Vienna – Austria’s capital
Vienna is one of the most culturally rich cities in all of Europe – a city filled with imperial palaces, art galleries, and museums stocked full with the work of renowned Viennese artists. A city with a rich history of musical influence, home to countless famed artists like Mozart and Schubert. A city that has come alive with its food, art, and cultural heritage in the past few years, becoming one of the best travel destinations in Europe.
What to do & what to see
Vienna is divided into 23 districts – each one bringing their own charm. If you want the best experience, I recommend making use of the public transportation and traveling the city on foot. Make sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes to walk around in all day (I didn’t and regretted it immediately).
If you’re in Vienna for only a day, you must stop by the city center. The Vienna City Centre, or Old Town, is a gem for sightseeing. You can circle the city center on Ringstrasse which is a 5.3km long street that serves as the “ring” around the center. There is a special tram called “Vienna Rintram” that you can ride for a 30 minute tour. I preferred walking in the center so I could take my time exploring and stop to take some (read: a lot more than necessary) pictures.
In the center, there are so many castles, palaces, and historical buildings – The Imperial Palace, Hofburg, Stallburg, Kaisergruft, The Winter Palace of Prince Eugen – just to name a few. I was overwhelmed by all the palaces, museums, statues, and historical sites fit into a compact circle.
Besides the palaces in the center, there are two gardens – Volksgarten and Augarten which were both beautiful and a quick relief from the towering buildings in every direction.
Where to Stay
We stayed in an Airbnb really close by to the city center, with scenic views. The room we stayed in was clean and pretty spacious and our host, Frat, was very kind and hospitable. He was very accommodating and not at all intruding. He stayed in another room in the house, and was hosting a couple in the third bedroom. Just look at the amazing views from our room below!
What are the must-eat foods in Vienna?
- Wiener schnitzel: Typically veal coated in breadcrumbs and fried. You can also substitute with other meat such as pork or chicken. We had some really good wiener schnitzel at Gutenberg.
- Tafelspitz: Boiled beef served with apple and horseradish sauces
- Goulash: A stew of meat and vegetables commonly seasoned with paprika. We tried some really good beef goulash at Gutenberg as well.
- Palatschinke: Thin Viennese crepes usually served with different fillings such as cheeses or vegetables like spinach or mushrooms
- Apfelstrudel: A strudel pastry filled with apples.
- Topfenstrudel: A strudel pastry filled with quark cheese (curd) and sometimes topped with vanilla sauce.
- Sachertorte: Viennese chocolate cake.
Where we ate:
Brunch: Breakfast Club
What we ordered:
- Bonnie & Clyde: A mountain cheese toast with fried egg, bacon and pesto. Reminded me of a grilled cheese sandwich with a bit of a twist. It tasted great, but very similar to the type of brunch food I eat in California, so might have not been so authentically Viennese.
- French toast with cinnamon, fruit, Nutella, whipped cream and sugar
- Croissant served with a side of jam: Warm, flaky and fresh-tasting.
- Espresso coffee: strong, black, and exactly the start I needed to the day after a very long 12-hour night train.
Total cost: € 20
Late Lunch: Gutenberg
What we ordered:
- Wiener schnitzel (veal): Light, thinly breaded, crispy & overall delicious! Make sure you squeeze the lemon all over the top for that extra tang of flavor!
- Beef goulash: The sauce was thick and unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, and the beef was rich and tender. The potato cakes were great dipped into the sauce and were a great contrast from the meat.
- Milk-cream strudel: So creamy and delicious! A bit on the heavier side.
Total cost: € 43
What is the night life like?
We went to a couple bars in the area around our Airbnb. The vibe was a lot different than the night life I’m used to in San Francisco, but it was very nice, relaxing, and fun. The bars gave more of a chill drinking vibe rather than a party-scene.
This place was great & very affordable. They let you try tasters of different local beers for € 2.50 each, so we were able to taste a good selection of what they had.
Total cost: € 9 for 4 tasters
We couldn’t remember or find the name of this bar, but it’s located down the street from Biergarten, right next door to the Gelato place. It was a really cute, small pub with great artwork. They have some outdoor seating, but I preferred the cozy booths they had inside.
The staff was really friendly and they had a good selection of beer, wine, and hard liquor. The beer come in huge cans! I was expecting around a 12-16oz can, but we were served something closer to 32oz.
Total cost: € 7.40 for 2 very large beers
This was my favorite bar we visited that night. It is generally crowded, but we came pretty late as it was our last stop of the night. The staff was so friendly, and since we came at a time without a crowd, we were served personally by the owner.
He let us try a couple glasses of wine before buying them and gave really good suggestions based on my preferences. He also gave us recommendations of other bars and clubs for us to visit next.
Before we got our check, he gave us complementary shots of a hazelnut vodka that was honestly the smoothest vodka I’ve ever tasted in my life. It had a great aroma and was very flavorful, and I honestly would have been able to drink a whole glass of it like it was water.
Total cost: € 13 for 3 glasses of wine