IN A WORD: Eclectic
IDEAL FOR: The Art Lovers
Ohhhh Vieeeennnaaa….If like us, you’d only heard of Vienna due to Ultravox then you’ll also land on Austria’s doorstep unsure what to expect. From the architecture to café culture, graffiti to Gustav Klimt, the city was an eclectic array of old meets new. From outdoor opera in Summer to the world famous Christmas market in Winter – Vienna ticks all boxes. We sang and we schnitzel’d our way round this stunning city. Ideal city escape for art lovers, food lovers or just you know, lover lovers.
How much to budget for Vienna
Our budget was £70 per day (for both of us) our actual spend was £98 per day. This was due to us having limited time so sticking to the super touristy stuff which we wanted to tick off our bucketlist. It is definitely possible to do it cheaper if you search for the hidden gems.
We spent £12 each on a 48 hour unlimited travel cards as it worked out cheaper. As we’d never been on a tram before (yes, we’re that weird) and the Wiener Linien 48 hour pass allowed transport on trams and trains we felt it was the best way to explore the city (Available here).
Best accommodation in Vienna
Vienna is a pricey place to sleep, but we found a funky little gem that deserves a solid 5 gold stars/pat on the back/10 points to Gryffindor. Meininger Hotel Wien Downtown Franz is a modern mix of hostel meets hotel with quirky decor and contemporary areas to work and chill.
It also has the bonus of a well equipped kitchen if you wanna save the pennies and cook your own meals. We were there for 2 nights booked through Booking.com for £40.28 per night.
They also allowed us to leave our luggage in a secure room all day as the bus to our next destination didn’t leave until 7:30pm. The area was also within walking distance to the canal, underground station and a mere 22 minutes to Stephansplatz.
Recommended restaurants in Vienna
Visiting Vienna without sampling Schnitzel, is like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. So, for once in our lives we actually did a little research on where the best schnitzel spot may be and discovered the top two. We rocked up at Purstner only to be told there’s no room at the inn (cue angry “told you we should’ve booked” frowns from a starving Daz.) However, it was a blessing in disguise as our next choice Figlmuller was perfect, so we believe it was fate and all that mystical jazz.
Figlmuller has two locations – Figlmuller Wollzeile & Figlmuller Backerstrasse. We arrived at Wollzeile to be told it was full (now cue Darren’s feed me or I’m going to die face) however its a short 5 minute walk to their sister venue – Backerstrasse – so our Schnitzel mission was finally over.
Darren opted for veal schnitzel and I’d pork. To us, they tasted very similar and we struggled to finish they were that big. Served with two rather large beers because, Austria and a side salad because, balance. The waiter was particularly friendly, even offering us a balcony table when it became available but we enjoyed our cosy quiet spot at the back.
Although slap bang in tourist trap territory at Stephansplatz, Aida Café was so retro, pink and insta-worthy Darren got dragged in a tad against his will. That was until he saw the library of desserts and cakes that Mr Kipling could only dream of. Even for a self-confessed cake queen, it took a good 20 minutes to make a decision. As I was leaving/dragged from the premises I snapped a photo from the top of the stairs and noticed even her socks were pink – WHERE DO I HAND MY CV?!
Recommended bars in Vienna
No trip to Vienna would be complete without sampling a beer or two. What surprised us was the level of head the Austrian beers had. An unusual proportion of the glass was froth which we thought to be a one off thing, but it seemed to be the norm compared to our frown-at-froth ways at home.
We particularly enjoyed Ottakringer which was common in the majority of eateries and bars.
Things to do in Vienna
On the Beaten track: Vienna’s architecture squeals splendour and the jewel in the crown is definitely Schönbrunn Palace. Take the Underground line U4 or Tram 10 & 60 and get off at Schönbrunn (easy to remember, that one.) The 1,441-room Baroque dwelling offers a variety of tours & tickets. All are equally magnificent but, with a rather magnificent price tag of €17 – €21 (each) depending on the tour you choose. According to reviews however, it is the second most popular thing to do in Vienna, so it’s probably worth the pennies.
