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    Vienna State Opera House

    As a foreigner coming from a country 150 (or so) years old, I can’t ever quite explain the fascination that old things has for us expats. As kids we were more likely to be sentenced to an afternoon on grassy fields playing in sunshine, whilst museums were kept as rainy day back up plans.

    What to do in Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Fast-forward 20 or so years and I find myself actively seeking out beautiful places. It doesn’t matter which country we’re in – like a bloodhound, my appetite for gilding and ornate decoration knows no end!

    The Viennese State Opera House, or Wiener Staatsoper is no
    exception. The moment you walk in (and ignore the excited crowds lining up to
    take a tour) you can imagine beautifully coutured ladies sweeping along the
    marble halls in their finery, on the arm of a well-dressed beau.

    What to do in Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do in Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our tour (I think it was 7 Euros each, no prebooking just wander in around the time listed on the website) took us on an ‘access all areas’ whistle stop tour of history, grandeur, name dropping (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert – who we named one of our childhood cat’s after), the main staircase showing off seven allegorical statues made of Carrara marble, representing arts such as music, dance and sculpture, gilded columnades and a tea room lined with golden silk wall panels especially constructed for Emperor Franz Joseph.

    We were told that the Opera House was once the social hub of Vienna – where you went to be seen, and not necessarily bother to watch the performances on stage. That seems a waste to me, but then I’m not an 18th Century dandy!

    Solemnly opened on the 25th of May 1869 with a performance of Mozart’s Don Juan, in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth, the ornate building epitomised the cultural standing of Vienna in Europe and attracted classical music prodigies from around the world to study and write in their hallowed halls.

    What to do in Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    With only the main facade, the grand staircase, and the Schwind Foyer being spared from World War II bombs, the reconstructed building reopened in 1955 and the Vienna State Opera house became a symbol of hope and regeneration for the Austrian people.

    Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Top tip: book your Opera tickets as soon as you’ve booked
    your flights, or queue up on the day for cheap standing tickets.

    Also, don’t fall prey to a memory card wiping itself…

    Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Amazingly, there will be over 350 performances on the
    programme during the 2016/2017 season, including 221 opera performances, 57
    ballet performances, 7 concerts, 6 vocal matinées, 10 chamber music matinées, 8
    other matinées as well as numerous children’s opera performances, dance
    demonstrations by the ballet academy and other events. Whew.


    As a result, unbelievably almost each day they deconstruct the set and replace it with an entirely new one for the performance ahead. My favourite facts and figures as we wandered through the backstage is that it’s 27 meters high and 50 meters deep, is twice as large as the auditorium. The performance area features six platforms, and there is a revolving stage at the back of the main stage.

    Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But, my absolute favourite aspect of the tour was the revelation that air is piped through from nearby gardens, so in late summer the auditorium will often smell faintly of cut grass and blossoms. Oh, that and regular attendees of the incredible annual Opera Ball will sneak out during the extravagant evening in full ballgowns and tuxedos to buy hotdogs from the nearby foodstalls because the prices are so exorbitant (bearing in mind that tickets to the ball themselves are £1,500+…)

    Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi


    We were disappointed to not be able to stay for a performance (Mr Kiwi was still poorly with a reoccurring bout of flu – a convenient excuse if you ask me) but when we return for another Vienna city break full of cake and schnitzel I’m definitely going. In the meantime I’ll just have to book another London Opera night

     Vienna State Opera House Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Have you also got an old buildings addiction or is it just me?

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    Where to find the best schitznel and cake in Vienna*

    It felt like every second meal we had on our 72 hour city break in Vienna was of the cake variety. Chalking it up to being away from home and the cake reputation Vienna seems to be associated with we indulged, cutting out unnecessary meals like breakfast and lunch.

    With my travel date (poor Mr Kiwi being dragged from tourist pillar to post) suffering from a reoccurring bout of flu, we didn’t make it out for any specifically special evening meals, mostly preferring to grab something on the hoof and laze in the spa, but decided to practice moderation, throwing out a few unnecessary vegetables over the weekend for a finely baked variety of opulence. As they say, a balanced diet is a cake in each hand.

    Where to find the best schitznel and cake in Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our three favorite meals consisted basically of carbs and starch in varying permutations. Thank goodness for walking miles looking at beautiful buildings.

