You visit many places in your life, you may like some less and some more. Then there are places that stay in your heart forever. Vienna is one of those places. Beautiful and lively at the same time, Vienna sure leaves an impression. Endearing streets, cozy cafes and mesmerizing music sum up the city for me.
I went to Vienna for a solo trip. I had been on solo day trips before but this was the first time I was going on a trip for several days by myself. Planned and cautious as I am, going to Vienna has probably been one of my most impulsive decisions so far. I was on my way to the university, reading a book called Concrete, by Thomas Bernhard. The protagonist of the book, a Viennese musicologist, Rudolph, besides rambling on about his inability to write anymore owing to many reasons, also praises the beauty of Vienna as a city and its richness in music. I made a spotaneous decision to go to Vienna and booked my tickets.
P.S. I highly recommend the book!
Before you go
I am not highly sure if going to Vienna for a day trip is a good idea. The city has so much to see, it would be a crime to go all the way there and missing out on most of it. So before you go, plan your stay and draw a rough sketch of what you'd like to do.
As this was my first solo trip, and I had not frequented a lot of hostels before, I was quite apprehensive at first. I was, however, quite convinced by the reviews of the hostel that I booked (Wombat's City Hostel), which seemed to be one of the best in the city, both in terms of the quality of rooms and location. More on my stay, later! :)
> Have a rough agenda
As I have mentioned already, I like to plan ahead. Before doing any research, there were already a couple of things I knew I had to do in Vienna:
- Go to a concert
- Have Viennese coffee
Well, there wasn’t much to plan ahead for the second one, other than looking up some of the most populare cafés in the city. For the first one, you might want to do some research. With the wide array of musicians that Vienna has been home to, it could be a trick to choose one. I booked a Four Seasons concert as it was available that weekend and Vivaldi is one of my most favourite composers.
Once I checked these off my list, I looked up for other things to do in Vienna. I was hardly surprised to learn that there was enough to do for an entire month. Obviously, my stay was much shorter (3 days and 2 nights). I chose a few based on reviews and recommendations from friends and family.
I found plenty of free walking tours in the city.
How to get there
Getting to Vienna from Munich is pretty easy. Depending on your time and budget, choose either of these options.
Once you get there
There are several options to choose from to avail discounts in travel and museums.
I bought the Vienna ticket for 48 hours as Vienna Pass only seemed to make sense only if I was spending every second of the day at a museum and the Vienna City Card didn't offer any more discount than my student card did. I bought my ticket at the station and then headed to my hostel.
Wombat’s City Hostel NaschmarktWebsite: https://www.wombats-hostels.com/vienna/the-naschmarkt/
My stay at Wombat's was definitely one of the best parts of the tour. I had booked a Superior 4 Bed Mixed Dorm. The room was extremely spacious and had a giant window with a spectacular view of the city. Luckily only two of the beds (including mine) were actually occupied and thus there was plenty of room.
One of the best things about the hostel was its convenient location. It was in spitting distance of many of the popular locations like Karlsplatz, Wiener Staatsoper, Museumsquartier etc. I was able to walk to most of the places I visited in Vienna thanks to my hostel's location. Truth be told, I didn't need to really get the Vienna ticket as I hardly used public transport.
1. Free Walking TourWebsite: https://www.primetours.at/tours/free-walking-tour/
As I have mentioned earlier, I found a lot of free walking tours online, most of which seemed pretty similar. I booked a tour offered by Prime Tours. This was my first activity in Vienna. I thought it would be a good idea to start with the walking tour as that would give me a better idea of what to do later. The meeting point was Helmut Zilk-Platz, which is right out of the metro station Karlsplatz. Our tour guide was waiting at the meeting point with a yellow umbrella to help us spot her easily. She walked us around the locality, told us about the history of the buildings. She showed us the Staatsoper, Hofburg, Rathaus, Spanish Riding School, etc. She also recommended some cafes in the locality, one of them was AIDA Cafe, which I went to later on.
It was a great experience to walk around the beautiful city except for the fact it was shivering cold and the wind was absolutely crazy. I had a plan to do something else after the walking tour and before the concert later that evening but I was freezing and all I wanted to do was get cozy in a blanket even if it was just for five minutes. So I headed back to my hostel.
2. AIDA CaféLocation: Singerstraße 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
Once I changed into my concert clothes, I decided to head to Karlsplatz and first get a cup of coffee. As recommended by our tour guide, I decided to go to AIDA Café. I had what Vienna is famous for, its coffee and the Sachertorte, which is a dense chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam on top, coated in dark chocolating icing. I wouldn't say the cake blew my mind, it was different from other chocolate cakes because of the layer of jam, but otherwise it was just a good chocolate cake.
3. Vivaldi Four Seasons Concert at KarlskircheTicket Website: https://www.concert-vienna.info/
Although there were a bunch of websites selling tickets for the same concert, I noticed that there was a difference in prices mentioned on these sites. The one I have mentioned above was selling the cheapest one (around € 19.00 for a Category II ticket).
Karlskirche was small but extremely beautiful, especially inside. Upon reaching the venue, the first thing that I noticed was that I was extremely overdressed for the occasion. Not that I was wearing something like a gown, but it was a very pretty dress that could probable be worn to an opera, but here people had come in their jeans and hoodies. The concert lasted for about 90 minutes and was a breathtaking experience and probably one of my favorite solo experiences. I can attest to the fact that classical concerts are best done alone. I had been wanting to go for a Four Seasons concert in Munich for quite a while but it had somehow never happened.
