I just love Christmas markets.
What about you? What are your favourite Christmas markets? I’ve been to Christmas markets in Austria, France, Budapest and in London.
Who hasn’t dreamt of becoming a king or a queen when growing up? We were all brought up with stories and fairy tales about valiant princes and beautiful princesses. However, being an actual royal is something completely different, especially nowadays. Nevertheless, seeing real royal treasures can still be very enchanting ( and educational). On my recent visit to Vienna ( last month) I got to admire the priceless crowns and other immensely beautiful objects in Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien (Imperial Treasury) before I enjoyed a delicious cake at yet another Viennese cultural institution: Café Central.
About Imperial Treasury Vienna Museum
Imperial Treasury Vienna is housed in the oldest part of the Hofburg Palace in the center of Vienna (the royal palace of Habsburg family who ruled over Austria and much of Central Europe until 1918). Imperial Treasury may not be the most interactive or family friendly museum but it is one of the most important treasuries in the world containing secular and ecclesiastical objects of immense cultural and historical value. The museum is affiliated with the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, which is just a short walk from the Hofburg Palace. The museum’s collection was compiled by the Imperial House of Habsburg over the course of centuries but it has only been opened to the public as a museum since 1954.
The museum facilities include: ticket office, small shop, toilets and a cloakroom on the ground floor. There’s also an Audio Guide point (for extra charge) just before you climb the stairs to get to the museum’s collection spread over 21 rooms on the upper floor. The admission to the Imperial Treasury Museum costs 12€ for adults. The museum is open every day from 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM, except on Tuesdays. You can take photographs inside the museum but without flash. For more information about the museum click here !
Top 10 of the Imperial Treasury Vienna
As in most museums around Europe you can get a free leaflet with the museum’s plan and some basic information. I decided to find the top 10 objects listed in that leaflet while visiting the museum. Here’s the list of top 10 artifacts of the Imperial Treasury Vienna:
• Crown of Emperor Rudolf II
It’s in the first room you enter. It’s truly magnificent and there’s also the Imperial Orb and Sceptre.
• Cradle of the King of Rome
Now, this is one seriously imposing cradle. But you wouldn’t expect anything less for the Napoleon’s only son, would you?
• Emerald Vessel
It’s a small object but it’s actually the largest cut emerald in the world.
• Agate Bowl
I must say this was my favourite object of them all. It looks very contemporary. It’s rather big and the legends surrounding it are extraordinary. Some believed that it was the Holy Grail. It was made in the Late Antiquity and together with the unicorn’s horn (not real of course, it’s actually a narwhal’s tusk) makes ˝inalienable heirloom of the House of Habsburg˝, meaning it couldn’t be sold or given to anyone else.
„Central is not a coffeehouse like any other – it’s a philosophy.“
If you want to rub shoulders with the likes of Sigmund Freud and Trotsky, you should visit Café Central in Vienna. Though, you’ll only see Mr Freud & his friends if you can see ghosts! Today this historical beautiful coffeehouse is overrun with the tourists but they don’t diminish its old-style charm.
The café culture is still strong in Vienna so during the week and off-season (if there’s such a time of the year when there are less tourists in Vienna) this café is still frequented by the locals. But if you’re visiting during Christmas season be prepared to wait in the cold to get in this very popular café/patisserie.
Housed in a grand old palace (Palais Ferstel) Cafe Central has been opened since 1876. It offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and Vienna coffee of course. Made famous by its notorious patrons and as a rendezvous place for many artists, revolutionaries and philosophers it’s a hot spot for today’s visitors to once imperial Vienna. Everybody wants to eat cake in Cafe Central (or take selfies) as it seems when you’re freezing in the long queue outside this old institution.
When you get in eventually you soon forget all about your half-frozen fingers and look up in awe. The ceilings are very high and exquisitely painted and there are elegant arches, like in a proper palace or church. But the religion preached here is coffee! The central place inside is occupied by two large cake displays and a large gingerbread house. There’s also live piano music after 5 pm. I came earlier so I didn’t get to enjoy this part of Vienna coffee culture.
Back in June I did a travel article app giveaway and since it’s Christmas approaching I’m doing another giveaway. This time you can get a free upgraded version of my travel article app Christmas Markets in Vienna by GPSmyCity. So if you’re planning to visit Vienna, Austria any time soon you’ll need my guide for Christmas markets! Where to find them, which are the best and what can you do at Christmas markets, it’s all in my travel article app!
