As I mentioned in my Prague blog post, we have planned a little trip around a couple of European countries. We decided to take a bus from Prague to Vienna as this was the cheapest option costing €14 each. The bus service we took was Eurolines and the duration of the trip was 5 hours– 1 hour longer than usual due to rush hour traffic. A bonus however to the great price, is that the wifi on board actually works, unlike megabus or national express coaches I’ve used in the past, so the 5 hours past relatively quickly.
COST/ ACCOMMODATION :
I have to say, out of all the countries I’ve visited in Europe (and outside), Vienna is the most expensive- everything from accommodation, admission costs and food were generally triple than in Prague, so you can imagine the rapid shift from luxury to paupers.
That said, we still managed to find an equilibrium between indulging in a bit of luxury whilst simultaneously insuring we didn’t break the bank. As usual, we turned to our trusty airbnb site to book a whole apartment in the centre of town. The apartment was very modern, and delicately decorated which really made it feel like home. Of course it is not the same as a hotel because you don’t have the luxury of someone making up your bed, but for £109, 3 nights, 2 people, you can hardly complain.
Added bonus to renting an apartment rather than a hotel is that you can easily make breakfast yourself. We also decided to eat in two of the nights to cut down on costs, but concurrently making sure we were eating well.
Although we mainly commuted on feet, there are many modes of transport readily available in Vienna. Most popular seemed to be cycling. The city (or at least the very centre) is structured in such a way as to encourage both locals and tourist to cycle around the city in an effort to reduce carbon emissions- and this call for reduction of pollution is most definitely reflected in the cleanliness of the city. Bicycles, similar to the ‘barclay’s bike scheme’ in London are situated throughout the city and generous bike lanes run throughout, with traffic lights also tailored for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Taxis around the city also have a reputation for being reasonable, although I cannot testify to this as we only used the taxis twice: to be picked up and dropped off at the bus station. That said, the two experiences we did have were both good ones. We used a pre-booked taxi service called “mydriver” as we felt more comfortable knowing that we had already paid and would not be charged more than the quoted price. The fee was very reasonable, originally costing €20,99 from bus station to our accommodation (30 minutes ride). With a voucher code (SAVE10UK) for new customers we managed to get €10 euros off so it worked out to be €10,99 in the end. The company was very professional, and our driver was very friendly.
We did not venture to use public transport because everything was in reasonable walking distance for us. Transport within the centre of Vienna is seems very well connected with many metro lines posted around and multiple tram lines which run regularly. My only reservation for not using public transport was that it was not very well connected when commuting to districts other than Vienna 1 (the centre). Having exhausted many of the attractions in the centre of town, we planned to visit Schönbrunn Palace but were required to take at least three different forms of transport, all of which would have taken over 1 hour to reach our destination- the same time as walking it. For us personally, it wasn’t worth it to spend more time travelling than at the attraction and more so just to see one thing. In this respect, you might want to consider renting a car if you’re planning on venturing out of the city centre.
There was also a range of bus touring services which have pop up sale units throughout the city centre.
THINGS TO DO:
Roaming around the centre of Vienna, the city has so much to offer in terms of the cultural and historical appreciation, reflected in their edifices. The striking structures can be seen within a fair distance and often your eyes are drawn to the next spot before your feet have even orientated themselves.
The diverse variety of architecture for me was so enthralling; even in the modern buildings there seems to be a preserved part of the baroque period; walking into a spar shop, the traces were evident from the intricate swivel designs on the ceiling walls.
Unlike Prague, the colour palate of the buildings were generally muted, reserved to regal whites and beiges. I did find that some of the buildings were a bit excessive, attempting to marry the classical figurines of antiquity, with the majestic curves of the baroque and the harsh, jutting structures of the medieval period. Still, wandering through the streets, surrounded by such rich architecture was truly an aesthetically gratifying experience.
A visit to the house of parliaments is a must for anyone who is interested in politics, but even if you’re not I would still definitely recommend it. Before taking a tour, I had absolutely zero knowledge of Austria’s political history, nor did I really care for it to be honest. We mostly went because the tickets were the cheapest compared to other museums; €2.50 for concessions, €5 for adults (children free). I’m so glad we did the tour as I was left so impressed by both the beauty of the building, the richness of the history and the freshness of their politics. What I also think they did well, was to ensure they accommodated to everyone’s need- tours were carried out in an array of languages which is something that I’ve rarely seen. We had an amazing tour guide who did a joint Spanish and Italian tour, imparting vital information in an entertaining manner.
