My favourite places in the cities I’ve lived in:
During University I spent a semester studying abroad in Vienna. I carry this amazing adventure with me everyday and I’m eternally grateful for this experience + the friends that I made! Below is a little guide to my “home #2” that I always send to people when they ask me what they should go see/eat/do:
Best/easiest way to get around the city: U-bahn, 6 lines (U1-U6) but easy to use. Most things close by 7pm, but things stay open longer in 1st district for all the tourists. The U-bahn is king.
I’ll start with all the typical “must-sees” (but really, you should actually see them as they are NECESSARY cultural experiences to your life) followed by my favourite places/things + suggestions of things I wish I had the chance to do.. but alas, winter came early :(
Schonnbrun Palace – The summer palace of the Hapsburg Monarchs. The tour of the palace is worth it (do the shorter one), everything is freakin’ beautiful inside. Outside, climb all the way to the top of the hill to get a glimpse of the palace. (U4/Green line to Schonbrunn)
Mariahilferstrasse – You probably won’t want to do that much shopping, but it’s the central shopping street in Vienna so it’s worth walking down just to see it (~2km long and it takes about 25 mins to walk down the entire thing if you don’t go into any stores). At the end of Mariahilferstrasse, it will be Museumsquartier (MQ) and there are quite tons of museums to choose from in this area. SHOULD you decide to venture into a museum (because when in Rome) my favourites were the twin museums across the street in Maria Theresien Platz where there is the Naturhistoriches Museum (Natural history, like animals and dinosaurs, insects, etc) & the Kunsthistoriches Museum (Fine arts). If anything, just lie in the grass inbetween the 2 museums, stare into the sky, and drink Ottakringer. Seriously, it’s bliss.
Hofburg Palace – Winter palace of the Hapsburg Monarchs. It was here on a balcony that Hitler announced that Vienna would be a part of the 3rd reich. This is maybe a 5-10 minute walk from MQ. It just blows my mind how much history is here. The national library is in here too.. totally forgot to check it out but it’s like, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ epic library situation.
Stephansdome – St. Stephens Cathedral is literally the centre of the city. (U1/Red line or U3/Orange line to Stephansplatz).
Opera House – DON’T buy tickets from the guys dressed up like Mozart. Go to the ticket booth at the Opera House and buy tickets there. Standing room is cheap, but it’s worth it to pay a little extra for seats.
Naschmarkt – Here you’ll find an extensive amount of fresh and exotic produce, spices, cheeses, pastries etc. Eat at Naschmarkt Deli or Neni’s if you go during the day. Then, come back at night where a small section of restaurants turn into a little strip of outdoor wine bars… super quaint and chilled out. I love. (U4/Green line to Kettenbruckengasse)
Ringstrasse – There’s a tram that goes all the way around the ring and is the easiest/fastest way to see all the beautiful buildings that surround the city centre like the Parliament building, Rathausplatz, Burg Theater, etc. you should ride the tram at night because the Ring looks the most magical when all the buildings are lit up.
Kahlenberg – This is right at the edge of Vienna and I never got to go because the weather wasn’t very nice in October, and then it snowed so it defeated the purpose of even going because there’s a restaurant with a patio with a scenic view. I’ve seen pictures and the view is amazing, you get to see the Vienna woods and an entire view of the city. You can either take a bus to the bottom of the hill and walk up, or ride the bus all the way to the top.
Okay, now my favourites:
The Danube River – Perfect picnic spot. One of my favourite moments was when we popped a squat on one of the docks, had a picnic, fed the birds, and caught the sun set. Life does not get any better than that. (U1/Red line to Donauinsel)
The film festival at Rathaus – Big outdoor film festival & they show the opera on a screen in front of Rathaus, which is their city hall. There’s a bunch of food vendors set up, tables, etc. nice place to sit and hang and eat crepes or waffles or whatever you fancy.
Neubaugasse – This street is located just off of Mariahilferstrasse and has a lot of cute little boutiques, shops, restaurants, and cafes. If the chain stores of Mariahilferstrasse aren’t your style, you’ll definitely enjoy the quaintness of Neubaugasse.
Vienna is all about their cafes & shopping. The aristocrats often go shopping and then find a cafe to chill out. Plus, it’s also the land of coffee, so you may be paying 4euro for a cup of coffee but it’s so worth it. Order wiener melange! If you go to Vienna, you MUST experience the cafe culture.
Cafe Central – Go around 5pm because there’s a piano player and it makes the experience more quaint. Their cakes/desserts are DELICIOUS and they also serve really good Wiener melange (Viennese style coffee). I LOVE their pumpkin soup (kurbiscremesuppe) it always made me feel super fancy whenever I had it, haha. Lots of tourists go here but lots of locals go here too. There might be a line when you get there, but it will go by fast. All the intellects used to hang out here back in the day… people like Sigmund Freud, Lenin, Trotsky, and even Hitler. You are in [historically] good company. (U3/Orange line to Herrengasse)
Cafe Hawelka – Less touristy, despite it’s location in 1st district. Come here after 9pm because they serve Buchteln, which is a sweet bun with plum jam filling inside. Buchteln is an Austrian delicacy and usually isn’t served in any restaurants because they’re usually only made at home. Go there at 9pm because the buns don’t actually come out of the oven until 10pm, but it will suddenly get busy before right then as the cafe will fill up with lots of locals wanting to have some Buchteln. That said, the buns will be literally be sold out in minutes! They also don’t have a menu, but you can’t go wrong with either a Wiener Melange or cappuccino. It’s about a 4-5 minute walk from Stephansdome. On that note, you should definitely see 1st district at night, it’s really magical. (U1/Red line or U3/Orange line to Stephansplatz).
