Contrary to what l was expecting, Vienna Austria turned out to be quite an enlightening experience. We both enjoyed the city thoroughly. For me personally, I consider Vienna a top three position on my list of places that l have been and loved. We had originally scheduled 3 days in Vienna, but we ended up extending it to 7 days because neither one of us wanted to leave. Here’s a Vienna guide on how we spent and amazing week in the picturesque city.
A week in Vienna City Guide:
Vienna for me, is right up there with Budapest and Porto, 2 cities that l really took a liking to. That’s saying a lot! Needless to say, I wouldn’t mind living in Vienna. It is a bit of an expensive city, but still way cheaper than Stockholm and Copenhagen, 2 places that peeled us alive :-).
Getting to Vienna Austria from Prague:
Vienna is the capital of Austria so as expected, it has an international airport with arrivals from just about anywhere in the world. When we travel, we use Skyscanner to find the best fares. This time, because we were already in Prague, we chose to take the train from Prague to Vienna as it was more convenient. Once again, we researched trains on the website Seat61 which is just chock full of helpful information. The best tip was to check both websites that we were directed to and compare prices. This was great advice. We ended up buying our tickets from the Czech train site because it was almost $25 cheaper per person than the Austrian site. Go figure! The train left from Praha station and arrived at Vienna Central Station in 4 hours. The train was really nice and the scenery gorgeous. I highly recommend train travel whenever you have the opportunity.
Weather in Vienna:
We visited Vienna in the summertime and the weather was amazing. Fall and Spring are the best times to visit Vienna as the weather is pleasant and there are fewer crowds. Summer time is also enjoyable , but of course, it is very crowded (not like other hot spots in Europe like Prague and Amsterdam though because l think the expensive reputation prevents a lot of people from visiting). We found the amount of tourists like us just right. The prices of hotel rooms, however, skyrocket in summer like everyplace else.
Where to stay in Vienna:
You know how I love to arrange our travels with a mixture of private lodging and hotels. This time was no different. I present the budget luxury guide to Vienna :-). I had originally planned a 3 day visit as said above, and chose to stay at an AirBnB flat. This flat had good ratings and was in a great, central location. I definitely recommend it to others. The only thing l have to warn you about is that it is 4 flights up, and no elevator. We knew this going in and it didn’t stop us because it is quite a cute little place. Not very big, but perfect for 2. We did cook a couple of meals there with no problems. The neighborhood is awesome. A 10 minute walk brings you to a long stretch of cheaper restaurants, stores etc and locals just going about their day. It was €70 per night, and a fair price for summer time..but look below :-(.
Our Hotel in Vienna:
After our 3 nights, we decided we wanted to stay in Vienna longer than planned. Our original plan to head to Salzburg from Vienna was shelved, we were having too much fun exploring the city, so saved that for another time. I headed to my favorite website for finding good hotel deals. I’ve mentioned lastminute website before years ago and l still use them. We ended up finding an awesome boutique hotel called Hotel Donalwauzer and paid €45 per night for the next 4 nights! Winning! This is one of those instances that l wrote about a long time ago on the quest for the best deal. Best to always check! In this case, we could have saved ourselves €75! It’s a small, family run hotel and the staff was great! There was a tram stop by the front door and it felt like you were really where the locals lived. Despite the fact that it was less than 15 minutes from the “pretty disinfectant cleanliness” of central Vienna, you really see the real faces of the city. Shopping was at street market stalls for food, shoes, etc. Thrift stores were also big around there and restaurants were Lebanese, Polish, Turkish etc. Quite the melting pot and we loved it. We really liked the hotel and also definitely recommend it. Make sure to read the rules. Some of the rooms don’t have A/C and are cheaper. We never use A/C and were happy with the free fan provided. They offer free cell phones in all rooms which was quite handy. Overall, an excellent deal.
What to see in Vienna: (Recommended places to visit in Vienna according to us)
If you love castles, you’ll be in heaven in Vienna. The city is full of wonderful castles that are world class attractions. There are also plenty of museums to discover. We spent quite a bit of time wandering down various castle gardens but did not tour the inside of any. Our favorites were:
This is actually an 18th century combination of 2 Baroque style palaces, Orangery and Palace stables. It was the summer residence of the Prince of Savoy named Eugene. The views from the gardens are spectacular because it is on a slightly uphill point. We really enjoyed this palace grounds. The flowers were in full bloom and the weather being so agreeable, we spent a lot of time just sitting on the benches and people watching. The Baroque architecture is awesome, especially the statues in the Lower Belvedere gardens. The Belvedere museum is here and it houses a wonderful collection by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, he of “the kiss” fame.
Tips: Eat before you get there. There were a couple of restaurants close by but they were pricey. We walked a bit to get to more reasonably priced places.
If you have a whole day, your best bet is to get an all day ticket for €22 (higher in the summer, I think it was €36)which gives you access to everything, otherwise it’s €12 there, €15 there and it adds up.
