Join us as we explore the Grand Austrian city of Vienna
This post on Vienna is a quick capture of our travels as they occur. Though we often post on social media during our adventures, many have requested that we do so on the blog. The focus will be the photography and our first impressions while experiencing the city. The photos in this post will be from our iPhones vs. our Nikon since we can process them quickly while traveling.
Let’s pay a visit to historic Vienna.
A bit about Vienna
Vienna is the capital city of Austria and is located in the east of the country. Around 1.8 million people live here, and though that sounds like a lot, the city somehow keeps a more intimate feel about it, while having all the amenities of any major European city.
A stunningly beautiful city, Vienna is full of urban charm and vitality. It has a rich and long history, an extensive range of leisure and cultural activities, excellent public transportation, economic success, low crime, and some of the best coffee and cakes in the world.
The history of Vienna goes back to the Romans when they settled here when it was known as Vindobona. There are churches in the city that date back over 1000 years. Vienna owes its beauty to the legacy of the Habsburg dynasty that ruled over large areas of Europe for many centuries. Vienna sat at the center of Habsburg rule. Many of the monumental buildings and renowned art found here are because various royal members and their families constantly played the game of one-upmanship in architecture, interior design, and art collections.
Considered the home to classical music, the arts are core to the culture of Vienna. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms, Mahler, Bruckner, Schubert, Lehár, various members of the Strauss family, and many others produced impressive quantities of sheet music here. Vienna has one of the world’s greatest opera houses, and many believe one of the world’s best classical music venues.
The top things to do and see in Vienna are
- Take in a classical concert, whether in a church, concert hall, opera house, or outdoor venue.
- Explore Hofburg and Schonbrunn Palaces.
- Learn more about the reality and myth of the most enigmatic of the Habsburg Empresses at the Sisi Museum.
- People watch in Heldenplatz Square.
- Stand in awe of the Stephansodm Cathedral.
- Spend time in a traditional Vienna coffee house, some dating back centuries. Enjoy a cup of Viennese coffee with Sachertorte. Austrians love their cake, often having it for breakfast. If you want an authentic experience, the cake is a must.
- Visit the Kunsthistorisches, Upper Belvedere, and Albertina Museums which has many paintings from old masters.
- Wander around the streets and enjoy the mix of architectural styles, such as Baroque townhouses, Jugendstil shop fronts, Biedermeier villas, and neo-gothic municipal offices.
- Dine on some Wiener Schnitzel (pork fried with a breadcrumb coating) with Kaiserschmarren (shredded pancake).
- Take a tour of the State Opera House.
- Shop with the locals at the Naschmarkt. An open-air market is full of little bars and endless produce and food stalls.
- Stroll down Ringstrassen Blvd clockwise to Schottentor. This path takes you past the Burggarten with its Mozart memorial, Parliament, the Volksgarten Park, the Rathaus, the Burgtheater, and the University.
- Take a food tour to look into Austrian food and experience it as locals do.
Our Vienna Visit Details
5 nights in early September
Middle of a 14-day trip that included; Budapest, Bratislava, and Prague
It was our first visit to Vienna
Hilton Vienna Plaza
(Free with Hilton Points)
How we got around
Walked 41 miles total along with public transportation.
Imperial Austria Sisi Tickets One day (Schloss Schonbrunn, Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments). Spanish Riding School Tour, Food tour Great Taste of Vienna, Ed Sheeran Concert, Classical concert St Peters Church
The weather was sunny with average temps of the low 80s. It got a bit warm at times, especially when indoors without A.C.
Our favorite moments and highlights from Vienna
We thoroughly enjoyed Vienna, more so than we expected. Our five-night stay was a reasonable amount of time, but we still did not get to all we wanted to see. It would be easy to spend much longer here.
One of our favorite experiences in Vienna was taking a 5-hour food tour with Wolfy Adventures on our second morning in Vienna. Our tour guide Maria took our small group of six throughout the city of Vienna. We started, of course, at a cafe for a Cafe Melange with a sweet and savory breakfast; from there, we explored two street markets, enjoyed many delicious varieties of street food, followed by a traditional Austrian meal at a local restaurant, and finished off with a unique ice cream experience. All the while, we were learning about Vienna’s history and food. What made it extra special was visiting various districts of the city we otherwise would likely have never seen.
