We’ve finally been to Vienna! We wanted for a long time to visit the capital of Austria, either by going there from Bratislava or from Budapest, but somehow we could not achieve these plans until now. But maybe this was for the better, because a short while ago Wizzair has introduced a direct flight on Cluj-Vienna route and we bought a couple of tickets as soon as they were available on the website, for a 4-day vacation in a city we heard very good things about.
So, in the middle of June, at dusk, we arrived at the airport with a lot of enthusiasm and big plans. The flight lasted about an hour, and if you fly during summer you have the opportunity to see a wonderful sunset from up close. There are several transportation options from the Vienna airport to the center of the city, we chose a bus which has a station in front of the terminal – one ticket is 8 euros. If you wish, you can buy a return ticket for 13 euros, saving 3 euros from the total.
Once we got to the center, we went to the apartment booked on Airbnb, which was just 10 minutes away on foot from the bus station (sign up to Airbnb here to get a $40 discount for your first trip). Although, as you already know, we generally choose the cheapest flight and accommodation options, this time we decided to invest a little more for accommodation in order to stay right in the heart of Vienna. We have to say that the price difference was totally worth it – our apartment was in a historical building right in the center of the city, located in a semi-pedestrian area, between a beautiful church and a little park, with terraces right in front of the building. And all the important objectives from the center were at 15-20 minutes walking distance – so it was perfect!
Because it was already dark when we arrived, we left our backpacks at the apartment and went out for a short walk to explore the surroundings and breathe in the Viennese air, then we got back home to set up the plan for the next day.
The second day we woke up early because we knew we had a lot of nice places to visit and we needed time to reach all of them. After a short trip to the supermarket across the road (did we already tell you how great it is to live in the center? 🙂 ) to buy some groceries for the next days (the prices at the supermarket are about the same as those in our own country), we went for a walk.
Our first impression about Vienna? It’s super clean! And this cleanliness is extended to the traffic – which is not congested at all, everything seems to be very well planned and organized. A lot of people criticized us for saying that Rome is full of garbage and it has a chaotic traffic, buses that never arrive on time, crowded landmarks and annoying street vendors – we recommend them to visit Vienna for a change, so they can better understand what we meant 🙂 .
We decided to spend our first day exploring and discovering – so we went on a reconnaissance mission, to see what can we find and where, we did a little shopping, visited some buildings and churches with beautiful architecture and two parks from the central area.
In Vienna there are many large pedestrian areas, nicely arranged, most of them with shops of all kinds and for all sorts of clients – some with medium prices, promotions and discounts, others with high-end brands, having ridiculous prices and overrated products. The most famous shopping area from the capital of Austria is Mariahilfer street (Mariahilfer Straße) – with a total length of almost 2 km, with stores on both sides, from top brands to little shops, restaurants, ice cream stands, coffee shops and so on.
The churches of Vienna are a special category of landmarks. Imposing structures or modest ones, with impressive architecture and inner quietness – these old holy places should not be missed when you are in this beautiful European metropolis. Here are some examples from those we have visited:
Stephansdom or St. Stephen’s Cathedral – an impressing building, more than 8 centuries old, which became in time a symbol of the city. You can buy tickets to climb up in the tower of this church, from where you can admire a wonderful view of the city.
Karlskirche or St. Charles Church stands in the square with the same name (Karlsplatz), a nice place for relaxation with palm trees and a fountain in the front, surrounded by a green park where you can have a few moments of rest.
Peterskirche or St. Peter’s Church – an imposing building with an even greater interior, erected in Petersplatz – yes, you’ve guessed it, the square with the same name.
The Viennese parks are charming – and this is normal, when more than half of the area of this metropolis is covered in green areas. During our first day in Vienna, we managed to see just two of them:
Stadtpark, or the City Park, covering an area of about 11 hectares, is an oasis of greenery and relaxation, perfect for a few moments of rest when you are tired from too much exploring on foot. You can find here many statues of Austrian personalities, the most popular one being that of Johann Strauss II, a golden statue encircled with flowers, a tourist favorite.
Also in Stadtpark, we were happy to find a piece of our home: a twig from Mihai Eminescu’s lined tree (the most famous poet of Romania), taken all the way from the city of Iași and brought here to be planted.
