Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Vienna, Austria, on your Viking Danube Waltz river cruise. Nestled in the heart of the Central Alps, this small, but culturally rich country, boasts a luxurious atmosphere and a fascinating history.
Join me as I share how my friends and I spent a memorable day exploring this remarkable European city.
Touring Schönbrunn Palace
My friends and I had an unforgettable journey through Vienna, Austria, with Viking Cruises! We explored the breathtaking Schönbrunn Palace on our optional add-on tour.
We had a complimentary tour of Austria earlier with Viking in the daytime, and later chose to take an optional add-on tour that requires a nominal fee. The trip took us to Schönbrunn Palace, the most visited attraction in Vienna.
Our included tour started with a small-sized group led by a Viking guide. We drove around the Ringstrasse, which replaced the city walls hundreds of years ago, and saw the city’s highlights, stopping to take photos a few times.
Break for Refreshments
We had a bit of free time at the Palace, so my friends and I shopped at the outdoor markets on the grounds and then enjoyed a snack. At Conditorei Sluka Rathausplatz, we enjoyed picture-perfect apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce and little egg and tuna salad sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and herbs most delicious.
The coffee and hot chocolate were both tasty, too. The restaurant had some of the most beautiful desserts I’ve ever seen.
Hofburg Palace and Other Points of Interest
Experience the enchanting Spanish Riding School and witness the breathtaking beauty of the Lipizzaner Stallions at Vienna’s historic Hofburg Palace. These “dancing white horses” are a true sight to behold. Capture the moment with photos and even get up close to pet these majestic creatures. It was the highlight of my friend Julie’s cruise.
Afterward, explore the vibrant Kärntner Strasse, a renowned shopping street, as well as other iconic landmarks like Mozart’s house, the Opera House, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Wrap up the tour and head back to the ship for a delicious lunch.
A Truly Royal Residence: Schönbrunn Palace
For an even deeper dive into Vienna’s rich history, embark on the optional Schönbrunn Palace tour with Viking. Discover the fascinating Habsburg rule, which shaped Vienna for six centuries. This magnificent palace, often referred to as the “Versailles of Vienna,” holds countless stories, including the imprisonment of Richard the Lion Heart from 1192- 93 for insulting Leopold V.
Plus, uncover the intriguing connection between Schönbrunn Palace and the famous Marie Antoinette, the last Austrian Habsburg.
Fun Fact: Schönbrunn Palace is a stately picturesque castle with a royal resident, Maria Theresa. She had a famous daughter, the youngest of 16 children. This child was Marie Antoinette, more of a familiar name to us Americans, so I was glad to put two and two together in this exciting history lesson.
Touring the Magnificent Palace
The 1,441-room Rococo palace is one of the most fabulous homes I’ve ever toured and was deemed a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site in 1996. Its interior has been preserved perfectly, and the audio-guided tour is informational and enjoyable.
I was in awe of the ceramics, wallpaper, intricate crown moldings, elegant seating arrangements with beautiful fabrics, and china.
Maybe I just imagined it, but the spectacular Vienna Austria palace seemed to twinkle everywhere you looked, from the polished gold accents and trim. To say it was breathtaking would be an understatement.
Schönbrunn Palace: A Famous UNESCO World Heritage Site
If you’re exploring Vienna independently, don’t miss the 60-minute Grand Tour of Schönbrunn Palace. Marvel at 40 stunning rooms, as well as the meticulously manicured formal gardens, Roman ruins, and captivating Grecian statuary.
And while you’re there, make sure to visit Tiergarten Schönbrunn, the world’s oldest zoo and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Get up close to incredible animals like elephants, Giant pandas, orangutans, and anteaters.
After your adventure in and around Schönbrunn Palace, take some time to explore the local arts and crafts, indulge in delicious food, and sip on refreshing drinks at the charming kiosks set up outside. Don’t forget to pick up some unique souvenirs to commemorate your trip.
A Crazy Cab Ride: Buckle Up
My friends and I are fondue lovers, and we wanted to experience it in Vienna. I found Chamäleon, the sole fondue restaurant in town, online. Our adventure began as we hailed a taxi driver. There was a language barrier, as our cab driver couldn’t speak English. Thankfully, we communicated through a web page with the restaurant’s address.
As we journeyed through the city in a luxurious car, we passed vibrant neighborhoods and exclusive areas. After what seemed like 30 minutes, the streets became quieter and more secluded.
Finally, our driver stopped at a dead-end cul-de-sac, pointing down a dimly lit alley. We had arrived at our destination – Chamäleon Restaurant and Bar. As we entered, curious glances turned towards us – American tourists in a local hotspot. However, when we requested a table, we were initially told they were fully booked, despite several empty tables.
Fortunately, the owner intervened and graciously led us to a table. We were given an hour to enjoy our meal, as the remaining tables were already reserved.
A Fondue Episode to Remember
As we quickly reviewed the menu at Chamäleon, we excitedly tried to order various items from our waiter, who also happened to be the owner. However, much to our disappointment, he kindly declined our requests.
Eventually, we settled for the only fondue dish he offered, which only came with chunks of bread. I attempted to order raw vegetables, but unfortunately, that was not an option.
When the dish we were allowed to order finally arrived at our table, we were astounded by the sight of an enormous bowl filled with approximately 6 to 8 pounds of melted cheese. It was a sight that made our eyes almost pop out of our heads.
The bread baskets alone were so abundant that they would have been enough to serve 100 guests at a party!
With our appetites whetted, Angie was not a fan of the strong Kirsch taste in the fondue, leaving Jo and me to thoroughly enjoy the indulgent combination of cheese and bread.
When we could no longer fit another bite, we requested to take the leftovers back to the boat. To our surprise, the waiter returned with an empty food container resembling an empty Parkay package, in which we placed the leftover cheese. As for the bread, we had to make do with a plastic grocery store bag to hold it.
Our check arrived, and our bill was equivalent to $80. We nearly fell over! It sure was a fun experience, but we definitely got taken advantage of. Still, it was an entertaining evening and a great story to tell back on the boat.
Viking Cruises to the Rescue
For those of you wondering, we asked the Chef aboard the Viking River Cruises ship to heat our cheese for us. So, the next night, as we sailed under the amazing bridges of Budapest, he surprised us with it.
Our fondue was beautifully plated and surrounded with vegetables and our bread for dipping. We were happy to share it with the other cruisers that were in the lounge with us.
All in all, the fondue was a hit and worth every penny.
Here are the highlights of my Viking Rhine River Cruise.
Happy Country #41 to Me!
Austria was an incredible country to visit, and it marked the 41st country I have been fortunate to explore. It has a stunning metropolitan city, talented artists, renowned music composers, a rich history, and mouthwatering fondue. The architectural beauty of Austria truly amazed me, and I could easily have spent hours taking pictures of its breathtaking buildings.
I highly recommend adding Austria to your travel bucket list. It offers a unique experience, just like the one we had. Have a wonderful and safe journey.