A Weekend in Vienna
Okay y’all, we’ve reached our final Austrian destination of our 2017. If you couldn’t gather it yet, we love Austria – and what’s a more perfect place to end it than at the capital city of Vienna! We didn’t even come close to seeing all that Vienna had to offer but we loved what we got to see. Vienna is conveniently located, clean and beautiful – with a little help from the post war architecture. Most of the buildings have been rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style that you see on every corner of the city with only a handful still around from prewar time. You’ll feel like royalty walking around the Imperial City, that’s for sure!
Vienna is one of the most easily accessible capital cities, by train and bus especially! We used our youth train card and got 40% off a normal train fair from Hallstatt. You can get there by many bus lines also, the main ones being Eurolines, Student Agency, and Orangeways. Most of the main train lines come in Westbahnhof and from there you can hop the main city trains to whatever part of the city you need to go. There are 23 district of Vienna, basically situated in two rings around the number 1 district of the Old Town. You can walk to a lot of stuff throughout the city, but the metro system is so easy to use that it is more functional to hop on and off whenever you need. The cheapest way to use it will be buying a 24, 48, or 72 hour ticket that pretty much pays themselves off with more than 3 rides! We bought the 48 hour card and rode the metro EVERYWHERE in town, its the most practical and economical way to see the city, just make sure to stamp it before your first use!
when to visit
As always with most of Europe, you’ll find the best weather from April to October, but high season from July to August. If you are brave enough to come in the winter and want to ski, your best bet will be visiting in November to April. We had beautiful weather when we were here in May and it wasn’t crowded at all!
where to stay
Wombats is one of our favorite hostel chains in Europe. We stayed at one on Munich and had a blast with the bar area and helpful, friendly staff! Normally when we stay in hostels we just book two beds since we don’t mind having a night’s sleep in different beds, but if you’re a couple who can’t stand sleeping in different beds they also have private rooms available. There are two different Wombats in Vienna but we stayed at the one across from the Naschmarkt and it was so central and close to everything we wanted. They have a really awesome happy hour and give you free drink tokens when you check in, plus the breakfast is cheap and filling so you can save some coin. The hostel bar at Wombats was one of our favorite places to meet people, especially with cheap drinks, a pool table, and even a stand up comedy night on one of the nights we were there!
Trav Tav’s Tip:
Make sure to pick up one of Wombat’s city maps, they make the best guides for the city and give great places to eat and drink!
things to do
Even though you could spend a lot longer in Vienna, we had a great two days exploring the city. With the amount of museums, architecture, and day trips you can take, we recommend spending at least 5 days adventuring around. Here are a couple of things we got to see that we recommend checking out.
Walking Tour Highlights
Wombats offered a really great free walking tour of Vienna, here are some of the highlights, along with some other places we found on our own.
Trav Tav’s Tip:
You could also start your own walking tour around The Ring Road (Ringstrausse) or the historic center, where you will find all the grandeur of the former Austro-Hungarian empire. Such places like the Hofburg Palace (which houses all kinds of other political buildings now), the State Opera, Burg Theater, City Hall, Parliament, The Museumquartier, the Art and Science Museum, and the University. You can take the Tramway Loop on trams 1 and 2 that each of halfway around the loop.
Memorial of War and Fascism
This memorial is located on the plaza in between the Albertina Museum and the Hotel Sacher, where the famous Sacher chocolate tortes are found. It not only commemorates the 65,000 Viennese Jews who were murdered but is also the site where several hundred people who were buried alive when the cellar they were using as shelter was demolished during a WWII bombing attack. This article gives more of an explanation to the elements of the monument.
The famous farmer’s market called Naschmarkt opened in 1780 and has been a lively and fun part of Vienna ever since. You can find all different kinds of restaurants, fruit and veggie stands, and trinket shops galore throughout the Naschmarkt. Every Saturday, you can also find a flea market west of the Naschmarkt where you can find the perfect souvenir to bring home. We recommend walking through the Naschmarkt when you get a chance, especially because you can get a whole lunch time meal with the free samples that the food stalls give to passerby’s. Plus, there are some really great places to eat and try some local delicacies!
St. Stephen’s Church
One of the most famous Viennese landmarks is St. Stephen’s Church, almost continuously under construction since 1147. Our walking tour guide was in her 50’s and said she has never seen the church without construction attire donning its exterior. This is actually one our favorite churches in Europe since it is one of the most most unique ones we have seen. You can find panoramic views from the south tower (since the north tower still isn’t finished), catacombs in the basement, and even the house where Mozart lived is behind the cathedral.
We only picked one museum to see in Vienna, although it was a tough call between the Albertina and the Belvedere. We ultimately chose the Belvedere since it was bigger and more famous but the Albertina is a close second!
If you’re a fan of Gustav Klimt’s, you had best head to the Baroque palace of the Belvedere! The Upper and Lower Palaces of Belvedere are listed as a World Unesco Heritage Site and even walking the grounds of the area are worth it. If you want to see both, you should plan to spend a whole day here since it will take you that long to go through both museums and the gardens. The Upper Belvedere houses the biggest collection of Austrian art from the Middle Ages to present day and the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery (the winter garden) houses more temporary art exhibits highlighting individual Austrian artists. Tickets are $17 dollars for both Belvedere palaces as a student or 26 and over adult tickets will run you about $23. If you choose just one of the palaces, they will be about $17 per person.
