Vienna City Break Guide: Highlights and local tips
I am not sure what excites me the most about Vienna; Is it the baroque architecture, the cute coffee shops or the incredible art scene ? The sophisticated capital of Austria won’t let you down. I was lucky enough to have a really good local friend ( Hello Marlies! ) who has been really generous with her time to show us some of the highlights of the beautiful city in such a short time. While reading this article, keep in mind that this guide includes real local Vienna tips.
Before visiting Vienna, I was keep questioning whether I’d be lucky enough to witness some snow. Marlies was sweet enough to organize a quick trip to a ski resort not very far from Vienna but on our last day we woke up to a Winter Wonderland.”It’s a winter miracle for you!” – Marlies said. And I agreed, cause it’s somehow cool for an Islander to see a city covered in snow. If only I’d knew how terribly sick I’d get by the time I went home – but that’s a story for another day!
Getting to and from Vienna International Airport is fairly easy. But be aware that there is a catch while using the train. There are two trains, only that one is very expensive and it’s the one they advertise they most in the airport. So be careful and don’t fall in the trap!
Take the S7 which costs only €3.90 from the airport. The CAT (where all the signs guide you too at the airport) costs €11 or €17 for a return. I would advise to check google maps and write down your hotel/hostel to get the exact directions. The metro in Vienna is really well connected and you will have no trouble finding your way around.
The last time I visited Vienna, was through Budapest. €50 return ticket from Cyprus to Budapest, and €200 return trip from Vienna, so do the maths. If you are planning to visit Vienna check out flights to Budapest too, might be a lot cheaper and you can visit both cities. Then, we took a bus with Student Agency, and the ticket was just €9. The trip lasted only 2 and a half hours and to my surprise coffee was included along with in-flight entertainment(wifi, movies etc). So If you are travelling around Europe, you should definitely consider the possibility of moving around with a bus. If you are looking for the best rates, I would recommend GoEuro as it compares fares between each company. It could be much more convenient than flying and a lot more cheaper as you can see!
Within the City
Vienna has one of the most efficient transportation systems in Europe. You should definitely get the 24/48 or 72 hour pass to explore the best of Vienna . The 24 hours pass costs just €7.60 with unlimited rides. When I use public transportation in Europe, I always use Google Maps for the best navigation advice and 99% of the times is always accurate. Most of the metro stations in Vienna, offer free wifi too!Also, you can also consider using Uber or local taxis.
Things to See in Vienna
Even If Vienna is relatively a really big city, the main attractions are generally located close to each other , making it very easy to visit in a such a short period of time. Below, I have listed my favorite things to see in the city. Take a look on the list and decide to visit your favorites.
Stephansdom – St. Stephens Cathedral
This gorgeous Gothic masterpiece can be found at the heart of Vienna and you can simply enjoy observing it for hours as it’s equally beautiful inside and out. Going up its spiral towers is a cool experience that offers you the best panoramic views of the city. The left tower, includes an elevator to the top and the right could be accessed by the staircase. The right tower is said to be higher than the left, although it takes approximately 10 minutes to reach the top by stairs, and It’s a bit of a work to make it on the top! If you prefer something more convenient, you can always use the elevator on the left tower which also has stunning views. But the views are breathtaking so If you are looking for the best place for panoramic views of the city, that’s the perfect spot for you!
Price: €5.50 Adults/ Kids: €2
This historic palace used to serve as a residence to the Austrian royals. Inside, you can see a really great art collection which is worth a visit If you are an art enthusiast and not only – as it has a really beautiful interior. Around the Belvedere, you can find a gorgeous park that includes a garden, fountains and even some interesting statues. The beauty of the gardens wasn’t perfectly reflected during January, although it has to be quite beautiful to visit during the warmer months.
Price: €15 for Upper Belvedere, €13 for Lower Belvedere and €22 for both. Special discounts to students and seniors and free entrance to kids and teenagers.
Prater Public Park
This beautiful,historic park is located in the outskirts of the city center and It’s the perfect place to spend a family afternoon and not only – this place is great for adults too. Inside, you can find the famous Wiener Riesenrad – the 212 ft tall ferris wheel that gives you some of the best views of the surrounding area! There is also a small museum upon entrance that shows the history of this place which is pretty interesting since it was built in 1897, survived a fire and a bombing during WW2. Later, it was fully repaired and restored and is still in use today.
Price: Free Admission to the Park
Wiener Riesenrad: €10 Adults/ €4.50 Kids
Austrian National Library – Österreichische
If you are a bookworm and enjoy visiting libraries then you should definitely not miss out on this majestic library. It gives me the Hogwarts feels and is one of Vienna’s hidden treasures! Distressed wooden displays and old globes, marble statues and gorgeous frescoes. As well as plenty of “instagrammable” sights there are some interesting historical artifacts and explanations of the life of the royals. If you are interested in art, history or books this baroque masterpiece should not be missed on. It only takes 10-15 minutes to explore the entire chamber and it’s only a five minute walk from the central square, Stephansplatz.
Price: €7 Adults
The library of Vienna University
This huge building is the main library of the University of Vienna. I am not sure If it’s obvious enough, but I love libraries! Whenever I visit a new city, I am on the hunt for the coolest library in every city and so Marlies ( my local friend) brought me here. So If you are a library enthusiast and you can spare some more time in Vienna, you should definitely check this library out! Needless to mention that there is a free entrance too, it’s a university library after all! Although, you have to leave your stuff in the lockers before you enter.
