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Vienna is an expensive city. Vienna is too big to discover on foot. Vienna cannot be visited in just 48 hours. These were the beliefs I went to the Austrian capital with. When I checked the tourist guides, it seemed to confirm that Vienna was not an ideal place to visit on a student budget. I like to defy the odds, as you know, and was able to visit Vienna for €150 all in during 48 hours.
The first thing I noticed when I reached Vienna in my BlaBlaCar, was that the city looks a lot like Paris. The same grandeur, a similar architectural style alongside wide, tree-lined lanes. Coming from Bratislava the day before, I realized I felt much more comfortable here.
The public transport in Vienna is top notch by the way. I bought a 48h tram card (price: €13,3 in 2016) to find my AirBnb in the St. Marx area and decided I would visit the city for as long as this tram card was valid. You can use the card on the trams, busses, subways (S- and U-bahn). You stamp the card on your first ride and that’s when the clock starts ticking. Go go go!
Because I was so limited on time, I had prepared myself more than usual. I carried with me an old Vienna guide with walking routes I was planning to follow. That didn’t work out as well as I’d planned though. My experience with wandering around freely was harder to suppress than I’d thought possible. What can I say… I am a hopeless wanderer!
Karlsplatz was an area that I hadn’t included in my to do list, but because this was the nearest big stop on the metro, I thought it wise to spend my first night it here.
Karlsplatz has a nice square with a magnificent church, Karlskirche. But what impressed me most was the university building, the stark white Technische Hochschule. The streets behind the square are characterized by alternative and art shops. But really, I was just looking for the Naschmarkt. It’s a square with a lot of bars that the Wieners like to go to. During the day, an exotic market sets up camp there.
The reason why I was unable to find the Naschmarkt in the end, is because I wasn’t able to stick to the preprogrammed route from the travel guide. I was too distracted by everything happening around me to read the map properly I guess (or maybe I’m just too blonde?). In the end, I gave up and decided to try again later to find it if I still had time left. With the help of some friendly citizens, I found my way to the world famous Stephansdom. And from there on, I followed my gut!
Right away it became clear that I was walking in the right direction. Everyone seems to be going to this place called Stephansplatz. I was following the crowds there, but then I got distracted (again, I know) by the more tranquil Neue Markt and its beautifully lit fountain. After that, I ended up in a big, chic neighborhood and ended up losing my orientation, feeling like I was walking around in circles. How many Louis Vuitton shops can you put in one neighborhood?! There were like ten!
Eventually, I found Stephansplatz. Even if you have never heard of this place before, you know you’re in the right place when you see crowds of people mingling on the square despite the cold temperatures. All just to see the Stephansdom, beautifully lit in early nightfall.
After making a round around the Dom, I had gotten quite hungry. I ended up in a restaurant called Sparky’s where non-smokers were the ones put in a separate room. For real! I had an ok meal for a good price. The waiter also kept returning for a chat. Waiters in Vienna are always so friendly and helpful!
The Grandeur of Vienna
My full day in Vienna started at Café Central, the most traditional coffee house to have breakfast at (according to 100% of the Viennese). Around nine it was already buzzing in there. That shouldn’t surprise anyone as it is a popular place – and not only in the morning! Throughout the day, people are sitting here for hours reading the papers or a book while enjoying a nice cup of “melange”.
That morning, I ordered the traditional “Wiener Frühstück” with a hardboiled egg, croissant and toast, jam and coffee. With a big breakfast under my belt, I was ready to get this day started!
I made another an attempt at following the travel guide (I don’t give up too easily, can you tell?). That’s how I found Michaelersplatz. I almost missed Michaelerkirche, because that’s what the Hofburg does: it claims your full attention. Inside, you’ll find the Spanish Hofreitschule and the Sissi Museum. Because I had limited budget and time, I didn’t go inside, although I was told that you can attend dress rehearsals which are more affordable and worth every penny.
Via the Hofburg I walked towards Heldenplatz. On the way, I admired the horse carriages I passed and wondered why the gardens on the square were so terribly maintained (so unlike Vienna!). Afterwards I heard that a parade had taken place there recently and that’s why all the grass was trampled. I also tried to get into the National Library, but I was told you can’t get in without an entrance badge (although others have told me afterward that they had no issue visiting the place!).
