I recently spent 3 weeks travelling in Poland, Czech Republic and Austria, with Vienna being my last stop. Having travelled solo for the rest of the trip, I met up with a friend in Vienna for the last 72 hours in Vienna. When I’m travelling solo I tend to feel the need to pack in as much as possible and wear myself out. Having a friend there made me relax a bit more, which is probably in part why I enjoyed Vienna so much.
Vienna was my favourite stop of the trip. The weather was wonderful (at least for Europe in Autumn and compared to all the rain I saw in Poland and Prague) and I slowed down and smelt the roses. I knew as soon as I arrived that I would be returning to Vienna; it just spoke to me.
So this was technically my second day in Vienna, but the first day was spent travelling and being completely exhausted. I had a quick evening stroll around Naschmarket (where my hostel was) after writing off the day for sightseeing. The next day, I had a chilled morning waiting for my friend to arrive and had a proper look around the markets.
The market is open every day except Sunday until 9pm (6 on Saturday) and the food stands stay open until 11pm. It is most bustling on Saturdays, when they hold a weekly flea market. More info on food places etc here.
I was lucky to have it on my doorstep for the day, and really recommend it. It’s a great spot, whether you want to do a spot of souvenir shopping or buy some fresh groceries. You can even try some street food or even sit down for more of a restaurant/bar vibe.
After a bit of wandering and munching in Naschmarkt I headed towards St Stephen’s Cathedral to while away some time waiting for my friend. I didn’t get time to climb the tower but I had a look inside and admired the beautiful tiled roof.
What struck me about the whole square was the pretty architecture of all the buildings, even on regular shopping streets.It was busy, but not in a suffocating way that I’ve found in smaller, more touristic cities, like Prague for example. Vienna seemed a lot larger, more open and a bit more relaxed.
Graben & Pestsäule
Just across from Stephansplatz, Graben was my favourite street in the city centre. I love the elegant architecture and the buildings just seemed to absorb the sunlight in the prettiest way.
I had no idea what this decadent monument was when I started taking photos of it, I just thought it looked pretty. It was only later that I discovered that it was erected to mark the end of the Great Plague in Vienna. Suddenly it seems a lot less glamorous, but I still like it!
Prater & the Giant Ferris Wheel
I met up with my friend in the afternoon at Prater, as it seemed like the perfect place to start our Vienna trip. I’ll be honest, I was expecting a big open park with a few rides, and was surprised to find a whole theme park. There is a larger park around the outside, but we spent our time wondering round the fun park before our Airbnb check in in Schönbrunn.
The park is completely free to enter and walk around, you just pay for the individual rides you want to go on. It was a great, relaxed way to spend a sunny afternoon, having a bit of a picnic and of course going on the iconic Ferris wheel! You have to in Vienna, right?! It was fun to see a lot of people dressed in their leiderhosen and drindles for Oktoberfest too.
Prater is home to one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, which was opened in 1895. A lot of the attractions at the park have survived most of this time. The wheel was destroyed by bombings during World War II and was reconstructed, using only 15 of the 30 gondolas.
The Ferris wheel costs €12 to ride. This was worth it in my opinion, given the history of the wheel and views at the top of the Vienna skyline. We weren’t expecting the super cute little museum that we got to go around before entering the ride, but it was a lovely touch. Set out with a circus-like interior, you get to learn a brief history of Vienna and the wheel through miniature models with mechanical moving figures. Each model is in its own gondola, which are the remaining restored ones that were not returned to the wheel for use.
The view from the top, when golden hour hit, was breathtaking. You know that feeling when time stops and the suns on your face and you feel really happy and at peace in that moment? This.
Whilst we were waiting we saw what looked like some vip gondolas with a fancy set table. There was a kitchen booth opposite passing food and drink into it – it looked like a caruriage you can hire out for special occasions. We imagined that the top of the wheel at sunset would be a romantic spot!
Sunset in Naschmarkt
After heading back to my hostel we had another walk through Naschmarkt and picked up some food for dinner. We called it a day to this beautiful sunset (unedited!)
Schönbrunn Palace Gardens
It would have been a shame to be staying in Schönbrunn and not visit the palace, so off we went after a lazy morning in the airbnb. We opted not to visit the Schönbrunn Palace interior, but it’s completely free to walk around the endless grounds. They are pristinely maintained and decorated with some lavishly ornate sculptures and fountains. You could spend hours walking and chatting here. It’s no wonder the locals were walking their dogs and running in the various park routes. Imagine having that on your doorstep.
Walk down the avenues of perfectly preened trees and up a slight incline to the glorietta for a panoramic view of vienna, before walking back down towards the pristine palace lawns.
It was the perfect place to get that “hey I’m at a palace” shot. Watch out for the garden police, whose job seems to be riding around on a bike, stopping people like me from posing on the grass! One man rode up to me whilst I was sat *just* on the very edge of the grass and stopped abruptly right in front of me, splashing pebbles about and looking very intimidating. He didn’t have to say anything, I got the message!
There are several other things to do on the grounds, such as the zoo, Palm House indoor gardens and cafés.
Street Art Passage, Museum Quarter
After Schönbrunn and before our evening tour, we went looking for street art in the Museum Quarter. I was expecting more pieces than we saw, but we were short for time so may have missed some bits.
