Did you know Billy Joel wrote a song about Vienna? If you didn’t (or even if you did) it’s worth a listen.
Day 1-2 – Vienna: You’re so beautiful to look at it hurts…my wallet
Vienna, Austria! We heard so much about you we had to check you out for ourselves, and you didn’t disappoint. First of all, getting here was easy. We hopped on a train in Budapest and next thing we know we’re having lunch in Vienna (as per usual we used the blog The Man in Seat 61 to figure out how to book the cheapest tickets). The ride from Budapest was only two hours and $53 CAD/person. The first thing we did when we arrived at the main train station was buy a 48-hour metro pass for $36 CAD/ticket. It was really nice to have an unlimited pass, this way we weren’t constantly looking for change or waiting in lines to purchase tickets. Once you validate the ticket, you’re free to hop on and off all metros, trams, and buses. This seems to be the way that many metros work in European cities. Just be sure to have your ticket on you at all times in case you ever do get checked by authorities, which we never encountered. Pro-tip – You can purchase another city pass which includes the metro pass, but you also get discounts and benefits to museums, theaters, concerts, restaurants, and cafes.
We stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner ($80 CAD/night for a private room), which was a great hostel for many reason. Number one, because it was really close to a metro line, but a close second was that it had its own bar and craft beer on site! They also had a happy-hour every night and the atmosphere was great for socializing with other travelers. It also had a fully equipped kitchen and bikes for rent on-site. We’d definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for somewhere relatively inexpensive to stay, by Viennese standard, and wanting to socialize.
We quickly realized that we had left the low-cost living of Eastern Europe behind. Prices for accommodations, food, and activities increased to about the same as back home, if not higher. Also, we found that Vienna doesn’t have quite the party scene you might see in other European countries. We were surprised to see that most bars/restaurants close at 10-11 PM. There’s a noise by-law that kicks in at 10 PM. Even our hostel bar had to shut all the doors and windows at this time.
You Said It…Free Walking Tour!
First things first, we went on the usual walking tour. This time, we joined Good Vienna Tours and registered in advance, like the website asked. We met our guide in front of the Albertina, however, so did about 100 other people. It was a little crazy, and had we not ditched the tour in Budapest we would’ve skipped this one as well, but we decided to soldier on.
The tour guides started the monumental task of separating the mass of people. Kik was losing his mind watching the guides trying to divide the large group up. He felt like screaming, “It’s alright, step out-of-the-way, I’m a Phys Ed Teacher!” Once things settled, we were organized in a large group of 40 and were off to explore Vienna’s city centre. The tour was pretty good, not the best, not the worst. Vienna has an incredibly rich history and the architecture is really incredible, especially the Hofburg Imperial Palace. You also visit the site where Mozart is buried, but sadly he died alone and penniless. He was buried in a mass grave and the exact grave is unknown.
Even after the 2.5 hour walking tour we kept wandering through the streets, checking out the famous coffee houses and admiring all the desserts.
A Day Off The Beaten Path
After reading a few suggestions from other bloggers, we planned this day to explore the rest of the city. For starters, we wanted to try some of the desserts that Vienna is famous for. We were going to try the Sacher Cake at Hotel Sacher, which is probably the most renown dessert, but neither of us like fruit flavored chocolate…and it’s a chocolate cake with apricot. We decided to expend our calories elsewhere. We started with a Krapfen, a famous Vienna dessert, at the Groissböck. It’s basically a doughnut, but there’s never been a doughnut we didn’t like. We also got a Schaumrolle, which is basically a flaky tube of dough filled with that jarred marshmallow fluff you see in the supermarket but never buy because it just seems too horrible for you. Well, we tried it and Clair gives it a 10/10 (Kik – that’s absurd!).
We then headed to the Weiner market. You can find all sorts of specialty shops here: cheese, meats, dried fruits, herbs, wine, etc., but buyer beware, it was expensive! We found loads of items that we saw in other countries for a quarter of the price. The other difference is that there doesn’t seem to be any chance to barter. Even so, we grabbed a few items to complement our charcuterie that we would have that evening. By the time we finished the market, the sun was shining bright and we needed something to quench our thirst. Water just wasn’t cutting it. We walked literally across the street and grabbed some wine and beer for probably ½ the price as it was in the market.
We carried on with our adventure to check out the bizarre architecture made by Hundertwasser. His inspiration for the funky design was to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of the straight line and reconnect with the fluidity of nature, by creating uneven surfaces.
While heading back in the direction of our hostel, we grabbed a bite to eat at a random restaurant that we saw on the side of the road. It was a really good choice and had some really authentic Viennese food. The schnitzels were the side of our heads! Our kind of place.
Our time in Vienna was too short, and we wish we’d had more time to hang out at Café Central or check out some of the museums (there are so many!). Also, we would have loved to head up to Salzburg to check out the Sound of Music Tour (Kik – Huh? We would have?) It’s an easy train ride from Vienna and was highly recommended to us. Sadly, time is working against us.
We grabbed one more great coffee and the largest piece of cake we’d ever seen at Pure Living Bakery. If you have time, it would be totally worth while to check out the trendy Burgasse Street (district 7) for some cool vintage stores. We walked in one store which looked like a scene out of Austin Powers, even the clerk looked like Basil Exposition. With no time remaining to further explore, we had to split in order to catch our train for Munich.
Vienna is an incredibly beautiful and clean city. We can see why it’s consistently considered one of the most livable cities in the world. For cash-strapped travelers it’s a little bit harder to enjoy the finer things in life that Austria has to offer. We also wish we could’ve gotten out of the city and enjoyed the countryside.
Next stop: Munich, Germany!