Good Cheer and High Spirits in Vienna

Good company, food, and wine in Vienna, Austria

Mr. TWS and I found gemütlichkeit (a word that relates to the feeling of well-being and comfort that comes with good company and good food) many times on our Viking “Romantic Danube” cruise, especially during our time in Vienna, Austria.

Heurigen evening excursion in Vienna, Austria with fellow Viking Gullveig passengers and crew

Heurigen Evening excursion in Vienna with fellow passengers

For numerous reasons, including Vienna’s cozy cafes, elegant architecture, captivating Hapsburg history, cultural venues, and romance, Mr. TWS and I particularly looked forward to returning to Vienna, a city that captured our hearts on a trip a few years ago. We expected romance again on this trip, but we also thoroughly enjoyed gemütlichkeit in the conviviality and high spirits at Christmas Markets, restaurants, wineries, and on board our ship, the Viking Gullveig.

A lively “Heurigen Evening”

An optional Viking excursion in Vienna, the “Heurigen Evening” provided a high-spirited authentic Viennese gemütlichkeit experience. A shuttle from the ship took our small group of five couples and our guides to the city’s 19th district where numerous vineyards are located with their wine taverns called Heurigen. The Heuriger became part of Austrian culture in the 18th century when Emperor Joseph II proclaimed that anyone who made their own wine could sell it to the public in their establishments.

Heurige Wolff, an old-style Viennese Heuriger, a family-owned winery/restaurant in Vienna, Austria

Getting cozy with Mr. TWS at Heurige Wolff

These family-owned wine taverns open their doors to guests to sample their newest wines and celebrate the new vintages. At a Heuriger, the wines are accompanied with Viennese dishes such as brettljause (a selection  of cheese, sausages, smoked meat, pickled vegetables, horseradish, and other local specialties) commonly served on a wooden board. Live music with traditional tunes played on an accordion and a violin add to the Heurigen experience.

Viennese specialties and local wine at Heurige Wolff, an old-style Viennese Heuriger, Vienna, Austria

Viennese specialties and local wine at Heurige Wolff, an old-style Viennese Heuriger

Our group, including the Gullveig’s hotel manager Jürgen Purgstaller, talked and laughed as though old friends while enjoying the good wine, delicious food, and the lively musical entertainment at Heurige Wolff. Our glasses were never empty as our hosts presented several carafes and bottles of their own white and red wines. My favorite was the Weissburgunder, a light dry white wine, while Mr. TWS enjoyed each of the reds.

Festive spirit of Vienna

Holiday shopping and festive Christmas markets were in full swing during our mid-December visit.

Holiday shoppers in Vienna, Austria

Holiday shoppers in Vienna

Vienna has some of my favorite markets, especially the one at Rathausplatz (below). The market at Schönbrunn Palace (a little further afield) is also beautiful. I also enjoyed smaller markets like that at Stephansplatz around St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the very small ones you come across by chance in the city.

Toasting with Glühwein and posing as an angel,at the festive Rathausplatz Christmas Market in Vienna, Austria

Toasting with Glühwein and posing as an angel,at the festive Rathausplatz Christmas Market

At the Rathausplatz Christmas Market, the largest in Vienna, I enjoyed a cup of warm and aromatic Glühwein, the mulled wine holiday treat that is a must at any European Christmas market. By the way, I’m not really an angel, but I liked pretending at the market (top right above).

Coffee and cake — a must in Vienna

Vienna is known for its coffee culture, an important aspect of the city begun centuries ago. Meeting with friends at a place with good coffee and pastries while sharing amusement and music, discussion of literature, politics, family — anything and everything — is a cherished social activity. I was looking forward to spending some time again at cafes as we did on our previous trip sipping coffee and indulging in decadent pastries like those chocolate cakes shown below. Vienna is also well-known for the Sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake coated with apricot jam, topped with chocolate icing and whipped cream.

Coffee and pastries in Vienna cafes

Coffee and pastries in Vienna cafes

After strolling the Christmas Markets and sightseeing on a cold, windy day, the cafes offer a warm and cozy break. My coffee drink of choice is usually Schwarzer (strong black coffee, espresso) while Mr. TWS always chooses the frothy Mélange (coffee with an equal measure of steamed milk). There was also that wonderful sense of gemütlichkeit as we chatted with other guests and were warmly welcomed by cafe servers.

A step back into old Vienna

On a cold and very windy December day, we searched the web for a restaurant near St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where we ended our morning city tour and serendipitously found Griechenbeisl, one of Vienna’s oldest restaurants. The first mention of the inn found in old documents was in 1477 when the place was known as Zum Gelben Ader (The Yellow Eagle). It has several rooms reflecting its long history in decor and artifacts.

Stepping into Old Vienna at Griechenbeisl

Stepping into Old Vienna at Griechenbeisl

Our favorite historical aspect of the inn was on the ceiling and walls (shown in photos on the right above) of the Mark Twain room with autographs of famous writers, composers, musician, politicians, and other notable guests such as Beethoven (shown with the pointer top right above), Mozart, Strauss, Brahms, and of course, Mark Twain. Since it is Vienna, composers were in the majority. But there were other cultural and popular signatures, including more current ones, such as Luciano Pavarotti, Johnny Cash, and Phil Collins.

