Join Aishwarya Ramesh Babu on her epic 5 day Austrian holiday across Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg with Pickyourtrail.
And now I see it all so clear. This is real and we are here.
~ Daniel Mark Extrom
The capital of Austria straddles the Danube river. Known to house greats like Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud; Austria felt like art in motion. Watching baroque buildings around us as the Sun starts to retire for the day, Vienna looked every bit the winter wonderland it is. Few of the best places to visit in Austria include the Stephansplatz and the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. So, we did. And how gorgeous they were!
The day had finally dawned and we set out to discover art and some adventure in this city of music, palaces and artistic legacies. Some places made us go weak on our knees and found a permanent spot inside our hearts:
This former summer residence of the Habsburg monarchy is everything, yet nothing, like its pictures. The palatial and grandiose nature of this architectural landmark hits you hard and takes your breath away. With a past that dates back to 16th Century, a tour inside this palace lets you in on the grand life that the royals once led.
A walk through the Great Gallery would make anyone swoon – a chandelier here, a fine tapestry there and the elaborately painted ceiling, of course.
We returned outside to relax in the gardens – beautifully manicured, the French garden is a sight you must see!
State Opera House
Located on the Ringstrasse – a grand boulevard in Vienna’s Old Town, the Vienna Opera House produces anywhere between 50 – 60 operas a day. Opulent inside and out, everything from the marble staircase inside the lavishly decked lobbies to the grand auditorium left us astound. A concert or a ballet performance would be quite an experience.
The line between dreams and reality does blur here. We gave into our overactive imagination and just stared open-mouthed at the splash of red and gold that surrounded us. An ode to how beautiful art can be, check their schedule to reserve tickets.
Museum of Fine Arts
Entry fee: € 15
Also called the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts owes its unparalleled collection to all the acquisitions made by the royal Habsburg family. Another landmark on the Ringstrasse or Vienna’s Ring Road, is that it can be recognized by its octagonal dome roof from afar.
The collection displayed entails everything from Greek and Roman antiquities to Egyptian relics and masterpieces from the Renaissance period.
You can grab your tickets here!
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Another legacy of the Habsburg family, it consists of two Baroque palace buildings – the Lower and Upper Belvedere. They are set against well-manicured lawns, tiered fountains, cascades dotted with nymphs and goddesses, and baroque sculptures.
The Sphinx sculptures that greet you as you near the Upper Belvedere will remain an unforgettable memory. The inside was decked as ornately as every landmark that carried the Habsburg family stamp. Home to masterpieces by artists like Monet and van Gogh, it’s hard not be overwhelmed by all that sensory input when you walk inside. Trust us, we needed a moment to recover.
Go to Belvedere.
By evening, we couldn’t be more excited to go watch the Strauss and Mozart Concert at the Lanner Hall. Entering the venue, it was every bit as well-lit and ornate as we had expected. Taking our seats, we settled in to absorb the buzz of the place. After all, it had been the very place where greats like Johann Strauss conducted their orchestra. The performance began – subtly first. And with each note, the crescendo of our feelings rose like never before.
Even if you aren’t a music enthusiast, this is one of the must-do stuff while on your trip to Austria. As the night then delved into opera choruses and ballet performance, it was like we were transported into another world. It was essentially a world governed by the strings of the instruments with the tinkle of the chandeliers above.
It was heavenly. Vienna couldn’t have welcomed us better.
Top read: Sandhya’s Austrian Adventure
We headed out to explore Bratislava next. One of the most proximate capitals in the whole of Europe, a one-hour bus ride brought us to riverfront Bratislava. Set along the Danube, Bratislava is full of quaint cafes, hiking trails and eclectic mix of architecture with medieval towers rising in the horizon – especially as you walk towards the Old Town area.
Overlooking the Old Town and Danube river, the Bratislava Castle is hard to miss. And once we set our eyes on it, we had to get a closer look. We weren’t disappointed at all. The Baroque castle sits atop a hill – a melting pot of sorts of the town’s history. The views of Bratislava from up here is worth the climb.
After a day of scouring through the beautiful city, we rested our weary legs and prepped ourselves for more tomorrow. To satiate your hunger pangs, check out these Austrian restaurants.
Salzburg, here we come
Famous for being the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart, this ‘Salt Fortress’ city welcomed us with chilly weather and a cityscape that wowed us immediately. There were Baroque buildings everywhere we looked.
Listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Alpine setting in the backdrop excited us. Looking around, we tried to pick out shooting locations of the famous Sound of Music – with little luck.
While in the Old Town, everything from the Salzburg Cathedral to Hohensalzburg Castle – Europe’s largest – reckon your attention. We spent quality time getting to know all these places better – inside and out, with a hint of history for our curious souls, of course.
Going south and away from the Old Town, Mirabell Palace, Schloss Leopoldskron and the Hellbrunn neighbourhood definitely deserve some quality time.
Read more: Best things to do in Austria
Our day began with a quick bite before we set out to be ensnared once more by Salzburg’s charms.
Take 1: Sound of Music tour
The Von Trapp kids and their governor were a bunch of happy people – singing about raindrops, sunset and the notes of music. You get a glimpse of picturesque Austrian Alps, lush green meadows and countryside – which you would otherwise get to see only on the silver screen.
While we all can’t be a bunch of prodigious people, we sure can fall in love with the mountains, the Mirabell gardens and the gazebo in Hellbrunn Palace. So, that’s exactly what we did. And I recommend you do too, on your holiday in Salzburg. We traced the movie one scene at a time:
Mirabell Palace Gardens – Built once upon a time by a Prince-Archbishop for his lady love, it is a popular venue to host weddings, ceremonies and receptions. The Garden itself is a spectacle to witness with fantasy creatures- wielded fountains, an orangery and even a theatre. This is where the governess and the von Trapp kids learnt their Do-Re-Mi.
Nonnberg Abbey – A Benedictine monastery in Salzburg, it is one of the world’s oldest nunneries. The character of the von Trapp governess was based on a nun by the name of Maria Augusta Kutschera from here.
St. Gilgen – A picturesque lake on the shores of Lake Wolfgangsee, the backdrop of this village features in the opening credits of the movie.
Leopoldskron Palace – A rocco palace built in the 18th century, the grounds of Leopoldskron featured extensively in the movie.
Mondsee church – A former monastery, this Gothic church was the filming site of the beautiful and emotional wedding scene.
Take 2: Salt Mines tour
If you have always craved a la Temple Run journey, a visit to the Berchtesgaden is the closest you can get to it. After we put on our miner’s gear, we descended into mineshafts aboard an electric train. The journey itself was an edge-of-the-seat entertainer. We got off and were led deeper underground. We walked and marvelled the caves we passed by. Our journey ended with a fun slide down a subterranean lake – definitely one of the fun things to do in Austria.
Like all good things, this journey came to an end. There was magic, marvel and adventure all along our Austrian trip. Can’t wait for our next!
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