What’s a travel article app and why you need it
Of course, you can read my post Christmas markets in Vienna online, here on my blog, for free. But you can read my travel article app offline any time you want and anywhere, for free. Once you download it (and downloading is free) you don’t have to access the Internet. If you have bad reception on your mobile phone while travelling, then no worries because you can read a travel article app offline. But what’s really useful with these travel article apps is their GPS navigation system. So, let’s say you’re in Vienna and you want to visit some of the Christmas markets I wrote about. No problems, you don’t need to carry heavy guidebooks or maps or ask someone for directions.
Who doesn’t like cakes? I can’t resist a dessert and I often peruse the dessert’s menu even before I order the drinks let alone the main dish. Sacher Cake is probably one of the most famous cakes in the world and there are also plenty of recipes to make it yourself at your home. But you can only have the original Sachert-Torte at Café Sacher in the heart of historical Vienna.
I’ve been to Vienna several times. My first visit was in December 2005 when my best high school friend and I took a train to Vienna. We’ve done a ride on Prater’s Giant Wheel, took photos of colourful Hundertwasser’s house, tracked down the cafe from the movie Before Sunrise and we visited Schonbrunn palace among other things. Above the castle is a great viewpoint and a cafe called Glorietta where I had my first Sacher Cake in Vienna. It was horrible; it was dry and old. A big disappointment.
Fast forward almost a decade and I’m back in Vienna and I’m having Sacher Cake in a beautiful restaurant Residenz right next to the Schonbrunn palace. Again the Sacher Cake wasn’t really good. I couldn’t believe it. I had other great cakes at this restaurant and I had wonderful cakes in Vienna in a lot of different places but I still couldn’t find a decent Sacher Cake in Vienna even if my life depended on it. Maybe the castle had something to do with it? Both times I had Sacher Cake was actually in places in Schonbrunn palace garden!
I’ve wanted to try the original Sacher Cake at Café Sacher for a long time but there was always a long queue outside the cafe and I just left it always for some other time, some other trip to Vienna. Finally, last December I had the one and only Sacher Cake. And it was so delicious!!
In the midst of cold & snowy winter you can enjoy the fragile beauty of butterflies in Vienna’s Imperial Butterfly House ( Schmetterling house). It’s set in an Art Nouveau Palm house, a part of the Hofburg Royal Palace. You can enter it via the palace gardens Burggarten. Of course the Butterfly house is open all year round but if you visit it during winter be prepared for scorching heat. Tropical conditions are inside because butterflies need warmth which is fine when it’s warmer outside too and then there isn’t such a big difference in the temperature. But when I visited it last month it was so freezing outside that when I walked in I wanted to strip down to my undies , that’s how hot it was! Of course, I just took off my coat and jumper :).
Are you afraid of heights and confined spaces? Then, please don’t climb 343 steps to reach the viewing point of ˝Steffl˝ tower in Vienna (the southern tower of St.Stephen’s cathedral). Yes, I went up 343 steps. There must be something wrong with me, right?:) Well, I just like climbing towers and viewing the city from above. And it’s always interesting to get the bird’s-eye perspective of the city, don’t you think so?
It was a long climb and it’s really narrow so when you come across other people trying to go down while you’re going up it isn’t’ really pleasant. Luckily, I did it first thing in the morning (read at 9.30 am but the tower opens at 9) so there weren’t that many tricky situations. The cost of the ticket is only 4.50 euros and you get your money’s worth. The only disappointment is that when you get to the top (at 67 m; you can’t get to the actual top of the tower at 137 m) there’s a souvenir shop. As with other towers there’s a protective wire so you have to take pictures through it. It wasn’t the sunniest of the days but I still got to see the beautiful Vienna’s buildings down below me. Since the St.Stephen’s cathedral is right in the center of the city you get to see the top of Hofburg’s dome (the royal palace), the Belvedere castle, many church spires and domes and the magnificent neo-Gothic Rathaus (City Hall). You can also see the amazing tile work of the cathedral’s roof which represent Hapsburg’s coat of arms in the shape of the double-headed eagle. It must be quite something to go up in the late afternoon when the Christmas lights are switched on because then you can admire the festive decorations of Kartnerstrasse (the high street) and Graben street (there are beautiful pine Christmas trees which smell so nice) and you see the big red baubles of Rotenturm street.