Churches are a typical ‘must do’ in many tourists’ checklist. We saw a fair few and I have to say that after a while it sort of became more of ‘the same’. Most popular on the list was St Stephen cathedral, which we managed to enter amongst the swarms of tourists. From the outside, I have to say it looked commercialised with an electric signboard positioned outside the church doors. It only seemed to be very much more the case inside. I have a personal rule that any place of worship for which I have to pay to enter is a no go. Electric ticket machines were posted inside the entrance, and a security guard posted nearby to check you had purchased one.
The church which has had the great impression on me was the Servite Church. From the unassuming and humble exterior outside I did not expect much on the inside, however my preconceptions were at once laid aside when entering. The sheer dimension and the expansion of a seemingly small sized church exteriorly blew my mind. We were the only people inside the church and I can say that this truly allowed me to enjoy it in quiet solitude and tranquility. The elements which made up the church themselves may have not differed much from any of the other churches we had seen, but there seemed to be something about the gentle blend of the ostentatious statues and the cracks within the walls and even the statuses themselves that seemed to act as a self-reminder that this beauty is just as transient as the elevated feeling which it inspires.
The Servite church is also not directly in the centre and so there is automatically an infinitely greater reduction in the tourist scene, although the impressive structure still manages to draw in the attention of a few. The frescos which were painted throughout the walls were so beautiful and intriguing and the peaceful tranquility which remained, allowed me to see this place of worship not just as a point on my check list, but for what it actually is; a space of contemplation and inspiration.
Another charming church I would recommend seeing would be Minoritenkirche, dedicated to saint Francesco d’assisi. Compared to other churches I’ve seen, the decor is very simple, however it still has interesting parts to offer and is worthwhile if you’re passing by.
As I stated before, the general admission cost for the major museums (natural history, science, national library etc) I was surprised to find, were quite high, and as a result we didn’t go into any of these. For adults the price was €15 and €11 for concessions. The good news is that most of these museums are free for under 19, so take advantage whilst you’re still young!
The naschmarkt is a nice little fleet market, not too fair from the centre, if you’re looking to escape the tourist crowds. There is everything to be found there, from sweet treaties, to traditional dishes, funky clothing and trinkets.
WHAT TO EAT/ DRINK:
We decided to have breakfast at the café central as we had read many good reviews on trip advisor. Our order comprised of three different types of traditional cakes. We had also ordered a wiener coffee initially and we’re surprised that it tasted very similar to a cappuccino- we only realised when we received our bill that it was cappuccino all along.
A tip of advice would be to make sure you speak slowly, not in a patronising way, but just because in our instance there were a few miscommunications in regards to our order. (We were also given the wrong cake initially).
The apple strudel was very original with warm spices and very light fluffy pastry (not the sort of stuff you get from Iceland) and the apple had enough tartness for my liking.
The café central schnitte (puff pastry, vanilla cream) was by far my favourite. It’s perfect if, like me, you have a sweet tooth- it was a delicate balance of thin wafers of pastry and a nutty flavour, even though it was nut free. More of a typical French pastry in my opinion, although this was one of the cafe’s specialities.
I was not a big fan of the Marillenkuchrn (apricot cake). The apricots were a bit bitter and the cake layer beneath was not very moist. For me it was more on the savoury side.
We eventually did try an actual wiener melange at a little cafe called mr & mrs feelgood. We were still pretty disappointed with the taste. If I’m being completely honest, I felt like it was a slight rip off a cappuccino with double espresso shot, but perhaps I’m just being harsh.
A side note on drinking– I thought it would be worthwhile to point out how well organised the city is in providing drinking fountains were you can refill your bottle of water free of charge. This was so useful for us as it was generally 25/30 degrees on the three days we were there and this meant that we didn’t have to keep spending money on buying bottle water.
Of course you cannot visit Vienna without trying a wiener schnitzel (unless your vegetarian!) we went to figlmüller, which founded in 1905, has built a sturdy reputation for itself. A friend suggested the restaurant because of the quality of the ingredients (the restaurant is noted for using local and fresh products, having been awarded in 2011 with the AMA Gastrosiegel) and the decent portions. We were not disappointed at all.
We ordered a wiener schnitzel (veal instead of pork) between us, a side of fried potatoes and a bottle of water. This was more than enough to feel our bellies as the restaurant is also reputable for making their schnitzel bigger than average. Our bill totalled €28 and some change which is pretty good for viennese standards.My only squabble was that the schnitzel was a bit too salty for both our liking, but this was probably because (as I have mentioned previously) that I am sensitive to salt, as I usually don’t incorporate it in home cooking.
Our three must dos:
☾Tour of parliament
☾The servite church
☾National library (a lot of current exhibitions, and a beautiful building)
Total spent: £179