To be honest, we didn’t explore the night life very much. As mentioned before, winter came early so we didn’t stray too far from our usual haunts.
Praterdome – I’ve only ever been here once but it’s one of the largest discotheques in Europe. There are 3 different rooms and each room plays different music. Every Thursday is student/ladies night so when you get there, they take your picture and give you a card with €10 already on it. Then you swipe and pay as you go at the bar. The only catch is that you pay for cover when you leave. On the upside, the bar is inside the amusement park; to get there, take a tram to Praterstern (I don’t remember which number, but it stops outside of Westbanhof). Apparently there’s also a hill somewhere here where you can lie in the grass and chill out :)
Travel Shack – This place was pretty popular with the exchange students. It’s past Westbanhof, and I’m not really sure how long the walk is as I’ve always been slightly drunk whenever I’ve gone there. But the bartenders speak english, and it’s a cool little pub to pre-game at before heading out for more shenanigans (or spend an entire night of shenanigans here). If you paint your face and take some ridiculous shots, they let you write your name on the wall.
“Bermuda Triangle” – This isn’t the name of a bar, but it’s an area in 1st district where there are a bunch little pubs and bars. It’s called “bermuda triangle” because it’s easy to get lost if you’re drunk. Sadly, we didn’t try doing the bermuda triangle because it was cold and nobody likes to be cold, lost, and drunk.
1516 – a pub type establishment where they sell a wiiiide variety of beers.
Tel Aviv – The BEACH BAR by the donau. Disclaimer: it’s not a real beach. It’s concrete with sand and beach chairs on it LOL. it’s cool though! Sit by the river, have a drink, and enjoy life because life is good.
I don’t have a ton of food suggestions because I was kind of a cheapo (hello, needed shopping & Ryanair money… priorities) & honestly, Viennese food isn’t anything AMAHZING. Like, have a schnitzel sandwich and be done with it. But here are some nice places I liked, not necessarily “Austrian” food….
Centimeter – This place is COOL! There are seven throughout the city and they’re all appropriately named Centimeter I through VII. Here you can get decently priced food in HUGE portions. It’s best to go in big groups so that you can order The Sword!! It’s schnitzel + pork chops on a sword + chili, french fries, and chicken wings. It feeds about 6 people, depending on how much you guys eat. If you’re in a small group, it won’t be as fun and you will have A LOT of leftover food. There’s one on Zieglergasse, and across the street from the U-Bahn stop Alser Strasse (U6)
The Roast – This restaurant is right across the street from WU (behind WU); I think it’s the only place in the city that sells bagels, haha. But they sell a bunch of different bagel sandwiches, coffees, and other drinks! It’s a nice place to go to for lunch.
Wine/Heuriger tour – They’ll likely serve traditional austrian food on these and it’s typically a large plate of sliced deli-style meat + cheeses. BUT THE WINE! hahaha. Don’t forget the sturm if it’s in season. Order sturm at every given opportunity possible.
Frei Raum (at the beginning of Mariahilfer) – Also a really cute place with regular people food i.e. not traditional crazy exotic foods. we’re talking like, crispy chicken salad. Chai tea. Youknow?
Paolo Bortolotti – There are at least 3 of them down Mariahilfer
Sacher Torte – Famous Viennese culinary specialty. Hotel Sacher serves the ORIGINAL Sacher Torte. It’s a very dense rich chocolate cake with apricot jam between the layers of cake. Not my fave, but a necessary cultural experience.
Kaisserschmarrn – “The Emperors Pancakes” & it’s literally just a cut up sugared pancake with raisins + cranberry sauce but it’s so light and delicious. You can get it at Palatschinken Pfandl (U1/Red line or U3/Orange line to Stephansplatz)
Eismarrillenknodel – A ball of vanilla ice cream with apricot in the middle, SOOO good. The local favorite is Kurt Tichy’s (U1/Red line to Reumannplatz) when I die, I want to be burried in Eismarrillenknodels.
Apfel Strudel – You can pretty much get this anywhere. At Schonnbrun, they teach you how to make it. I think for 8euros or something, you get wiener melange + a slice of apfel strudel + you get to watch them make it. The best apfelstrudel I ate was just outside of Salzburg (see below).
If you have time to go outside of Vienna:
Bike ride between Krem and Melk – I’m told there are special tours that leave from Vienna for this. Rural Austria is absolutely beautiful. Or do a wine/heuriger tour that goes along the Danube. If you have time, it’s definitely worth it to see rural Austria.
Salzburg – You can buy train tickets at Westbanhof (U3/Orange line). It’s a pretty little town and it’s where the Sound of Music was filmed! Strangely, the locals have never heard of the movie. If you do the tour they’ll take you to Mondsee (a small town outside of Salzburg) and you must go to Cafe BRAUN (it’s a red building with white trim and white chairs with yellow table cloth) because they serve the best apfelstrudel that I have ever tasted. You can probably do Salzburg in a day if you leave Vienna early in the morning, but stay the night in Salzburg and leave the next morning.
Itinerary planning tips:
Things that are in close proximity to one another (you could do this all on foot) :
Mariahilfer –> Naschmarkt
Mariahilfer –> Neubaugasse
Mariahilfer –> MQ
MQ — > Hofburg Palace/National Library
Hofburg –> 1st district
1st district = Stephansplatz, Cafe Central, Cafe Hawelka, Opera Haus, Palatschinken Pfandl, Hotel Sacher
Things that are kind of out of the way but still accessible via ubahn:
Belvedere Palace (i lie, not accessible by ubahn, you have to walk)