Pumpkin soup and beef goulash at Griechenbeisl restaurant in Vienna, Austria

Mr. TWS in the Zither Room enjoying pumpkin soup (top right); Griechenbeisl goulash (bottom right)

I was tempted by Wiener Schnitzel on the menu, but I can rarely resist beef goulash. The Griechenbeisl goulash was delicious and came with a tasty side of potatoes. Mr. TWS had a real craving for pumpkin soup and he was delighted to find it on the menu. We dined in the Zither Room where zither and accordion music is played in the evening. At lunch, it was quiet, warm and cozy, and romantic.

Viking Gullveig gemütlichkeit

And back on board the Gullveig, we enjoyed gemütlichkeit in the lounge with the wonderful staff, fellow passengers, and new friends. When we took our first Viking cruise on the Douro River in Portugal, we seldom spent time in the lounge at night. On this cruise, after a day of fun tours and Christmas Market merriment, we often stepped into the lounge for a nightcap. We ended up making new friends over drinks and having a great time talking and dancing. No, I am not posting pictures of my dancing.

Fun in the lounge with the Viking Gullveig crew (from left: Captain Jaroslav Krizan, Hotel Manager Juergen Purgstaller, Program Director Anthony Papandrea

In the lounge for a daily activity briefing with the Viking Gullveig crew (from left: Captain Jaroslav Krizan, Hotel Manager Jürgen Purgstaller, Program Director Anthony Papandrea

Vienna is one of our favorite European cities. The architecture and historical buildings are so numerous and there are so many things to do and see that even a one-week stay would not be enough. We’re glad we took the city tour included in the cruise that enabled us to see new sights while revisiting favorite places we’d seen previously. As with all of the tours we’ve taken so far with Viking, our guide was knowledgeable, friendly, and full of interesting and entertaining anecdotes. It was a joy to see this city again and I hope we’ll be back for more romance, culture, and gemütlichkeit.

Vienna optional excursion note: There were four optional (not included in cruise price) shore excursions available while at port in Vienna. We chose the Heurigen Evening as we had previously enjoyed the other experiences —  a concert of Mozart and Strauss in a Viennese palace; a tour (by both horse-drawn carriage and on foot) with a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts; and a tour of Schönbrunn Palace. 

For more about our previous stay in Vienna: Romantic Vienna

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21 thoughts on “Good Cheer and High Spirits in Vienna

  1. Patti

    Sounds as if you and Mr. TWS enjoyed your return visit to Vienna and why not? A cruise on the Danube?! What’s not to love? I especially like the photo of you with the angel wings!

    We visited Vienna for the first time in July 2017 and really enjoyed the city although I have to admit I was surprised to see the sky scrapers and the high end shopping mecca. I guess I was expecting people in white wigs, knickers and formal gowns dancing the waltz on the shores of the Danube. Ha! Ha! We did have fun just wandering the streets and exploring, coming upon Mozart and Maria Therese.

    Safe travels ~

  2. Punita Malhotra

    This cruise seems like the perfect way to experience Vienna…good measures of music, art, cuisine and culture, everything that defines Vienna. Coffee and cake is such a Viennese thing to do. Did you enjoy strudel and Sacher?

  3. Amanda Kendle

    Oh stop! You’re making me so homesick for Vienna!!
    I lived in Bratislava for a year, less than an hour’s train ride away, so we visited Vienna regularly for the weekend. You’ve hit a bunch of my highlights in your time there! But I never learnt about a Heuriger while there so I’ll have to go back. They sound like a Besen in south-west Germany where I lived after Bratislava (so-called because Besen=broom and they would stand a broom up outside to indicate you could come in and eat and drink there).

  4. Nisha

    Amazing! We were in Vienna in 2107 summer but looks like we have missed out a lot of these things. Coffee and cake , we did not miss though. 🙂 In fact we also went to a coffee school . I never could imagine vikings connection . I am sure that would have been a great enjoyment. All in all this is a different take on Vienna and I love it.

  5. Susanna

    Coming from Munich I know that word and feeling quite well and I agree Vienna is a fantastic city for that warm feeling. Looks like you had a blast with Viking, it makes me want to head over to Vienna.

  6. Medha Verma

    I was in Veinna pretty much at the same time as you – mid December and loved the festive spirit there! However, I haven’t heard about Heurigen and it’s something new that I have learned today! I did not know that these family-owned wine taverns could invite people to sample their wine along with some cheese, it sounds so personal, cosy and amazing experience. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Mike

    Heurigens sound like a lot of fun! A small family owned place with good food, good wine and good people is exactly what I like to find when traveling. Vienna is high on my Euro bucketlist!

  8. Christina

    Looking at your photos really makes me want to go back to Vienna at Christmas time. The cakes and coffee houses and wonderful. I missed out on the heurigens – from your description they look like fun spots to spend the evening wining and dining.

  9. Pola | Jetting Around

    I’ve been to Vienna several times, but before my coffee days… They have some of the most beautiful coffee houses and I plan to visit with my German-speaking niece this year. As for your experience, looks like great times with Viking people! Hmm… maybe I should do another cruise with them, I loved the one I did in France.

  10. Kelly Dunning

    This looks really great! I have heard about Viking Cruises but I have never been on one. We were in Vienna, but only for a couple of days and only in the Springtime. It looks like it would be so wonderful to visit around Christmas and enjoy the magic. It must have been so romantic to dine to the sound of zither music!

  11. Kirstie Saldo

    I have read several articles about Viking cruises but I have never considered going on it until now. This looks like a lot of fun! Vienna is really beautiful and it really is the best place to take Christmas photos! I hope to visit it this year!

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