Vienna: city of Imperial splendour

July 2013
Schonbrunn Palace

Vienna is a destination that more and more of our Group Organisers are choosing to include in their upcoming travel programmes. And why not? It really does have so much to offer – the history and cultural legacy of the Habsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the natural beauty of the River Danube, the tranquillity of Vienna Woods and the music of Strauss. Having lived in Vienna, Nicola in Operations was delighted to be asked to revisit her ‘second home’...

Vienna, the capital of Austria and once the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, has always been a favourite for culture vultures. Having lived in Vienna as part of my university degree, I have always been slightly biased towards this beautiful city, so imagine my delight when I was given the responsibility of looking after the operational aspects of all of our group tours to Vienna. Of course, operating a group tour is very different to living in a city, so with this in mind, Damian and I took a recent inspection trip to Vienna to experience the sights and sounds, just as a group would.

Nicola at Melk AbbeyHaving flown into Bratislava (whose charming old town can also be included as part of a Viennese tour, as it is only 44 miles away) we drove into Vienna city centre within about an hour. The wealth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Habsburg dynasty hits you as soon as you arrive in central Vienna. The splendour of the Imperial buildings which elegantly line the Ringstrasse - Vienna’s main boulevard, constructed by Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1857 - was still enough to give me a pang of ‘reverse homesickness’. Upon meeting Ursula, our guide, we explored the grandeur of the Innere Stadt with a guided city tour, taking in sights such as the Parliament building, the Votiv Kirche, the Hofburg Palace, Maria Theresia Platz with the Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches museums lining either side and, venturing further into Vienna’s first district, the magnificent St Stephen’s Cathedral.

Our city tours traditionally end at Schönbrunn Palace, the beautiful summer residence of the Habsburgs, situated on the outskirts of Vienna.  A highlights tour of the state rooms gives a flavour of the history of Empress Maria Theresia, which is in contrast to the history of Empress Elizabeth, or Sisi as she is affectionately known by the Austrians, so often experienced in the city centre. Schönbrunn is as interesting as it is majestic, and besides the highlights tour, there is plenty to entice the visitor. As well as the carriage museum and the wonderful views from the Gloriette, there are also miles of beautiful grounds to explore and - my personal favourite - live apple strudel demonstrations in the imperial bakery.

Belvedere PalaceDespite having lived in Vienna for a year and visited the city numerous times since, something which I’d always intended to do but had never quite managed was a visit to the Upper Belvedere Palace. The palace is home to a fine collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, and includes the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection, an artist who, in my mind, always conjures up images of Austria and the secession movement - together with the beautiful Otto Wagner U-Bahn stations dotted about the city, of course.

Melk AbbeyDamian and I also ventured into the Vienna Woods to visit the stunning Benedictine abbey at Melk, which is one of Europe’s finest examples of Baroque architecture. Perched on top of a rocky outcrop, its golden colour hits you as you draw nearer and the abbey’s church dating back to 1701 sparkles with ornamentation. From Melk, we followed the winding course of the Danube through the Wachau Valley, past the beautiful blue tones of the abbey at Dürnstein and on to the delightful Lower Austrian town of Krems - a route which is enjoyed on a Tailored Travel tour from the comfort of a cruise ship on the Danube.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was the classical concert at the Kursalon. Every Tailored Travel group has the opportunity to join one of these wonderful concerts performed by the Salonorchester Alt Wien, one of the best known interpreters of Viennese classical music. The concert includes a selection of melodies featuring Johann Strauss and Mozart as well as waltzes, polkas, arias and duets, and operetta and piano concertos. The variety of the music on offer, performed in such wonderfully grand surroundings dating back to 1867, sweeps the audience along to create a truly memorable evening.

Although our inspection visit was not long enough to do everything that we’d like to do, your group tour will be tailor made to suit the requirements and interests of your group members. There’s something to suit everyone, from the allure of the coffeehouse culture to the amazing art on offer in the many museums and galleries and, of course, the wonderful music - all of which can be incorporated into our tailor made tours.  If you’d rather stay outside of the city centre, we can even help with cosy hotels in the Vienna Woods.

Click here for a suggested itinerary for a group tour to Vienna, and remember that every single one of our group tours is tailor made to your exact requirements, so call Michael or Damian in our sales team now for a quote and to discuss your ideas and then, in close consultation with you, we will fine tune the itinerary until you have the perfect tour at the right price for your group. Then all that I need to do is persuade John and Mike that I should personally accompany your group tour to Vienna,  and then I’d be one very happy Operations Executive.....!