Five Viennese ‘twin attractions’

Five Viennese 'twin attractions'
Hermesvilla. Photo: Vienna Unwrapped
Once you have ticked off Vienna’s most popular attractions on your sightseeing list, it's time to explore the ‘second tier’. The city is packed with little-known insider gems that have been overshadowed by the bigger tourist magnets - but offer a similar experience, without the crowds.

Schönbrunn / Hermesvilla

Tourist magnet Schönbrunn has been outshining a quiet hideaway just a few kilometres away – something locals and insiders are quite happy about. The romantic 19th century villa surrounded by the lush parkland of the Lainzer Tiergarten wildlife preserve was designed as a romantic bolt hole for Empress Sisi (although she much preferred to travel through Europe). Almost untrodden by tourists, Hermesvilla showcases the private lifestyle of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria-Hungary. Expect delicate frescoes, splendid beds and furniture, lavish fabrics and home accessories, and even Gustav Klimt artwork.

Location: Lainzer Tiergarten, 1130 Wien

Belvedere / Winter Palace

Photo: Vienna Unwrapped

Even if you have already seen Prince Eugene of Savoy’s baroque Belvedere Palace, don’t miss his smaller winter residence, which is just off Kärntner Strasse in Vienna’s 1st district. The winter residence’s ten state rooms deliver a boutique experience of a princely town palace. Highlights are the Yellow, Blue and Red Salons with their blue and gold-coloured silk tapestries, gold-plated chandeliers, patterned parquet floors, and mythological figures. The Gold Cabinet and the floor-to-ceiling painting covering three walls, showing Eugene’s battle to save the Empire from the Ottomans, is also well worth seeing.

Location: Himmelpfortgasse 8, 1010 Wien

Stephansdom / Minoritenkirche

Photo: Vienna Unwrapped

Like Stephansdom, Minoritenkirche dates from the (late) Middle Ages. Even though this church is around 140 years younger, it looks older. Whilst Stephansdom’s gothic interiors were updated with baroque elements, Minoritenkirche was widely left in its original style. The church’s highlight is the large mosaic copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Enjoy its mystic ambience on your own or during one of the small concerts which take place there occasionally.

Location: Minoritenplatz, 1010 Vienna

Wiener Prater / Böhmischer Prater

Despite its historic big wheel, the so-called ‘Wurstel Prater’ has lost much of the nostalgic charm it became famous for and its loud brashness is not to everyone’s taste. But if you like organ grinders, Punch and Judy shows, and traditional merry-go-rounds, visit Prater’s little brother, the Bohemian Prater (Böhmischer Prater). Located on the southern fringe of Vienna, it received its name from the Bohemian immigrants who worked in the nearby brick yards. In recent years, the Bohemian Prater has added some modern attractions, but tradition still feels strong here. The park is located in the Laaer Wald, a popular recreational area.

Location: Laaer Wald 216, 1010 Wien

Staatsoper / Volksoper

Few people are aware that Vienna actually has four opera houses. The Volksoper is probably the most popular among locals. It was originally designed as an opera house for ‘the people’ whereas the State Opera was reserved for Vienna’s aristocracy. Today, some performances at the Volksoper get better reviews than those at the Staatsoper. It specialises in popular operas like Mozart’s Magic Flute and Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Volksoper is the best place in Vienna to watch operettas such as Franz Léhar’s The Merry Widow.

Location: Währinger Strasse 78, 1180 Wien

Viennese native Barbara Cação has her own blog, Vienna Unwrapped, which highlights popular attractions such as the Vienna State Opera, as well as real insider tips.

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