10 Days Free and Easy Europe Tour (2017) – Day 1 Singapore to Vienna

Singapore to Zurich by Swiss Air

Our flight to Zurich was a red-eye flight. The flight was almost full. Meal was served shortly after taking off during cruising. It was already past midnight and we were actually looking forward to catching some sleep and not late night supper. Moreover, we are not fans of airline meals. We just ate whatever we felt were more appetizing. To say the meal was fantastic would be a lie even flying great airlines like Swiss Air. We just got the meal over with so we could catch some sleep.

So with meals out of the way, we slept as much as we could. The night was exceedingly long flying east to west. It wasn’t a good idea to stay awake with the onboard entertainment system. We would rather have more energy to explore Vienna when we arrived. Most passengers onboard were civilized so there wasn’t much disturbance and we could sleep most of the time.

Breakfast was served after nine hours of flying time. We found breakfast tasted better than the dinner we had earlier. Maybe we were too tired after midnight and we couldn’t enjoy the dinner. Perhaps we were more enthusiastic as we felt we would reach our destination soon after breakfast. Anyway, the ambiance onboard was pretty fine.

Flight crews also went to rest after serving dinner. Drinks and snacks were provided on a self-service basis located at the corridor near the toilets. This is a good practice for long haul flight so crews could perform their duties efficiently and effectively. As we approached Zurich, the scenery from the air of Switzerland was so awesome. Transfer information was also displayed to prepare passengers to get on to their next destination.

Transit in Zurich

A while later, we landed safely in Zurich. However, getting into the airport terminal building was a little troublesome. Airport staff were deployed at the aerobridge to check passengers’ document before being allowed into the airport. So it took quite a while to get through, especially for those who were unprepared and could speak little English.

After getting into the airport, we had to go through custom clearance. So no liquid was allowed and this was another hurdle to clear. They were quite strict. Just when we thought that was the end of the challenges before getting on to our connecting flight where we had only an hour of transit, we had to get through immigration clearance.

We thought we were taking a domestic flight from Zurich and we only needed to clear immigration at Vienna but we were wrong. There weren’t many counters opened and some passengers who had trouble speaking English held up the queue. The immigration officers were quite thorough asking questions why we came to Europe and also wanted to know where we were heading and be briefed on our itinerary. So you can imagine the bottleneck created by unprepared passengers going through immigration clearance. We went through eventually without any trouble.

A quick visit to the toilets was all we could afford and then rushed over to the gate to board our flight to Vienna. There was another queue where passengers had to scan their boarding pass before entering the aircraft. The passengers here being mostly Caucasians were well behaved and queued quietly. There was no pushing and shoving just to board the plane. It was very orderly as everyone took turns to get through into the aircraft and eventually we were all seated.

Zurich to Vienna

The flight was full and it was delayed due to the large number of passengers taking some time to board the plane and settle down. The plane finally took off without incident. We were served a croissant and drinks during flight shortly after take off. After flying over an hour, we landed in Vienna. But we couldn’t use the aerobridge to enter the airport. So we took those airport bus to get to the arrival hall.

We didn’t have to go through immigration clearance anymore so we went to wait for our luggage to come into the baggage claim area. After collecting our luggage, we exited the arrival hall. We planned to purchase the 24-hour VOR ticket to get to the city so we could use the public transport in Vienna. But we made the mistake of walking to the basement near to the metro to buy the tickets from the ticketing machines. We can’t buy day ticket from these machines.

So I left my wife and son to look after the luggage while I walked back up to the arrival hall. Actually, the ticketing office is on the right after exiting the arrival hall. I went up to the counter and bought the 24-hour VOR tickets without any trouble. I paid 7.60 Euro plus another 1.70 Euro for each ticket travelling from the zone outside of the city. We didn’t even have to validate these 24-hour day tickets.

Back to the basement, we walked to the platform and boarded a waiting train. Soon we were heading to Vienna City. The journey wasn’t very long, just slightly over half an hour to reach Praterstern Station. From here we went to the purple U2 line and we exited Stadion Station, three stations away.

Vienna Airport to Hilton Vienna Waterfront Hotel

We then saw Stadion Centre in front of us where we would be taking a bus from here to Prague the next day. We crossed the road now with Stadion Centre on our right and walked on along the road and then saw the sign to Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront. Turning left at the road junction, after walking a block, we could see Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront on our right across the road. So it was pretty easy to get to the hotel from the airport and we took perhaps under an hour from the airport including walking to the hotel.

Front desk staff were busy. We queued and were attended to shortly. The front desk staff attending to us was very polite, helpful and friendly. It was just 10.40 am, too early to check in but this staff helped us to find a room that was ready and allowed us to check in. We were of course very thankful and happy.

Being Hilton Honor member, we were given wifi access from our room otherwise wifi would only be available at the lobby. Breakfast would be 26 Euro but we could purchase it at 20 Euro from front desk if we so desire. But we were checking out early to catch a bus so we declined.

