Erasmus life: a few free days before classes start – take a trip! I managed to spend 3 days in Vienna and then visited Salzburg and the surrounding region.
Originally, I intended to visit Vienna, Graz, Salzburg and maybe Innsbruck, but I’m glad I slowed down in the end. I stayed at least three nights in the two cities, meaning I wasn’t rushing around as much as I would have been had I stuck to my original plans. And I got to spend 3 days in Vienna rather than having to cut my trip to the capital short to fit in other places!
My dad has been waxing lyrical about Vienna to me for years, so I figured that it was definitely time to see what all the fuss is about. And really, I think it lives up to the hype.
I’m going to put a disclaimer right here – Vienna, and Austria in general, is perhaps not the easiest place to stick to a goal of “budget travel”. I spent a bit more on accommodation than I’m used to, but travelling in Western Europe isn’t like backpacking in Eastern Europe or South East Asia – things naturally cost more in these wealthier countries.
So I ended up shelling out quite a bit, but I definitely think that the visit to Austria was worth it. Just means I’m going to have to be a little bit careful until my Erasmus grant arrives… *nervous laughter*
I’d definitely recommend Vienna as a destination for solo travel though – I felt very safe, and there was loads to keep myself occupied in the time I spent there! In fact, I’m definitely going to need a couple of return trips to see everything I missed this time.
Without further ado, here is a summary of my three days in the City of Music!
My first day in Vienna, after a good long sleep following an exhausting 13-hour Flixbus journey from Tübingen, was spent as I usually like to spend the first day in a new city – completely tiring myself out by trekking all over the whole city on foot.
I was staying with Westend City Hostel, near the Westbahnhof station – it was a very comfortable and good value place to stay, and easily reachable by public transport links from the Historic Centre of the city. On foot, it was about 15 minutes to the centre. I tend to avoid using the public transport too much in a new place, unless the weather is absolutely horrendous. Which luckily, during my first couple of days in the city, it wasn’t!
So I walked into the city, and my first stop was the Hofburg Imperial Palace. The Hofburg is located in the centre of Vienna’s Historic Centre, and was first built in the 13th century, to be the seat of power and principal winter residence of the rulers of the Habsburg Dynasty. Today, the Hofburg is the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria, and home to the Spanish Riding School (Hofreitschule), the Sisi Museum commemorating Empress Elisabeth, and the Treasury (Schatzkammer), the latter two of which I visited on my first day in the city. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to tour the riding school, but I’ll definitely try and include it if, no, when, I return to Vienna!
Afterwards, I wandered to the Elisabeth Memorial and out to the Ring Tram, where I caught a tram circling the centre, to check out another view of some of the city’s most famous and impressive architecture!
I grabbed a bite to eat on the other side of the centre and wandered back towards St. Stephen’s cathedral, which did not disappoint. I always think you don’t get to know a place properly until you’ve walked around it for a while, and due to my phone dying and me having to navigate with my slowly disintegrating paper map, I feel I did adequately enough. For several hours.
I paid a couple of euros to go up the tower at the cathedral (Stefansdom) – which seems to be one of those places that despite amazing views and a very intimidating exterior, is always covered in scaffolding. I guess that’s the price for having nice things. Heading for the church tower is something I always do when I arrive in a city – got to take in those views, and no two are the same!
Vienna has some of the loveliest architecture I’ve seen. I can guarantee that anyone you ask about their trip to the city will utter the words “old time charm” at least once. They’re not wrong.
My next stop was Peterskirche, another beautiful, ornate church. I decided to head back later the evening for a concert in the crypt. I was pretty exhausted by this point, but I’m glad I went! Not only did I get a very heavily discounted student ticket, but the quartet played a lot of pieces of music I really like. Particularly the encore – the beautiful tango, “Por Una Cabeza”. One of my favourites.
I finished off the evening with a hot chocolate at one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses, Café Hawelka. Now, not to bash the coffee houses, because they’re just my kind of thing. But other than being pretty dang expensive, they expect a hefty service charge on top of your bill. If I’m honest, I was waiting about 20 minutes to pay. The café wasn’t even that busy, so I didn’t leave a tip for the slightly disgruntled waiter. Come on, I’m a student! And I just paid nearly 5 euros for a hot chocolate.
I spent the majority of the next day at the very impressive Schönbrunn Palace. I walked there from the hostel but it’s also easily reachable via public transport.
Schönbrunn was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs. It’s a beautiful place to spend the day checking out more amazing palace interiors, wandering the extensive grounds or the Zoo! Note: I did not go to the Zoo because animals in captivity don’t really do it for me. But I’m told that this one is pretty good, as they go.
