History and lore, palaces and jewels, Roman ruins and ancient libraries, art nouveau treasures and exquisitely designed gardens- Vienna has it all. From Empress Elisabeth to Gustav Klimt, the history and people of this highly underrated city easily hold their own against the splendor of Paris and the storied history of London. This is a city that must be seen to be believed.
If I had to pick out just one wonderful thing to tell guests about Vienna, I would have to say that its prepossessing architecture stands out as the true masterpiece of the city. What’s wonderful about Vienna is how insanely simple it is to access these beautiful buildings. The Ringstraße, (in English, the “Ring Road”), is a 5.3 km stretch of road absolutely inundated with true architectural marvels that can be visited by tram or by foot. It’s literally been dubbed the “Lord of the Ring Roads” because of the sheer number of textbook-worthy examples of varied architectural designs. It’s worth walking it just so you can stop whenever something strikes your fancy; whether it be the stunning Neo-Renaissance University of Vienna, a Neo-Gothic masterpiece such as the Votive Church, or a Neo-Romantic powerhouse such as the State Opera. More inclined towards the bright and bold? Check out the stunning examples Viennese Art Nouveau scattered along the Ringstraße and then swing by the Belvedere for the largest collection of Klimt you’ll find anywhere.
Vienna is a game changer. You don’t think you’re interested in architecture? Vienna will change your mind. Don’t think that the history of the Austria-Hungarian Empire is particularly interesting? Wrong again. Vienna’s museums bring history to life in a way comparable only to the Louvre. Austrian food doesn’t particularly appeal to you? Cuisine from every nation as well as the best of traditional Austrian food give Vienna a competitive edge in the international food scene. Nightlife? Parties? Check. Vienna was ranked the Most Livable City in the World EIGHT TIMES in a row out of 231 worldwide cities. This oft-overlooked city is an explosion of history and culture that deserves your time. Enough gushing. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Odds & Ends
Vienna is divided into 23 districts that sorta seem to go clockwise… it’s questionable. I’ve included a map of the districts so you have some idea of what you’re dealing with. Hats off to The Travelettes blog for the image.
How do you pay?
Austria is on the Euro. Prices here are very reasonable, and typically cash or card is accepted.
The link to the city card is here.
This is a card I would consider well worth your money, as there is very little you should skip out on in Vienna and the cost of one adult ticket is only 13.50 Euro.
Where to Stay?
That’s a discussion in and of itself. The blog we primarily used as a reference is found here.
It was extremely helpful, and I’m at great risk of plagiarizing someone else’s hard work if I try to explain it myself. In Vienna, it’s much easier to suggest where NOT to go than to list the seemingly endless possibilities of where you should lodge. That being said, the one place I was hard pressed to find anyone recommend was District 10. I read so.many. articles and reviews about lodging in Vienna and the same few districts kept popping up as winners- 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 13, and 19.
I will say that we ended up staying in Innere Stadt (Vienna 1) and had very mixed feelings about it. We booked a room at the Pension Liechtenstein (check their site out here) and were very happy with the pension itself- it was quiet & seemed very safe. The room was affordable and we very rarely took the tram anywhere since we were within walking distance to almost everything but Schonbrunn Palace. The breakfast was delicious, the staff very accommodating, and the service at meals was absolutely excellent. In that sense, the pension itself was a great choice. However, outside of the breakfast provided by the pension, finding affordable food was a bit more difficult than we had hoped (delicious food was readily available, but the price left much to be desired) and the Innere Stadt really had a sterile feeling to it. It didn’t feel alive, and if you’re a newcomer to Vienna it can make you feel like it’s time to get up and leave before you’ve even had a chance to see anything. If you’re directionally challenged, you may end up wandering around the part of Vienna 1 that is mostly hotels, tourist shops, and offices. That’s such a waste of time when the heart of Vienna is so close. Just be aware of those pitfalls before you book. The bonus is the proximity of the region to Hofburg Palace, the Ring Road, St. Stevens, and other must-see items on any tourists list.
For those staying at the Pension Liechtenstein who want a relaxed night in: There was an Italian place across the street from the Pension (Pizzeria da Luigi), and a burger joint (The Burger Bar) a couple doors past that. Both of those were excellent. The Italian gentlemen who runs the Pizzeria da Luigi makes a mean gorgonzola gnocchi if that’s your thing.
As for food in general- you’ll pay a lot more if you stay and eat in the Innere Stadt, however, there are some truly world class restaurants in that region. That’s the cool thing about Vienna- if you want award-winning, Michelin-level cuisine, you’ll find it. Street food? Sure! A beer garden with mid-range food? They’re everywhere. You’ll find that. Vienna is a place where it’s extremely beneficial to plan your meals. There are hundreds of equally delicious options, so it’s really in your best interest to have a plan. An easy rule of thumb is to determine what district you’re planning on being in each day around dinner, and pick food based on that.
Your best bet for cafes and relaxed hang-outs is the uber hip 7th district, home to some of Vienna’s most fabulous fashion and modern cafes. In addition, the 7th district (think Museum Quarter) has some of the best hidden beer gardens, tucked into narrow alleyways and around corners of streets you think must have already ended. The Naschmarkt is part open market/part restaurant row that features cheap fresh fruits and veggies and a diverse offering of delectable cuisine running through the fourth and sixth districts. There are alot of other hidden cafes and bars throughout the city, but hopefully this gets you up and running. The next article will focus on can’t miss activities for your trip. Best of luck!