When my parents asked if I’d like to go with them to Vienna, my mind automatically began swirling with dreamy snapshots from one of my favourite films of all time: Before Sunrise. This cult classic, released in 1995, follows characters Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Deply) from their meet-cute on a train to the streets of Vienna after they impulsively decide to disembark together. They spend the day and night strolling the city, getting to know each other and, of course, falling in love. It is a beautiful film with an incredible script and perfectly judged naturalistic performances.
Nothing however, could deter me from my Before Sunrise adventure so I pinpointed a few central locations, mapped my journey, and went on my way
Whilst my interest in meeting an American man on a train and falling in love is minimal, my love for the film is not, so I decided I would devote a day of my trip to visiting some of the film’s key locations. After some research, I discovered that a fair amount of movie magic was used when filming the couple’s journey throughout the city. In the movie, it may appear as though each location is no more than a few footsteps or quick tram ride away, but the reality is that the locations are scattered. Nothing however, could deter me from my Before Sunrise adventure so I pinpointed a few central locations, mapped my journey, and went on my way. I did not attempt to follow a chronological order and instead I opted for the most sensical journey from my Airbnb.
Café Sperl, Gumpendorfer Strasse 11
My first stop was Café Sperl, a famous traditional Austrian café established in 1880 and the home of the famous fake-telephone-conversation scene in Before Sunrise. It is in one of the café’s scenic booth tables that the pair share a coffee and, through impersonations of phone conversations with their friends back home, indirectly express their feelings towards one another.
After ordering a coffee and some breakfast (Austrian cuisine of roasted bread dumplings with egg and salad), I sat back and took in the ambience. The food was lovely, and the waiter complimented my book of choice, The Midnight Library by Matt Haigh, wwhich I had purchased the day-before at Vienna’s Shakespeare and Company bookstore.
Albertina Palais Museum, Augustinerstrasse 1
After breakfast, I wandered from Café Sperl to the Albertina Museum and went up the stairs to look out on the backdrop of one of Jesse and Céline’s evening meanders. I studied the film images saved on my phone to find the exact part of the wall where they had stopped.
After ordering a coffee and some breakfast (Austrian cuisine of roasted bread dumplings with egg and salad), I sat back and took in the ambience.
A black lamppost has grown since their visit, but the view remains just as impressive with the Vienna Opera House standing in all its glory. My Mum and I were lucky enough to see a show there the morning before, so the building was a familiar site, but I don’t think I could ever grow tired of its spectacular architecture.
Kleines Café, Franziskanerplatz 3
Not only thesite of one of my favourite scenes in the film but also among the best locations I visited in Vienna was the Kleines Café.
Jesse and Céline share a coffee outside of this adorable, and as the name implies, small café. They’re approached by a palm reader to Céline’s intrigue and Jesse’s cynicism. The conversation that ensues afterwards perfectly encapsulates the character’s differences and is full of charm and wit. My mum joined me here, for a peppermint tea and a Sachertorte (a delicious Austrian cake that became a daily treat on my trip).
Prater, Riesenradplatz 1
Next stop was Prater Amusement Park, an attraction I had been meaning to visit before I had even considered my Before Sunrise tour. The big wheel is the site of the most monumental moment in the entire film: it is where Jesse and Céline share their first kiss.
Unfortunately, the cost of the ride and its ridiculously long queue were not factors I had considered. So, my mum and I settled for admiring the wheel from afar and instead walked through the funfair to find a very tall swing ride that was half the price and still plenty of fun.
A short tram ride away from the amusement park is the bridge that Jesse and Céline wander across at the beginning of the film after leaving the train station. On the bridge, they encounter a humorous duo who invite them to see their play.
The big wheel is the site of the most monumental moment in the entire film: it is where Jesse and Céline share their first kiss.
I dragged my mum here to take photos of me. I felt a bit silly until I saw a group of Austrian girls on the other side of the bridge there for the same reason! They took videos of each other walking and talking like the characters and we exchanged knowing smiles whilst we admired a piece of Jesse and Céline’s journey.
Alt und Neu, Windmühlgasse 10
Last, but certainly not least, was the iconic record store! Jesse and Céline flick through records here before entering a booth to listen to ‘Come Here’ by Kath Bloom. Each wall of the store is lined from top to bottom with vinyl records, and a row of record players sit near the checkout for you to test before you buy. Whilst the listening booth is now used as storage, the owners have placed the movie poster on its door to ensure that fans know they’re in the right place.
I would suggest that you watch Before Sunrise before you visit, as it makes walking around the historic city even more magical
I met more fellow film nerds in here, including a girl jumping up and down in excitement with her slightly embarrassed, but definitely buzzing, boyfriend. I walked away with a vinyl and a tote bag as a memoir of my adventures.
All in all, my mini Before Sunrise tour of Vienna was a great way to relive the key moments of the film and see parts of the city that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I would recommend these locations to anyone travelling to Vienna, even if you haven’t seen the film. Of course, I would suggest that you watch Before Sunrise before you visit, as it makes walking around the historic city even more magical.