Visiting Vienna with a Dog – A Walking Tour
Ah Vienna, just saying the word and images of historic coffee houses, Heuriger taverns, massive monuments and Opera houses dance before my eyes. To a soundtrack of classical music of course. Probably Mozart if I am honest! A beautiful city not lost to its past, but rather one that seems to have done the unthinkable: brought the past to the modern era in a cohesive way.
With only 3 days to enjoy this magnificent, historically rich city we chose to go the walking tour route as we nearly always do! And we were brave Dear Reader, we did it self-guided!
(We did do an AMAZING bike tour on our third day – start with that if you are going. But more on that in a later post).
We did two separate tours so I will write them up as we did them. Please note that on the map below – this posts tour loosely follows the dark BLUE line.
Now be prepared. These are not small, one hour strolls. Each one of these walking tours took about 6-7 hours to complete. And that is without going inside for each site. Wear comfortable shoes that can handle the frequently cobble stoned streets. Try if you can not to look too “touristy” since Vienna is a really classy, well dressed city.
Do take time to stop often and savour some cake and coffee or sit back and do some people watching from a terrace. Now… let’s start where all things start in Vienna.
Although dogs are no longer allowed inside, the Opera House has a massive screen over the side entrance and an outdoor seating area. This outdoor seating is intended to give access to the performances for those without the means to purchase a ticket or dress up (sort of mandatory) … making classical music available to all (isn’t that amazingly thoughtful?). Pets are welcome there. Grab a picnic meal and dine alfresco on the steps, settle down and enjoy the show relayed in real time!
Built between 1861 and 1869, this beautiful Neo-Renaissance building is pretty much all things Vienna. But it wasn’t always so! At the time of its construction people hated it. They called it “the sunken treasure chest” in reference to the sidewalks and streets being raised around it. Sadly, the dislike was so severe that one of the architects committed suicide, the other died of tuberculosis before its completion. On an up note, Empress Sissi attended it’s first of many opening nights.
There is a fabulous little coffee house right under the arches of the front entrance. Pups are welcome. Feel free to order a coffee and the famous “opera” cake and soak it all in!
Easily the city’s most recognizable symbol, the multi-colored tiled roof ( 111 metres long – that’s 364 feet – with 230,000 glazed tiles!) Romanesque (and a lot of Gothic too!) was built by Duke Rudolf IV (1339–1365) but it stands, as so many cathedrals in Europe do, on the ruins of two earlier churches, the first a parish church consecrated in 1147. Dogs are not allowed inside so you have a choice, stealth mode (ahmmm….) or the hand off.
There are some top notch and absolutely stellar Viennese coffee shops right across the street with pet friendly patios and interiors; so a hand off is easy enough! Do stop and see the little model – that at least is pet friendly! We did that since Dad’s name is Stefan a short form of Stephan – thus Stephen … this is sort of ‘his” Cathedral.
Mozart‘s residence from 1784 to 1787, this building in Vienna’s Old Town, not far from St. Stephen’s cathedral and is his only surviving Viennese residence and is now a museum.
With a little coxing, and a good stealth style bag – small dogs can be granted access! But if you don’t want to do that, you can walk around Vienna looking for all the places where Mozart lived and worked! Plaques will mark the spots.
The “Royal Castle” was once a simple royal winter residence but the sprawling collection of buildings has grown over the centuries. It has always remained and still is the seat of power. Even today the president of Austria works and resides within its walls.
Mostly baroque in style it’s expanded over the centuries to include various wonders including the Albertina, the imperial chapel, the imperial library, the treasury, the Burgtheater, the Spanish Riding School, the imperial mews and three gardens. None of these are pet friendly, so if you want to go inside you’ll have to make it a rainy day activity and leave your canine friend at your lodgings.
It is well worth walking about the exterior though, so do take the time. The Swiss gate is particularly lovely. The entire space just vibrates authority and power.
The National Art Museum is actually two buildings on Ringstraße. These were commissioned by the Emperor in order to find a suitable shelter for the Habsburgs‘ formidable art collection and to make it accessible to the general public. The building is rectangular in shape, and topped with a dome that is 60 meters high. The inside of the building is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco ornamentations, gold-leaf, and paintings. Sadly it is not pet friendly so walking in front of it is as close as a dog can go!
Of all the buildings we saw this one had us the most curious because it really stood out! That dome of tiny gold leaves is hard to miss. It’s called the secession building because the artists of the time were seceding from the main way of doing, viewing and appreciating art.
Built in 1897, it features “rebel” artists such as world famous Gustav Klimt! The motto of the Secessionist movement is written above the entrance of the pavilion: “To every age its art, to every art its freedom”. (We did not go inside)
St. Charles’s Church is a fine example of a baroque church located on the south side of Karlsplatz. Considered the most outstanding baroque church in Vienna, as well as one of the city’s greatest buildings, Karlskirche is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, one of the great counter-reformers of the sixteenth century.
Although not allowed inside I must admit that the square it occupies is one of the loveliest places to relax, making it easy to do a hand off. I absolutely loved the enormous water pool in front. I imagine that if you get there at just the right time at dusk or dawn you should be able to get the church and it’s reflection in a most amazing shot.
The “People’s garden” or Volksgarten was built over the city fortifications that were destroyed by Napoleon in 1809. It was opened to the public in 1823. It’s known for its 3,000 roses and many sculptures of Queens, Emperors and composers.
The rather stunning Cortisches coffee house was built between there in 1820. Austrian Romantic composers Johann Strauss I and Joseph Lanner performed here and were sort of the rock stars of their day. On 10 March 1867, Johann Strauss II conducted the first performances of his Donauwalzer.
The Cafè Meirei was built in 1890, originally as a water reservoir. In 1924, it was converted to the Milchtrinkhalle. The Milchpavillon was built in 1951 by Oswald Haerdtl.
Sadly this park is not particularly pet friendly, although we absolutely got away with “carrying” me across the park. Stealth mode seems to be an option or we are lucky we didn’t get caught.
Of all the parks and palaces I saw I must admit this was the most thrilling. Dogs are NOT allowed on the grounds but, when the lady selling tickets saw how sad we were and how small I am she winked at us and said “Look you go yes? You hide him yes? NO OUT and NO ON GRASS! Him … secret. No guards see ok?” we said … yes ok! And she “pretended she and not seen me in my sling”.
As a result I got to see the grounds of the Belvedere. It’s such a gorgeous space and I am really grateful that the lady felt the way she did about the rules. Sometimes … you just get lucky!
The garden is enclosed by clipped hedges in the formal French manner with graveled walks and jeux d’eau by Dominique Girard, who had trained in the gardens of Versailles as a pupil. The great water basin in the upper parterre and the stairs and cascades peopled by nymphs and goddesses that links upper and lower parterres survive, but the patterned bedding has long been grassed over; it is currently being restored.
The buildings are nestled in a Baroque park landscape and houses the Belvedere museum. The grounds are set on a gentle gradient and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. The Baroque palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Orangerie is particularly lovely. I was also glad to see that the “zoo” is no longer a thing. I’m not a fan of animals in cages.
PHEW!! Let’s stop shall we? Do your feet hurt yet? Luckily with many stops to snack and a few “hand off” moments; I got to power nap. So how about we stop there and pick up next blog post with a second tour. Bis zum nächsten Mal!