Have I mentioned I love Vienna?
Here are a couple reasons to recap…
Vienna has some incredible graffiti, as well as incredible graffiti laws. Meaning: they allow it! There are even signs that say “Graffiti only here”! Here are some examples I found:
The Riesenrad Ferris wheel at the Prater (amusement park) is a classic, and although I just admired from below, I love it because of the kiss scene between Jessy and Celine from Before Sunrise.
It’s a great film, by the way, if you want to wander the Vienna streets alongside these two inspiring characters.
The Rathaus, which is the Gothic and gorgeously intimidating city hall, wouldn’t be that interesting for me otherwise if it hadn’t taken on special significance during the time I spent in Vienna during Christmas and my birthday.
As far as European Christmas markets go, though I will always tell you that Brno has the best one (followed by the one in Ljubljana, and skip the one in Prague entirely, it’s overpriced and boring), Vienna’s is beautiful and worth a trip. There are many locations of the market spread out across the city (it’s impossible to miss), each guaranteed with a gorgeous backdrop – like Schönbrunn, above, St. Stephen’s, or Rathaus – and so with its own unique atmosphere. It is true, though, that many of the shops (sausage, cheese, candles, gingerbread, wooden ornaments, lavender products) seem to repeat. And don’t forget, if you want to buy hot punch and mulled wine, to pay your deposit for the nice ceramic mug they give you, which can be taken and used at all the locations.
I’ve been to the Christmas market twice, but I mostly admire without buying anything because it’s so expensive! You are not buying much more than a candle on a Czech salary in Vienna. And you can’t even find a candle for less than €4-5 (facepalm). Still, wandering around with some spiced punch is more than worth it to feel the atmosphere.
It was the graffiti pictured above that led me to my serendipitously amazing birthday breakfast on the marker of my 24th year. I was following the paintings down a narrow alleyway when I happened upon a nice little courtyard with tables and chairs. It looked so cozy that I needed to find out what the restaurant was.
The restaurant is called Amerlingbeisl (Stiftgasse 8), and though I’ve been back at its busier lunch and dinner hours, in the morning it was quiet, calm, and just right for a reflective breakfast (Oh my god I’m so old! I’d better eat all my yogurt and fruit). Their breakfast – colorful, homemade, and full of variety – was €10, and while that’s not exactly cheap, it made me feel really at home in the city and ready for my day.
So you choose: two candles at the market, or this breakfast?
I love happening upon gems, and this restaurant definitely is one.
Then it was off to the Christmas market for me. It was a rainy day, but I stayed cozy under the welcoming incandescent lights and heavy traffic of people, occasionally ducking into a coffee shop.
Towards the evening I headed towards the traditional center of Vienna, and to one of my favorite sites, the Parliament building:
And nearby, to another location of the Christmas market, the Rathaus. The park surrounding it is amusement-park style, full of rides for children, and the trees are decked with all kinds of creative lights like hearts, bells, and violins.
I know it’s strange to many people, but I love traveling solo. There’s something intoxicating about losing yourself in the rhythm of people, walking around exhausting your legs all day in the fresh brisk air of an autumn day and looking up at the lights, feeling exhilarated yet comforted at the same time.
To immortalize the moment, I asked someone to take a picture of me (something I usually don’t do), because I was now 24 years old and full of purpose in a beautiful European city!
Have you celebrated a birthday abroad? What was the best memory you made?