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Where to stay: The Naschmarkt neighborhood of Vienna is really the best place to be. I’ve stayed at the Wombats City Hostel in their area (there are two in the city), especially given that some of the rooms are $25-30 per night. They also have a breakfast that you can purchase which isn’t a bad way to start the day! The really great thing about this particular hostel is that it’s directly across the street from a giant market, which is also a second-hand market on Saturdays, and it’s also a 2 minute walk to a metro that will connect you to the city center (museum area) or the Schonbrünn palace in minutes. To save on costs, you may need to find accommodation a bit further from the center, but make sure that it’s close to a tram or metro line! The tram is 2 euros each way, so also keep in mind how that will add to your costs. The city also has a bike rental service- there are stations all around the city, and you pay 1 euro to get an account, and then bike rentals are free for an hour. You may want to use this method to get from point A to point B, just make sure you have a place to return the bike before the hour is up!
Where to eat: One issue you may run into in Vienna is the lack of affordably-priced, non-touristy restaurants. The easiest way to bypass this is by eating on-the-go! The hot dogs and other sausages sold by little shops on the streets are actually delicious, affordably priced, and filling. You do have to make sure you make it somewhere with apple strudel at least once, though- it’s a Viennese specialty, and it’s heavenly! My favorite restaurant was actually about 40 minutes outside of the city by metro, but it was well worth it. It was called XXL- Restaurant Leopoldauer Alm, and it’s located only about 5-10 minutes from the metro station in what looks like an industrial park (it’s not sketchy though, I promise!) The best part is the portions- upon first look it might seem expensive, but considering you only really need to order one XXL dish for two people, it’s not at all! We had the XXL ribs, and had MORE than enough food. We also ordered a chocolate dessert, and I don’t regret it. In the Naschmarkt neighborhood (discussed above), there are a ton of great options to explore. You really just have to start walking down some side streets in that area, and you’ll find something reasonably priced, and it’s clear that the restaurants in this area are frequented by locals. I found a Nepalese restaurant called Yak and Yeti which is a ten-minute walk from the Wombats City Hostel, and it was absolutely incredible. They have outdoor seating on a large patio, and they also give you the option of dining in a room where you sit on the floor without shoes in a more traditional style- it’s definitely a place to check out!
What to do: There is so much to do and see in Vienna, it may become a bit overwhelming. What you decide to do will largely depend on your specific interests. My favorite things were the Vienna Opera House, the Spanish Riding School, and the Schonbrünn Palace. The opera house offers tours throughout the day on most days, and you’re guaranteed to see the stage if you go at 10 am on Sundays- definitely worth the time if you’re into the arts. I didn’t go see an opera because I ran out of time, but there are affordably priced tickets if you book in advance, and it would definitely be worth doing as well. The Spanish Riding School is where the Lipizzaner stallions are trained and where they perform. You can do a tour of the riding facility which I thought was absolutely incredible. Tickets to actually see a performance of the stallions are very pricey, but a cheaper alternative is going to see the morning exercises. They happen every day and are 14 euros a ticket (10 for students). Make sure you get there earlier than it starts to get a good spot on line, otherwise you’ll be stuck standing in a spot with a limited view! The Schonbrünn Palace was the second home for the Hapsburgs, and was far enough outside of the city to not be completely destroyed by bombs in World War II. You’ll be able to tour the imperial apartments, but the most impressive part is the gardens. We were there in early spring, so not all the flowers were out and it was still INCREDIBLE. I would absolutely recommend going out for the afternoon, you can even grab lunch on top of the big hill, there’s an adorable café up there! I also went to the Hapsburg Palace in the center of the city (near the Spanish Riding School), but I was actually unimpressed. The Sisi Museum is vaguely interesting if you’re interested in that particular historical figure, but it felt like a giant tourist trap to me. If you’re short on time (or funds) and can only do one, I would definitely recommend Schönbrunn. Be sure to buy a ticket in advance to skip the lines! You might also consider visiting the Belvedere Palace, which is a beautiful palace located on a hill overlooking the city. Much of the interior is now a fine arts museum, but even that is certainly worth seeing! They had pieces by Van Gogh and Klimt, and it’s really a gorgeous collection. Just as incredible are the gardens behind the upper palace, so if you have a few free hours, definitely head over to spend some time there.
You don’t have to pay to enter the gardens of the Schonbrünn Palace or Belvedere Palace, so if you want to skip the interiors (even though I’d recommend seeing them), at least check out those incredible gardens! And finally, Vienna is the home of a little-known artistic secret- there was an artist and architect living around the same time as Gaudi, with equally as interesting pieces right in Vienna! Go the the Hunderwasserhaus for a cup of coffee, and just to see the exterior of the buildings and parks in the area- it’s really a cool place!
Overall Opinion: I really loved Vienna, despite how frustrated I got with the crowds of tourists. You definitely need to go to this city with the expectation of getting trapped in a herd of tourists, and then you’ll be okay! The history, architecture, art and food in Vienna is absolutely out of this world, it is absolutely somewhere I would love to go back for a second visit. There is really a wide range of things to see and do that will interest almost anyone, so it’s a great stop in central Europe.