When you walk the streets of Vienna, you’ll find yourself constantly asking, “why can’t all cities be this beautiful?” In a word, Magical doesn’t even begin to do this city justice. While this Vienna Travel Guide will lay out our experiences and must-dos, we left Vienna with a broken heart; We know there is so much more left to see.
Without further adieu, let’s dive into one of our favorite European cities.
Vienna Train Stations and Airports
We took the train from Budapest, Hungary into Vienna’s Wien Praterstern train station. Admittedly, this is the only train station we spent time in, but from our perspective, it was clean and well organized. Which, I mean, what more could you ask from a train station?
There are a few train stations on the way into Vienna, so be sure to keep in mind which stop your ticket says. Prepare to deboard when the train nears your station; Some stops are quicker than others!
Flying out of Austria’s Salzburg Airport
We anticipated flying out of Vienna at the end of our trip to Austria, but realized during our week in the city that our tickets were actually departing out of Salzburg, Austria.
Sometimes fun surprises happen like that! 🙂
If you find yourself in the same predicament, or if ticket prices are cheaper out of Salzburg than Vienna, we highly recommend you take the Westbahn train into Salzburg for a fun day trip before your flight departs. We loved having a quick day trip in Salzburg before flying off to London!
The Salzburg airport is incredibly small so don’t stress about arriving too early. Like most European airports, an hour or so before your flight is typically just fine.
We took the bus from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof train station to the airport. Cheap and easy. You can purchase your ticket on the bus.
Bus ticket should cost around: €2.10
Transportation in Vienna, Austria
We’re huge fans of using public transportation if at all possible. Vienna was no different. We used their underground subway system called the Vienna U-Bahn the entire time we were there and had no real hang-ups.
As always, don’t be afraid to take an extra second or two to double check you are getting on the correct subway line. And ALWAYS ALWAYS pre-load Google Maps for the city you are traveling in. This way, even without cellphone reception you can still easily navigate on your phone like a champ.
With plenty of subway lines to get you anywhere around the greater Vienna metro area, the U-Bahn is the perfect solution for anyone on a budget.
If you’re a New Yorker like us, we feel most comfortable on public transport anyway. If you’re from farmlands or rural towns, have no fear we believe you will have an easy time using their public transit too.
Transport Cost and Passes
A weekly U-Bahn unlimited pass qualifies for the above ground tram’s and the underground subway and will be €17.10 euro. For reference, a single ride is €2.40 euro. So if you plan to make more than 3 round trips from your hostel/Airbnb to downtown, we recommend you just purchase the week unlimited pass so you don’t have to stress about it.
Visit here for up-to-date prices and policies.
How to Use Vienna U-Bahn Passes
Vienna’s U-Bahn passes work on a validation system. This means that if you have an unlimited pass you will NOT be putting your pass in the validator stands upon entrance. Just keep walking, but make sure your pass is available to you and is valid for your dates.
Vienna police will monitor riders at various stations during your week there. Be prepared to show your pass, but unless they ask you can just keep walking. You only need to validate for single days and single trip fares.
Vienna City Bikes
Vienna is known for great access to bicycling and there are public access bikes throughout the city that you can sign up for. Registration is only €1.00 euro and the first hour of use on any of the Vienna (Wien) city bikes is free. What a deal! Traffic in Vienna compared to any US city is not bad at all. It’s a bike-friendly city, so cycling your way around is a great option for your transportation if weather permits.
Sign up ahead of time here: https://www.citybikewien.at/en/
We did not take any taxi’s while in Vienna, so if you’re on a budget during your travels, we recommend you don’t either. For reference, a Vienna taxi will cost about €36.00 for 2 passengers from VIE airport to City Centre.
Vienna Cellular Data & SIM Cards
During our first day in the city, we ventured downtown to a few local cell phone shops and ended up purchasing a SIM card from T-Mobile. It was the best value that we could find.
We ended up purchasing a 10GB Data Only SIM: ~€15EUR
We recommend for a week trip to get a SIM that has at least 500KB to 1000KB (1/2GB – 1GB) depending on how heavy of a cell phone user you are.
Read more: How to use SIM Cards and International Data plans
If you’re on the road for longer than a week, perhaps look into an international data plan. T-Mobile has good flexibility for international travelers looking for an affordable way to have access to the internet at all times.