Another imperial summer residence. Boy, those people knew how to live didn’t they? This Baroque style palace has 1,441 rooms! It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Schonbrunn means “beautiful spring” as there used to be an artisan well which supplied the water for the palace. I have to be honest, I thought this palace was kind of meh! I am usually drawn to Baroque style buildings, but this one? maybe it was the colors, maybe it was the absurd length of the main building.. I don’t know. It just seemed so lackluster to me. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Vienna, so what do l know? :-). I did enjoy walking the grounds though. You can find information about the different prices here.
This is the official residence and office of the President of Austria. It is located in the center of Vienna. This place was originally the imperial winter residence. Over the years, it has been enlarged to include the Burgtheater, The Albertina museum, the Spanish Riding School among others. This place is ginormous. We spent a couple of days meandering the grounds. A must visit in Vienna in my humble opinion.
Vienna City Hall:
Absolutely gorgeous grounds that we had hoped to tour. Alas, On our scheduled day to visit and after arriving promptly at the designated spot, we were told that some high level thing was going on and the tour cancelled. We visited the bookstore and the courtyard along with the other disappointed 9 people.
Vienna State Opera:
Another place we would have loved to see a performance in, but yet again disappointment reigned. We went to the box office and were gobsmacked to discover that ticket prices for the shows were in the neighborhood of €300 and up, and most shows were sold out. No thank you!
Tip: They do sell standing room only tickets which nobody tells you about, but l do my research. If you’re willing to stand for the performances, you can get tickets for €6 only! You do have to arrive several hours before the performance and bring a scarf or jacket with you. Basically, when the doors are finally open to the hordes of people, you have to walk quickly, save your spot by tying the scarf or jacket or whatever on the balustrade. It’s an honor system, you can then come back at concert time. If you’re able, it is a great way to see top shows for cheap, and also see the interior without a tour. We thought we would come back to see something, but never did.
Museums Quarter Vienna:
Another beautiful setting. We saw so many couples having their wedding shoots done on the grounds. Cafes, restaurants, spectacular landscape and of course museums. Originally built in the 18th century as the imperial stables, it has certainly evolved.
A 20th century museum with over a million prints, photos and architectural drawings. It was heavily damaged during WWII and completely refurbished afterwards. They often have temporary exhibitions. I had hoped to see the Monet one, but it was on past our Vienna visit.
A giant flea market is what this is. Everything from vintage attire to jewelry, furniture and food. Open daily except on Sundays, it’s a nice place to wander about and people watch. It was less than a mile away from the AirBnB that we stayed at, so we walked there a couple of times. It reminds me of the Rose Bowl monthly flea market in Pasadena.
St Stephen’s Cathedral:
An icon and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. We did see the inside but did not climb up. It’s okay l guess but l have definitely seen better. However, nothing beats sitting across from it in one of the outside cafes, sipping a drink and watching the horse carriages, some of the most gorgeous and beautifully dressed horses and drivers. We both actually preferred the Neo-Gothic Votivkirche Cathedral in Rooseveltplatz. Definitely visit that one if you can only do just one out of the two. Simply stupendous.
We loved the parks in Vienna. A couple of afternoons, we simply bought sandwiches from one of the numerous grocery stores, sat on benches and just enjoyed the city. Fresh air and great weather made for an awesome combination. We saw final resting places of native sons such as Mozart by simply walking.
If you prefer a guided tour of places in Vienna, we recommend using the folks at Getyourguide. We’ve used them personally on our travels and we would appreciate your using our affiliate link to book. It won’t cost you any more money and we make a tiny commission.
Day Trips from Vienna:
There are many choices as far as day trips from Vienna. Visiting Salzburg on a day trip is an option. Budapest or Prague also make for great mini-breaks from Vienna. We opted for a Heuriger adventure in Grinzing close to the city.
Food in Vienna:
Hearty food aplenty. We gorged on Schnitzels, meatloaf dishes and kebabs among other things and we enjoyed them all. We also loved the coffee culture of Vienna. There are loads of coffee shops where you can sit and have inventive coffee concoctions served with gloriously delicious desserts. Here are just some of the things we had at some of our favorite places which included Zum Betterlstudent – an old-school student bar (what the heck does that mean?), Aida coffee house which seems to be a chain, Mozart coffee house (but of course!), and Heidenkummer (bring cash, no cards! We discovered the neighborhood properly at night searching for an ATM. They actually said it was okay to come back and pay them the next day, but we found one eventually). We went back again as the food was really good.
These are just some of the most awesome things you can do in Vienna. We found it to be an enjoyable, friendly city, one of the best places to visit in Europe and one we can’t wait to re-visit. For how long should you visit Vienna? I would say at a minimum, 3 days to full enjoy the city. In my best Arnuld voice, I say “I’ll be back!” :-). Very appropriate is it not? He is Austrian after all! The sad part is that l have seen every movie in this clip several times!!!! He simply cracks me up no matter what a shitty person he is in real life.
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Have you been to Vienna? If yes, how did you like it? If not, is it a city you would like to visit?