Secret Vienna Tour. Some of the most exciting corners in Vienna are the hidden courtyards right in the city centre. I had done a tour on my own before but felt that I stepped past the most intriguing places. I was right, as my tour guide proved.
Regina met me at Schwedenplatz, our diving station. She was determined to start our secret Vienna Tour with the Middle Ages. I tested the soles of my shoes. What followed was a thrilling exploration of courtyards, hidden corners and small alley ways right in the historic centre, along with stories that went deep into the cultural fabric of my hometown.
Secret Vienna Tour. We started in the tiny courtyard of a medieval tower house. I listened to the story of a small town of 100,000 inhabitants, adjacent to swamps but with flourishing waterways, long before the Danube canal was created.
“This is the legendary musician Augustin who famously survived the pestilence. At this tavern he often head a glass or two. In fact, every local school child knows his song. I’m sure you’ll do as well…”.
Regina pointed down the cave of another courtyard, where a life-size puppet covered in coins lit up.
On the way to a more spacious courtyard, we passed splendid Art Nouveau façades and plaques of famous citizens.
From Cistercian Monks To Toothache Jesus
Secret Vienna Tour. Definitely the vastest courtyard was the one belonging to the Cistercian abbey of Heiligenkreuz. With its six-part windows and simple façades that 800-year-old courtyard was spot on Viennese. Although unknown to many locals, countless Cistercian monks, local celebrities, common tenants, chapel visitors, and now guests of a boutique hotel have been frequenting this place.
When we left the courtyard on the other side, we landed in one of Vienna’s most picturesque alleys (see photo).
Secret Vienna Tour. Before we slipped deeper into secret Viennese backyards we surfaced at the interior of a church. The Jesuitenkirche is the most immaculate baroque church and belongs to the Old University. It was exhilarating to be right in the city centre but far off the beaten track.
Regina continued to unearth things like a Renaissance ‘Pawlatschen’ courtyard and an old passageway through a historic town house before we faced ‘tooth ache Jesus’ and the hilarious legend around him.
Even Mozart found his way into our walk: He had a painful and fateful story at the courtyard belonging to the house of the Roman Catholic Order of The Teutonic Knights.
Secret Vienna Tour. My favourite place were the three intertwining backyards at Blutgasse, at a stone’s throw from St. Stephen’s Cathedral. You can see one of them in the photo. The largest courtyard was dominated by a massive centuries-old plane tree.
The smaller ones showed Vienna’s typical 18th-century ‘Pawlatschen’ balconies, glazed wooden galleries that lead to the different flats of those buildings. Certainly, the most bizarre-looking courtyard of our tour was the one with the two outer spiral stair cases.
While we were edging gently towards Cafe Bräunerhof, my next meeting place, I received another couple of pointers… I’ll cross my fingers that you’ll pass the Providentia fountain with a good tour guide. Be prepared for a good anecdote.
Note: I was invited by the tour guide for this private tour. All opinions expressed are explicitly my own.
Group Tour and Private Tours
Secret Vienna Tour. To roam through these and more courtyards you can either join a group tour or a private guide.
This ‘Backyards and Mysterious Locations‘ group tour, for example, adds charming Franziskaner square and its church to the itinerary. If you prefer a private tour that goes further, check this widely praised ‘Hidden Gems in Vienna‘ tour. Especially if you have already seen the historic center, this walk will add insight into city life that goes beyond the guidebooks.
However, there are so many other amazing courtyards to explore that don’t fit into a group tour. For example those in the central neighbourhoods of Wieden, Mariahilf and Neubau. Quite a few also host off-the-beaten-track restaurants and cafes. To secure an excellent private guide for a bespoke tour email me at barbara.cacao(at)vienna-unwrapped.com.