Free Vienna Walking Tours We Recommend
Try to out tourist dad vibe me, I dare you!
While in Vienna we participated in one of our favorite walking tours to date, and trust us, we take a lot of free walking tours.
Like other popular countries and cities, Austria has an educational requirement for tour guides. They are expected to have degrees in history to be a guide in the city. Unlike some places where being a guide is a good side gig to pay the bills, they take their country’s deep history seriously – and it reflects in the quality of their guides!
Katharina hosted our Prime Tours free walking tour. We began downtown with a group of about 15. There was a diverse group of people from Australia, USA, the UK, and others. As expected, we had a few in the group that decided they wanted to put our knowledgeable guide to the test: She wasn’t kidding when she mentioned having several degrees to be a guide. I’ve never seen someone know so much about historical topics and people!
We were impressed.
Our walking tour lasted a little over two hours and it covered everything from the rich history of composers in the city to well-known architecture and some of Vienna’s darker history from WWII. We highly recommend them!
You can book a tour with Prime Tours here: www.primetours.at
We recommend you tip your guide: €10-20 euro/person and use the restroom before.
Coffee Shops in Vienna to Visit
Coffee is an important aspect of most all European cultures, but it’s certainly not always the way Americans view their coffee. Same runs true in Vienna. If you’re looking for a “normal” American 16 oz drip coffee, it is certainly attainable, however espresso based coffee drinks (with cream) are Vienna’s specialty.
In fact, we learned on our walking tour that there is a deep coffee house culture and it plays an integral role in Vienna’s history and heritage. They view coffee houses as a place to relax, slow down, and connect with others. You can find the Viennese spending full days at coffee houses alone or with friends.
We recommend grabbing a coffee drink from some of our favorite spots:
It certainly is a coffee bar, don’t expect to find a seat there on a busy day. Their coffee is great so grab it on the go if you’re off for a day of adventuring instead of “coffee housing”.
Location: Praterstraße 38, 1020 Wien, Austria
This cafe is incredibly small and quaint. The coffee is amazing and the lady serving us was so kind and caring. Again, a great place to grab a coffee on your way to adventure for the day, or if you’re lucky to grab one of the 3-4 seats available like we did, sip on your cup as you discuss life’s deepest questions with a friend.
Location: Werdertorgasse 4, 1010 Wien, Austria
Phil is a bookstore/meets coffee shop. This was one of the few locations we spent extended time in to work during the day. It has decent coffee, but plenty of fun nooks and tables to hide away and get some serious remote work done for the day. Lots of couches, lots of plugs, and personally, I thought their coffee shop playlist was one of the best I’ve ever heard! We loved this location for the atmosphere.
Location: Gumpendorfer Str. 10, 1060 Wien, Austria
One of my all time favorite cafes was CoffeePirates. It’s a fairly large shop where they also roast their own beans. Their coffee, fresh sandwiches, and pastry selections were all amazing. The only trouble we had here was with the WiFi. It was hit or miss. This was likely a product of being a busy work day with the entire coffee shop filled with laptop users. I would highly recommend coming here for a great morning or afternoon treat.
Location: Spitalgasse 17, 1090 Wien, Austria
Restaurants, Food, and Drinks in Vienna
Any trip is not complete without trying local food, drinks, and produce. Vienna doesn’t fall short with its incredible traditional eats from cake, schnitzels, beer, and more.
We’re big fans of Aldi in Europe, and Vienna was no different. However, in Vienna, they call their Aldi, Hofer. I’m told that the name is different because the owners of Austria Aldi’s got in a fight so they decided to change the name. Not sure if this is true, but please correct me if I am wrong!
Our typical first day in any new city in Europe consists of finding the nearest Aldi to shop at. Why? Well, they always have fair prices, local cuisine, and yummy pastries. This makes for a budget-friendly alternative than trying to eat out at restaurants every day you’re visiting Vienna (and maybe a few fruits and veggies to offset all those decadent foods).
