composer lived for over two years, Graben, a pedestrian-only area in Jugendstil design, The Kaisergruft, the final resting place for most of the Habsburg royal family or the Staatsoper, Vienna’s State Opera House. To name just a few!

12:30 – lunch on the terrace

When it’s time for lunch, make your way to the Burggrten, the stunning imperial gardens behind the Hofburg complex. Once inside, head to Palmenhaus, one of the city’s most attractive dining locations. Set in what once was the imperial greenhouse, reputed by some to be the most beautiful Jugendstil greenhouse in the world, this restaurant/bar/café serves up delectable dishes in a grand and lively atmosphere. Sitting on its terrace on a sunny day is divine.

14:00 - Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace by Tjflex2Your day in the footsteps of the Habsburgs continues and will now take you clear across town to Schönbrunn Palace. Often compared to Versailles, the summertime palace of the Habsburgs is a true display of imperial wealth, power, and rococo design. Painted in Empress Maria Theresia’s favourite yellow hue, the palace has 1,441 ornate rooms, stunning gardens, impressive fountains, and even a maze and zoo. With a variety of passes and packages granting access to the palace interior, choose the one that suits you best. Tip: the classic pass features an apple strudel lesson!

When you’ve had your fill of elegant tapestries and shimmering chandeliers, head outside to walk through the gardens. Hike up to the Gloriette, which offers a superior view of Vienna.

19:00 – supper and a trip to the opera

Trzesniewski, Vienna by photongathererIt’s time to get dressed up because your evening plans include tickets to the Opera*. How could they not? After all, Vienna is the world capital of opera and classical music. Before heading to the Staatsoper, one of the premiere opera venues in the world, a light dinner is on the menu. Make your way to Trzesniewski, the famed restaurant that has been serving iconic open-faced sandwiches made from traditional bread and tasty spreads for over 100 years.

After taking in the performance, round out this royal day with a nightcap and slice of Vienna’s most famous cake, the Sacher Torte, at Café Sacher in the Sacher Hotel.

*Ticket prices for opera performances vary greatly. The cheapest tickets sometimes don’t have a view of the stage. Note that the State Opera House takes an annual performance hiatus in summer. If you find yourself in Vienna during this time, book a tour of the State Opera House instead. The insightful, entertaining, and affordable tours are highly recommended.