Beyond sachertorte and Strauss: an Insider’s Guide to Vienna

Hi Frugalistas!

I have only visited Vienna once, and it was many years ago.  I am therefore delighted to have the opportunity to feature Vienna in the latest Insider Guide.  Enrique Manzano of Hardcore Viajero takes us on a journey past sachertorte (although I’m sure we’d all enjoy some anyway!) into a different, yet still satisfying Vienna.

travel, travel tips, travel planning, golden statue of Strauss

What most people know about Vienna is just Sachertorte and Strauss waltzes. What places or things are special in Vienna beyond those cliches?

Vienna offers a multicultural environment where everyone can instantly feel at home. Visiting Naschmarkt, for example, already gives an international atmosphere by tasting the flavors of different countries. In terms of buildings, following the footsteps of Otto Wagner can make one appreciate the architectural gems of the Jugenstil era or better yet, discovering Vienna’s controversial artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, will make one understand the philosophy of integrating nature in steel and concrete. Lastly, strolling around the Ringstraße where architectural styles of different periods (from Gothic to Neoclassic) are flamboyantly exhibited can sometimes look deceiving for they were all constructed during the late 19th century. Vienna is best experienced through curiosity to discover the not-so-typical side of it.

travel, travel tips, travel planning, Schonbrunn Palace

What is your favorite place in Vienna to take out of town visitors, and what makes it so special?

Since Vienna is an open air museum, one cannot simply avoid bumping into another tourist with a camera on the street. So I choose to take people where it’s less crowded and that would be the Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof). Apart from my morbid thinking, which I think I’ve adopted from the Viennese mentality, I find tranquility and I get in touch with nature between the graves. As one of the largest in Europe, my favorite and most photographed spot is the Jewish graveyard and to do some touristy stuff, there’s also a chance to meet the musicians like Beethoven, Strauss, Brahms, Falco and others up, ‘cold’ and personal.

grassy pathway in a cemetery

Photo: Enrique Manzano

Tell me about your favorite place that I wouldn’t find in a guidebook.

I’d have to say the Jewish Quarter in the 2nd district right on the other bank of the Danube canal. I’ve lived in the area for five years and although the Jewishness of the neighborhood is now somewhat invisible, I like discovering chunks of its history a tourist would normally take for granted. There are always pleasant surprises in every corner just by strolling around the quarter. The Jewish Synagogue at Tempelgasse is worth a visit (although the other half of it is now converted to a residential building)

statue in a town square Vienna

Photo: Enrique Manzano

What is your perfect day out and about in Vienna and why?

Regardless of the temperature, I’m just happy when the sun is out—which means it’s time to go on a hiking adventure around the Vienna Woods. Who needs to go far out when Vienna already offers places to get in touch with nature without leaving the city premises?

Vienna is in a great location joining Eastern and Western Europe. Could you share some of your favorite day trip or short break destinations?

Olomouc. Some people may have never heard of it and may wonder, “Where on earth is Olomouc?”. While I have a special affection for Prague, the Czech Republic has other hidden spots that are worth my time. It may not be as large as the capital but Olomouc is as equally charming as Prague. On the plus side, it’s less touristy and it gives me time to relax away from the crowd. (I have an upcoming blog entry about Olomouc)

multiple photos of Olomouc

Photo: Enrique Manzano

What is the best way for English speakers to find out about concerts, exhibitions and other special events?

Spottedbylocals.com or wien.info/en. The latter provides information on what’s going on in Vienna. There are also Facebook groups called Foreigners in Vienna and Foreign in Vienna 2, where there’s an abundant list of activities and of course, practical tips for foreigners.

Some quick fire favorites now:

Favorite garden(s)/outdoor space(s)/beaches: Augarten, Judenplatz, Museumsquartier and Donaukanal

Favorite window shopping street:  Neubaugasse

Favorite market(s):  Naschmarkt and Brunnenmarkt

Favorite spot for a tea or coffee:  Café Phil

Favorite value for money restaurant(s):  Centimeter, Deewan (Pakistani food), Maschiu or Glacis Beisl

About Enrique:

EnriqueEnrique Manzano devotes most of his free time learning languages, taking portraits of people and photos of Vienna, writing and of course, traveling. As the owner of the blog, www.hardcoreviajero.com, he takes his reader on a visual journey through his travel adventures. His favorite countries include Spain, Portugal, Japan and Syria. He considers himself lucky for having visited Syria before the Civil War. As he’s currently in the last semester studying Romance Languages, he plans to reward himself a trip around Latin America after his studies.

www.hardcoreviajero.com

www.flickr.com/chicomaldito

www.twitter.com/hardcoreviajero

www.pinterest.com/apfelbau

Photo credits:  Enrique Manzano as captioned.  Other photos, Wikimedia commons
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3 Comments on “Beyond sachertorte and Strauss: an Insider’s Guide to Vienna”

  1. Pamela 12/02/2014 at 11:24 am #

    This is more interesting for people who’ve been to Vienna at least once before. But for those who love art, architecture and history, there are lots of unmissable places, particularly the art galleries/museums/palaces: the Kunsthistorische Museum (spectacularly beautiful coffeehouse/café too); the Hofburg; Upper Belvedere Palace; (great for secessionist art, Klimt etc), the Leopoldina, and just out of the centre the Schonbrunn. Also of course Stephansdom and the streets and little squares nearby, (including Mozart’s House). The walking streets are wonderful, not only the shops and coffee places: it’s so interesting to see the mixed architectural styles from baroque to super modern. Yes there’ll be other tourists but it’s not like queuing for the Louvre, particularly if you avoid July-August. Last time we were in Vienna there was a special Klimt anniversary and wonderful commemorative exhibitions.

    If you’re there at the right time, a night at the opera in the lovely Staatsoper is a great treat – we saw a fabulous production of “La Traviata”. There’s also a pleasant little bar/café where you can have coffee or champagne, sitting out if the weather’s good. You’ll also be approached in areas around Stephansdom by people dressed in costume selling tickets to concerts of Mozart and other more schmalzy music. These are specially for tourists. Quite pleasant. But there are more serious concerts and opera if you’re a music lover and the timing is right.

    An interesting book to read before visiting Vienna is Tim Bonhyhady’s “Good Living Street” – the story of his Jewish family’s life from around Secessionist times and interest in art collecting – and their later flight to Australia to avoid persecution. Another interesting Jewish family history is “The Hare with the Amber Eyes”.

    An additional city to visit for a day trip or weekend (though certainly worth staying much longer) is Budapest. Only a couple of hours away by road (excellent highways) and it’s interesting to make a stop at the atmospheric town of Gyor on the way, with lovely old streets, squares, churches etc. You can also take a hydrofoil to Budapest. Cheers, Pamela

  2. frugalfirstclasstravel 12/02/2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Hi Pamela, your comments are deserving of a post in their own right! Great insights to a different side of Vienna that adds tremendously to the collective wisdom.

    Stay tuned for Budapest. I should have something coming up in the next few weeks!

    Thanks so much for your wisdom.

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  1. Travel Guide | Travelguide - 16/02/2014

    […] Beyond sachertorte and Strauss – an Insider's Guide to Vienna … http://frugalfirstclasstravel.com/I am therefore delighted to have the opportunity to feature Vienna in the latest Insider Guide. Enrique … Since Vienna is an open air museum, one cannot simply avoid bumping into another tourist with a camera on the street. […]

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