Vienna Grocery List for a Week:
- 1 x batch of bananas
- 1-2 x tub(s) of plain yogurt
- 1 x small bag granola
- 1 x jar of jam for yogurt
- 5-10 x pastries
- 1lb x chicken or beef
- 1 x box of pasta
- 1 x jar of pesto or red sauce
- 2 x bottles of Austrian wine
- 1 x bag of carrots, broccoli, or box of crackers
- 1 x tub of hummus
- 1-2 types of local cheeses
- 1-2 types of prosciutto or similar meats
Try to do your shopping earlier in the day. In Vienna, grocery stores and shops close at the end of the work day. We often times would find ourselves struggling to find somewhere that was open past around 7 PM.
Vienna is known for having some great cake. And the Sacher Das Original is perhaps one of the most iconic pieces of cake in the world.
Considered by many as one of the best pieces of cake, we had to put this claim to the test for ourselves. The Das Original is a very dense cake with a ganache frosting on top. It’s no doubt a pinnacle of cake perfection, and I’d say it’s definitely worth trying. However, my mom’s cake is better any day of the week (But then again, I’m partial).
Our order for two:
- 2 x Das Orginal Cakes (yum) / 7,10 € per slice
Definitely a touristy experience. Be warned, but we didn’t have to wait in any line which is always nice! The cafe is in an incredibly gorgeous hotel, which is half the experience to sit on those red velvet couches!
One of our favorite restaurants while in Vienna was Brau Bar on the north-west outskirts of the city. On our first attempt to walk in we found that it’s not the place to go without a reservation. Due to its amazing authentic Austrian food (and halfway corny decoration), it seems to be a popular stomping ground by locals and tourists. We grabbed a reservation for the following day and boy am I glad we decided to try this place.
Our order for two:
- 4 x König Ludwig Dunkel beers (our favorites, must get)
- 2 x Fresh pretzels (must get)
- 1 x Spareribs with roasted potatoes and garlic sauce (can skip)
- 1 x Spaetzle with cheese, fried onions and leaf lettuce (life-changing, must get!)
- 1 x Chocolate souffle semi-liquid (can skip)
Get a reservation here: http://www.brau-bar.at/reservierung/
For two we spent about: €50,00
On our first dinner, we insisted we must get a classic Vienna schnitzel and goulash. So what did we do? We Googled schnitzel and came upon Schöne Perle. We enjoyed the beer, schnitzel, and goulash but the service left a bit to be desired. We would still recommend it if you are in the area.
Our order for two:
- 1 x Wiener Veal Schnitzel
- 1 x Goulash (must get)
- 2 x Beers
For two we spent about: €30,00
As New-Yorkers, there is always a moment of craving some good falafel while we’re traveling abroad. We took refuge at Tewa am Markt when we literally wandered into their outdoor patio. Serendipity gave us just what we needed at that moment: A delicious homemade hummus, the best falafel I’ve ever had, warm pita, great service, and an outdoor patio. Heaven.
Our order for two:
- 2 x Tewa’s falafel Main Course
- 2 x Beers (Because you can’t have dinner without a beer in Vienna)
For two we spent about: €24,00
Another serendipitous find, but one we went back to an alarmingly high amount. Warning: You will want to go back every night. Coming from Budapest, we were already on a gelato kick but still adjusting to the Vienna costs. This place had great prices and really unique gelato flavors. The boy working there was also incredibly kind and let us try almost every flavor!
Our order for two:
- 1 x Waffle cone with two flavors (to share)
We spent about: €2,60
Recommended Things to Do in Vienna, Austria
There are plenty of things to do in Vienna. You could spend years here and likely not scratch the surface of the deep history and the sights. While we spent a little over a week, these are some of the highlights we recommend you check out.
Spanish Riding School at The Hofburg
A horse ballet. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. Dancing horses run deep in Vienna’s history and we bore witness to it. If you’re on a budget and trying to decide what attractions or touristy things to do, this may not be on the top of your list.
However, we were in Vienna long enough and this sounded just weird enough to be right up our alley.
While the Spanish Riding School performances are less frequent and cost anywhere from €50-160+ euro, they also offer access to watch daily morning practices typically from about 10 AM – 12 PM.
This will cost you €15 euro/person and you can come and stay for the full two hours or leave whenever you would like. We got there about 15 minutes before they opened the practice and got our tickets. Once the doors opened we filed in and found a seat above the “arena” to sit and watch quietly as the horses warmed up and trained. You’ll want to be amongst the first in line if you want to sit.