Nice Room and Great Riverfront Hotel

So we grabbed our bags and proceeded to our room. It was a very huge room with two double beds, more than enough for the three of us. The room was modern and pretty new with a sofa set near the windows. Our room was facing the road not the river but it was fine with us as we would be out the whole day and would check out early next morning to catch a bus to Prague.

Coffee and tea making facilities were provided and wifi worked very well in the room. TV with plenty of programs but mainly European channels. Bathroom was very clean with full toiletries provided. A shower stall is there but the glass partition is just half-way, a really strange design. With everything in order, it was time to explore Vienna.

Back to the lobby, we went out to the waterfront to check out the area before heading to the city. The outdoor swimming pool looked very clean but still too cold to swim although it was already summer. It was so windy and quite chilly even during the day. It was a rather cloudy day as well.

The riverfront area was very peaceful and empty of hotel guests. Perhaps this place might come to live during dining hours or at night. We didn’t spend a lot of time here and decided to head to the city for lunch.

Returning to the lobby, we checked with the friendly front desk staff again to get a city map and also enquired about moneychangers in Vienna. We needed to get Czech currency and we were advised to try to check the rates in the city whether it was worthwhile changing money there.

Hilton Vienna Waterfront Hotel to City Centre

So we left Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront and walked back to Stadion Station. We saw the shopping mall was quite busy and was hoping to return in the evening to do some shopping here. The Stadium next to the mall was very busy as well. Apparently, some events were taking place there.

From Stadion Station, we took a train from this U2 line all the way to the end at Karlsplatz Station. It was pretty easy to get around the city. With the 24-hour day ticket, we could just hop in and out of public transport in the city. It was not only convenient but more economical as well travelling from point to point in the city.

After exiting the station, we met another Chinese wearing a hat with a full beard. We thought he was Korean as he was carrying a Korean brand appliance. We started chatting and found that he was from Taiwan. He told us he had immigrated to Vienna a long time ago.

There are quite a lot of people who had travelled the world over and decided to immigrate to Vienna, because the people here are friendly and do not reject immigrants. Cost of living here is pretty alright and Vienna is a very beautiful and relaxing city for retirement. Well, we are not so certain about the attitude of the locals towards immigrants during this current climate due to fear of terrorism. Anyway, we parted ways shortly after this nice chat.

Moneychangers in Vienna

Up on the streets, we walked to the pedestrian shopping street. We checked the conversion between Euro and Koruna and found the rate ridiculous. Even though we didn’t intend to change a lot of money into Koruna, we would probably lose 20 Euro changing 200 Euro into Koruna.

So we gave up the idea of changing money here. I would use my ATM card in Prague when we arrived the next day. How much more could we lose using the ATM that included just a $5 charge per transaction levied by our bank? There was nothing much to lose then.

Good Lunch at Mama’s Kitchen

So it was time to look for a restaurant for lunch. We walked into a side street which was pretty quiet. There were quite a few restaurants here and we settled down to have lunch at the Mama’s Kitchen. The set lunch was quite attractive at 11.50 Euro that came with a soup, a main course of fried meat with chips and also an apple strudel. The main course was the local Viennese schnitzel.

Since the weather was conducive, we sat outside the restaurant and ordered only two set lunch for three of us. We were glad we ordered only two sets as the servings were quite big. We won’t be able to finish three sets and the schnitzel and chips were quite dry although the taste was fine. The apple strudel was different from ours back home but nevertheless tasted good too.

Great Pedestrian Shopping Street in Vienna

With lunch over, we explored this part of Vienna City walking along the pedestrian shopping street. The buildings were absolutely gorgeous, very pretty. But it was very chilly with the high wind here. We thought summer would be a little warm but it turned out to be pretty cold on a windy cloudy day. Good thing we had enough clothing with us otherwise we would be quite miserable.

The city here was very nice to roam. My wife was getting excited with shopping opportunity with Zara, H&M and C&A and many other retailers here. We entered another side street and explored the Donnerbrunnen. This is a nice little square with beautiful statues in the middle of pretty buildings.

We then continued our walk along the pedestrian street. The ambiance here was very pleasant and relaxing. Cafes are located in the middle of the street. It should be pretty enjoyable to sit here to have a meal and people watch. We really liked this place here.

Beautiful Stephansplaz in Vienna

Walking on, we reached another huge open area that was very crowded. This area was even more vibrant and of course touristy here at Stephansplatz. There were tricycles here in the midst of another place full of pretty buildings and major retailers in the city. This was really another nice place to hang out.

Further down the street is the famous St Stephen’s Cathedral. The exterior of this church building is very unique and beautiful, especially the roof. This was a very busy place with visitors coming and going. We didn’t venture in for a look as we wanted to move on to visit the Schonbrunn Palace.

City Centre to Schonbrunn Palace

So we left this historic city centre and went down to the Stephansplatz Station. From here, we took the red U1 line towards Reumannplatz and got off at Karlsplatz Station again. We then took the green U4 line towards Hutteldorf and alighted at Schonbrunn Station, six stations away.

