Is Vienna Truly Soulless?!
Before visiting Vienna, I really hesitated. While living in Prague, I only seemed to hear bad things. Vienna is too expensive! There’s not much to do in Vienna! And the most all-encompassing one: Vienna has no soul.
Well, whenever I hear bad things about a place or group of people, I ultimately decided I must go see for myself.
So, I arranged to stay with some friends-of-friends in Vienna on my way from life in Prague to a sustainability initiative in Slovene Istria.
Transport – Your Budget Option
Let’s get this out of the way first. The 48-hour pass (around 15euros) is your best option for two days in Vienna, just use it at least 8 times. Grab one from the bus/train terminal when you arrive.
If you are a gambler, the Vienna transport system is the kind where you can hop-on and off without showing your ticket. Just don’t get caught without one or it’s a heavy fine!
Must-Eat Viennese Treats
A Viennese coffee (or two or three…)
This was a major point of confusion, actually. What is a Viennese coffee anyways?! Basically, there’s a tradition of going to very fancy coffee clubs, having just one cup of coffee and then sitting there forever. Also, it’s a bit pricey. That’s the only difference between Vienna’s coffee and any other. Still, there’s nothing like a nice, strong coffee paired with warmed apfel strussel.
- Freud’s Favorite Haunt – Café Landtmann
- The Big Authors One – Café Central
- The Oldest Café on the Ringstrasse – Café Schwarzenberg
- Almost any – no really, you can just pop in wherever looks appealing to you. Culture Trip has a good article with more cafes listed if you want to cram in as many coffees as possible to find the best of Vienna in two days.
This get so many !s because it’s just the best. Find a wurstelstand and order the Kaisekraner specifically. I hope you also get the horseradish and mustard. Note: you might need two to feel full. The stands also sell beer and you can eat right there.
The Popular Spots to See in Vienna
The Versailles of Vienna. Beautiful, giant castle grounds to wander around. Plenty of side ‘streets’ for avoiding the crowd. Also really hilarious statues and premium photo-ops. This is a super beautiful, imperial palace that gets a big worth it to visit vote from me! The grounds are really fantastic to walk along, with plenty of routes for avoiding the crowd. If you go, be sure to check out the statues. Some of them are pretty whack.
Buildings of Note
Don’t question. Just go take a look:
- City Hall – A happening spot where the city frequently throws festivals and concerts. In the winter, the river in front is turned into a skating track. Tip: best viewed at night.
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral – The big cathedral that every major European city seems to need.
- Karlskirche – Gorgeous inside and out…just be sure to check opening hours.
The Hofburg (aka Imperial Palace)
This center of the empire takes castle districts to a whole new level. Besides the big buildings and museums inside them, take time to walk around and enjoy the park scene! On the grounds is a techno bier garten, dance classes from sexy bachata to waltz, and various artists playing anything from classical harp to modern hits.
This market has all the colorful fruit, Turkish delights, and snacks that you could ever want. Probably a bit pricier than the supermarket, but heck, there’s over 120 stalls to ogle.
Hip – Happening Places to Hang
Anywhere – In the summertime, at least, it seems there’s no boundaries for chilling-out zones. Pick a spot that seems lovely to you and soak in the surroundings! But ok, I guess you want some real suggestions:
This is a dive bar that touches all the grunge of my heart. With an old jukebox and crumbling plaster, I felt right at home. Bonus, they stockpile coasters so that the clientele have something handy for flinging around at each other <3
This is a giant park with a permanent amusement park installation. There’s no entry fee, so you can take advantage of the bier gartens within while getting that amusement park feeling. Note: Be sure to find the micronation of KugelMugel located near one of the park’s entrances!
The Donau Kanal
If you’re really trying to see the best of Vienna in two days, this is THE hotspot to sit with a radler. Enjoy the public art and beautiful graffiti the lines the Danube Canal or choose to sit in one of the hip restaurants. There’s a techno club around there, too.
Once inside this little haven of hanging out, you might never return! A chill hang zone hiding in a courtyard near the Imperial complex, surrounded by a number of museums. The lounge chair colors are voted for by locals each year and there are vending machines of artwork in the colorful passageways.
The Ultimate Budget Tip for Vienna
Free Outdoor Opera
Rather than pay for the opera, you can save your pennies by opting to watch the performance on a screen outside the theater. Might be a bit difficult to schedule a full opera into your ‘best of Vienna in two days’ tour, but at least you could catch an aria or two. Hope the weather is nice for you!
Why You Might Not Like Vienna
Let’s address this whole “soulless” thing. Vienna is, in part, a living monument to Western imperialism. There are so. many. statues of old white dudes from a time before learning that Roman statues were painted in gaudy colors. The architecture and outdoor art seems to uphold whiteness, wealth, patriarchy, and basically Western domination.
These days, more and more people are realizing that “culture” doesn’t just mean Western arts. Even to the point of viewing this style as stodgy and outdated. Yes, 100% we need to remember that being cultured does not equate to being rich and white. However, there’s no need to throw out an entire city!
As you explore Vienna, keep in mind that the city was the center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Take your time to think about what that meant and place the sites within their historical and cultural context (as you would with any other location). Think about how Western imperialism still exists today. And keep your eyes open to find all the gems budding out of the foundation.
Best of Vienna in Two Days – The Wrap Up
All in all, I am very happy with my time in Vienna. Undoubtedly, it would still be a good time when my mobility starts to slow down and maybe when bank account is fuller. The options highlighted in this article are with budget travelers in mind, so imagine how much more you could discover if willing to *gasp* spend money!?
P.S. Yes, you should still budget extra than for, say, Prague. Really felt the pain moving from 30czk beer to 5 euro beer!