Vienna: Art and Chocolate Cake

With a long history of royal families, Vienna has several palaces worth seeing. The last time I visited Vienna, I went to the Schönbrunn Palace, the sprawling former Habsburg summer home. You can tour some of the 1,000+ room residence and the massive gardens to get a glimpse of imperial life. 

This time, I planned to go to the Belvedere Palace and Museum. The Belvedere Palace is also the former stomping ground of the Habsburg family. This royal residence is closer to the city center. The grounds are broken up into two palaces (the Upper and the Lower Belvedere), the gardens, the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. Now all of these parts can be seen individually or purchased together on a group ticket. 
Most of the permanent exhibits are housed in the Upper Belvedere. They have a large collection of Austrian art. I don’t always enter art museums when I travel, but I had extra time so I went for it. The star of the gallery is Gustav Klimt. His “The Kiss” is probably the most recognizable piece in the museum. It’s so popular that they put a replica in the lobby of the museum with a sign promoting selfies. (No flash photography is allowed of the real painting.)  
From there I walked by Karlskirche and the Royal Opera to my next destination, one that I was really looking forward to: Hotel Sacher for a piece of the original Sachertorte. The Sachertorte chocolate cake is a well established institution in Vienna. History has it that the Sachertorte was created in the 1800s as a special treat for Austria’s Emperor. The cake is chocolate sponge with apricot jam and chocolate icing. The cake became a big hit, and still is. Fun Fact: December 5th is dedicated National Sachertorte Day. Needless to say, when I arrived to the Hotel Cafe, there was a line out the door. 
When I finally got in, I ordered the orginal Sachertorte and an espresso with milk. (PS- there are loads of delicious looking desserts if you’re feeling adventurous.) The interior of the hotel cafe is elegant and proper. While you are waiting for your cake, you can even read all about the history of the hotel and the secretly guarded recipe. Then the cake arrived. It was moist and sweet, but not overkill. A leisurely afternoon having a coffee and cake is just what you need in Vienna to replenish you from all the museums you’ve been visiting. 
To conclude my final afternoon in Vienna, I passed by the University of Vienna. Unlike the business university I had been to the day before, this campus was much more traditional. There was a terrace/courtyard in the middle of the rectangular-shaped building where students were reading and socializing outside. I wandered down some halls, trying to imagine what it would be like to be a student here. I studied in universities in the U.S. and Spain, so I always like to compare other campuses. I think I would like it. 🙂
Belvedere Palace grounds
Upper Belvedere
View of Lower Belvedere and the city center
“The Kiss” Selfie Point
Royal Opera House
Sacher Cafe

University of Vienna
University of Vienna courtyard

Vienna: One Big Museum

When you’re a person who loves to explore, you feel the complusive need to force your companions to see every sight there is when traveling. I usually spend time pouring through TripAdvisor and city tour sights before departing to get a feel for what I “must see and do”. I love studying maps and routing potential sight itineraries for each day.

In the afternoon following the release of the academics from their finance conference, I met up with my husband and a few friends from the university to drag them around Vienna. I navigated us through the metro to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and from there, took us along the main tourist route to the Hofburg Imperial Palace. I had made this same route before during my previous visit to Vienna some three years earlier. It’s amazing how one time in a city and you will still recognize your way around the next time you visit.

In front of the Hofburg Palace, we stopped to have a coffee because I said that was a Viennese thing to do (and also the professors needed a pick-me-up).

We continued our jouney past the Palace, the Sissy Museum, the famed Spanish Riding School, and the National Library to the Maria-Theresien-Platz. The Maria-Theresien-Platz is flanked on either side by two almost identical looking buildings, The Museum of National History and the Fine Arts Museum.

Walking south from the Maria-Theresien-Platz, you’ll cross the Museumplatz to discover…. even more museums! Museumquartier is a cool grouping of various museums, along with bars, restaurants, and open outdoor space for nights out. We saw a Tiki foodcart selling mojitos, which we figured we needed.

To end our tour of Vienna sights, we headed to the Rathaus (Town Hall). Exactly the same as my trip before, they were playing outdoor movies on a screen placed over the Town Hall building. There were plenty of people about, enjoying the movie showings the city puts on each summer.

When we got back to our hotel, I felt quite accomplished by what we had covered. It would really have been a shame for these colleagues to have missed all these sights!

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Cool street art
Hofburg Palace
Making the museum route, outside the National Library.
The Natural History Museum… or the Museum of Fine Arts. They look so similar! 
Professors on the town.
Summer Movie Festival!