    Café Sacher Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010 Wien

    Ranked by Tripadvisor as the second best coffee and cake in Vienna, (beaten only by Konditorei Heiner which we ran out of time to visit) the rich history of this hotel and cafe is steeped with intrigue. The story goes that Franz Sacher
    woked at Hotel Sacher (one of the most eminent hotels in Europe at the time) and became famous for his Sachertorte, which he allegedly
    created for a reception given by Austrian State Chnacellor Klemens von Metternich in 1832. Unusually, instead of naming the cake after the Chancellor or royalty at the time, he stuttered out his own name and went on to cause controversy between two hotels claiming this dish for their own.

    Cafe Sacher Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Cafe Sacher Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi 

    We absolutely couldn’t resist popping into the infamous Café Sacher – in fact I may just have written it into our hopeful schedule. Passing by the beautiful Hotel Sacher a couple of times during the course of the day and seeing the tourist queues snake around the corner, we held off until twilight fell and waited less than 5 minutes. (Just be warned, there is no British queue etiquette in Austria despite the orderly lines.)

    The service (where waiters wear starched French uniforms) is beautiful old-fashioned gentility, in rooms of classical opulence. Between us we ordered the signature SacherTorte, Ice Cream cake (replete with apricot Bellini), a copper pot of Turkish coffee and the most ridiculously moreish rum-laced hot chocolate. (Good thing we had walked for hours beforehand, huh?)

    Cafe Sacher Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Apparently locals spend afternoons over coffee, cake and a newspaper – and with cake shops and bakeries on every corner it’s no wonder.

    Cafe Sacher Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi Cafe Sacher Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We just had to try the results of a 184 year old recipe, and aided by a cloud of cream it didn’t disappoint.

    Hotel Imperial Kärntner Ring 16, 1015 Wien

    With an hour to go before we had to collect our bags and make our way to the airport, we knew there was one last stop we had to make. Originally constructed in 1863 as the Viennese residence of the
    Prince of Württemberg the building was transformed into the Hotel Imperial for
    the universal exhibition in 1873.

    Hotel Imperial luxury cake in Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As you can see, the building is simply glorious, and we enjoyed a slice of Imperial Torte, the worlds most insane iced coffee… 

     Hotel Imperial luxury cake in Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    Hotel Imperial luxury cake in Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …and a grandiose selection of ice cream and sorbets.

     Hotel Imperial luxury cake in Vienna Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Almost enough to whittle away end of holiday blues, almost.

    Pürstner Restaurant 1010 Wien Riemergasse 10 (a 5 minute walk from St Stephens)

    Run by the Pürstner family for 3 generations, the restaurant is modelled on a typical house at the turn of the century and filled with quirks (perfect for sleepy holiday conversation lulls.) When my husband spotted the enormous stein of beer modelled above the doorway his step quickened and grin widened. “This looks like a fantastic place already!”

    Best Schnitzel in Vienna Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Unquestionably, this is the best discovery we have ever made on the internet. Ever. On our way back from a half day in Bratislava where the cold had seeped into our bones on the walking tour, I quickly Google searched ‘the best Schnitzel in Vienna’ (when in Rome and all that) and hidden at the bottom of the first page past all of the tourist-traps was a blogpost written by a local guy. On that post, he claimed that not only did Pürstner serve the best schnitzel, but he had visited multiple times and felt it was as good as his Mum’s.

    Best Schnitzel in Vienna Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We walked in at around 5.30 and were the last table the manager took without a reservation, turning away at least 40 people in the next hour or so who hadn’t booked either. We were slightly apprehensive after being warned that like in Prague, locals can be a little growly to tourists (for the record with my 6 words of Czech I never had a problem), but the lederhosen-clad manager welcomed us with a smile, we were seated us at a gingham dressed table and handed menus. We ordered beer and ice tea whilst perusing the (thankfully in German AND English) menu and checking out every one else’s plates surreptitiously

    Knowing full well that schnitzel was a must (weirdly enough we used to eat Schnitzel all the time as kids in New Zealand) we split a bowl of ‘old Viennese soup’ of beef & vegetable broth with noodles, a veal schnitzel (as big as your face – those leidenhosen dudes don’t mess about), beef steak stuffed with Camembert and ham, and plenty of buttery/fried potatoes. It was wintery starch/carb heaven.

    Best Schnitzel in Vienna Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Best Schnitzel in Vienna Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We ♥ Pürstner.

