With crunching red and golden leaves, architecture bathed in muted golden sunlight and crisp blue-sky mornings, Autumn in Vienna is secretly one of my favourite times to explore.
The Vienna List challenge has given us plenty of opportunity over the last 6 weeks to enjoy this incredible time of year – but I’m quickly realising I’m going to run out of weather appropriate activities soon!
Before we dive headlong into festive Christmas Market season and wintery excuses for sitting in bed bingeing Netflix (really should have included that on the list, January to May is going to be tough…) I thought I’d give you guys a quick update on our progress and the top 5 activities you can treat yourself to in autumn.
5 Vienna Activities to Enjoy in Autumn
1. Kaisergruft Museum
Important note – It was at this museum I experienced possibly the cringiest moment of my life. In an imperial, decorated, sombre graveyard I managed to make an absolute idiot of myself.
Distractedly strolling the tombs, reading the pamphlets and not paying any attention to my surroundings, I sidled up to a lovely young man dressed in smart slacks and a navy jumper – stroking his back lovingly, I whispered in a quiet murmur appropriate to grave sites ‘It’s pretty incredible, huh?’.
To my unfolding horror, that stranger was not Stefan. Just a well-dressed bloke in a burial museum, who probably thought I was trying some morbid pickup move. My face burned in embarrassment, but because I’m a dork, my natural reaction was to giggle, LOUDLY in a fancy graveyard before apologising profusely to this poor man for my creepiness. The worst part? Stefan was watching the whole thing, just across the room, and has thoroughly enjoyed recounting the story of my slow sidle up to stroke a stranger’s back…… *shudder*.
Anyway – the museum is great! Though my memories are shrouded in a haze of embarrassment, it’s worth a visit to appreciate the breadth of Habsburg influence around the globe.
The vault sits beneath the ornate architecture of the 1st district, home to hundreds of tombs and gargantuan memorials, dripping in delicate stonework and symbolic plaques. It sounds like a creepy spot, and some corners are, but what I found fascinating here were the number of tombs that still had fresh flowers placed upon them, the intricacy of the stories depicted upon royal graves and the sheer size of some tombs.
Go there to truly appreciate the impact of the Habsburg royal line, and get up close to the memorials to see the stories of a royals’ life compressed into wood carvings. Just don’t get too close to strangers, apparently that’s ‘weird’ and ‘inappropriate’.
Kaisergruft Quick Facts
Entry Price: €5.50 per adult
Time spent: 45mins – 1 hour
Suitable For: Adults, families, kids over 6 years old,
2. Albertina Museum.
I’ve not visited here for years – despite it being one of the best museums in Europe – because it’s always crowded, and to be honest, just convincing Stefan to come and see some modern art was a battle. I don’t know why I waited so damn long. Albertina is gorgeous, well curated, and yes, crowded, but definitely worth the price of entry. The building itself is iconic, with a stunning view across to the Opera house – a favourite selfie spot.
The Monet to Picasso exhibition is a moving timeline of Impressionism to Cubism, bookended with Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ and Picasso’s abstract works up into the 1970’s . I’m a sucker for artwork & writing from the early 20th century, love tracing the progression from beautiful impressionism works to abstract modernism as a reflection of the fractured state of the world leading up to WWI. The story of humanity behind that period is reflected back so clearly – even if you don’t ‘get’ the deeper meaning (does anyone?), the paintings prove a spiritual change was afoot in the early 1900’s.
The Modern Art was a little more divisive – a literal painting of just black paint. An installation of trash creepy dolls. This post-modern era was the part that Stefan disconnected from entirely, and I can’t say I blame him – post-modernism is ripe for ridicule.
The Warhol’s and magazine style artwork were interesting, but a lot from that period lacks a touch of soul for me. However, this was the section that sparked a debate and incited the most conversation between us, so worth checking out to form your own opinions on what ‘art’ is, and should be.
Albertina Quick Facts:
Entry Price: €12.90
Time Spent: 2-3 hours
Suitable For: Adults, couples – a bit too dry and boring for kids and families.
