Are you a music, wine and history lover visiting Vienna not for the first time and looking for new trip ideas? Here is a suggestion for an awesome day trip from Vienna to Eisenstadt to have it all in one. Eisenstadt is capital of Burgenland state of Austria, Haydn capital of the world and the former residence of Esterhazy princes. The summer open air opera festival is held on the magnificent stage of the nearby St.Margarethen quarry. But let me start from the very beginning with some information about Eisenstadt and Esterhazy family.
This small town in Burgenland with 14,000 inhabitants lies on the southern slopes of the Leitha Hills, 50 km (31 miles) south of Vienna. Eisenstadt is the capital of Burgenland, one of nine Austrian states. In the middle of the 17th century, the city passed under the rule of the Esterházy family and since then it has been closely tied with the Esterhazy princes and their long time court orchestra director Joseph Haydn. Some highlights of any visit to Eisenstadt are the Esterházy Palace, the Haydn Church, and the Haydn-House, among others.
The Esterházy family, the roots of which date back to the mid-13th century, was one of the richest and most influential within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The last Estarhazy family member owning Esterhazy palace in Eisenstadt was Princess Melinda Esterhazy, a former prima ballerina of the Budapest Opera, the widow and sole heir of Prince Paul V Esterhazy de Galantha. Prince Paul spent several years in a Communist prison in Hungary after World War II. In 1956, during the Hungarian revolution, he and Melinda escaped to Switzerland where he successfully rebuilt the family fortune. Following Paul’s death, Melinda inherited his wealth of at least €1.45 billion. She was one of Austria's largest landowners, with important tourism and art holdings and also wineries. As the couple had no children, Melinda created several foundations to preserve the family’s heritage. She died in 2014 and her nephew Stefan Ottrubay is now acting as the general manager of the foundations.
Fun fact. Even if you haven’t heard of Esterhazy family, you must know Esterházy Torte. It was named after diplomat Paul III Anton Esterházy. It’s a cream cake, originally created by confectioners in Budapest at the beginning of the 20th century. And soon it found its way into Viennese dessert cuisine. It consists of buttercream, between five layers of sponge cake, and is covered by white sugar glaze, brittle and candied fruits, and chocolate. Try it while visiting Austria.
I hope you are now well equipped for your summer day trip to Eisenstadt. So here you go:
I recommend going on Thursday or Friday and using public transport because of the wine tasting included in this tour. Start your trip at 8.59am with bus number 200 departing from the bus terminal next to Vienna railway station. Check an updated schedule before your departure. As the bus has many stops going through small towns, the trip will take about 1,5 hours. Then go to the ticket office of the Esterhazy palace and buy a ticket for visiting palace including a tour in English at 13.30 and for a Haydn matinee concert starting at 11.00 am only on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s the reason why I recommend choosing these days of the week. Anyway, check the current schedule of concerts before you go.
Concert at Haydn hall
Concerts take place in the awesome Haydn hall of the palace at 11.00 am and are performed by the Haydn Quartet, the ensemble in the Esterhazy palace where Joseph Haydn worked for 40 years. Among their many overseas performances are concerts in New York’s Carnegie Hall, in Beijing’s National Centre for performing arts, as well as many important festivals. So use this great opportunity to listen to their royal performance at their residence.After the concert, continue with visiting exhibitions in the Palace. 12-13.20. Start with a Haydn explosive.
Joseph Haydn, in full Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), served the Esterhazy princes as a court orchestra director and composer for over 40 years. Haydn is remembered as the first great symphonist and the composer who invented the string quartet. Haydn was hired by Prince Paul Anton in 1761, and after that, he served Paul Anton's successor Nikolaus. Prince Nikolaus I Esterházy (1714-1790) became Joseph Haydn's patron and employer for nearly 30 years. His epithet "The Magnificent" shows his delight in providing money to host extravagant entertainment and special celebrations. Poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote in his memoirs of the "Esterházy fairyland". This exhibition is a place where you can learn more about Haydn’s life and work at Esterhazy court. You can see personal and professional documents of the maestro and also original music instruments.Continue your tour by visiting Melinda Esterhazy exhibition.
Melinda Esterhazy exhibition
The exhibition is made as performance in five acts about Princess Melinda Esterhazy, wife of Prince Paul Esterhazy, as she was a prima ballerina in her youth. “I had a wonderful childhood, a fantastic career, and happy marriage. What more could one want?” she said. Prince Paul V was not only a pillar of strength for Princess Melinda but also the love of her life until his death and beyond.Then visit the wine museum if you still have time before your English guided tour of the palace starts at 13.30.
The wine museum in Esterhazy palace is the largest in Austria. There are more than 700 exhibits in the cellars under the palace. Wine production in Esterhazy properties started not later than in the second half of the 17th century when the first Esterhazy prince Paul had thousands of vines planted in his estate. These historical cellars were used for wine production until the 21st century when it was transformed into a museum.
From 13.30 to 14.30. Esterházy Palace, once a residence of great magnates and now a striking landmark of Eisenstadt, is one of Austria‘s most stunning Baroque palaces. The palace tour shows magnificent apartments of the Esterhazy’s princesses and gives an insight into the lives of three charismatic ladies: Maria Josefa Hermengilde, Maria Theresia and Lady Sarah Child-Villers. One more highlight of the tour is the 17th century Palace chapel. The organ dates back to the time of Joseph Haydn and was frequently played by the great composer.
After the tour have a late lunch
I recommend the restaurant “Henrici” opposite the palace. The exclusive atmosphere of the former court stables makes fine dining a truly unique experience.
Then take bus number 200 at 15.26 to Esterhazy winery for a winery tour and wine tasting.
Esterhazy winery visit
This upscale winery focuses on unique individual experiences where “every wine is as individual as every person.” Individual travelers can have a tour and tasting at the winery. The ticket costs 14 euro per person. It’s better to apply in advance to make sure that you get the space. I was really impressed by up to date developments of wine production I was not even aware of.Departure for Eisenstadt by bus 285 to get to Blaguss shuttle bus to St. Margarathen quarry for opera performance from Intersport bus stop, Ruster Straße 146 departing at 6.45 pm. Price for a return bus trip: € 14 per person. You have to book in advance to get a seat. Check actual departure times before you go.
Opera performance at St. Margarethen quarry
The Roman quarry in St. Margarethen is one of the oldest stone quarries in Europe, located about 10 kilometres from Eisenstadt. It has a magnificent open-air stage created to welcome thousands of opera fans each year. Opera festivals take place each year in July and August against the unique natural backdrop of the Roman quarry. The perfect infrastructure for a modern festival has been created thanks to financial input from the Esterházy private foundation. Special attention has been paid to carefully integrating the structure into a unique natural landscape: visitors can enjoy the Oriental flair of the Roman quarry’s high walls and the vast expanse of the area where the opera performances are held. It has a different performance each year. It was Magic Flute by Mozart in 2019 and it will be Turandot by Giacomo Puccini in 2020.
As the opera finishes late, you better book your hotel in Eisenstadt before getting back to Vienna the next morning. If you have time before you leave, have a stroll in the beautiful downtown of Eisenstadt. Happy musical travels!
Check bus, concert and opera timetables before your trip. As opera performance is open-air bring warm clothes, raincoat, and your own cushions if you want to feel comfortable.
Disclaimer: I was kindly invited as a guest by Esterhazy Palace. As always all opinions and thoughts are my own. I had a great time and I wish you the same! Happy travels!
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What did you think? Have you been to Eisenstadt? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sāne
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