Prater amusement park is a staple landmark of Vienna! You might recognize its 213 foot high Ferris wheel when viewing the cityscape. We had to go take a ride on the Ferris wheel, but there are a lot of other rides and booths to see when visiting, especially since admission to Prater is free! The rides will cost you, but it can actually be a fairly inexpensive attraction to check out, plus the view from the Ferris wheel at sunset is unbeatable!
The Schonbrunn Palace is a MUST VISIT in Vienna, and we didn’t even go inside the palace walls. Since we had seen the Hofsburg palace in Innsbruck and this was their summer residence, we decided against doing the tour of Schonbrunn because it was basically the same thing. You can make that call on the residence tour, but either way we do recommend walking the palace grounds because they are spectacular! You will finds lots of fountains, places to relax, gardens to admire, and even a zoo hidden in the middle of the trees. Admission to most of the palace is $20 for an hour long tour, and most of the other tickets are less than that – and if you feel like getting lost check out the garden maze for $6 after your palace tour! The rest of the grounds are free to enjoy.
Viennese Cake Cafes
You can’t go to Vienna without visiting a cafe and drinking coffee and eating scrumptious cake! The Viennese coffee comes from a Turkish influence and is served in many different variations and options. We only made it to a couple of cafes but Vienna is full of cafes to find on your own.
◊ Cafe Central – This is one of the most famous cafes in Vienna, especially since there was many famous poets, writers, philosophers and thinkers who frequented this cafe to talk over coffee and ideas. As it’s name suggests, it is very centrally located in the first district and close to the shopping streets of Graben and Kärntner Strasse. You will more than likely have to wait a little bit to get a table, but it will be worth it!
◊ Demel Cafe – This cafe can be found not far from Cafe Central also within the first district. You will surely be able to find a seat here because this place is huge so don’t let the busy downstairs level get you discouraged! Head up the stairs to get a nice view of the shopping streets and a quieter ambience, while watching the bakers making cake on your way up!
where to eat + drink
◊ 7 Stern Brau – This micro brewery was a little less than a mile from our hostel and reminded us of some of our favorite Reno breweries. It felt very local, had really good grub and a really fun waiter who helped us decide what beers to try. We ultimately decided on a Hefeweizen and a smokey Bamberger Rauchbier – a house specialty. For food, we recommend trying the schnitzel and the emmantaler cheese platter! This was a really cheap and fun place to enjoy a local brew!
◊ Salm Brau – This brewery was one we found at the bottom of Schonnbrunn Palace for a nice mid day drink. We recommend trying any of their beers, but especially the Marzen and the Hefeweizen!
◊ 1516 – This was the epitome of a hipster microbrew, but it was some of the best beer we had in Vienna! You’ve got to try the goulash, the fried cheese, and the bangers and mash paired with the Wit and Pale Ale!
◊ Street Sausages at Biltzinger – We found this little sausage stand near the Albertina and there’s also a bigger restaurant within the city of Vienna. The best kinds of foods are the ones you find on the streets, amiright? Gotta try a street sausage with some mustard, or you just haven’t lived!
things we missed
◊ Albertina – The Albertina museum houses one of the largest print catalog in the world with works from such artists like Klimt, Monet, and Picasso. This building is also the southern part of the old Imperial Palace, on one of the last remaining fortress walls in Vienna.
◊ Vienna State Opera – If we would’ve had even just a day more in Vienna we would have tried more to get into the Opera House. This historic building houses some pretty cool history and even more beautiful architecture worth standing in line for. We just realistically didn’t have the extra time to do it, otherwise this was top of the list! If you have an extra couple of hours and want a cheap date in Vienna, you can snag yourself standing room only tickets for about $5. You’ll find the ticket booth to the left of the building and they open 90 minutes before the show, although you might want to get there a bit sooner since people line up early! The interior alone will be worth the wait, but if you don’t make it for a show you can also take a tour of the opera separately. The Opera is closed in July and August.
◊ State Hall of the National Library – We walked past the building on our walking tour so we got to know a little about the history but never got a chance to go inside. It is also located in the former Imperial Palace, with many beautiful rooms to admire and 200,000 books published from 1501 and 1850.
◊ Rathaus – The City Hall in Vienna is one of the important Neo-Gothic, non-religious buildings, and it is beautiful! We were pretty bummed to miss this one but we’ll have to go next time! There are free guided tours offered Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
◊ Grinzing – This “Wine Village” as its known as is a popular destination for day trips since it’s not far from the main train station. It has preserved the old historic, small town character and is chalk full of wineries and vineyards to get your wine on!
◊ Day trip to Bratislava – We really, really wanted to make a trip to Bratislava, but we were already on course for 13 countries during this Europe trip and we just couldn’t make it happen. If you have more time in Vienna though, you should try to make it to the capital of Slovakia and then tell us all about it! Plus, it’s less than an hour train ride to see the lively and underrated city, so why even hesitate?
We know we missed so much in Vienna, so what else do we have to see on our next visit? Let us know in the comments below!