Vienna is overshadowed on the interrail tourist-trail by its more popular neighbor, Budapest. However, I would urge you to make the effort to visit this city. It is culture-rich yet modern, and is full of cafés and beautiful public gardens to boot. The sense of old money and lack of grunge make it a delightful pitstop, and also give it a rather peculiar nature. You won’t quite know what to think of this slothful place with its fussy Germanic inhabitants, its manicured façade and incredibly pivotal but understated – or rather suppressed past. This is the birthplace of Freud after all.
One option is to book an Airbnb but be sure to check the location. If you are required to walk for more than twenty minutes to get to to the centre of Vienna then you can do better, even on a budget. Another option is to stay at the Wombats City Hostel in Naschmarkt – I’ve heard good things, and it’s excellently located. If you stay in the hostel, eat dinner at Ra’mien; their curry noodle soup is fantastic and you can watch the chefs grate homemade dough into noodles.
If you fancy going out, then the Ringstrasse area is well-regarded, even if it is a little on the expensive side. I recommend Travel Shack, which is a very easy to find for travellers and students and has free entry, a smoking room and a dance area that is always busy. If not, then either hit the hay or take a night stroll to Burggarten.
Rise with the sun and head over to Naschmarkt for a wander and a delicious breakfast. This old food market is studded with little cafes, and banked with beautiful displays of fruit and vegetables. Neni has a delicious menu; bagels, eggs, or if its brunch-time go for their pitta with chicken and humus. On Saturday mornings there is a flea market at one end of Naschmarkt, which is worth a visit. Here you will find stacks of fur coats, bric-a-brac and some stuff you may actually want to purchase too. Nearby is ‘phil,’ a bookshop-café where you can settle on the sofas to read, use the Wi-Fi or have coffee and cake. Take some time to admire what they’ve done with the space and browse their selection of books. This ranges from the glossy picture-heavy cabin look book that to critical literature and original fairy tales. It helps that just as many books are in English as are in German.
After this, walk over to the Albertina art gallery through beautiful Burggarten park, stopping by the Palmenhaus to look inside. Visit the gallery if you feel like it, or carry on towards the centre, Stephansplatz. For $4 you can walk up to the top of Stephansdom and gaze out over the city, all the way to the Vienna Woods. You will also see the cathedral’s exquisite green tiled roof. This is an excellent photo opportunity. You will also be given the option of going down to the catacombs to see plague-era skeletons stacked in dark alcoves. When you emerge, make sure to buy some ice cream from Zanoni & Zanoni. This is a treat that is made even better by the fact that it is very budget-friendly. Afterwards, visit Manner for Neapolitan wafers and dragee keksi (little half-moon chocolate coated biscuits that taste just as good as they sound).
Next, move along to Museum’s Quartier – admire the architecture and soak up the ambiance while you lie down on the surprisingly comfortable chair-bed hybrids in the quad, and then visit the Leopold museum.
For lunch, you can eat Italian food at Pesco, which is a minute walk away from the museums. If you have time, it is also worth hitting the shops as Vienna has a great selection. Mariahilferstrasse near Museums Quartier has all the high-street brands including Zara, H&M, Berksha as well as favourites American Apparel and Brandy Melville. The next street is more bohemian. Along Neubaugasse you can find vintage and independent shops, Der Bootik kilo-shop, and a branch of Freitag – a company who make hard-wearing satchels and rucksacks out of recycled truck tarpaulin. The street is dotted with lovely cafes too. Humana is a chain of charity shops, great for rummaging. There is one very close to HundertwasserHaus – a cool example of expressionist architecture, so you can kill two birds with one stone and experience shopping and culture side by side. All of it is art anyway. However, my top tip with regards to shopping is to google the ea markets happening around the date you’re visiting – Vienna has fantastic flea markets.
Take the opportunity to visit the Baroque Belvedere gallery and see Klimt’s famous piece The Kiss, as well as pieces by Schiele and Monet. After this make sure to visit one of Vienna’s other aesthetic offerings: the castle and its gardens.
Schönbrunn Castle and its grounds are a staple of any visit to Vienna. Come here just before six to make it to the Lindt boutique. Here you can load up on truffles, and then walk up to the hill-top gloriette for a good view over Vienna. It is a grand and tranquil spot. If you are pushed for time then forgo going inside the castle itself because the tour takes a few hours. Instead, just rest here for a while, eating truffles.
For dinner, try the Pakistani buffet restaurant called Der Wiener Deewan. It’s near the Scho entor U-Bahn stop. This is a pay-what-you-want deal, so it is very cheap and perfect for students on a budget. The food is tasty enough, and it satisfies a Brit’s curry needs. It also has a nice vibe; a basement cushioned seating area, walls plastered with posters and warm lighting. Very close by is the Freud Museum, so you can rearrange the schedule if you fancied that over Lindt chocolate. A hard call for any student.
Go up to the glassy sky-high bar of the Sofitel hotel for a very sophisticated drink, or to the 25 Hour Hotel’s quirky rooftop bar. Both offer incredible views, albeit with different atmospheres.
Your Sunday lunch has to be at Café Stein near Schottentor. Laid back and classy with an absolutely delicious menu, it shows you what Vienna is all about, a work-life balance that is heavily weighted to the latter. After lunch wander past the Rathaus (the town hall) simply because it is close-by and beautiful.
In winter you can drink Glühwein (glowing wine) at Vienna’s Christmas market and ice-skate through the winding trails of its park, and in summer you can read there.
Alternatively, if it’s a hot day you could make your way over to sunbathe and swim – or take out a boat or SUP board – in the river Danube for a final spot of relaxation before you leave.
My final tip would be to download Wiener Linien, the app to buy your U-Bahn (underground) ticket. The Qando is also a useful addition to your smartphone when you are in Vienna, as the app has a route-finder function that is fantastic for helping you to find your way around.
It is also worth noting that the municipal government put free events on constantly, so make sure to check if there are any scheduled during your visit. Check out www.vienna-unwrapped.com for a monthly calendar of events so that you can tailor your trip accordingly.