Return flights: £29.98 (Lauda)
Accommodation: £66.92 Hotel Pratastern (Hotels.com)
Summary and Highlights:
- Out of season may be a cheaper time to go but consider the attractions you’ll be visiting
- Many large attractions may have free grounds to enter and paid only for entering inside
- Schönbrunn Palace
- The Hofburg
- Belvedere Palace
- St Stephen’s Cathedral
- Ring Road
New year, new trips. I found out that Ryanair bought Austrian low-cost airline Lauda last year and operate out of Liverpool to Vienna twice a week. What an ideal start to 2020 for under £30 return!
Vienna is probably most famous for being the home of the Hapsburg royal family and centre of the Holy Roman Empire (not to be confused with the Roman Empire). It’s a bit like a sim city in the fact that you could look at 3 buildings on the same street with 3 different architecture styles but were probably built around the same time. The Parliament is built in the Greek style, Rathaus (Town Hall) in Gothic and The Hofburg in baroque. Unfortunately, two of the three of those were covered in scaffolding and had an advert for a mobile phone company on the front. (Don’t you just love the smell of capitalism?). That aside, it’s an impressive city with lots to see that is conveniently all in a fairly small space and primarily around one main street – Ringstraße that circles the city centre.
Getting from the airport there are 2 main options: the S7 train or City Airport Train. Personally, I would take the S7 as it costs over half less and also stops at more stations (which is more convenient if you’re not staying in the very centre) and takes a few minutes longer. The fact I managed to keep the £100 budget for Vienna I was quite impressed at, especially on the accommodation front which was conveniently located near a train station and underground station. It was slightly out of the city (about 20 minutes walk) but an easy walk down one street into the centre.
My day started in true fashion, you guessed it, a free walking tour around the city centre learning about the history of Austria from the Holy Roman Empire to the Anschluss and modern-day. Most of the sights can be seen and walked to in quite a small area. I’d recommend writing down what you want to see and ticking them off as you go. Any you don’t get to in one day, add it into another day’s plans.
Additionally, food and drink are important in Vienna. Naturally, it’s famous for coffee, Sachertorte and my favourite – Schnitzel. Personally, I like veal schnitzel (as it is traditionally made with). However, cheaper options are with chicken or pork and served with potato salad or boiled potatoes and a side of cranberry. My tour guide begged everyone to not insult the entire population of Austria by getting chips with schnitzel. The one I got for lunch was bigger than my face and took up most the plate with my potatoes on the side.
The downside of going in winter is that a lot of the palaces have gardens that would usually be full of flowers, trees and flowing fountains. Unfortunately in the winter due to the time of year the fountains are off, trees are bare and the ground empty of any flowers. I went into the botanical garden at the Belvedere Palace and the most exciting thing I saw was some bamboo. I can imagine during the spring and summer they look fabulous though.
Another downside was that there was a hanging fog each day which didn’t make for great pictures and it wasn’t worth going up anything to get any city skyline views as there was little distance to see anything.
I opted to save the best until last. Schönbrunn Palace is probably the most famous place in Vienna. It’s not directly in the centre as it was the summer residence of the royal family but can be easily accessed by the underground. It’s free to go into the park and gardens but entry to the palace, zoo etc is ticketed. If you like symmetry too, you’ll have a field day. Again it was the downside of wintertime and fog which made for a less exciting experience but still impressive nonetheless.
If the weather is decent, there are views of the city from the Gloriette at the top of the gardens and exploring the gardens could take up a good couple of hours. I heard the zoo is meant to be good as well and one of the oldest in the world. I don’t think the animals would’ve been wanting to come out on a cold winter day though.
Overall my experience of Vienna was put on a bit of a downer by the weather and the season, but that aside it’s still one of the great cities in Europe.