The Volksgarten Park, or The People’s Garden, part of the Hofburg Palace, is another charming place with a lot of greenery and nicely arranged flowers, which is almost two centuries old, dating back to 1821.
Another interesting place we discovered is the Naschmarkt market – a fascinating area displaying a mix of cultures and produce from all the parts of the world, with different specific foods, exotic fruits and foods from faraway lands.
Our first vacation day in Vienna was a delight – the evening caught us enchanted and with that pleasant pain in our feet you get after wandering around with sense in great places for a whole day. Being very content with everything we’ve seen, we went back to our stylish apartment to make plans for the next day.
If there is a less than great aspect of this European capital, it’s the prices: the entry fees for different landmarks are costly, and if you want to see many of them, you might go way over your planned budget. But, as usual, this time we have a solution for this problem too: the Vienna Pass card, which gave us two wonderful days during which we visited the most famous tourist attractions of the city and it helped us to save a lot of money. Here is our 2-day itinerary with Vienna Pass:
Vienna Pass – your ticket for a successful vacation in the capital of Austria
First of all, we should tell you what is Vienna Pass and why is it so great: do you remember about the discount cards we had in Malta and Budapest? This one is a card with free entries, you buy it once and then you can visit for free over 60 landmarks from Vienna, and you even have the “skip the line” option for some of them, so you can avoid the queues, and to easily get to all of them you also have free transportation on all the lines with the Hop On Hop Off bus from Vienna Sightseeing Tours.
Here’s how we took advantage of these benefits:
How else could we start our exploration of Vienna, if not with one of the most famous places in the city: the Schönbrunn Palace?
The Schönbrunn Palace is and impressive Baroque style construction, which served as a residence for several generations of imperial families. The more than 300 years history of the palace domains is intertwined with distinguished architectural and cultural elements. “Schönbrunn” means “beautiful spring” and it is said that the building has 1441 rooms – we wonder if anybody has been to all of them.
As soon as we arrived to Schönbrunn, we took our free tickets from the special ticket office dedicated to Vienna Pass holders and because we still had about 40 minutes until the entry time, we decided to explore the surroundings before visiting the palace. We have to mention that for other tourist attractions located inside the palace domains you have to buy separate tickets – but these are also free with Vienna Pass. So we were free to wander around!
We started with the first place that caught our attention: Kronprinzengarten or The Garden of the Crown Prince or the Privy Garden – a stylish and intimate place with a mysterious atmosphere, full of grass and flowers, right by the palace, which was part of the private gardens of the imperial family.
Across the street, we entered the Orangeriegarten, or the Orangery – a relaxing place with small fountains, plants and trees of all kinds, which we could see in all their glory, caressed by the warm sun rays, because they are taken outside during the warm season.
After visiting these two charming gardens, time flew unnoticed and the moment came for us to go on the palace tour – a very well organized process, each minute is taken into account, so that the huge number of visitors can enjoy the sights and avoid crowding. Besides the free tickets, we also got free audio guides (in Romanian) with our Vienna Passes, which guided us on our walk through the majestic rooms of the palace and told us how the aristocrats used to live there during the imperial times. Filming and taking photos are not allowed inside the palace, so we have one more picture from outside for you:
The Schönbrunn Palace is very beautiful – a landmark you should not miss when visiting Vienna. After the walk inside the rooms full of history, we went further, to the next objective on our list – Kaiserliche Wagenburg, or The Museum of Imperial Carriages, an exposition that takes you back in time, in the era when you could see the members of the imperial family traveling in luxury carriages pulled by majestic horses.
After the trip to the past with the imperial carriages, we rushed to catch the beginning of the Apfelstrudelshow – a live demonstration of making the famous Austrian apple strudel, in a coffee shop near the palace. This activity is also free with Vienna Pass, and during the show you also get a free strudel sample for tasting, and you can take home a leaflet with the original recipe when leaving.
Does it seem like we’ve already talked about a lot of visited landmarks? Maybe so, but these are not all of them! The Schönbrunn palace domains are huge and cannot be visited in a single day, so in order to get to as many places as possible, we took a ride on the Schönbrunner Panoramabahn, or the Schönbrunn Panoramic Train, which slowly takes you through the alleys and has stops at the most important attractions. This trip is also free with Vienna Pass.