Once outside the station, it was an easy walk to Schonbrunn Palace crossing the main road with many people walking towards this attraction. Along the main road, huge beautiful roses were outside the buildings of the Palace. They were so pretty. There was a tall water dispenser along the road where we could refill our bottles here.

When we reached the entrance of the open area to the Palace, this place was so busy with visitors loitering around taking pictures. In fact busloads of visitors were sent here so this attraction is really popular. The Palace buildings are really very grand, very eye-pleasing. Wedding couples were having photo shoots here. It was the same when we came three years ago, a very nice place to take wedding photos.

Remarkable Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens

We walked towards the Palace and then walked up the stairs. From here, the views of the surrounding were great as well. Imagine this was a massive parade square, the regiments of troops assembled here would surely look very impressive. There were horse carriages in the square as well, beautifully adorned, to provide visitors a taste of the glorious luxurious past for those who felt the need to spend a little for such indulgence.

We then walked to the back to visit the gardens. The gardens were very nicely trimmed and very well kept. This was the first time we came during summer so we could see greenery and pretty flowers. In the past, we always visited during Christmas time, so we usually didn’t put a lot of priorities on gardens. The gardens attracted many visitors and wedding couples too.

Beautiful Palace Ground and Gardens

We then walked towards the middle of the back of the Palace. The huge area was blocked off in preparation for some kind of concerts or performance. So we walked further in towards the hill to explore the gardens up there that we missed the last time as it was very cold during winter and we gave this part of the attraction a miss.

As it was a very windy day, whenever a strong gust of wind blew, the gravel and dust on the walking trails were turned into a sandstorm. We had to turn our back and cover our face. So we had to take evasive action as we walked further up to the hill.

The fountains at the end before the hill was very beautiful. Due to the strong wind, we could feel water droplets hitting us when we walked towards the fountains area. In fact, the fountains were not shooting vertically because of the strong wind.

After spending some time at the fountains and taking pictures of the very nice statues, we decided to make our way uphill. Some efforts were required walking uphill. Walking uphill and looking back down to the Palace was very nice. It was so refreshing. Had it been a sunny day, it would be excellent.

Awesome Triumphal Arch in Schonbrunn Palace

When we reached the Triumphal Arch, we took the opportunity to sit a while and enjoy the views of the city from this height. The arch is really beautiful, very elaborate and very grand too. There is a restaurant inside the building as well. We were glad we came up here this time. Three years back, it was too cold to venture up here.

When we had sufficient rest and had soaked in the sight from this place, we walked back down to the Palace. However, we took another route this time. We walked down along the side of the garden flanked by tall trees to protect ourselves from the sandstorm blowing out in the open. At the bottom corner of the garden, we came across the Obeliskbrunnen, another attractive fountain feature.

Schonbrunn Palace to City Centre for Dinner

After this, we walked along the perimeter of the Palace ground and then exited the side entrance. We walked along the road and returned to Schonbrunn Station. From here, we took a train back to the historic city centre exiting Karlsplatz Station.

We were returning to this place to shop and have dinner. So we roamed the pedestrian street one more time and decided to dine in a nicer restaurant. We ordered more food this time. It was a sumptuous dinner and we could hardly finish our food. The ribs and the deep fried breaded pork were very nice. The baked potatoes were quite salty though. We were glad we could use the toilet and the free wifi in the restaurant.

After dinner, we checked out some stores but didn’t buy anything yet as this was only our first day in Europe. There would be many opportunities to shop in other cities. Since we needed to leave Vienna early next day, we went into a supermarket and bought some cakes, muffins and water to have a quick breakfast before checking out the next day.

As this was dinner time, those restaurants with open seating in the middle of the walking street were doing brisk business. The historic centre is a pretty nice shopping and dining venue in Vienna. We were very glad to spend a night here in Vienna before moving on to Prague the next day.

City Centre to Hilton Vienna Waterfront Hotel

We roamed the city centre a while more and then decided to return to our hotel. It was getting late and we were getting tired as well after the long flight and a long day. We then entered Stephansplatz Station. This time we took the red U1 line to Praterstern Station two stations away and then changed train to purple line back to Stadion Station another three stations away. This route was much shorter then going back to Karlsplatz Station to return to Stadion Station.

After exiting the station, we were hoping to do some shopping at Studion Centre which is much nearer to Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront. Unfortunately, the shopping mall was already closed being a Saturday. Anyway, it was already past 6.30 pm so we should not be surprised. However, since this was summer, the sky was still very bright. A couple of minutes later, we were back in our nice and comfortable room.

After shower, it was time to do some packing and chill the evening away. Our bus ride to Prague would be a four hour ride. We needed more rest to gear ourselves for the rest of our itinerary in Europe. This was the first day of our Europe Tour and we didn’t want to tire ourselves out. The sun only set around 9 pm. So after chilling over a cup of coffee, we went to bed.

Continue to Day 2

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