Vienna is all about its Cafe culture. Many days start and end at cafes. They love their coffee, and their favorite brew is Cafe Melange. It is similar to a Cappuccino but with a bit more punch. Our first Melange was at the famous Cafe Central, and, well, we didn’t think it was unique, just like an extra shot added to any espresso drink. The Cafe experience in Vienna is fun, especially when you step back and people-watch. Locals still come here just to read the paper while easing into their day. It is where locals gather, and people connect with their neighbors. Of course, alcohol is on all cafe menus we visited for those who prefer a glass of wine or beer in the evening.
While at the cafes, you will note that the Viennese love their desserts. We noticed big, delicious, decadent, elaborate desserts with their coffee. We heard that Sacher torte is a must, and we did try it. It did not quite live up to the hype, and looking around us; it didn’t seem many Austrians were ordering it either.
Music is the heart of Vienna
Music is core to Vienna’s history, especially in classical music. The most famous classical composers of the world composed their work here. The most outstanding music venues are reputed to be here in Austria. The Opera house sadly was closed during our visit, so we took in a Classical concert by a string quartet at St Peter’s Church. It was truly remarkable and moving. We can’t recommend it enough. Vienna has many choices, but avoid the touristy ones sold on every corner.
In the weeks before our arrival, we learned Ed Sheeran would have two shows while in Vienna. Of course, we bought tickets, and what an incredible experience it was. It was our first large-scale concert in Europe, and what a city to do it in. The atmosphere outside of the stadium was similar to a large outdoor festival. The venue is so well organized and staffed. Of course, what can you say about Ed Sheeran? What a performer!!! We were blown away, and it was an evening that will always be a special memory. Check the local calendar before you travel; there may be some great experiences to add to your itinerary you weren’t expecting.
During our time there, an international film festival occurred in Vienna. It had a large outdoor screen for public viewing of movies. We visited the food and drink area, where they had an expansive selection of food and drink stands while live music was playing. They do love their Aperol Spritz here. They had an incredible diversity of international cuisines, even kangaroo, at the Australian food booth. It was such a fabulous and festive atmosphere. Seek out local festivals on the schedule for something unique and different. See how the locals enjoy their free time.
Vienna is known for its Grand Palaces, and we especially enjoyed our visit to Hofburg Palace and the Sisi Museum; it is well worth your time. We also visited Schonbrunn and Upper and Lower Belvedere Palaces. The exteriors and grounds were lovely, but we found the interiors lacking some. You will be disappointed if you are looking for something comparable to Versailles. It was time later we wished we had spent elsewhere.
The Spanish Riding School is part of the Hofburg Palace. The riding school is world-famous for the Ballet of the White Stallions. We had pre-booked the popular guided tour of the Spanish Riding School that we thoroughly enjoyed. Getting up close to the Lipizzaner horses in their stables was a treat. The history behind these horses and the threat they came under in WWII, and how the U.S. played a role in saving the horses were fascinating.
A surprisingly affordable city
This may seem out of place in favorite moments, but we found Vienna affordable. Everything was reasonable; food, entries into sites, public transportation, hotels, entertainment, etc. Servings at restaurants are generous.
During our last few trips, we have had our share of Wienerschnitzel. We have to say the best has been in Vienna.
We didn’t have a favorite city area and enjoyed it all. Even away from downtown, near the stadium was lovely and safe.
Our Observations and Commentary
Vienna is a clean, classy, and organized city. People here like order and rule, which is the norm. Even a jaywalker is rare to see. It has a similar feel to Germany, with a softer edge.
We found the public transportation system remarkable and easy to navigate. There never was more than a few minutes wait at any hour of the day. Before our arrival, we purchased the Vienna City Card, which provided a mobile pass on our phone. It made it simple to get around. Google Maps were flawless for guiding on what public transportation options to take.
The public transportation system, like in Budapest, is an honor system. There are no ticket stations, scanners, or kiosks. We never saw anyone check for tickets. They are respectful rule followers here.
At the time of our visit, masks were still required on public transportation; most people complied. There were those few defiant ones. At some transit stations, Police were calling out people not wearing masks. Otherwise, nowhere else was it required. Not in museums or restaurants. It was rare to see anyone wearing masks other than in public transit.
