21 Dec THE LIGHTS OF VIENNA (ON TWO WHEELS)
We’ve partnered up with global bike-sharing system Donkey Republic, and flight and accommodation search engine Momondo, to explore some of Europe’s most esteemed cities, hoping to prove that anywhere, anything, with anyone, at anytime, is simply a bike ride away…oh, and that there’s no better way to explore a city than on two wheels. Follow along in what we have affectionately called our #TourDeDonkey.
Our fifth stop: Vienna, Austria
The mission: Explore (and photograph) the city’s festivities
If you are like most people, the festive season for you means food, family, friends, and frantic shopping. If you travel on two wheels like we do, this might also mean new places to explore, new friends to make, and new traditions to try out. All these things are extremely exciting, and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t love this time of year (no matter where we’d be celebrating), but with a trip to Vienna on our calendar, and our need and desire to partake in some much needed bokeh-esque photography, we thought the fifth instalment of our #TourDeDonkey would be the perfect opportunity to have a go at some festive light photography (the lights of Vienna are certainly sparkly enough!) whilst creating the ultimate Christmas Market bicycle tour. Ambitious? Of course! Would you expect any less?
Upon arrival at Vienna’s International Airport (flying on a Tuesday, of course), and after checking in at The Luxury Collection’s Hotel Bristol – especially beautiful at this time of year when they celebrate #Bristmas with Glühwein and waffles – we proceeded to collect our two-wheeled jack and jennet (male and female donkey, FYI), and headed out to get acquainted with the city’s main festive spots. If seeing this city by bike, you will immediately notice how accommodating they are for cyclists. Wide, colourful lanes in the city centre, and perfectly designated areas for parking your bike – we’re quite surprised we didn’t see more people cycling through this Austrian capital (although the chilly wind may have frightened off a few only-cycle-in-the-Summer types).
But we digress…about those festive spots!
Vienna is reported to have over twenty Christkindlmarkts (adding in some local lingo for your pronouncing pleasure), so we’ve gone ahead and highlighted five of our favourites just in case you too are seeking the best festive photography opportunities in the Austrian capital.
Oh, and, fellow festive photography fiend, if you are sadly only going to make it to Vienna for Christmas 2018 (because you WILL be booking yourself a flight after you see how gorgeous it is at this time of year), we’ve also summed up our festive photography tips so that you can attempt your own, somewhere else this year (scroll down to the bottom of this blog post to get them).
Without any further ado, here is:
Vienna’s Best Christmas Market Bicycle Tour
Start at the Adventmarkt on Karlsplatz
Not only is this the perfect starting point as it’s just next to your hotel, there are some gorgeous string lights above the huts, which are always great to photograph. You’ll have hundreds of tasty (and bio) treats to taste, a few farm animals to pat, and of course the gorgeous Karl’s Church as your backdrop.
Head to the Christmas Markets on Spittelberggasse, Schrankgasse and Gutenberggasse
After a brisk 1.9km (1.1 mile) ride, you’ll arrive in hipster central, aka 7th District, aka Spittelberg, and one of the cutest Christmas markets around. Made up of a few cosy streets, you certainly won’t have a problem finding Glühwein (and a dark alley for some light painting attempts).
Next, the Museum’s Quarter Market
Only 250m away, this market is something entirely different, as it offers a more modern approach to the Christmas festivities. With light-changing trees and several art pieces projected on the walls on the main square outside Mumok (the museum of modern art we visited the first time we came to Vienna in 2015) you’ll definitely feel your creative juices flowing.
After a scenic 1km (0.6 mile) ride, you’ll arrive at arguably the biggest and best Christmas Market in the whole of Europe. You’ll be tempted by all the vendors selling incredible food, and you might go away with a festive souvenir or two, but just take note – if you want one of the best shots of this market, you’ll need to cross the road from the main entrance, and stand on the staircase of the Burgtheater.
End off at Stephansplatz
Your final stop will be at the Stephansplatz (the square of Stephan’s Cathedral), which is 2.2km (1.3 mile) away. The cathedral is lit up at night, which will make it easy to shoot, and the streets leading off the square all have gorgeous chandeliers and decorations hanging (not to mention more stalls selling Glühwein and traditional trinkets), making this one of the best spots in the city to photograph festivities.
Head back to Hotel Bristol
As you head back to your hotel, make sure to stop at the less-expected spots, as there are so many opportunities to photograph fairy lights and decorations just outside the shops you pass. If you’re feeling like you need a bit more food (or drink) to fuel your festive excursion, the pop-up market at Mahlerstrasse (behind the Hotel Bristol) has more than enough variety to fill you up.
Below you can see the entire route (if you’re brave enough to do it in one go…in which case, drop us a comment so we can bow down to you, cycling master!)
Finally, below are our festive photography tips, which you can use when shooting in Vienna, or any other northern hemisphere city during this time of year:
Top 10 Tips For Festive Photography
- Blue hour is best (and with a 4pm sunset that might come sooner than you think). Make sure you check your city’s sunset and arrive at least one hour before, to set-up.
- Embrace the people! If you’re in a city, you will undoubtedly have people to deal with, and this is where long exposure works well to get them to look like moving blurs.
- Besides the camera equipment, a good tripod is key. Ours broke on our last night of shooting as the lens and camera set-up was too heavy, so if you can, invest in a good, sturdy tripod for these types of shoots.
- Bring a variety of your own lights with you – fairy lights, bicycle lights, head torches…anything you can find! Just don’t forget spare batteries as you’d hate to cut a shoot short due to a dead battery.
- Don’t stop at lights – bring other props too. Sparklers are great for light painting, and give your photos an extra festive feel. If you are attempting light painting though, we recommend finding a dark spot (like a park or alleyway) to compensate for the extra-long exposure.
- If you will be shooting sparklers, don’t forget a lighter (or two) as matches won’t get you very far if you’re in a windy city (like Vienna).
- Hand-warmers are golden, as they keep your glove-less, photographing hands warm while you wait for your exposure time. We picked some up at an outdoor gear shop for next to nothing.
- Place your lights in front of your lens before taking a snap – this creates a beautiful effect for your final photos, and no two photos will ever be the same.
- Bokeh, bokeh, bokeh. If you still have no idea what bokeh is, check this post, and know that nothing says festivities like blurred lights. They’re simply magical.
- The final tip is for post-production. Once you’re in editing-mode on your laptop, why not play around with some snow or light layers to add an extra special feel. If you didn’t have snow or rain during your shoot, you can always add them later in Photoshop using the screen blend mode, playing with the effects’ opacity*.
*If the last sentence was a little too foreign for you, feel free to DM us on Instagram and we’ll be happy to organise a private photography class for you 🙂
Didn’t get enough from this post? Check out our other #TourDeDonkey posts, or find us on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also search for #HowFarFromHome somewhere on the line, or buy one of our creations from our online store.