After eating an early breakfast at the hotel, my sister and I quickly took the U-Bahn to Karlsplatz. The U-Bahn system is an incredibly convenient method of getting around the entire city, and I would highly recommend it to anyone in Vienna. It literally goes everywhere in the city and the trains come very often, so the wait time is minimal. If there was ever such an efficient system of public transportation in Chicago, I think there would definitely be a lot less complaining about daily commutes in Chicago (not that there’s anything super bad about Metra/CTA, but it could be improved…). Anyways, the exit to the Musikverein was right to the left of us as we got off the train, and once we took the stairs up, we immediately saw the famed Musikverein in front of us.
Because we got there early (around 8AM), there weren’t any other tourists around, so we took the opportunity to take as many photos of the exterior as possible. It’s an impressive building (then again, most buildings in Vienna are impressive) – adorned with pillars, statues, intricate ornamentation and sculptures. We then went on to explore the surrounding area, including a monument of Johannes Brahms and Karlskirche, before the guided tour of the Musikverein started at 10AM. For the tour, we got to see three of the six halls located inside: 1) the Brahms hall, 2) the Golden hall, and 3) the Glass hall. The tour guide told us that we weren’t allowed to take photos, but pretty much everyone ignored that statement and proceeded to take photos – myself included… Anyways, it was such a cool feeling when walking into the Golden Hall, known for its legendary acoustics and design. It felt as if I was experiencing history itself, as I’ve watched on screen, so many concerts take place in this hall – the hall is definitely way more impressive in person than on screen. A thing that was a bit disappointing was that the massive organ in the front of the hall, as well as the gold walls of the hall are all fake…the tour guide even proceeded to mention that they now take golden spray paint to cover up some worn spots on the wall. Regardless, the Hall is a renowned location, with some of the most famous musicians in history performing here! Finally, in the Glass hall, one of the Musikverein’s newer halls where most of the performers rehearse, we saw a guy tuning one of the grand pianos – he waved to us and proceeded to play some nice jazz – a great way to end the tour.
After the tour, we had lunch at Cafe Landtmann (where Paul McCartney apparently ate, according to my sister?…), and then went back to Karlsplatz to go to a tour of the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera). Since it is the State Opera, the building was built and supported by the government way back when, resulting in an even more grandiose building than the Musikverein. The tour was much more extensive than the previous one – highlights included sitting in the Emperor’s Box (the most expensive seats in the house!!), seeing the Emperor’s private room, and going backstage to see Europe’s largest stage for opera.
Dinner this night was at the original Figlmüller on Wollzeile, the restaurant known for its trademark Figlmuller Schnitzel, which is simply a thin piece of fried pork. If you’re familiar with Japanese cuisine, the Figlmuller Schnitzel is basically a much thinner version of tonkatsu! We had a 6PM reservation and got a table right at the front of the restaurant. It’s a very small building, with only a couple of tables, so if you didn’t have a reservation, you were turned away and recommended to go to the other locations to try your luck. The line was super long, and our waiter had to turn down loads of people, including these two women who said they would wait as long as it would take…too bad for them! Our food was great, and it was hands down the most satisfying meal that I had in Vienna. Afterwards, we had a slice of the Imperial Torte at Cafe Imperial (FYI, this cake is dry and very overrated), and then concluded the night.