So, after learning from professionals how to bake an authentic apple strudel, we traveled by train to the Wüstenhaus, or The Desert House – an immense greenhouse and an open air area where we could see plants and animals from the desert, in their natural habitat.
Close the Desert House, in stark contrast, we visited the Palmenhaus, or The House of Palm Trees – the biggest glass greenhouse in Continental Europe, built in 1882. Divided in three climatic zones, the greenhouse gives you a great perspective on the plants from the Mediterranean, Subtropical and Tropical areas.
After walking among palm trees, we went to one of the most anticipated sights for that day: Schönbrunner Tiergarten, The Zoological Garden of the palace that hosts more than 700 species from all the corners of the world. Built in 1752, this is the oldest zoo in the world and it was voted as the most beautiful in Europe for four consecutive years. We could write a whole article about this gem, but you better find out all about it by yourselves when you visit Vienna, to enjoy the cuteness of the panda bears, giraffes, tigers, elephants and some other hundreds of animals that found a home here.
We have barely explored half of the park and the day has gone by, so the tourist attractions were closing… 🙁 To fully explore all the Schönbrunn domains, you need at least two days, maybe even three! So we looked into the Vienna Pass guide to see if we can visit anything else that day. We were lucky: because it was Friday, the visiting hours for Albertina were extended until 9 PM – that is another imposing Habsburg palace, converted into a modern museum, hosting precious art collections, where we could admire several temporary art and photo exhibitions, but also famous paintings from renowned personalities like Cézanne, Klimt, Picasso, Monet, Degas, Chagall and others. Also, you can find inside 21 luxury rooms, old state apartments, authentically restored with some of the original furniture.
It was an amazing day, with lots of great experiences, which ended with us going back to the apartment, anxious to wake up the next morning and continue discovering this wonderful city!
We started our second day in our Vienna Pass adventure with some attractions for… medicine enthusiasts. J For a start, we visited Narrenturm – Pathologisch-Anatomische Sammlung – The Musem of Pathological Anatomy, a 18th century building which was the first psychiatric asylum in Europe and now hosts around 45,000 exhibits of pathological anatomy, beleved to be the greatest collection of this kind in the world.
The second „medical” objective on our list was the Josephinum – built in 1785 as a Military Academy of Medicine and Surgery, hosting nowadays an impressive collection of exhibits which show the history of medicine, from manuscripts and books to medical instruments of all times and wax models of human anatomy.
We went next to the Sigmund Freud Museum – the apartment in which the famous doctor and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was seeing his patients – a very special place for those passionate about psychology and its history. Some of the original furniture is still there, like that from the hallway and from the waiting room, and the walls seem to know hundreds of stories of the people that passed through the doctor’s office over the years.
After the inspirational walk along the medicine and psychology historical timeline, we went to the Prater Park, where we had to visit two museum at this time:
Madame Tussauds – the wax figure museum, where we could see “almost live” famous personalities like Napoleon, Mozart, Freud, Einstein, princess Sisi, but also contemporary celebrities like Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp. There are more than 80 wax figures here, masterfully crafted, looking so real that you feel like you are being teleported in their world.
After carefully observing the wax figures and taking… too many pictures with them, we went on further, to the Pratermuseum – a museum of Viennese entertainment that hosts old elements from the amusement park and also some characteristic weird stuff popular in the 19th century that seem bizarre today.
Because the Prater park is open until late in the night, we left it for a while and went to Donaupark, or the Danube Park, where the majestic Donauturm stands – a tower 252 meters high, with an observation deck 150 meters high, where the modern elevators of today get you up smoothly in just 35 seconds, although the tower was built in 1964.
From up there, the view on the city is superb – it keeps you still for minutes while you try to encompass all the beauty bellow with your eyes. Above the observation deck there is a rotating restaurant, which lets you admire 360 degrees of the city panorama while eating traditional Austrian foods.
The park around the tower is crossed by a miniature railway, built in the same year as the tower, for the Vienna International Garden Show, to transport the visitors among the exhibits. Now, the Donauparkbahn mini-train carries tourists which want to admire the park.