If *attempting* to budget like us, we’d highly recommend the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace. They are stunning all year round, whether in bloom in spring, or under a blanket of Autumn leaves like our pics below. The majority you can explore for free or for much smaller fees – the maze is €5.50, the impressive Goriette €3.80, Orangery also €3.80 and there is even a zoo on the palace grounds!
You probably now want to know what the number 1 most popular thing to do in Vienna is. The top spot goes to exploring the city centre known as Stephansplatz. It is home to St Stephen’s Cathedral which at 136m tall (at its tallest bell tower) is pretty hard to miss wherever you are in the city.
There is a small fee (approx €5) to climb the 343 steps, arriving at Türmerstube (The Watchman’s Tower.) From here, you can people spot the crowds at Stephansplatz from above.
If a dark narrow staircase isn’t your cup of tea, exploring from the outside is just as beautiful. The roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral has shining, colourful roof tiles which showcase the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna.
It is possible to view inside without paying the entrance fee, the fee is if you wish to explore the towers only.
The Belvedere consists of two Baroque palaces, Orangery and Palace Stables and is home to the largest collection of Gustav Klimt artwork in the world. The entrance fees are divided into the areas you wish to see – Belvedere upper is €15 (this is where you can view The Kiss) and Belvedere lower is €13. You can purchase a combined ticket for €22 (saving €6).
Although when it comes to alcohol or spa days we throw money away without a second thought, paying to see paintings takes some persuasion.
Fortunately, The Kiss is my favourite painting in the world so Darren needed less persuasion than usual.Unlike the Mona Lisa in Paris where the tiny painting is hidden behind glass (and hundreds of selfie stick waving tourists) the Belvedere was relatively quiet and you were able to get up close to all artwork.
Even if Klimt is not your thing, its worth the entry fee for the ceilings alone, we’ve seen the Sistine Chapel in Rome and found The Belvedere’s more breathtaking (and with no queue!)
Off the Beaten track: After a morning of art snobbery and splendour its time to head for a spot that’s not always mentioned in the guide books. From Stephansplatz take U3 to Schlachthausgasse and walk along the vibrant walls that line the Danube Canal.
This is where the eclectic mix of romantic Vienna meets urban art, creating unrivaled views. If time is limited and you are unable to admire the walls in their entirety head between Schwedenplatz and Schottenring. If time is on your side however there is so much to explore. Pack the sunscreen and head to the sandbank beaches (yes beaches in Vienna) or for night life there’s numerous boat parties such as Badeschiff a canal boat club with a pool.
*A sneaky little tip* Chances are if you know one thing about Vienna it’s that the city is renown for opera. If there’s a second thing you know, it’s that opera isn’t cheap, especially on a backpacker budget. *Waves magic wand* taaada, well my friend you can actually enjoy one of Vienna’s famous operas for as little as €3? Yup, for less than the cost of a cappuccino you can attend one of the most iconic venues and tick a world renowned show off the bucketlist by turning up 90 minutes early and grabbing a last minute standing ticket. Take a peek here for how to make those bargain seats yours!
Best photo spots in Vienna
Just realised how arty farty this post has become (you were warned it’s one for the art lovers.) We have time to squeeze in one final favourite Austrian artist- Hundertwasser. Since studying The Lollipop Trees in High School his colourful and childlike style has always fascinated me. Even if you thought Hundertwasser House was named after a football player (Darren, looking at you) it is worth a visit regardless.
Designed with the help of architect Josef Krawina, it is located in the the Landstraße district on the corner of Kegelgasse and Löwengasse. The bold exterior, colourful curves and likely bus tour or two will instantly grab your attention. Access to the building itself is limited as it’s mainly apartments and offices however there are unique little gift shops and a cafe all following the vibrant Hundertwasser theme. Definitely a worthy snap stop.
For more photos of our adventure in Austria, please take a peek at our gallery.
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