4. Schönbrunn PalaceWebsite: https://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/
Out of all the places to visit in Vienna, Schönbrunn was the place that was mostly highly recommended to me. Vienna was home to The Habsburgs and Schönbrunn was their summer residence. It's a 1441-room Baroque palace and one of the most popular attractions of Vienna. Having heard that Schönbrunn takes a lot of time to see, I reached there super early in the morning. Unfortunately, it was too early, and the ticket office was closed. I found another woman waiting for the ticket office to open, and she recommended me to have a look at the gardens until the office opened. The garden was behind the palace, and as I walked towards it, I was mindblown by how majestic the palace grounds were. I remember trying to compute how many people it would take to clean the palace. Although it was winter, the garden looked well maintained. I'm certain, however, that the garden would look even more beautiful in summer.
There were several types of tickets available to see the palace. I bought the ticket for the Grand Tour which was around € 16.00 for students. The audio guide came free with this ticket. The audio guide was one of the better ones I had experienced till date as it was informative and funny at the same time. One of the fun facts it said was about Empress Sisi, that she hardly had dinner at the dining table with her husband and the rest of the family because the usual portions served were huge which would have kept her from maintaining her slender figure. Although, it seemed hilarious to me when I heard it, I would later realise that it was quite reasonable for her to do so. Austrain portions are huge.
5. Upper BelvedereWebsite: https://www.belvedere.at/bel_en/belvedere/upper_belvedere
The Belvedere was the summer residence for Prince Eugene if Savoy. It consists of two Baroque palaces - The Upper and Lower Belvedere, the Orangery and the Palace Stables. I decided on going to just the Upper Belvedere as it seemed the most popular amongst tourists. It was tough to miss the influence of Klimt's painitings in Vienna, and I was told I would find a lot of his work at the Upper Belvedere. The palace itself was spectacular and the paintings it housed were nothing less. Ranging from Gustav Klimt to Van Gogh, the collection of paintings was very diverse. The most popular spot in the palace, obviously was in front of Klimt's most famous painting, The Kiss. Depicting a couple locked in embrace, the painting is a symbol of love and intimacy which seemed like a common theme amongst Klimt's works.
6. Lunch - Wiener Schnitzel at SchnitzelwirtWebsite: https://www.schnitzelwirt.co.at/
TripAdvisor Link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g190454-d714216-Reviews-Schnitzelwirt-Vienna.html
Much as I had heard about how much better the Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna was than the ones back in Germany, I had to try it once, didn't I? The amount of walking I had to do for the Schönbrunn and the Upper Belvedere, had left me famished. I walked around, scouring the city for a restaurant as well as actively loooking for something on tripadvisor. I found a place called Schnitzelwirt, which wasn't exactly very close to where I was but seemed to be really highly rated and reasonably priced.
If you're going for lunch solo in any of the German/Austrian restaurants in Vienna, be prepared to share the table with somebody. The tables are all huge and not meant for somebody eating alone. Awkward as it was at first to sit alone and eat at a table with another group of people, I got used to it in a while after a few sips of my beer!
I had read about the huge portions at this place but my naive starving self believed that I could eat the entire world, so inspite of being advised by the waitress to get the kinder portion (kids portion), I ordered a usual plate of Wiener schnitzel for myself. My misplaced confidence took a hit when the plate arrived with not one, but two schnitzels. I can proudly say that I finished the entire plate, simply because I hate wasting food but I was full with just one schnitzel. Shoving down the other one was the hardest thing that I had to do on this trip.
Not my favorite experience, but the schnitzel was really good and the portions were huge for the price. Definitely a place I would recommend to a group of people or at least two people. If you're alone and want to eat lots, well, wear your loose pants.
7. Walking around and St. Stephen's Cathedral
After having rested for a while in my hostel room, my stomach felt less like it was going to explode and I went out for a walk to explore the city and visit St. Stephen's cathedral. Although it was quite cold this time of the year to be walking around all day, I'm so glad I made this trip in December. I had seen plenty of christmas markets before but the way the roads of Vienna were decked up for Christmas was something spectacular. I was left in awe everytime I entered a major street, because every such street was lit up in a different theme.
St. Stephen's cathedral was beautiful, especially the interiors. There was a christmas market right outside the cathedral which sold everything from candle jars to sausages. I bought some candle jars as they were too beautiful to resist. After wandering around a bit more, I went back home.
8. Breakfast at VollpensionWebsite: https://www.vollpension.wien
TripAdvisor Link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g190454-d5976514-Reviews-Vollpension-Vienna.html
For the last few hours that I had left in Vienna, all I wanted to do was relax at a cozy Viennese cafe, with some coffee and nice breakfast. And yes, as you might have guessed by loooking at the above picture, I ordered way too much again. Slow learner, but hope to get the amount right some day. But I took my time with this meal. The cafe was very comfortable and the people there extremely friendly. Sitting there with my kindle for at least an hour, I tried to forget the fact that I had to leave and get back to the grind in just a couple of hours.
I went for a walk around the locality after breakfast, trying to soak up as much as I could of Vienna. I bought some postcards, sent them to my friends from a post office that I found nearby and then headed to the bus terminus to catch my bus.
I was so pleasantly surprised of how this solo trip turned out and all I wanted to do was plan another one as soon as I got the chance.