3. National Library
Book nerd heaven – this is the library dreams are made of. Arching columns of books, a rooftop painted with Caravaggio-inspired figures and porthole glass windows for sunlight to dapple upon museum visitors.
There’s giant globes made centuries ago, a huge collection of ancient books and a regularly changing exhibition of artefacts collected by the museum, making it a must-visit, even if you’re not as much of a book freak as I am. (I’m that girl that breathes deeply in satisfaction on entering a cluttered second-hand book store).
On our visit, they had a particularly personal collection of Emperor Franz Joseph’s letters and private writing. The gossipy exhibition of his letters to actress Katharina Schratt was definitely drawing the most attention. She was his ‘lifelong companion’ and confidante, which is totally 1890’s code for mistress and ‘lady he definitely loved but couldn’t be with because: Royalty ‘. This was the first time his private correspondence has been on display, and looking at it, I can’t blame the guy for keeping it private!
Go here to marvel at the books, the architecture and the wonder of a country that has an entire wing of their royal palace lovingly dedicated to literature.
National Library Quick Facts
Entry Price: €7 (Free with the Vienna Pass)
Time Spent: 1 – 1.5 hours
Suitable For: Adults, couples, families if the kids love Harry Potter-style libraries!
4. Hike to Otto Wagner Kirche
If you’re really lucky in early Autumn, the weather on a Sunday is the perfect mix of sunshine, a light breeze, and ice-free walking paths. The only way you can possibly know if it is that day, is by the number of fiercely determined old ladies wielding Nordic walking sticks on public transport.
If you see these hordes of fit, vintage Austrians, decked out in navy Jack Wolfskin jackets and sensible ugly shoes then make your way to Steinhofgründe and hike to Otto Wagner Kirche. This gorgeous Art Nouveau church sits pretty overlooking the city, and is unlike any other European church you’ve seen (and let’s face it, if you’re in Europe, you’ve seen hundreds).
The best part of this little hike is always lounging on the hand-carved wooden sun loungers, made from tree trunks and positioned perfectly to overlook the city. You’ll just have to race an old Austrian woman to get to one first!
5. Coffee at Coffee Pirates
If all the above sounds like too much hard work (which, on a stormy Autumn Saturday, it can be) then head to Coffee Pirates. This third wave coffee shop right across from Vienna University is the kind my Melbourne heart aches for. They roast their own coffee on site, serve fast and perfect flat whites to a seemingly endless queue of hipsters, bobo’s (bourgeois bohemian for those not fluent in Viennese), young families and creative sorts in this wooden floored, rustic ramshackle cafe.
Plenty of communal tables for perching with a laptop, small low couches for nestling into and of course, wooden pallets for resting your coffee and home-made cakes upon. Just the smell of this place is enough to assure you they are serious about coffee – an enveloping waft of roasted coffee, baked pastries and the noise of a barista smashing his tools to reach caffeine perfection.
The only downside to Coffee Pirates are it’s difficult opening hours – if you work full-time it’s tricky to get here during the week, they close at 6pm, and on Saturdays, they only open from 9am to 3pm. Make the effort though – these are some serious coffee experts and fanatics. Brewing third wave coffee, sourcing their own beans direct from farms and monitoring each roast with software and constant feedback from their customers and baristas, you won’t get a more seriously researched coffee in the city.
All up the Vienna List challenge has been pretty excellent at forcing me out of the house on less-than-perfect weekends through Autumn. There’s plenty more to recommend in Vienna at this time of year – frolicking in Augarten or Zentralfriedhof, strolling through Schönbrunn or Prater Park when the leaves turn to russet-brown, reds and yellow.
We’re ready now for snow and sweet glüwein at the Christmas markets, but Autumn will always be the time of year I treasure most to explore outdoors in Vienna – just as long as I resist the urge to hit on strangers accidently in graveyards.
Where’s your favourite place in Vienna to explore in Autumn?
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