Kevin and I were super excited to visit Vienna on our way out of Europe. Family and friends have told us that the city is just BEAUTIFUL, and we figured we should at least see a little bit of Austria before heading back home to Seattle. So after a week in Paris, a month in Spain, a few nights in Portugal, 2 weeks in Italy, 40 days in Croatia and 4 weeks in Budapest, we packed up our bags for one of the last times and hopped on a train from Budapest to Vienna.
We stayed in a “Private Room” Airbnb rental in Vienna, which means we were in a private bedroom that someone chooses to rent out in their apartment. We ended up feeling like we had the entire apartment to ourselves, though, since our host Luca had just started a new Ice Cream shop! He was working 14+ hour days, so we rarely saw him. He seemed like a really nice guy and his apartment was enormous, bright, and in a great location. If you’re ever looking for a place to stay in Vienna and don’t mind the “Private Room” setup, we recommend Luca’s Place.
So what does one do when visiting Vienna? Admittedly, Kevin and I now travel waaaaaaaaaaaaaay off the beaten track. We avoid tourist attractions like the plague, spend most of our time outside, and have discovered that parks are often our favorite thing about cities we visited. So we skipped the Hofburg Palace, the Schönbrunn Palace, and ALL of the museums. You should definitely visit those things if they appeal to you, but I’m a huge advocate now for traveling how YOU want to travel without feeling obligated to go to a site just because Rick Steves gave it 3 thumbs up.
We focused on what matters to us: Beer, Food, Parks, and just one or two tourist attractions. If you are anything like Kevin and myself, we think you’ll enjoy doing the things I talk about below, especially the Beer in Vienna… Happy Travels, friends!
Explore Vienna’s Parks
We lucked out and got some amazing weather in Vienna, especially for it being late April/Early May. So we hit the parks and we hit them hard. For people traveling on a budget, parks are an ideal place to visit in Vienna. They are free, they are beautiful, and they are full of locals and great for people watching.
Vienna is an enormous city, so it’s nearly impossible to decide where you should stay during your visit. I’m training for a marathon at the moment, so we try to find apartments close to the tourist area but also near enormous parks where I can run 12+ miles without dying of boredom. Jesuitenwiese Park is HUGE, has beautiful wide (mostly shaded) running paths, and isn’t too busy. Added bonus?! FREE BATHROOMS!
From our Airbnb apartment, we walked over to Donaukanal (a small canal) then ran on a beautiful trail along the water to reach the park. If you’re in Vienna and need a place to run, we highly recommend Jesuitenwiese.
Volksgarten and Heldenplatz Square
If you’re planning to visit the Hofburg Palace complex, you MUST stop at Volksgarten and neighboring Heldenplatz Square. The lilacs were blooming in early May and the smell was incredible. There are chairs and benches everywhere in Volksgarten to sit down and enjoy being outside. Bring a blanket, a picnic, and some sunscreen, because you might just want to stay all day.
Located near the Volksgarten, the Burggarten is also not to be missed! The garden is free to enter, so don’t be deterred by the people standing at the gates who look like they’re selling tickets. They’re probably just selling tickets to musical performances – walk right past ‘em.
Located on the East end of Vienna’s tourist center, Stadtpark is a great place to go if you need a break from the city and is known for its status of Austria’s most famous musicians.
Okay, you got me, this isn’t technically a park – it’s an outdoor market. But we definitely recommend heading to Naschmarkt for a quick stroll, especially if your sweet tooth is aching. They have dozens of types of Baklava, fruits and vegetables from every corner of the world, and a dizzying array of olives.
Beer in Vienna (and Some Food, Too)
7 Stern Brau
Our first (and definitely favorite) beer hall stop in Vienna, 7 Stern Brau was awesome. They’re located slightly off the tourist track, but it’s totally worth the walk. Plus, you’ll be near the delicious Schelato ice cream shop run by our Airbnb host Luca (see below).
For the best ice cream in Vienna, head to Schelato. It’s a new place opened by our Airbnb host Luca, and they make some of the tastiest ice cream I’ve had.
The frozen yogurt with dark berries was my very favorite flavor. The kicker was that we got both these cones for just 2.80 Euros!
Salm Brau, located here, probably has the most fun atmosphere of any beer hall we visited in Vienna. It reminded us a lot of Munich’s beer halls, with its hop wreaths hanging from the ceiling and the waiters all wearing leiderhosen. Surrounded by loud, raucous people speaking German, we almost felt like we were back at Oktoberfest again!
PRO TIP: you should absolutely get a reservation if you’re visiting for dinner! We had one, so we skipped the enormous line and sat right down.
If you’re looking for a bargain, go no further than Wieden Brau, located here. During Happy Hour (2-4pm), all drinks are half price! I can’t say the beer was my favorite, but it was the cheapest stop we made in the whole city.
1516 Brewing Company
If you’re feeling a little homesick and want to visit a beer hall that reminds you a little more of American beers, we recommend 1516 Brewing Company. It’s located in Vienna’s city center so it’s easy to reach, and we actually really enjoyed the lunch we ate there.
This brewery scores points for eccentricity, and is famous for its Honey Ale. Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg is a small operation located in the City Center, and is worth a visit solely because the decor is so fun to look at. Added bonus? They’re usually brewing some sort of beer, so it smells incredible when you walk inside!
Visit the Opera
Clearly, we couldn’t visit Vienna without hitting at least one tourist attraction, and we obviously chose the best bargain in town. Did you know you can go to the Vienna Opera for just three euros?! THREE! This is not a typo. If you arm yourself with a hefty amount of patience, a brown bag dinner, and a book for reading, it can be a great way to see the inside of the opera house and an actual opera performance without breaking the bank.
So how does it work? First, you get in line for standing room tickets. Once you get your ticket, you wait in line to go up the stairs to the standing room area. Once they let you into the standing room area, you mark your seat off, then wander around while you wait for the performance to start. Are you catching my drift here? There is a LOT of waiting. If you have a jam packed schedule for your time in Vienna, you might be better off spending the money to get a seat for the performance so you don’t waste hours standing in lines. Sometimes saving money isn’t worth sacrificing so much of your valuable travel time!
If you still want to do standing tickets like we did (time is something you have a lot of when you’re traveling for a whole year), check out this great writeup on how to get standing room tickets for the Vienna State Opera House.
We Want to Hear From You!
Have you visited Vienna? What was your favorite site?