Taking a tour with the Crystal Cruises is a luxury. The buses are big, the seats are comfortable and there’s complimentary water and toilet inside the coach.
We each have a tour device you can hang around your neck, making touring convenient.
The guide will talk towards the earpiece, enabling you to listen to the tour despite not being close to your guide. You just have to remember to charge it every evening as battery only lasts a day.
Our bus drives past the Danube River where our boat was parked. On the right, the black colored Danube City Tower is the tallest in Vienna at 60 floors.
Vienna is one of four residences of the United Nations housing 5,000 people. Price Waterhouse Coopers also houses offices in the same Danube City Tower.
Right beside the Danube City Tower is the red and white colored Danube Tower. It is at the left side of the photo and is older than most of the skyscrapers in the area. There’s a revolving restaurant that completes a revolution under one hour and people used to visit the tower as a lookout of the entire city.
On the left, we passed by the old ferris wheel. Vienna houses the oldest ferris wheel in Europe. During the 19th century, every European city had their own ferris wheel as a sign of prestige. But due to the war, most other ferris wheels were dismantled for valuable parts.
So, the only standing Vienna Ferris wheel became one of the oldest in Europe. Each trip takes 20 minutes.
Vienna has 1.9 people living inside the city. In total, there are 9 million people in Austria so a big chunk of them lice in Vienna. As Vienna was the seat of an old empire, a lot of the buildings remain standing and was converted to shops, banks and hotels. On the yellow building to the right hand side, the composer of the Danube Waltz lived there.
Vienna has 24 universities. The Webster University cost EUR 20,000 to 40,000 per year. However, if you studied in a state university, membership only costs EUR 30. Education is free from kindergarten to master’s degree so Austrians like the Czech got it good.
Education, health insurance, maternity leave (up to 2 years), retirement and unemployment benefits are funded by taxes.
Income tax in Austria
Income tax in Austria can be high depending on your income levels. If you only earned EUR 11,000 a year, you enjoyed paying zero taxes. However, if you earned EUR 30,000 a year, tax was 1/3 of your income. If you earned EUR 60,000 or more, more than half of your income is taxed. So people always say you pay high taxes in Austria.
In addition to the taxes, there’s also an additional VAT of 10-20% but that’s already incorporated inside the price. VAT is listed separately so everyone is clear on how much it is. For global blue, you just need to buy items EUR 75 and above to enjoy a tax return.
The bus passes through the Danube Canal.
To get to Ring Avenue, we pass by several notable buildings. On the left is the War Ministry. Ironically, though part of the European Union, Austria is not part of any war organization like NATO.
As mentioned, most of the palaces had been converted to banks, retail shops and hotels. This building houses a TGIF. The other building has McDonalds in the ground floor.
We pass by Charles Church, a 300 year old building with a green copper dome.
And the Vienna State Opera. The Vienna State Opera is sold out every night. Ticket prices range from the ridiculously cheap to the expensive at EUR 3 to EUR 300 each.
The EUR 3 tickets are standing room. The cheapest tickets with seat is EUR 10. All tickets are affordable but the trick is getting them. It is highly possible that people queue up for hours for a standing room ticket. Music and arts are very important for Austrians so most locals enjoy a night of going to the opera. There’s always something for someone as the program changes everyday.
We then pass by the Parliament Building which is forever is under construction.
In the Town hall, the Christmas Markets has already started. Christmas Markets can be enjoyed from late November and lasts the rest of the holiday season.
Now we are approaching the Imperial Palace. We were dropped in between the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Here’s the Museum of Natural History: entrance for kids for free. That’s kinda cool that the children are given priority.
And the Museum of Fine Arts which are full of paintings:
In between the two museums is the statue of Maria Theresa, the Austrian empress with 16 children. Her statue is between two beautiful buildings and is surrounded by military advisors
We walked through the gate surrounding the imperial palace.
The Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace was erected by the Hapsburg Family. They never won any battle except for one against Napoleon, who beat him 3 weeks later. They did outlive their enemies by marrying well and having many children.
In this left wing is where the Audtrian president is working. He’s there now because the flags indicate he’s in Austrian territory.
The president is elected by the people every 6 years with a maximum of 2 terms. The youngest allowable age to vote is 16 years old.
There are 18 wings and 19 courtyard in the palace. The apartments can be rented by anybody including many restaurants and souvenir shop.
We enter the inner courtyard at the palace. Building the palace took 640 years, same as the Hapsburg family’s rule over Austria. So while Schonbronn Palace was the provincial residence or weekend cottage, the Imperial Palace was where they spent most of their time.
We enter the gate into one of the most beautiful domes in Vienna.
Entering this door will take you to the Imperial Apartments that gives you a view to the palatual court. On the right, there’s the Spanish horse school with prancing horses. The horse came from spain but in 16th centry, it was moved here in Vienna.
Through the gate is a small Christmas market. Whoops, no photos please.
Following the path is the 10th most expensive street in the world. It’s amazing on how it can be so simple yet so pricey. There is Chanel and Hermes on this street, and it’s always good to windowshop.
Along the street is the St. Peter Church, 300 years old, and very baroque. Bells still ring every hour.
Followed by the Black Death monument — It has clouds and angels, and Emperor Leopold showimg his humility in the middle. The ugly figure lying down is black death and the beautiful woman in the bottom symbolizes the importance of a strong faith in God.
The street ends by St Stephen’s Church which is made of sandstone. EUR 2 million is needed to maintain the church. There are 17,000 people who walk in there everyday so careful of pickpockets.
The subway bathrooms are clean but cost EUR 0.50. At least there are toilets.
Inside St. Stephens Church. There’s a closed area for a EUR 6 tour but we remained in the free area.
And the small Christmas market by St. Stephens that sell exorbitantly priced goods.
And this concludes our City Tour and free time. “Time to go back to the boat,” our guide said.
Back at the boat, we have a wonderful buffet lunch at the Waterside. There’s a great selection of salad, mains, soup and dessert.
While full, we still had delicious ice cream at the Bistro. At Crystal Mozart, everything is included and you get your pick of teas, coffees, light snack and ice cream at the Bistro.