Vienna is the capital as well as cultural, economic and political center of Austria. It was home to some of the world’s greatest musicians, intellectuals and artists such as Mozart, Beethoven, Freud, Friedrick von Hayek, and Klimt. The Viennese culture is very much centered around music, art and literacy. Vienna is an opulent city with high end shops galore, residents dressed to a tee and lavish imperial palaces. We recently visited Vienna on an Eastern Europe trip as it is an easy train ride from both Budapest and Prague (We used American Airline miles to fly into Budapest and headed north from there). Here is our recommendations on places to stay, things to do and where to eat!
When looking for accommodations, it’s best to stay within the Ringstrasse (Ring Boulevard) as most of the sites are an easy walk from this area. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Vienna (see review), using our free nights from the Hyatt Visa Card. The Park Hyatt is on Am Hof Square and in a great location! Am Hof Square is Vienna’s oldest square and also home to many festivals and events, most notably the Christmas Market. We were lucky enough to be there during the Austrian Food & Wine Festival, which was one of our favorite parts of Vienna. There is also many other hotels in this area where you can use points such as the Ritz-Carlton, Le Meridien and the Radisson Blu.
Must Do Activities Include:
- Ringstrasse: circle road surrounding the Innere Stadt district, many of the historic buildings are located on this boulevard. Make sure to stop and see the Hofburg Palace, Austrian Parliament and State Opera House. You can walk the boulevard on your own or take a tour, just avoid the Vienna Ring Tram tour as it was not very informative.
- Museums Quarter: home to many of Vienna’s museums such as the Museum of Natural History and the Art History Museum. Look for the gardens with Vienna sausage shaped bushes and you’ll know you’re in the right place.
- Belvedere Palace: just a short walk outside of the Ringstrasse you’ll find this magnificent palace and gardens which was once home to the Habsburg dynasty. It now houses the world’s largest collection of Klimt paintings.
- Naschmarkt: Vienna’s most popular market and it’s nearly one mile long. Stroll through the stalls where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meat, seafood and even clothing. Go for lunch and sample many Viennese snacks or sit down at one of the many restaurants.
- Opera: a trip to Vienna would not be complete without seeing an opera where it all began, at the State Opera House. The best part is you don’t have to pay a fortune to do it! All you need is 3-4 Euros and a scarf for standing room tickets. Arrive 2 hours early and enter the Opera House where it says, “Stehplatz-Kasse | Standing Area,” this is where the line will form. Once you get your tickets you will be directed to your section. Mark your spot by wrapping your scarf around the railing and feel free to tour the Opera House until the start of the performance. (Shorts are not allowed so make sure to dress appropriately).
- There were a few things we didn’t have time to visit such as the Spanish Riding School and the Schonbrunn Palace, both us which I have heard great things about.
Our favorite Bars and Restaurants Include:
- Cafe Central: best breakfast spot on our whole trip throughout Eastern Europe. The cafe dates back to 1876 and was a meeting place for some of Vienna’s great minds such as Freud. Enjoy a delicious breakfast while admiring the beautiful architecture of the building and feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
- Bitzinger Würstelstand: sausage stand serving up some delicious street food. Many different kinds of sausage and hot dogs available. Make sure to get the mustard and shredded horseradish cheese on the side. There’s usually a line but it moves pretty quickly. No seating available but a few outdoor tables to stand at.
- Figlmüller: if there is one food you must try in Vienna its wiener schnitzel and this is the place to get it! Get there early as this place fills up fast. If the main restaurant is full head around the corner where they have another smaller restaurant. Go with the classic pork schnitzel and be ready to eat as the portions are huge!
- Cafe Sacher: Ok, I lied…there are two must try foods Vienna and the second is Sacher Torte. This is a delicious chocolate cake with apricot jam in the middle and chocolate icing on top. This cafe is located on the lower level of Hotel Sacher and home of the original Sacher Torte.
- Two of the bars we enjoyed were Loos American Bar, which is a speakeasy type cocktail bar and Pfiff & Co. gastropub. Vienna seemed to be a quiet city at night with less nightlife than some of the other European cities we visited.
- If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during a festival in Vienna, make sure to check it out! Some of the best food and wine we had was at the Austrian Food and Wine Festival.
Keep in mind that German is the spoken language and the currency is Euros.