Ah, Vienna... Palaces are one thing this city is not short of. Although these beautiful buildings look magnificent and full of history, most of them are not very old. It is also a very small city, most of the sights and attractions concentrated in the inner city ring; Schloss Shönbrunn and Belvedere are the only things a bit out of the way. Also, I love the cover photo because it transports me back in time.
This place is absolutely massive, it's more appropriately named a royal community complex than one single palace. The Hasburg had so much money they expanded it larger and larger. Nowadays it serves many functions, as museums and libraries and administrative sites. One interesting fact I learned was that there used to be bears that lived around/underneath it.
Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments
A part of the Hofburg palace is converted into Sisi Museum, adjacent to the Imperial Apartments, where Franz Joseph's and Sisi's rooms were preserved. Before you could go into the museums you have to walk through the silver collection, quite impressive, very extensive and overwhelming, but I don't think anyone would voluntarily go see it. The Sisi Museum and the Apartments though were very interesting, reconstructing details and reflecting vividly how Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph were as people. She was carefree, sentimental, wildly romantic, and he, pragmatic and frugal. It was only after Sisi's death (and more so after Romy Schneider's movies) that she gained popularity. One quote struck me the most - Sisi does not live in history, she lives in legend.
Spanish Riding School
Another part of the Hofburg is also the Spanish Riding School (where Sisi actually took riding lessons!) and I went in for a morning performance, and the horses were so, damn, cute! First we had a performance by young stallions who did the more basic steps; stallions are born grey and turn snow-white as they grow older, and these youngsters were clearly still learning but it's so cute when they mess up and are confused. Later we had the older guys demonstrate the real deal, with immaculate steps and skips and even some stands and jumps. So impressive!
There was a stupidly long line for tickets so I didn't bother go in; I walked around the gardens, and, being the summer palace, Shönbrunn truly has magnificent gardens. They were massive, first of all, and I couldn't finish all of it; there was an artificial Roman ruins site, a ginormous fountain (the Neptune Fountain), and the view from top of the stairs is really quite good. And from peaking inside I could see that it looks just like any other palace.
I'm not so sure which category this should go under, but seeming that it relates to the imperial family, palaces will do. This is the burial place of all the Hasburgs. Not a large place but definitely worth a visit. You see the standing coffins all emperors, empresses, princes, princesses, dating all the way back to the start of the empire. The most impressive sight is Maria Theresa's coffin - a giant (probably about 3m tall) amongst the otherwise normal-looking coffins, decorated with some 50 or more sculptures all around and complete with the busts of the empress and her husband, being crowned by an angel.
Like most European cities, Vienna is full of museums, big or small, historical or modern, in all categories.
This wing of the Hofburg Palace houses one of the most extensive prints collection in the world, including the famous hare by Dürer. For those of you searching for the drawing, it's not actually displayed in one of those big gallery rooms. It's inside the historical imperial apartments and takes a bit of an effort to find.
The best thing about the Freud Museum is that it was converted from Freud's actual residence and office when he lived in Vienna. You ascent the stairs (of an apartment building!) to find a door bell to "Professor Dr. Freud", and Freud's office was reconstructed to show the waiting room and his study, and displayed many old photographs and first-edition papers and books. It was small but a worthwhile visit.
The museum houses the famous "Kiss" (and other works) by Klimt; I found it hilarious that they have a reproduction of the painting specifically for selfie purposes. Since it also used to a royal residence, in many of the rooms there were illustrations of how the rooms used to look like and what they were used for; I found these particularly interesting and I wish that at least part of the palace was restored to look like that. I also found a reproduction of the famous Sisi painting (with the white dress and the diamond stars in her hair) here, seriously how many reproductions are there?
I basically ate schnitzel and cakes for three days straight. Schnitzels were good, I didn't really have any mind-blowing experience and they pretty much tasted like how normal schnitzels taste. But the cakes though...
Following Professor Dr. Freud we head to the most famous café in Vienna. Yes it's tourist, yes it's expensive, yes it's always crowded with a huge line out the door, all day, every day. But it's worth it when the pianist starts playing (La Vie en Rose followed by Schubert's Serenade) and you are sipping on white wine spritzer, your fork digging halfway into the warm chocolate cake. As with every other café, they also have a whole glass case full of desserts, which is a delightful sight in itself.
I had two of the most classic Viennese desserts here - apple strudel (apfelstrudel) and sacher cake (sachertorte). The apple strudel was warm and chunky and perfectly balanced with cream, and I probably devoured it under a minute. It was that good. The sacher cake was ok. Another item on my food checklist is Wiener Melange, a cup of coffee of "Viennese blend", which is just a particularly frothy café au lait. The wait was also really really long and the waitresses extremely busy all the time, but the crystal chandeliers and the apple strudel made it worth every single bit.
According to legend this café has not been renovated for 100 years. It looks historical and full of stories, or, you could say, it's falling apart. Nevertheless this tiny café surprised me by how many people there were, locals too, and their goulash is quite good if you look over the saltiness. But then again, I find everything salty; anyone else has this problem?
They also have these chocolate ball things. Apparently it's a thing to make dessert balls and name it after famous people? So you have Sisi balls, Franz Joseph balls, Mozart balls; I got the Vienna Boys' Choir balls (HAHAHA) and they were milk chocolate filled with peach cream and they were really really good! Perfect train snacks.