By then I had forgotten all about my travel guide and I had missed a whole part of the route. I stopped caring and followed my own lead again. Oh the sweet taste of freedom! That’s how I found the Volksgarten (which looks just amazing in autumn), passed the Parliament building and ended up in the Rathauspark. Some parts of the park were closed because they were already preparing for the christmas market but I was able to get a glimpse of Vienna’s beautiful town hall. I also clicked some pictures of the mesmerizing autumn colors and enjoyed watching a woman play with her dog. Continuing my stroll, I walked by the Burgtheater, where Antigone by Sophokles was the headline. It caught my eye because I translated the play in my Greek classes in high school. I would have loved seeing this being performed live!
After all this I was starving and exhausted. I tried to use my guide to find a shortcut back to Stephansplatz for lunch. That’s how I encountered a lucky find called Ferstel Passage, a quaint gallery that wasn’t mentioned in any guides. * insert the oh-my-god moment * After briefly exploring the gallery – by then I was almost fainting with hunger – I ended up at the main square.
You’d think I’d have given up following the guide by now seeing as I kept getting lost, but I discovered a few amazing hidden streets thanks to it! With some help of the friendly Wieners I was able to track down the strongly recommended Franziskanersplatz. The square in itself is quite small in size, but it looks super romantic thanks to the beautiful pastel church. Despite its compactness, I kept walking in circles trying to find this one address from the guide but apparently it doesn’t exist anymore (nor does the house number?!). Then I entered the Kleines Café to ask about the mystery building just so I could see the inside and discover if the name did the place any justice. (I won’t spoil it for you. Go check it out when you’re there!)
By now I was beat. Seeing all of Vienna in 1 day? Who wouldn’t be! But I wasn’t ready to stop just yet. Although I skipped most of the suggested route, I found shortcuts to see the sights I didn’t wanna miss. I concluded that following travel guides might not really be my thing after all. You see, the thing is that when you aimlessly wander around, you can’t get lost, because there’s nowhere you’re supposed to end up. And that is what I enjoy so much!
I walked down the Viennese version of the Spanish steps and, my favorite, the hidden Jewish cemetery “Jüdischer Friedhof Rossau” that you’ll find hidden in the backyard of an elderly home (literally!). The people love it when you greet them politely while walking through the halls to get to the graveyard. Finally, I went inside the Servitenkirche as well but got out again as fast as I could because it seems very unstable inside. It was like I could hear the wooden beams sigh and crack…
When I reached the Sigmund-Freud-park, I went into the first place I saw for a bite and a drink. I deserved it (even though I found out how expensive Vienna can be)! If I had walked a bit further, I could have enjoyed a coffee in one of the nice students bars, but I felt a lot better after devouring that piece of bodding which they wouldn’t have served there…
On my last day in Vienna, I met up with a friend who was studying here. He showed me around the city, visiting some new things as well as places I had already visited. It was nice to catch up after haven’t having seen each other for a year.
First we visited the Belvedere castle, took some pictures and continued our way to a street full of embassies, including the Belgian one. We also went to Schwarzenbergplatz. It has a fountain which is beautifully lit at night with all colors of the rainbow.
That night, I returned to Bratislava, where I’d be catching my flight back home the next morning, in a bright red Audi A5. You can probably imagine how excited I was about my ride if you know that red is my favorite color and Audi one of my favorite car brands. The couple driving spoke Spanish, they were Argentinian and Spanish. Which means I got practice all my languages in one day: Dutch with my friend, Spanish during the Blablacar ride, French in the airports, German in the Airbnb and English in general. How to make the most of everything right 🙂
Not counting some sights (such as Sissi’s Schönbrunn Palace) I was able to do everything I wanted to in Vienna. Was the trip a success? It sure was!
Transportation (public + Blablacar): €21.3
Accommodation (Airbnb): €62
Have you ever been to Vienna? What are your budget tips for the Austrian capital?
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