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