Another three days another beautiful city. I don’t know where to begin with Vienna. The beauty? The friendly residents? The food? The eye-popping palaces? The music? I am not sure which part I liked best.
It was no surprise to learn the Historic Center of Vienna is listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The incredible architecture, beauty, and history ooze out of every corner of the city. The greenery and the landscaping of this town are a visual delight. The blending of the elements helps to encourage a relaxing and enjoyable experience for everyone. We tried to visit quite a few of the main stops in the city. We weren’t able to see them all, but Vienna is one of those places we hope to visit again.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral and South Tower (Stephansdom) was worth the visit. If there is a tower to climb Matt and I will always be at the top. The views from the top of the 343 steps of the South Tower are stunning. Other notable locations to see in the area are the St. Peter’s Church, Town Square (Stephensplatz) and the Holy Trinity Plague Column. The entire Vienna Historical Center is easily walkable. I would recommend start on one side and wander around the streets and buildings heading in the direction of the other side. The Town Square offered some mouth-watering street vendors. Sausage and beer galore. Grab your food, hang out and people watch.
One of my most favorite things while traveling is engaging in lively conversations with locals. At dinner our first night we met a well-traveled local lady dining on her own. She heard our American accents and started to offer us recommendations on where to visit, where to eat and fabulous little tidbits about Vienna. Our chat quickly led to our various travels, politics (I know never talk politics, but it went well) and relationships. We talked with her for hours, and it was one of my most favorite moments of our entire trip. It thrills me when I meet someone who I have seemed to know forever. Looking back I so regret not getting a photo with her.
After a night of delicious food and conversation at Reinthaler’s Biesl, my hopes for Vienna were high. I highly recommend eating at Reinthaler’s Biesl at least once during your visit. We shared the schnitzel (of course) and a burenwurst sausage special, and both were so good. If the weather is nice, eat outside and keep your eye out for some chatty locals to engage with.
If the royal palaces are on your agenda, and you are limited on time, I recommend starting with the summer palace, Schonbrunn. I enjoyed both palaces, but Schonbrunn was especially lovely; we wish we hadn’t left it for last. The gardens and mazes are two of the best parts of the palace. Take the time to notice all the little details. Play on the music mat, challenge someone to a game of tic-tac-toe or try to find all the hidden statues. Make sure to go when the weather is good, so you can soak it all in. We did not make it to the Palm House or the zoo, but we did the Imperial tour of the palace, played in the maze, walked the grounds in and around the Gloriette and gawked at the gold royal carriages. Bring water, and if you go in the summer bring an umbrella for shade. The palace grounds are huge, and it will take you some time to wander around. Do take note photos are not allowed inside. Check their website for current hours and prices.
Matt had surprised me with a romantic evening with visits to 2 world famous Vienna stops. Our first stop was Café Sacher to try a piece of the original and world’s classiest chocolate torte cake, the Sachertorte. I am not a dessert connoisseur and would not be able to tell you if it was the best or not. I did think it was good; the ambiance and the service made for a one of a kind experience. I would recommend a visit, but I don’t think I would recommend waiting if the line is long. From the restaurant, we headed over to the world famous Vienna State Opera House to see “Eugene Onegin.” You don’t have to be an opera lover to love this place. Linger in the lobby and watch the elite dressed in their nightly best mingle with each other. As you head to your seats look around, notice all the details from floor to ceiling. We sat in the upper balcony right above the stage. One of the reasons I loved our seats (yes, the cheap seats) was because we had such an incredible view of the entire theater and the stage. If you get a chance to see an opera at this historic location, do it! I left the opera that night feeling so lucky to have been able to experience such an incredible time. Get the cheap tickets and try to get as close to the edge as possible. To be right over the performers was really fun.
Maynard’s Guide to Sausage: This is a delicious staple for this region of Europe. Typically, the darker, the spicier.
- Blutwurst – made from congealed blood
- Bosna – with onions and sometimes curry
- Burenwurst – pork sausage similar to kielbasa
- Debreziner – boiled, thin and spicy with paprika
- Frankfurter – boiled, closely resembles our hot dog (aka – wiener)
- Kasekrainer – boiled, with melted cheese inside
- Thuringer – long and skinny also peppery and in a short roll
- Waldviertler – smoked sausage
- Weisswurst – boiled, white sausage (peel the casing before you eat)
- Hello – Grüß Gott! (gruus got) (formal) or Servus! (SEHR-voos) (informal)
- Goodbye – Auf Wiedersehen (owf vee-der-zayn)
- Please – Bitte (bit-teh)
- Thank You – Danke (dahng–keh)
- Where is the Bathroom – Wo ist die Toilette, bitte? (voh ist dee twah-LET-uh, BIT-tuh?)
Austria is part of the EU; therefore, on the Euro. As with all currencies, there is fluctuation check conversion rates while planning your trip. It is recommended that you do your currency conversion at the ATM, and avoid Dynamic Conversion if it comes up during your transaction.
Tipping: As with most of Europe, tipping at restaurants is only done when getting table service, in which case you should tip 5-10%. If you get your food as take away, no tip is required. Taxis are also in the 5-10% range. If you feel your taxi driver went above and beyond, please give more. On the other hand, if you feel you are being taken advantage of and possibly driven in circles, feel free to skip the tip. The only other time you might consider giving a tip is either with a tour guide or very helpful hotel workers, like valets or the concierge.
Train – Vienna has just completed the impressive new Hauptbahnhof train station to serve as its main station for the majority of its traffic. However, please still look closely at your ticket to ensure you are headed to the correct station. The stations are as follows: Wien Hauptbahnhof – is Vienna’s new central train station. It just opened in 2014, thus not all traffic has been fully redirected here yet. This is Vienna’s first unified train station, and it has everything you could want inside, its only fault is that it is only serviced by one U-Bahn line. Westbahnhof – the western station whose renovation has completed leaving a 1950’s outer shell with a modern inside. It is currently used for trains going to destinations west, such as Melk, Hallstatt, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and Munich. Wien-Mitte Bahnhof – is a smaller station just west of the ring. It is the terminus for S-Bahn and CAT trains to the airport. Be aware the U-Bahn station name is “Landstrasse“. A tram also connects this station to Hauptbahnhof; Tram #O.
Plane – Chances are you will be flying into Vienna International Airport (VIE). You’ll have an excellent selection of options to traverse the 12 miles into the city. A taxi which will cost you roughly €35-40 and take 30 min. can be grabbed from the taxi stand. There is a decent bus option for €8 that will take you to 3 predesignated spots in the city. Morzinplatz for city center hotels, Westbahnhof for Mariahhilfer area hotels and Wien-Meidling Bahnof train station. Buses can be caught by exiting the terminal and heading left, check the monitors for destinations and times and purchase your tickets from the drivers. There are two train options: the S-Bahn, which puts your directly in the public metro system via the S-7 Yellow line train; tickets are €4. The other option is the CAT (City Airport Train) which is €12 and rushes towards the city center. I would go with the reliable S-Bahn as chances are you will have to transfer to get to your hotel regardless. Both trains can be reached by exiting the terminal and heading straight for the green sign marked CAT. Once you reach the screens trains leaving next will be denoted by a red strip and the green screens are for CAT trains only. To reach the S-Bahn is to the right and then left down a hallway marked just with the train logo.