Getting off the beaten path may be difficult in a capital city like Vienna, and if you are looking to spend little money, the only choice is to avoid both summers and winters. But it is still possible to get an indie experience in Vienna.
- Rent a bike and enjoy the city while working out. Vienna is a bike-friendly city definitely worth exploring on two wheels. Better yet, head outside the city and explore the bike trails.
- Or pack your walking shoes and enjoy the inner city. It’s pedestrian friendly and you get plenty of opportunities to take photos. Tip: stay close to Westbahnhof and you won’t need to use the public transportation unless you want to go to Prater or the Zoo.
- Catch one of the free festivals which take place in the city. Hint: head to the City Hall.
- Explore the outdoor markets. You’ll see anything from the stinky durian to the excellent Greek olives.
- Head to Prater and take a ride in the Giant Ferries Wheel. Or enjoy some of the rides in the park.
Why you should add Vienna to your RTW travel list
Of course Vienna wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of the sites that makes it famous. Here are some ideas on what to do if you’ve never been there or plan on staying for a while.
- The Ringstraße (Ring Road) is dotted with important buildings. Get a map and plan your route. If you don’t fancy walking or biking, get a travel day pass and use the tram.
- Vienna is the city of opera and theatre. But prepare to part with quite a lot of money for such an experience.
- The Rathaus (City Hall) , St. Stephan’s Cathedral and the Parliament are three of the buildings you should plan to check out.
- Schonbrun and its gardens will offer a chance to learn some history and relax. Hike up to the Gloriette, too.
- Museumquartier: if you are into history or arts, then plan to spend some time checking out at least some of the museums.
- Danube Tower offers incredible views of the city. Try bungee jumping if you are up to it.
- The food and especially the sweets: does strudel ring a bell? Try it, hot, from a bakery.
- Shopping: crisis might have closed down some of the stores, but Mariahilfer Straße and the pedestrian street around St. Stephan’s Cathedral are worth checking out. Tip: plan your visit in late summer to catch the big discounts.
Why you should not add Vienna to your RTW travel list
- The city is very popular among tourists, which means it’s quite hard to get away from them. July, August and December are the busiest months. Try to plan your visit in early Spring to avoid the huge crowds.
- The public transportation is amazing but it can surely add up. Invest in a travel card (especially if you plan to stay longer) to save some money.
Read: Vienna Waits for You.
Vienna couldn’t really be called Europe’s capital of nightlife and craziness, but as the capital of the once-dominant Austrian Empire the city offers a fascinating look into the formality and regency of Old Europe. It makes a great stop on the way from Paris, Prague, Berlin, or Venice to another spoke on that transportation wheel.
What to do
You can check out the cobblestone streets of the Inner City district and stop for a coffee at one of the many kaffeehouses that offer a sharp contrast from both Starbucks and Italy’s espresso bars. And the city boasts more than its fair share of world-class museums including many at the Imperial Palace complex that housed the regions rulers for centuries. A twenty-minute train ride away is the Schonbrunn Palace where you can tour the impressive grounds for free or pay a fee for tours of the ornate interiors.
If you are visiting other cities in Europe it may make more sense to fly into one of them and visit Vienna by train. The Austrian capital is not known as the cheapest European transport hub, but you should definitely check on prices of flights into Vienna International Airport. The city has a top-notch and efficient public transportation system, but you have to do a bit of research to save money. The airport advertises a fast train from the airport into the city called the CAT, but you can take the S-Bahn local commuter train into the center as well, and it’s much cheaper and almost as fast.
Where to stay
The cuisine of Austria tends to be similar to that of Germany, but that means excellent sausage and pastries are everywhere, and don’t forget to try the Wiener schnitzel in the city that gave the famous veal dish its name. Typical of central Europe, there are many Vienna hostels to choose from, but they can fill up fast during busy seasons. There are many hotels in Vienna from which to choose in all prices categories, but the better deals tend to be booked way ahead so don’t get caught off guard.