A Digital Detox?
They say when a hobby becomes a job, it can lose some of its luster. Earlier this year, I took a break from posting on Instagram. A month long break, in fact.
A couple friends asked why I hadn’t posted in so long and I didn’t really have a good answer. After all, if I decided not to show up for work at a corporate office for 30 days… I’d be fired!
But while it wasn’t ideal, taking a break ended up being the perfect solution. Every time I opened the app, I found myself scrolling through a never ending highlight reel of luxury mansions, exotic getaways and cool labels. It all started to feel the same and a bit… boring.
After a solid time off-line, free from the strict schedule of posting, commenting and hashtagging, I found a bit of freedom and in turn, a reinvigoration. I watched trashy tv, spent days in bed if I wished to, and other days reading books and watching classes to teach myself random hobbies I’d always wanted to try. By the end of the month, I was looking forward to traveling again but also ready to move towards a slower approach.
So when I opened my inbox and found an invite from the Vienna tourism board, telling us about their #UnhashtagVienna campaign, I was intrigued.
“Put down the smart phone and enjoy your vacation! Let your senses guide you and unhashtag your vacation,” they offered.
You mean, you’re OK with us staying off social media?
You’re actually encouraging us to savor the city and suggesting that we not post about it on Instagram? At all?
The project sounded perfect. Not only for us in our current state of mind, but also as a general experiment for our generation. After all, there’s no reason why we can’t live in the moment, spend more time in conversation and less time engulfed in our phones. I can’t be the only one horrified by my Screen Time reports.
Still, there’s no denying that Instagram is a huge part of the way we travel. For a long time I’ve subscribed to the motto “Pics or it didn’t happen”. What would a complete digital detox vacation feel like?
We said yes, booked our flights and kept an open mind.
Vienna in Pictures
After a week in Vienna, we have to admit – we had the best time savoring the city without Instagram.
The funny thing is, despite being encouraged to stay offline, we couldn’t help but capture a gazillion photos during our trip. I guess you know you’re in the right field when you can’t help but still do the things you would do if you were working!
The weather was dreary and off-and-on rainy, but it didn’t stop us from exploring Austria’s capital and savoring its coffee culture. We even took along an Instax camera, for a throwback to the analog age.
For today’s post, we’re taking you on a photo diary of Vienna, taking you through some of the city’s most photogenic sights. You could even call it an Instagram guide to Vienna, of sorts, as long as you do as we did and enjoy the scenery and surroundings… and upload later! :)
Here’s a recap of our time in Wien, in photos!
Our red eye landed in Vienna around 8 in the morning. We flew with Austrian Airlines, which had pretty comfy seats and a huge selection of movies to pass the time.
As we drove into town and checked in, we were immediately struck by the city’s architecture. Vienna is filled with creamy whites and pastels, dramatic doors and breathtaking architecture. At the same time, it’s a city with an expansive number of social housing (1 in 4 live in government housing) and the largest property owner in Europe.
We took a walk along the ring road to explore the city’s most famous boulevard.
Vienna State Opera
The beautiful Ringstrasse was originally built to connect the suburbs to the seat of Imperial power. Ordered by Emperor Franz Joseph, construction began on the grand boulevard in the 1860s and wealthy citizens and minor royalty rushed to build their own palaces along the route.
More than 100 years later, the grand 5.3 kilometer boulevard is still standing and today functions as a multi purpose traffic artery, popular meeting spot, grand shopping path and more. It’s also home to many of Vienna’s most important sights!
Perhaps most famous is the Vienna opera. How gorgeous is that exterior?
We found Vienna’s history to be fascinating, but our original impression of Vienna was as “that city where Beethoven and Mozart played”. When we’re working, we always put on a classical playlist and 4 of the world’s greatest played in Vienna.
While we didn’t have time for a performance, we peeked in for a view of the grand staircase and marble atrium. Salesmen dressed in historical costumes vied to sell us tickets, but we had lunch plans so we continued on our way.
We had a feeling our first meal in Vienna was going to be a good one :)
Naturally, for our first meal in Vienna we had schnitzel!
We stopped in for a leisurely and delicious lunch at Meissl and Schadn, a restaurant devoted to classic Viennese cuisine. In particular, the restaurant specializes in Weiner Schnitzel (Austria’s #1 specialty). As we stepped in to the airy space and perused the menu, we heard a rhythmic pounding.
It was the sound of veal being expertly tenderized into thin, flat cutlet – you can watch the process yourself in the restaurant’s open kitchen (or simply peek in through the restaurant windows!).
While we’ve had good schnitzel in NYC (midtown lunch spot Between the Bread makes the best), the options at Meissl and Schadn were next level. Did you know you can order schnitzel 3 different ways? Fried in lard, pork drippings or vegetable oil…
Which would you try?