It was interesting to peek into Vienna’s past time through way of horse dancing. While we were sitting there, quite honestly we were waiting for the horses to do jumps and kicks like they do in their performance. However, they mostly just trotted around and did shuffles which were still fun to watch.
Also, if you’re wondering, the horses are literally treated like royalty. We learned that each horse has a dedicated dietitian and they receive messages and acupuncture regularly. What a life they must live!
If you ask us, this is one of those fun-to-do activities but not a must-do! If you like horses go for it, if not, then spend the euro on one of Vienna’s many awesome museums.
Woah. I feel like a broken record by this point, but did we mentioned how magical Vienna is? The Schonbrunn Palace is no different. Caroline and I decided that on a down day when it was raining and mucky out that we would kill time and head on over on the U-Bahn to the Schonbrunn Palace. More simply known as the summer home for the royal family.
It just so happened that the rain cleared up as we arrived at the palace and the weather cleared up the number of tourists while we were there.
We spent about three hours touring the Palace. First, we adventured around the gardens which, for any Wes Anderson fans out there, is definitely a site of symmetry worth exploring.
Then we decided to spend €17.50 euro/each and do the audio guided palace tour that takes you from room to room explaining more about its history and uses of the palace and the monarchy.
BUDGET TIP: We recommend that if you do the inside tour that you choose the “Imperial Tour.” It’s about half the length as the “Grand Tour” and about 3 euro less. Once you get about halfway through the tour you’re ready to see other things and move on. Save the extra euro and go get yourself a schnitzel instead.
Flakturm (flak tower)
As we strolled on an evening walk we watched how Viennese peeps spend their evenings in the summer. Off in the distance, we noticed a large cement building structure that seemed very out of place. It looked completely abandoned and we approached this eyesore in the middle of the beautiful park Augarten.
Upon further Googling, we realized it was an old flak tower built by the Nazis in World War II to fend off air attacks from enemy forces. To stand near something that is so obviously a tower of hatred and fear truly will leave you changed (amongst happy families, children playing soccer, and beautiful landscaping).
Wow. Highly recommend you go see it for yourself.
It’s not every day you get to take your morning run through Vienna’s Prater. Prater is a carnival amusement park with varying vintages of amusement rides like Ferris wheels, carnival games, and roller-coasters. While we didn’t adventure through Prater during the day we did take an early morning run through the grounds before anything was open. It was a blast and quite a unique way to get your workout in while traveling abroad.
If you’re into spooky abandoned carnival vibes this is an absolute must-do! It was also raining during our run which made the amusement park even creepier.
If your Airbnb is near the Wien Praterstern area like our was, try this little adventure out during a jog.
Location: 1020 Vienna, Austria
Language & Speaking in Vienna
While the official language of Austria is German, we found that almost everywhere we visited had English translated signs and menus. Most of the people in Vienna speak both German and English so don’t stress too much.
Currency Information in Vienna
The euro is used in Austria. For reference, at the date of writing this €1 EUR equals about $1.14USD. Vienna is like any other major city and it accepts credit cards almost everywhere. We recommend that you withdraw just enough cash to cover your touring tips and other small food vendor purchases. Like gelato… eat plenty of gelato.
Charging Your Electronics in Vienna
In Austria, the power plugs are of type F and C. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. We travel with the below travel outlet and we love it because it covers most any outlet needs and also includes USB ports for your electronics. We recommend purchasing at least one if not two for your trip.
Vienna Instagram Accounts to Follow
If you’re planning to head to Vienna anytime soon, one thing that we catch ourselves doing time and time again in preparation for a trip is to follow some key Instagram accounts for inspiration on locations and things to do. Here are some that will provide you with a little additional inspiration for your adventures to Vienna:
Who Vienna is Perfect For
If you enjoy a city that seems to value taking a step back, slowing down a bit, and sipping on your coffee then this is the place for you.
While Vienna is far from the cheapest place in Europe to spend time in, you’re still spending less here than any comparable mid-size United States city.
Classical music lovers, architecture nerds, or anyone that enjoys the older style classic vibes and mountains of history. You best check this city out.
Our Thoughts on Vienna
In the end, Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities we have seen to date. Caroline and I both felt like we could see ourselves spending more time here in the future. If you’re looking for a truly inspirational city that will take your breathe away with the perfect amount of beauty and bustle, book your ticket!