Diversity in Communities
During our food tour, we learned about Vienna’s social housing program. Maria pointed out the buildings that are social housing vs. privately owned. It was easy to recognize. Both are well-kept and clean, but the social housing was plainer and more affordable. Vienna requires this housing placed in every area of the city. No district, even where stores like Louis Vuitton are, is exempt. The goal is to have people of all classes and walks of life be part of the same community. Over one-half million people reside in these buildings throughout Vienna, which is just under 1/3 of the city’s population.
We did not see any homeless or beggars during our extensive travels through the city day or night. Our food tour guide said if someone is without lodging, they are taken to a place to stay. One of the reasons for social housing is that all can have a place to live. It sounds ideal, and it would be interesting to learn more if it is successful or if there is a dark side to it.
It surely is GRAND
If there was one word to describe Vienna, is grand. The buildings, monuments, parks, and museums. Palaces, boulevards, and music. It, in many ways, has a feel of Paris but is cleaner and safer.
It was surprising to us, but Vienna is quite a diverse, multicultural city. There is little apparent separation here, as is seen in some cities, at least on the surface, maybe because of their social housing programs that keep communities diverse. It is a well-educated population with an average household income of almost three times of the United States. Only 4% of the population lives below the poverty level.
There was never a time we felt unsafe or worried. There was a night that we walked over a mile back to our hotel after midnight, on backstreets and at times alone with no concerns at all. Getting lost never bothered us; it was fun.
The gardens and parks are beautiful and thoroughly enjoyed by the city’s residents. Families are everywhere, and many people are lounging on the lawns enjoying the beautiful weather. In such a big city, you still feel a sense of community.
People are friendly and welcoming to tourists. We did find people a bit serious at times but never rude. Austria is a respectful society that follows the rules by nature.
They do tip in Vienna and Austria as a whole. Ten percent is the norm across the board.
Apple Pay is the way to go here. Everyone uses it, even for bottles of water at kiosks. When tipping, you can tell them how much to add to the bill before scanning or leaving cash.
Where to stay when visiting Vienna
This is a beautiful and safe city with great public transportation. Anywhere would be an ideal location to stay to visit the whole city.
We believe it is important to price out properties on various sites. Expedia is a US-based company, whereas Booking.com is Europe based. Not all properties appear on both. If the establishment has a website, check the price there as well.Booking.com
Thank you for joining us on our adventure through the classical music city of Vienna
© 2024 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery of Vienna
Checkout our most recent blog posts
We often encounter discussions on social media travel sites about whether someone should buy…February 19, 2024
With a little know-how, you can make your trip to France exceptional “Whenever you…January 29, 2024
“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And…December 5, 2023
Want to learn about Wanderers Compass?
Our Top Recommended Travel Products and Resources
Our favorite travel insurance site!
If you book a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover COVID-19 medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world
They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover COVID-related transport as well.
Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.
To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours
Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always check Expedia and Booking.com to verify prices. At times, one is sold out of rooms while another at the same place has rooms. As well we often find some European hotels, especially smaller ones, on Booking.com but not on Expedia. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network with access to all lodging forms should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.
As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.
With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.
Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.
We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.
This is not your ordinary drinkware company. The HYDAWAY difference is what their products do when you’re not using them. Practical and portable, HYDAWAY doesn’t take up unnecessary space in your already-packed life or pile up in landfills. We all know that trying to pack light while being environmentally conscious can be difficult. Having the right items can make a world of difference. HYDAWAY provides that.
We have used their collapsible water bottle, carrying case for the water bottle, and collapsible insulated drink tumbler. They are all lightweight and durable. A conservation-focused product you can be proud to buy.
Use our Promo Code. WANCOM15, at checkout for 15% off your Hydaway order
(Airport and sightseeing service)
A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.
Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.
Do you feel like you are wasting time visiting an on-site photographer only to be embarrassed by the photo? Would you like control of the final product? Get the perfect VISA or passport photo online with PhotoAID.
When traveling, you often need to apply for official documents such as a passport, ID, and different kinds of licenses or cards. Those applications require a picture that must meet specific conditions to be accepted, depending on the country. Now, it is possible to take this picture at home without the help of a professional photographer. PhotoAiD allows you to take the perfect biometric photo that will be approved by you without leaving your home.
This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!