The above wasn’t part of the street art passage, but we spotted it outside of a nursery on our way to the passage. I like the swirly patterns and thought it deserved a mention. What sold it for us was the rogue baby’s head jutting out of the wall!
Evening Old Town Walking Tour
We finished off the day with a free walking tour of Old Vienna from Prime Tours. Our guide was very knowledgeable on the history of the city, particularly the old royal family the Habsburgs. It was nice to explore the city at night and see the sky change with the impressive architecture in the foreground. It’s also a good way to see some main sights and get your bearings of the city.
The tour but included the Hofburg palace buildings and St Stephen’s Cathedral. My favourite parts were the unusual facts, such as background on the Sacher cake lawsuit and hearing that Queen Sisi was addicted to cocaine and went for 9 hour walks. Rather her than me!
Museum of Applied Arts
The Museum of Applied Arts (a.k.a. MAK) is a very large and impressive museum that showcases design elements from different points of history. This includes baroque furniture, Asian pottery, and Venetian lace. The MAK design lab on the basement level is more contemporary and interactive. It features various inventions created to solve a particular problem. Some, on the other hand, are more artistic and a comment on society. For example, below mechanical hand reaching for money that’s just out of grasp. I’m sure everyone can relate to that!
Trying Sacher Torte
So after hearing about the Sacher Hotel, who were responsible for the world’s longest cake related law suit over the rights to the origins of the cake, I had to try this famous cake. As you can tell by the name, the Sacher Hotel won the lawsuit and claims to be where the recipe originated.
Sadly I didn’t get to sample the OG Sachertorte at the hotel this time round, but I made sure I sampled it before leaving Vienna. It’s a rich chocolate cake with apricot jam sandwiched in between its layers. It’s nicer than it sounds, trust me! Reminded me of Jaffa Cakes.
A Walk Along the Danube River
After hunting for souvenirs and some wafer shopping in the Manner store In Stephansplatz, we had a night-time walk along the Danube before retiring to our Airbnb for the last time. We had to get up at an ungodly hour (3:30AM) for our flight the next day!
Getting Around Vienna
A lot of the centre is walkable but you’ll probably need to use public transport at some point during your Vienna stay. Even if you do stay centrally, it will come in useful for visiting sights like Prater or Schönbrunn Palace. I bought a 72 hour travel pass via the WienMobil App, which cost me around €17. I worked it out and I would have spent more than that on individual subway trips so it worked out well for me. You can also use the pass on buses and trains.
We were suprised to find there were no barriers in the underground stations, but it’s always worth avoiding a fine from a train inspector. There are 24h and 48h passes too, as well as a week long pass. There is also an option to add on the CAT train from the airport. You can also get the S7, as we soon figured out that the CAT doesn’t run before 6am!
Another option is the Vienna City card for 24, 48 or 72h. It covers unlimited transport as well as some discounts and offers to main attractions. We decided to pass on it as we didn’t think we’d get full use out of it in the 2.5 days, but I think it could be worth it if you make sure you go to enough of the places. There’s also a Vienna Pass that fully covers your entry to various attractions but is, understandably, a lot more expensive.
Getting to Vienna
See above section for getting to and from the airport. I arrived by train from Prague to the main station. From there you can take the underground or get a taxi to where you’re staying. I had issues trying to get an Uber from the station as they all kept cancelling; it must have been a difficult place to stop. I ended up getting a taxi from the rank outside the station instead. It cost about €25 to Naschmarkt. I had my massive backpack weighing me down and couldn’t wait to flop on my bed and stay there.
Common places to travel from to Vienna (and vice versa) include:
- Prague – the fastest route (after car or flying) is a train that takes just over 4h
- Bratislava is a popular trip from Vienna and can be reached via train, coach or boat, all in under 1h30
- Budapest to Vienna can be done in 2h30 by train
- Salzburg, another beautiful city in Austria is only 2h30 away by train
Where to Stay in Vienna
I can recommend Wombats Hostel Naschmarkt, where I stayed alone for my first night in a private room. The location was great, with a cool market right across the street that’s open into the night. There is an Aldi (‘Hofer’ in Austria) right next to the hostel as well as several Asian mini-markets and restaurants. The Naschmarkt underground station is also within eyesight distance (a few minutes walking). Stephansplatz is also within walking distance.
The hostel itself has a great vibe, and the bar is great! You get a voucher for a free small beer, wine or juice when you arrive, which is a nice touch. I’m fairly shy with new people and was exhausted but I went down there thinking I should take advantage of my free beer. I ended up accidentally crashing someone’s pub quiz team, and we won and got a tray free shots! More booze than I bargained for but I had a blast and met some cool people. It seemed to cater for everyone, whether you want to do a quiz, have a beer and go to bed or get wasted and go out (guilty of the former)! It’s also got a great chill out area and luggage storage after checkout.
The Airbnb in Schönbrunn was a great location too and within walking distance to the palace.
Thanks for Reading!
Though I didn’t get around all the must sees in my flying visit, I hope to return soon! I hope you enjoyed reading about my Vienna experience and found out some useful tips for a city break there. If you want more city break content, checkout my blog posts on Prague, Gdańsk and Milan. Comment if you liked it and follow my travel journey on Instagram and Pinterest.