Vienna was the second stop on our European vacation earlier this year. For some reason during my trip planning, I spent way more time researching the other stops on our itinerary – Prague and Budapest. So I stepped off the train in Vienna with basically no expectations. Which is not a bad mindset when you show up in a new city! It turns out Vienna is beautiful, sophisticated and full of history.
We booked our train tickets ahead of time from Prague to Vienna and it was a perfect way to travel between the two cities. Trains run very frequently on this route and it is around 4 hours travel time. This website was a great planning resource. We ended up going with second class OBB Railjet tickets and selected our seats ahead. The train was clean and relatively comfy, with free wifi and snacks available for purchase on board. From the train station it was an easy subway ride and a quick walk to our airbnb!
We stayed in this modern loft built into the attic of a sixteenth century palace! It was quite a trek up several flights of stairs, but we didn’t mind the extra exercise (you may have noticed that most of our vacation time is spent eating and drinking…). The interior featured a modern kitchen, brightly tiled bathroom and a separate tub out in the open. My favourite detail was the old fashioned window seat overlooking the palace courtyard. The location was also fantastic, right in the heart of the city, and we had no problems walking to many of the main sights.
Naschmarkt: This vast outdoor food market has apparently existed in some form since 1774! In addition to all the fresh ingredients you could ever want, there are a number of tented sit-down restaurants in the market. After doing a lap to check out all the options we settled on some wine, cheese and people watching. Definitely worth a stop if you’re even remotely into food – and really, who isn’t?
Wine Tasting at Vinothek W-Einkehr: We were interested in tasting some Austrian wines while in Vienna and our online research led us straight to this little wine bar. We showed up in the early evening and snagged one of the few tables. The owner was very welcoming and suggested a tasting and charcuterie plate to snack on. We ended up chatting with some locals and before we knew it several hours (and multiple glasses of wine) had gone by. Highly recommended!
Breakfast at Café Central: We ducked into this classic Viennese cafe during a rain shower, for a bite to eat before heading to the museum. It is a grand, high-ceilinged space with a tempting cake display and an old fashioned ambiance (although crammed with tourists!). Somehow we timed it right and were seated immediately, but a line out the door developed shortly after we arrived. A very popular spot! The coffee, apple strudel and croissants were tasty, but the charm of this place is more about the historical setting.
Cake Sampling at Aida: Vienna is famous for cakes! Although not huge dessert fans, we felt we must try a few bites, so stopped at this cute (very pink!) cafe for some mini cakes. We sampled the famous Sachertorte which is a chocolate and apricot jam cake, as well as the Punschkrapfen, which has a rum and apricot jam filling with thick pink icing. Apparently apricot jam is a big deal? To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of either (so sweet!) but they certainly looked pretty.
Beer & Pork Knuckle at Schweizerhaus: This fun spot was recommended to us by the local folks we met at the wine bar, and it didn’t disappoint! When they were giving us directions they somehow failed to mention that the restaurant is located inside an amusement park. This place is basically a giant beer garden with outdoor seating under a canopy of trees. It seemed to be popular with both locals and tourists of all ages, and even had a little play area for kids. We sat outside and proceeded to devour a giant pork knuckle accompanied by horseradish, various mustards, and of course beer!
Kunsthistorisches Museum: We did experience some rain during our short stay in Vienna, which happens to be perfect museum weather. And Vienna definitely does not have a shortage of museum options. We decided on the Kunsthistorisches art history museum, which is housed in a beautiful historical building. You could spend a lot of time here and it was super busy. We opted for the audio guide and spent a few hours wandering through the collection of paintings, listening to some of the fascinating history behind the pieces. I enjoy museums, but usually after a couple hours of museum time, I’m ready to move on. We spent most of our time checking out the paintings, but there are also Egyptian, Greek and Roman exhibits.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral: This famous cathedral is located in the heart of the city and is famous for its elaborate tiled roof. The interior is richly decorated and well worth checking out. Entry is free, although there are also various tours and an audio guide available if you’re looking for a more in depth history of this landmark.
Schönbrunn Palace: This former imperial summer residence is apparently Vienna’s most popular tourist destination and it is pretty impressive! We like to walk a ton on vacation, so we walked about half way there from the food market and caught the subway the rest of the way. Be prepared for crowds of tourists! We weren’t really interested in doing any tours, but enjoyed some beverages and people watching on a patio in the main courtyard and spent some time exploring the gardens. The grounds really are spectacular!
Prater Amusement Park: We spent our last afternoon in Vienna checking out this large park which features carnival style rides, food vendors, museums and even a planetarium. There is no entrance fee to walk through the park and you can pay individually for the various rides and attractions. Vienna’s famous ferris wheel, the Wiener Riesenrad, is also located in the park, as well as the Schweizerhaus restaurant, mentioned above. Such a fun way to end our trip to Vienna!
Overall Vienna was a beautiful city and we had an amazing time exploring. Next stop Budapest…
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