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As the nights draw in and the weather gets, well, just a bit rainy and rubbish, we’ve decided that we have two options A) Curl up and hibernate until it’s summer again or B) Plan a weekend away to take our mind of winter’s impending arrival. And since option B) is the all-round more productive (and realistic) alternative, we suggest that you make the picturesque city of Vienna your destination of choice. Need some inspiration? Here’s our pick of the five must-do’s in the Austrian capital:
- Café culture: you’ll quickly notice that the Viennese are perfectionists – from the pristine streets to the amazing architecture, the city itself is chocolate-box standard, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the stunning turn-of-the-century coffeehouses. So whether you visit Café Central, Sperl, Demel or Griensteidl, order yourself a brauner (espresso) select an intricate cake and sit and watch the world go by all day. And when we say ‘all-day’ we really mean it – one small cup of coffee entitles the drinker to stay for as long as they like, you’ll never ever be rushed in Vienna.
- Mile-long market: wander the length of the sprawling Naschmarkt, all 1.5 kilometers are packed with fruit, veg, meat, bread, pastries, cheese and every cuisine imaginable. It’s a foodie’s paradise so make sure you go hungry and pick up all of the samples on your walk. If you’re after a sit down meal, you can tuck in to the best goulash in the city at Zur Eisernen Zeit, a restaurant often frequented by the Mayor of Vienna himself.
- Prancing ponies: nothing epitomises the elegance and grandeur quite of Vienna quite like the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule), where you can watch pure-white prancing ponies doing tricks. Either get up early and watch the horses do their morning exercise on weekdays or see them perform on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Lipizzaner stallions (the particular breed of white horses at the school) live in stables opposite the event venue where rumour has it that the horses enjoy five star luxury with their own showers, balconies and even a gym.
- Scoff some Schnitzel: you always know a restaurant is the real deal when it’s buzzing with plenty of locals and Reinthaler’s Beisl on Dorotheergasse was absolutely packed with them. Schnitzel is Austria’s most famous dish and comes in veal (the most traditional), chicken and pork versions. Whichever schnitzel you choose, be sure to order a potato salad to accompany it – any request for fries will have you blacklisted.
- Peruse a palace (or three): not content with one royal residence, you’ll find three palaces to explore in Vienna. You can’t miss the Hofburg Imperial Palace in the centre of town; it’s well worth visiting the Sisi Museum inside, where you’ll hear all about the life of the sassiest royal empress you could wish to encounter. Make sure to venture out to the splendourous yellow Schönbrunn Palace, the royals’ summer residence with beautifully manicured grounds. And to complete the trio, Belvedere Palace hosts the largest collection of Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt's paintings, including his most famous: ‘The Kiss’.