opera and coffee houses in Vienna

We couldn’t wait to see the elegant city of Vienna! We joined a free walking tour and learned about the rich history of the city and country.

We visited the statues of Franz Joseph, the longest-reigning emperor of Austria, Mozart, and Emperor Franz I. This last monument has four accompanying statues representing faith, peace, justice and power.

A more light-hearted statue was one of a man’s backside. The alleged story: The sculptor was rejected by a woman and so he designed and built this fountain right across from her building. Every morning she would be reminded not to mess with sculptors. Nowadays, people touch the statue’s butt for good luck.

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The Christmas markets were luckily still in full swing. We started at Maria-Theresien-Platz with a Kartoffelpuffer (like a circular hashbrown) and indulged in another Käsekrainer.

One of the highlights of this trip was seeing an opera at Wiener Staatsoper, the Vienna State Opera. Standing tickets are available 80 minutes before each show and they only cost 3-4€! We chose to see Hänsel und Gretel as we were familiar with the story.

Once we claimed our spots with a scarf (for more details, see below in Logistics/Tips) we explored the rest of the beautiful opera house.

The opera was in German, but there were surtitles on small screens in front of us. When we peeked at the screens in front of us, we were impressed that most of the lines rhymed in German! Overall, it was a fantastic and classy experience.


We ended the day at the Rathausplatz Christmas World. The lights were beautiful and there was an outdoor skating path!

We had a Käsekrainer Langos (Langos is deep-fried dough) which was deliciously fried and cheesy, garlic soup in a bread bowl, and tried a krapfen (jam-filled doughnut aka Berliner) for dessert.

To start off our second day, we headed to district 20 to get Wiener Schnitzel at Gasthaus Kopp, a restaurant we found online by googling “best schnitzel in Vienna.” We were seated at a table with two local Austrians and we had a great time talking about Austria and the USA. When our schnitzel arrived, Robert and I were floored. The price of the TWO huge schnitzels was only 9€! We also tried Tafelspitz, another Viennese specialty. The boiled beef was tender and warm and delicious.

We picked up some Maroni (roasted chestnuts) and Bratkartoffel (fries) then made a quick stop to visit the Streetart Passage, which was a very small area of street art.

In Vienna, you can sit for hours in a cafe by yourself or with friends. Cafes are open and relaxed; the concept reminded us of Europe’s slower-paced lifestyle. In the past, many famous musicians played in cafes including Mozart and Beethoven. We were eager to experience the Viennese coffee house culture and try some delicious cakes. Max, a friend from medical school who grew up in Vienna, led us through this cultural experience. We had the classic Austrian Apfelstrudel mit Vanille Eis (apple strudel with vanilla ice cream) and the Vienna specialty Sachertorte, a type of chocolate cake. Max got a Maroni cream cake, which was also yummy. We drank hot chocolate, ate cake, and talked about the consequences of being caught without bus tickets in Vienna (apparently none if you run away from the police).

We spent our last night at Schloss Schönbrunn. The palace grounds were crowded because of the Christmas market. We visited the small stands and enjoyed the cheery atmosphere.

Vienna is a rich city with a lot of history and culture. Seeing a German opera and chatting in a coffee house were enriching cultural experiences. I would love to come back and continue exploring the city!


  • For tickets to the Vienna State Opera, show up early with a scarf in hand – once you purchase your tickets, rush to get the best spot and then tie your scarf around the railing to mark your territory. If you try to steal a spot that already has someone else’s scarf, you will get yelled at. There are three tiers of tickets: Parterre (4€) which is at the very back of the orchestra, Balcony (3€) which is around the sides of the balcony, and Gallery (3€) at the very top. Parterre is the best section if you can get in the first few rows of the section otherwise you’ll be trying to see above rows of heads in front of you. If you don’t mind being really high up, Gallery is good because it’s less popular than Parterre and you can get spots in the center. We went for Balcony tickets to be a little closer to the stage and got as close to the center as possible (although only the sides are available).

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