    Whilst in the culture capital of Austira we also sampled a slice of apfel Strudel in the Mayerling Woods, a Sissi-Kaffee at Schonbrun Palace (as a proud Kiwi entrenched in Flat Whites, it pains me to admit that this was probably one of my favourite coffees ever, just so damn creamy!), a hot dog or two from street vendors and a few other nibbles on the way.

    * Based on the internet research findings of a Kiwi living on the wrong side of the globe

    Where to find the best schitznel and cake in Vienna

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    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria

    Vienna is grand, elegant, perfectly compact, leafy, full of delicate baked goods peddlers, brimming with history and a thousand other superlatives. It’s one of those cities where you mention a visit, and everyone – and I mean everyone – exclaims “Oh, I LOVE Vienna!”. There is plenty to do for culture vultures, spas for relaxation weekends, cake on nearly every corner, gardens galore for picnics, museums for ghosting. Just all the things.

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

     All in all, Vienna is a fantastic European city break. (Can you tell we enjoyed it?)

    I feel like each time we’ve gone away lately, I fall head over heels. The more we travel, it seems like the better our choices become which I suspect is 89%* due to a fully paid up membership of the travel blogging community. With continuous exposure to real experiences, genuine personal recommendations, the realisation the ‘touristy’ things are well-known for a reason, Instagram assistance occasionally selecting meals, Pinterest setting our agendas and foodies who have their fingers on the culinary pulse, it only makes me love the community more.

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    (*I have a suspicion that the remaining 11% of this is due to realising what our own travel style is – and learning that the thought ‘oh, I’m sure that will be ok’ is never to be trusted.)

    We visited over Easter, hoping for a bit of good weather and a blossom or two if we were lucky, and hit the pastel jackpot.

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    In Vienna, 72 hours is not enough. We packed a fair amount in, wanting to do everything as I always do but I feel like we only scratched the surface (not helped by booking flights home a day early, so stupid.)

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Surprisingly, one of my highlights was after an hour wandering through an Abbey, an underground boat ride in Seegrotte, a former mine complex that was flooded after World War Two and turned into Europe’s largest underground lake. It was touristy, not gonna lie, but it was fascinating. About an hours drive into the Mayerling Woods (where the Viennese families spend their weekends) the completely man-made mine complex had a surprising beauty. (We were assured that, no, nothing lives in the water except tourist cameras dropped overboard.)

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi 

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Emerging back into the city, I collected my poorly husband and after a snack or two we slipped into the grand foyer of the Vienna Opera House. Taking in a tour and a dinner of cake and bellinis at Hotel Sacher, we retired to the hotel spa for a bit of relaxation. 

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi   

    Our second day began on the train, as we sped over to Bratislava (Slovakia) for a windswept half day of history. Only 60kms from Vienna, the two closest capital cities in Europe couldn’t be more different. We took in a walking tour around the historic city centre, sipped some hot chocolate so good it should be illegal, hustled up the UFO bridge tower for panoramic views then made our way back for an evening of schnitzel and beer steins. (Writing this makes it feel so hurried, but it wasn’t, not really). 

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Our last day dawned beautifully clear, without a pesky cloud in the sky. We hot-footed our way to Schonbrunn Palace (along with 62,346 other tourists – to avoid the queues book your timed entry in advance) for a turn in the statue gardens, one of the best coffee’s I’ve ever eaten, savoury strudel and a peruse through the Easter Markets lining the Palace courtyard.

    72 hour72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We had a fairly late flight so mostly pottered around the city centre, visiting a few of the ornate buildings we had discovered on our walking tour, ducking into the Imperial Hotel for lunch and taking 5,316 photos.

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    There are lofty churches, art galleries galore, luxury abounding and more things to do than we imagined. Not only that, but we were delighted to discover Vienna has its own Stars of Fame, but instead of Hollywood Amazons, they are famous composers who took to Vienna for inspiration and the thriving, wealthy music scene.

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We were impressed by the grandeur, wowed by the history, relaxed with rambles through beautiful gardens and pleased with the ease that you can move around the city – not even mentioning the amazing Schnitzel and cake. Vienna is the Europe that I dreamed about from my antipodean home.

    In the words of Ultravox, Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh Vienna!