Lost in the scenery, we didn’t notice how the time flew again and we couldn’t catch the last boat ride on the Danube from that day, which left at 5:30 PM and we arrived at… 5:31! Here is a situation when the Austrian punctuality was not in our favor. Another aspect that is not very… touristic in Vienna is the time when most attractions close – around 6 PM – we would have liked to visit some until later in the evening and probably many tourists agree with us. But, we were late, we dealt with it – we just looked at the boat sailing away from the bridge and then went back to Prater. 🙂
The Prater Park is not confined to the amusement park, it also has 600 hectares of green areas, very popular among locals and tourists. Because it was already getting dark, we stayed only in the amusement park, or Wurstelprater, which is… wonderful! Ever since 1766, when it was opened to the public, this place fills with joy the hearts of children and adults alike.
The most famous landmark, which has become a symbol of the park, is Wiener Riesenrad – the huge Ferris wheel, among the first of its kind in the world, built in 1897. The wheel is 65 meters high and weighs over 240 tons, and some of the 15 cabins are set up as restaurants for romantic dinners, but the price for those is pretty expensive.
The view from up there, above the park and the city, is extraordinary – you have 15-20 minutes (a full rotation) to admire the surroundings.
After getting down from the wheel, we took a ride with Praterzug – a small train that took us through the amusement park, and we eyed a few attractions to try later.
After finishing the train tour, we tested some of the attractions that seemed interesting, for a good dose of adrenaline and, as it was already late, we set off happily towards our apartment.
The two days of intense exploration of the city with Vienna Pass were amazing! We managed to see fewer places than initially planned, but more than we actually expected! 🙂 We still had on our list lots of great places, like museums and memorial houses of important personalities, castles and palaces, the boat ride and many others. Making a simple calculation, it would have costed us more than 200 euros each to see all the places that we have visited in those 2 days plus the tourist bus, but the price of a Vienna Pass for 2 days is 89 euros, less than half – so we say it is a very good investment! Nevertheless, we must say that it is impossible to visit all the 60 attractions that this card offers in just 2 days, so an even better investment would be the 3 day or 6 day card, depending on how much time you have. On the Vienna Pass website you can find all the card prices, the landmarks and special offers included.
So we have reached the last day of our wonderful vacation in Austrian capital. After three days with tens of kilometers walked and tens of landmarks visited, we wanted to relax in the fourth day. Still, we started the day by going to yet another museum that was on our list and we didn’t have time to get to during the last days: Kriminalmuseum or The Crime Museum.
This was the only place in Vienna that disappointed us. We were upset from the entrance, where we got a 2 euro paper guide in English, without being asked if we want to buy one or not. The guide had little information and it was not of much use to us. The exhibits inside are interesting, but few of them have descriptions in English, so if you don’t speak German, you just walk by them without understanding much of what you saw. Furthermore, the building was in a really bad shape, there was a strong smell of dampness everywhere and the walls were full of mold and water infiltration. It’s a pity, it could have been a really nice place.
We didn’t let the disappointment from the museum ruin our mood and we slowly walked towards the center of the city, admiring the beautiful buildings, imposing churches and large, bright squares.
We stopped at a terrace to eat something good and enjoy a craft beer – which we also recommend you to do – the beer and burgers from Mel’s Craft Beers and Diner were delicious and very reasonably priced, and the staff was very polite and gave us some excellent recommendations from the menu. We really liked it here and our advice is to try this place when you are in Vienna.
The time of our flight back was getting closer, so we went to take our baggage from the apartment, but we could not leave Vienna without tasting some local traditional sweets. So, before going to the airport, we made a quick stop at another terrace for a Sachertorte, a delightful cake with chocolate and apricot jam.
Enchanted by this spectacular city, we slowly set off towards the airport, with our hearts and minds full of priceless memories. Although our Vienna Pass cards expired a day before, we could still take advantage of one more free benefit – the bus to the airport, where the card gives you a free ticket a day before and a day after the validity period. We will surely get back to Vienna for at least a week – to explore everything that was left unexplored and to discover everything that was left undiscovered!
In the end, we want to thank the Vienna Pass staff for giving us the opportunity to explore this great city with this card and to share this extraordinary experience with our readers.
All the opinions expressed in this article are ours and were not influenced in any way by the collaborations that contributed to these experiences.