Vienna Old Streets
Several coffees and desserts later, we were stuffed.
Determined not to head back to the hotel and collapse, we decided to make the most of our first full day and walk off some of those carbs. We soon stumbled upon some of Vienna’s most beautiful squares and cobblestone streets.
Some of the most charming streets in Vienna’s city center?
We eventually made our way to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where we people watched the bustling shopping streets and took a peek inside the magnificent church.
As we followed the flow of the crowds, we visited
After a quick stop at the Mozart Museum, we made our way down St. Michael’s Square (michaelerplatz) and stopped for some chocolate and souvenirs at Demel. The pedestrian street serves as the entrance road to the Hofburg palace.
Since we already had booked tickets to visit the Hofburg for a following day, we turned right and stumbled on a hidden gem: Ferstel Passage.
It turns out Vienna has many covered passageways (similar to Paris’ secret galleries). The gorgeous marble walk way connected two streets and was an airy, relaxing arcade filled with shops and cafes. Inside Ferstel, we found a small courtyard, pretty fountain and some great souvenir & antique shops!
For our second day in Vienna, we checked out an assortment of museums.
Our hotel, 25Hours Vienna, was located in the city’s Museum Quarter with (what felt like) hundreds of options just steps away from our room. So, armed with a Vienna Pass and Vienna City Card, we set out to visit as many as we had time for!
Some of our favorites included:
Art History Museum
Natural History Museum
We woke up early on day 3 to explore Schönbrunn.
Schonbrunn was once the summer residence of the Hapsburg rulers and one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in the world. Famous Austrian rulers Franz Joseph, Maria Theresa and Elisabeth once lived here.
The palace has over 1,440 rooms decorated in magnificent Rococo style. On a guided tour, you can see 45 of them in all their glory. In particular, a couple rooms standout: the Mirrored Hall where 6 year old Mozart once performed and the Millions Room, one of the most expensively furnished rooms in the world due to its floor to ceiling rosewood paneling and Indo-Persian miniatures.
After touring the palace, we made our way through the rest of the estate. Schonbrunn covers over 430 acres, with various gardens, fountains, hedges and glasshouses. There’s even a zoo! It could take you an entire day to see it all.
Unfortunately it was a rainy day when we visited, but on the plus side, there weren’t too many other tourists!
After a couple hours, we doubled back to Vienna’s city center to see yet another architectural masterpiece: Hofburg Palace.
Hofburg originally served as Vienna’s Imperial Palace, the main residence of the Hapsburg Emperors and their seat of power. Today, the palace complex serves as the seat of government for the Austrian Federal President and the center of Congress.
Part of the palace complex is open for visitors! We explored the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum and the impressive Silver Collection.
Even if you don’t go in to the museum, the circular square that leads to the Hofburg Palace makes for a great people watching spot.
Karlsplatz is always busy with locals, tourists and horse carriages. If you wait patiently, you can capture a great shot of the horse carriages prancing up the arched pathway and into the palace complex. It’s hands down one of the best photo spots in Vienna!
We also took a peek into Karlskirche, or St. Charles’ Church, which lines the square. The beautiful Baroque white church has a great view of the city and beautiful ceiling frescoes.
On our last day, the sun came out so we basked in Vienna’s gorgeous parks. There’s 2 in particular we recommend checking out:
This green leafy park connects the Hofburg and Albertina buildings, and is most famous for its statue of Mozart. The Palm House glasshouse and restaurant is also a great place to stop for coffee!
It was originally built by Emperor Franz Josef for his wife Sisi but today is a public park.
The Volksgarten is great if you want to rest! In between the Hofburg and Maria Theresa Square, the public park has plenty of benches, shade and fountains. If you visit in May like we did, you’ll find it blooming with over 400 different types of roses!
We also made time for the Belvedere Museum, a beautiful two part palace that houses Gustav Klimdt’s masterpiece The Kiss.
The Belvedere was originally built as a summer palace for Prince Eugene of Savoy. The famous Austrian general was a bit of an art collector, so it’s no surprise that today the building is most known for its collection of Gustav Klimt paintings!
The Upper Belvedere was the perfect way to end our time in Vienna. We discovered a grand staircase, gorgeous views of the baroque gardens and even some French Impressionist paintings!
So what do you think? In today’s digital age, would anyone take a complete digital detox?
Admittedly we couldn’t cull technology altogether and still brought along our cameras, but the shift towards savoring the moment and posting later worked well for us.
If Instagram has time stamped your life since 2012, why not shake it up?
Choose a getaway based on its ‘Instagrammability’, sure – but when you’re there, put down the phone and enjoy the destination itself. Of all the places we’ve traveled to, Vienna is definitely one of the most gram-worthy but perhaps the tourism office has it right when it calls out:
See Vienna, Not #Vienna.
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