    72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

    * Pin Me *

    What to do on a 72 hour city break in Vienna, Austria Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    Fischers, Marylebone Restaurant Review – a taste of Vienna

    It is getting cold in London. Typical January weather – a bitter wind, occasionally icy rain and a flutter or two of snow dust. It isn’t arctic by any means, but after travels on the other side of the world the drop of 20°C + seems to be sitting in my bones. To add to this, the unbridled joy of Christmas has flown, and the rosy cheeked whisper of winter has taken possession of our skin.

    It means we are reaching for comfort food. Piping hot, creamy dishes, mounds of herby vegetables, hunks of unctious meat and spiced puddings that rest heavily in the flavour scale.

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    The Austrian warmth of Fischers ticks all of these boxes. Sitting in
    the world cuisine bed of Marylebone (often an undiscovered gem) Yannick
    and I visited on a cold evening – one of those where your hands whip
    from pockets to gloves.

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    Arriving fairly early by most standards (though perfect for my
    early hour appetite) we were greeted and shown to a cute corner table,
    perfect for people watching in between forkfuls. The decor seems to be
    white-table Viennese; accents of plush copper finishes, panels of mirror
    and cut crystal water glasses. This is no place for white wall
    modernists.

    We visited with open minds (and a past visit where Yannick found the afternoon crowd to be a little flat) and simply allowed ourselves to be warmed through. We began with a malty bread basket, rich with flavour and whipped butter lavished with sea salt ripples. It was a good start.

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    I sipped a glass of mineral-rich white (the Dry Furmint 2012 Royal Tokaji) whilst my Luxembourg partner-in-crime tested their Aperol spritz skills. Appreciative Mmmmmhmmms all round.

    The menu is beautifully simple, so we tried their specialities; I couldn’t resist their Wurstchen (sausages) sampling the Nurnberger (pork and majoram) which was nice, and their veal bratwurst (with chicken, lemon and ginger.) The veal sausages were how you think sausages should be – velvety, rich and beautifully flavored. Served with a warm mustard potato salad (delicious), melted onions (nice) and sauerkraut (piquant in all the right ways) which warmed the cockles of my foodie heart. Simple, hearty and good.

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    Ever the blog pro, my foodie tour guide/dinner date enjoyed the wiener schnitzel (when in Rome and all that) served with a jus pariesenne and half a lemon for a balancing acidity which was lovely. He even took his own photos for me and graciously allowed me a bite – for the blog of course. Funnily enough, schnitzel was a staple in my Kiwi childhood and this was as good as I remembered it from years ago.

    We shared sides of spatzle (buttery, herby goodness) and a plate of wilted spinach. Apologies for the shuddery photo – simultaneously wielding a fork and camera subtly is a little unweldy at times…

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    But, for me the winner was dessert. (Frequent blog readers won’t be surprised as this declaration…) We took more than a little time pouring over the menu, do we go rich, chocolately and unctious or fruity and decadent? Choices, choices. Deferring to our waitress, she recommend the house speciality of Topfenstrudel; a cheese (as in cream, not cheddar) with raisins, lemon and rum between whisper thin layers of pastry, all served with a light vanilla custard. YUM.

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    Hungry yet?

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    Yannick’s Lemon Meringue Pie – it disappeared quicker than you can say lemony Londony Luxembourger…

    How about now….?

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    Oooooooooooooooooooooh yes.

    Will I be back to Fischers? In a heartbeat. They say it is a taste of early Twentieth Century Vienna – it only makes our trip later in the year to Austria all the more exciting…!

    Fischers Marylebone Restaurant Review a taste of Vienna

    Take that Blue Monday!

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    How to book cheap flights (so you can spend your money on holiday champagne at sunset instead)

    Over the years I’ve bagged a fair few bargain flights; £20pp return to Italy, £33pp return to Valencia, a cracking package deal including a flights & 5-star hotel in Vienna for almost the same cost as just flights. I also realised that I’ve never written a post on just how to book cheap flights, even with the trips I’ve done over the years and tips that I’ve picked up.

    How to book cheap flights tips and tricks Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Flying business or first class is lovely, don’t get me wrong. But until I win the lottery or my cat becomes famous, with all of the travelling I like to do, it just isn’t possible all of the time. Enter stage left the joy of picking up a cheap – usually economy – flight (which inevitably leads to an extra glass or two of something bubbly once we arrive.)

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