Naschmarkt – Vienna’s Flea Market
Everyone in Vienna knows Naschmarkt! It’s the most popular flea market where you can find anything ; from flower stalls, flower shops, oriental shops , restaurants and even bars! The history of this places takes you back to the 16th century – yes that’s right, the very same market has been operating in Vienna for centuries and it has over 120 market stands! The culinary choices are endless ; ranging from Viennese to Indian, from Vietnamese to Italian.
The famous Viennese Chocolate Cake at Café Sacher
Have you heard of the famous Sachertorte chocolate cake? Its recipe is one of Vienna’s well kept secret since 1832 and was invented by Franz Sacher for Prince Wenzel von Metternich. Café Sacher is located at the ground floor of the luxurious Sacher Hotel and welcomes thousands of customers every day who rush to try the Viennese specialty. In fact, it’s the most iconic pastry in Vienna. Sachertorte is a chocolate sponge cake with a layer of apricot jam and a coated dark chocolate gaze. Even If I am a chocoholic, I am not going to hide my disappointment towards this overrated cake as I I thought it was too dry and not that special to me.
My absolutely favorite building in Vienna is this charming apartment house designed by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Although, It can only be seen from the outside as it is inhabited by regular people. However, right opposite the Hunderwasser House you can find the Hundertwasser Village which is open to visitors and has various shops like cafes,souvenir shops and even an exhibition space that features a permanent Hundertwassere exhibition and temporary exhibitions of other artists.
Schoenbrunn Palace is the most visited attraction in Austria and gives you the exact image of how a palace should be. It is considered the most impressive baroque Palace complex in Europe featuring really beautiful gardens , a marble summerhouse, a labyrinth and even a zoo! Although, If you decide to visit the palace, you should keep in mind that Schoenbrunn palace is not in the city center but a thirty ride away and as it is located at a hilly park, it gives you panoramic views of Vienna. If yo decide to visit this magnificent palace, be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours exploring it. The price tickets vary, depending on what you want to see upon your visit.
If Opera is in your bucket list, you should definitely pay it a visit. Here’s some really special advice for you . Whilst the guided tour at the opera could cost as much as €9, you can spend only €3 to not only see the opera, but also watch a live performance! You should browse their website, check the date you are visiting and find the show that interests you. Standing tickets go on sale 1h30 before showtime so make sure you arrive in time to make sure yo to purchase the tickets of your choice. That way, not only you get to see the beautiful building inside but you also get to watch a life Opera performance.. for only €3!
It’s not just a name – there is an entire set of museums in Vienna that you can discover in one square. We didn’t have enough time to visit any of the museums in this quarter, although we took a short stroll to explore the area and found the buildings to be quite impressive. If you are a history & art enthusiast, you should definitely check it out.
Where to stay
- During my last visit, we stayed at the Meininger Franz Hotel. Meininger Hotels are all around Europe and have really good reputation for being modern and affordable. If you are looking for something practical & clean, you should definitely consider it. There are also two more Meininger Hotels in Vienna. We found that Hotels.com had the best deal compared to Booking and their official website! (Sign up & get $50 off your first stay with Hotels.com or Sign up with booking to get €15 off on your first Booking Reservation)
- Airbnb: Good alternative to a hotel, you can stay at a local apartment for a really good price! ( Get €35 off your first stay)
- Vienna has one of the most efficient system of public transportation so it’s not necessary to stay in the center as long as there is a metro stop nearby
- Check out lastminute for last moment luxury deals
Local Vienna tips
Below I have gathered a list with some great tips gathered by locals in Vienna. If you want to experience the best of the city, take a look at the list below and start planning ahead your visit!
- Watch “Woman in Gold” before visiting Vienna to get inspired even more
- Take the tram “D” – takes you around the ring (most famous buildings are along it)
- The most incredible view is from Danube Tower & you can also have a coffee with views
- Demel : Most famous bakery in Vienna – try their apple strudel and ice cream
- NomNom Vegan bakery
- Gragger & Cie : Wood stove bakery
- Coffee Enthusiast? Then check out Coffee Pirates as it was awarded as the best coffee in Vienna
- Cafe Little Britain : Cutest British cafe -awesome for Sunday brunch
- Visit cafe Rien and have a piece of hazelnut cake
- Skip the Cafe Sacher and go straight to Cafe Central for the most delicious cakes in the city
- Cafe Hawelka : Historical cafe for an authentic Viennese experience
- Vollpesion Cafe: Designed to look like an Austrian grandma’s house and serves homemade sweets
- Schwarzenberg cafe : Traditional Viennese cafe
- The Look Bar , Dick Macks & Travel Shack – most popular bars among students and international people- cheap drinks
- Clubs: SaulenHalle , PraterDome, Pratersauna , Godmann, Jazzland (jazz club), Horst , Säulenhalle , Volksgarten Clubdiskothek & Chaya Fuera .
- Enjoy drinks at the best rooftop bars in town, including Sky Bar, 58 Bar, Dachboden, Café Bar Bloom , Atmosphere at 25 hours Hotel,
- Cool Bars: First Floor, Blue Mustard
Local Tip :Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) : Ski Resort in Vienna
One of the nearest ski resorts from Vienna, is Zaberberg which surprisingly translates to Magic Mountain! It´s relatively small but had a really good ski slope. It has been definitely one of the most fun things we did during our stay in Vienna, and ticked “Sled Run” off my bucket list!
Vienna – Hub in the heart of Europe
As Vienna is located in the heart of Europe it has a fairly easy access to some major European cities. If you are travelling to Vienna and have some extra days that you want to spend, I would recommend doing a day trip to a new country – because why not? Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia is only an hour away, Brno an hour and a half away and Budapest only 2h30. So why not considering visiting one of these European cities ?