On our first day in Vienna, May 19, 2014 we continued our walk through the first district to the Michaelerplatz (St. Michael’s Square) which faces the grandiose entrance into the Hofburg, the giant castle complex that holds the former imperial apartments of the Habsburg family. We visited the Augustinerkirche (the Augustinian Church) that was built in the 1300s as the parish church of the Habsburg imperial court. Across the street from the Hofburg is the Stallburg, a former royal residence that is now home to the majestic white Lipizzaner horses of the renowned Spanish Riding School. Several white stallions were peaking out of their cozy royal stable boxes. Our walk also took us past the Café Mozart and the iconic Hotel Sacher, home of the famous Sachertorte, Vienna’s most well-known cake.
After a brief subway ride from the Vienna State Opera we exited at the Vienna Stock Exchange and then walked to the Freyung, an attractive public square that is presided over by the Schottenkirche (Scottish Church), which was founded in 1177 AD and redesigned during the Baroque period. Across the street is the Freyung Passage, a beautiful shopping arcade from the 1860s that is located in an Italian-style palazzo called Palais Ferstel. I also briefly popped into the Café Central, the most splendid of the famous coffeehouses of Vienna that used to be a meeting place of famous writers and artists at the turn of the previous century.
From the Freyung Square we slowly made our way back into the very centre of Vienna, the Stephansplatz (St. Stephen’s Square). We also walked through the Jewish District, home to Vienna’s Jewish community since the 1100s. Today, this neighbourhood is full of bars and restaurants and carries the nickname “Bermuda Triangle” – because it’s so easy to get lost here. One of the attractions in this area is the Anker Clock on the Hoher Markt square, the oldest square in Vienna. The Anker Clock is an ornate bronze and copper clock that was commissioned by the Anker Insurance Company and completed in 1914. We also stopped at the medieval Ruprechtskirche (Church of St. Rupert), Vienna’s oldest church, a quiet retreat in the heart of downtown.
As the sun was setting we ended our first evening in Vienna with a visit to the Museumsquartier (Museum Quarter), a collection of more than 20 cultural institutions , restaurants, cafes and shops across the street from the Hofburg. One of the 10 largest cultural areas in the world, it is the home of MUMOK (the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna) as well as the Leopold Museum which has one of the world’s largest collections of paintings by Egon Schiele. Other institutions include the Tanzquartier Wien – a dance school, the Architekturzentrum Wien – an exhibition space that focuses on 20th century architecture, and the ZOOM Kindermuseum – a children’s museum that encourages children to learn through play and exploration. Among the coolest features of the Museumsquartier are the numerous blue plastic loungers where people recline and soak in the sun. This part of Vienna is always packed with people, most of them university students, who come here to chat and relax. It’s a great place to hang out.