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I almost didn’t make it to Vienna. Upon finding out a few days before departure that WizzAir changed our return flight from Sunday to Monday evening, I was considering asking for a refund. Luckily enough, I decided we should use it as an opportunity to explore the city properly because let me tell you… Vienna is officially one of my favourite city break destinations and I don’t say this lightly.
Vienna is a picturesque city where you can find something worth capturing at every corner, a city as cosmopolitan as my beloved London without the hustle and bustle and the overwhelming crowds. A city perfect for history, architecture and music enthusiasts that feels like it was taken straight from a fairytale with all of its opulent palaces and buildings.
The best part about Vienna is you can easily explore all of its highlights in a couple of days. I, however, could easily spend an entire week there and I often catch myself thinking about returning in the future.
Where we stayed in Vienna
Our accommodation choices were fairly limited, as we were going in a group of 9 people and wanted to do this trip on a budget. For the first two nights, we ended up renting 2 Airbnb apartments close to the Rennweg station. They were rather old-fashioned, but since we wanted to spend most of our time exploring the city, we didn’t mind. On Sunday, 5 people left the city. The rest of us who decided to stay the extra night rented an apartment close to the Stephansdom. It came to a total of around €65 per person for 3 nights, which I believe was a great deal!
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, I have a little treat for you! You can get £25 off your first booking if you sign up using this* link. I will get a little extra money too – towards my next trip to Vienna, perhaps?
Getting from the Vienna Airport
The airport transfer system is something we didn’t quite grasp the concept of. Having done our research on Wikitravel, we decided to take the S7 train to the Rennweg station as it was the cheapest option. According to Wikitravel, you need two separate tickets to board the train – one for the Vienna zone, and one for the outside zone as the airport is technically outside of the city, with a single fare of €4.20. Our Airbnb host also confirmed it.
When we used one of the ticket machines available at the airport, the price came to €2.20, so we decided to buy our tickets at the counter to make sure we did everything correctly. A friend of ours paid €4.20 for her ticket, whereas my boyfriend and I paid €4.60 for 2 tickets. We just assumed that buying more than 1 ticket counts as a group ticket, hence the price difference – but this is definitely something to keep in mind!
Places we visited in Vienna
The Wurstelprater, commonly called Prater, is the world’s oldest amusement park that is open 24/7 and accessible free of charge. Only access to individual attractions is charged, with fees ranging between €1.50 and € 5.00.
It is also home to Wiener Riesenrad, one of the tallest and oldest Ferris wheels in the world. At €12, it is a rather pricey attraction, but the views from the top make it worthwhile. There are also a number of hire cabins where you can enjoy a candlelight dinner, coffee or cocktails if you are looking for an unforgettable experience and the price tag doesn’t scare you.
Apart from the Riesenrad, we also went on the Super 8 Bahn rollercoaster which cost €4.50 – although we found it enjoyable, we agreed that the lap bars felt rather unstable. As it was my boyfriend’s first time ever riding a rollercoaster and I’m an old hand, I had to reassure him that this is absolutely not the standard. Not an ideal first impression, but we’ve since been to Tivoli Gardens together, so I suppose it wasn’t all that bad 😉
The Schönbrunn Palace is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful baroque palace complexes in Europe and is not to be missed. It is the former summer residence of the Habsburgs, including Maria Theresa, Emperor Franz Joseph, or Empress Elisabeth who you might better know as Sissi. As I vividly remember watching the movie ‘Sissi’ with my mum as a little girl, I was excited to finally see this place in person.
The Schönbrunn Palace park, which is lined with magnificent fountains, statues, trees, and flowers can be accessed free of charge. You can also enjoy some coffee and pastries at Café Gloriette located on top of the hill overlooking the palace.
The Imperial Carriage Museum, Orangery Garden, Crown Prince Garden, Maze and Labyrinth, Vienna Zoo, Palm House, and Desert Experience House are also part of the complex and can be accessed at an additional fee.
I would love to return when all the flowers are in full bloom and the Palm House can be seen in all its glory. The woman selling tickets told us there was barely anything inside at the time of our visit and advised us against purchasing tickets – we greatly appreciated the honesty though!
The Belvedere Palace complex consists of two magnificent baroque palaces – the Upper and the Lower Belvedere – located on a shallow slope and separated by a beautiful garden area with decorative fountains and baroque sculptures.
Both palaces are home to the greatest collection of Austrian artwork complemented by the work of famous international artists, including Van Gogh and Monet. We decided not to go inside and took a walk in the palace gardens instead.
Stephansdom, also known as St. Stephen’s Cathedral, has become a symbol of Vienna and a distinctive feature of the city’s skyline with its multi-coloured roof and the enormous south tower.
It holds the tomb of Emperor Friedrich III, the Vienna Neustadt altar, the catacombs, and Austria’s largest bell, all of which can be viewed at an additional fee.
You may have seen a graphic circulating on the Internet that lists the word for a butterfly in various languages. The harsh-sounding German word ‘Schmetterling’ definitely stands out among other translations, which became a source of many jokes.
While I’ll admit the suggestion to visit this place was a direct consequence of these jokes, it ultimately led to us discovering this hidden gem right in the heart of Vienna. Schmetterlinghaus, aka the Butterfly House, is a tropical paradise located in a magnificent glasshouse right by the Hofburg Palace. You can see various exotic freeflying butterflies and, if you’re lucky, some may even land on you for a wonderful photo op.
Adult tickets are €7, while students can enjoy this underrated attraction for a mere €5.50.
You may also take a walk along the Ringstraße, which is 5.3 km long and forms a circle around the Old Town district of Vienna. It is lined by the most important buildings and sights, including the University of Vienna, Vienna State Opera, Imperial Palace, Kunsthistorisches Museum, and the Parliament. If you don’t have a lot of time to spare, this is the perfect way to see many of the city’s highlights in one afternoon.
I hope you found my little travel guide helpful and it gave you some ideas of places worth visiting if you ever decide to tick Vienna off your list. As I have already mentioned, I would love to return and spend more than 3 days in the city. While I enjoyed my time there thoroughly, as this trip was done on a budget, we didn’t go inside most of these places and just took advantage of the marvellous weather! I’m currently working on putting together a blog post listing all the restaurants and cafés we visited during our stay in the Austrian capital, so keep your eyes peeled for the second part!
I’ve recently noticed that Vienna is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, so if you have already been, feel free to tell me your favourite places and recommendations! Is there anything I absolutely cannot miss next time I’m in the city?