I got a Classic day ticket for Schönbrunn, which set me back 20 Euros, but was definitely worth it! I got entry to the Grand Tour of the palace interior (around 40 rooms!), the Gloriette viewing terrace with its amazing views over Vienna, Privy Garden, the Labyrinth and the Orangery Garden (I sadly didn’t make it in time to see this part though…)
I must have spent around five hours at Schönbrunn, even though the ticket says 3-4. And I could have stayed longer! It’s better not to rush! Of course, I stopped at the café for a coffee and Sachertorte, Vienna’s famous dessert. In my humble opinion, it’s overrated. This didn’t stop me from having several…
The views from the Gloriette were one of my favourite parts of the day!
And, of course, the tour around the inside of the palace. You’re not allowed to take pictures, but… Ssh.
On my way back into the city, I decided to try my luck for a standing ticket to the Vienna State Opera. But after heading over and seeing the size of the queue, more than an hour in advance… I decided I was way too tired to wait it out. Thankfully, I went back on my final day in Vienna, far better prepared, and managed to get a ticket! More on that later though.
I spent the evening winding down in a small, traditional Austrian restaurant where I managed to find a vegetarian Schnitzel… Not a patch on the real thing, I’m sure, but what are we veggies supposed to do? Followed it up with some wine and one of countless slices of strudel consumed during the week…
On my way back to the hostel, I decided in the spur of the moment to go to the cinema and see “Victoria and Abdul”, which I’d wanted to see since I saw the trailer for it a couple of months ago! A really good film, even though my eyes were closing now and then… I was tired, okay?
I was FREEZING walking back to the hostel… Because I didn’t pack a proper coat, severely underestimating the Austrian weather in October. Note, colder than Tübingen… But I so rarely travel in autumn or winter. It’s nice to experience something other than sweltering hot temperatures. Or I was telling myself to stave off the cold…
On my last day in Vienna, the weather decided to take a turn for the utterly crap, so I headed to one of the city’s many, many museums to hide from the rain. Along with every other visitor to Vienna, it seemed. Queuing in the rain outside the Kunsthistorisches (Art History) Museum wasn’t the highlight of the day, let’s just say that. I did make it in eventually though! It’s a really beautiful museum with some amazing artworks!
It’s so difficult to choose a museum or gallery to visit in Vienna, because there are SO MANY! One of the many reasons I want to go back soon! The MuseumsQuartier is also worth heading to – there’s quite a few of Vienna’s most famous museums in one area, and so you definitely won’t struggle to find somewhere to spend a rainy day!
After this traumatic wait in the rain, obviously I needed to check out the café. And a pretty fancy one too… I spent a good couple of hours at the Kunsthistorisches, and then headed to the State Opera for another try! I was lucky enough to catch a performance of Puccini’s famous La bohème!
Now, I’d read quite a bit about how to deal with the Standing Room situation – I’ll break it down quickly for you guys here. You can go to the Vienna State Opera on the evening of a performance and queue to buy an extremely cheap standing ticket for 3 or 4 euros, if you’re willing to wait for a good couple of hours and then spend the entire performance on your feet.
I got there a good hour and a half before the ticket booth even opened (and that itself is 80 minutes before the start of the performance. With some takeaway noodles and a book, I took my place in the queue (thankfully not reaching the outside of the building yet) and waited. Once the ticket counter opened and the queue got moving, it wasn’t too long before I got my 3 euro ticket and headed in to get a place.
I was in the second row back of my section, so had a really good view! You have to mark your spot on the rail with a scarf or something similar (I used my anorak) if you want to go off and explore the opera house! I felt a bit out of place with my Exeter hoodie and jeans amongst the ball gowns. Oh well. There’s a reason I’m in the cheap seats.
It’s Viennese tradition that the opera should be accessible to everyone, not just the rich. Hence the opportunity every night to buy standing room tickets for such a low price. I set the monitor in front of me to show German translations of the Italian (got to practice!) and managed to understand most of the plot. In theory. I mean, I knew what was happening, but it’s a bit of a weird plot anyway, if you ask me.
In the end, I’m so glad I managed to see an opera in a city so famous for it, but if I’m being honest, I much prefer a classical concert to an opera. Maybe I’m not cultured enough? Anyway, it’s something I’d definitely recommend as a “Vienna must-do” experience, if you’re into classical music, or just beautiful architecture!
And so concludes my tales from 3 Days in Vienna! It’s an amazing city to which I definitely will return one day! So thanks for the recommendations, Dad!
Stay tuned for my post about venturing into the mountain region in and around another beautiful Austrian city – Salzburg!
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