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How to Travel Vienna on a Budget

Alessio enjoys traveling and discovering new cultures and food traditions.

The Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

The Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

Vienna: An Expensive but Beautiful City to Visit

Vienna is a beautiful city to visit. It is easy to get around by local public transport and is full of free and paid tourist attractions. Local food is also delicious. The only negative aspect of Vienna is the living cost, which is among the highest in Europe. Despite this, it is possible to organize a short trip to the Austrian capital on a budget. Since I like to do mini-tours visiting different cities, my stay in Vienna was only three days. It is hard to see all the attractions in such a short time, yet it is possible to choose the ones that most interest you, possibly even limiting yourself to the free ones or whose ticket price is relatively low. While this doesn't allow you to get the most out of a trip to Vienna, this strategy does save you a lot of money and can even be good if, like me, you enjoy getting around several cities in a short time and you need to choose about what to see.

Accommodation

I looked for hotels in Vienna two weeks before my departure. By booking in advance, you can get great prices: we paid less than €30 per night per person. We stayed at the Star Inn Hotel Wien Schönbrunn, a very comfortable, clean, and well-decorated 3-star hotel: I think it was at the level of many 4-star accommodations.

If you book this hotel, you may find a solution that includes breakfast. It was not our case, so we went exploring, taking advantage of the opportunity to discover new places and take photos on Google Maps, one of my favorite activities ever. Many nearby cafes were closed in August. In the end, we had two coffees at Café Amigo, a few meters away. There is also a pastry shop 8 minutes away on foot, but we decided to try it in the afternoon. To eat something, since another thing I like to do abroad is to see supermarkets and compare them with those we have in Italy, we decided to try SPAR, a well-known Austrian chain, of which a branch was located right in front of the hotel. We found no typical Viennese pastries: yet, we have eaten two delicious slices of cheesecake.

Schönbrunn Palace

The hotel is close to one of the main attractions in Vienna: the Schönbrunn Palace. It is a famous imperial castle that was the summer residence of the Hamburgs from the second half of the 18th-century to the early 20th-century. In addition to being one of the most famous buildings in Vienna, the castle and its gardens are declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Access to the outdoor area is free. If you decide to visit the building, you should note that the entrance is subject to a fee. Tickets cost around €20 per person, and you can also book them online. If you decide to enter the building, be aware that it is forbidden to take pictures inside. Instead, you can do it in the outdoor gardens, where you can find more than 30 sculptures, the Roman Ruin, and the Gloriette, a temple-shaped building located on an elevated area of ​​the surroundings.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) is the main church in Vienna, as well as the seat of the Archdiocese. Together with the Schönbrunn Palace, it is one of the main symbolic buildings of the city. First, in 1137, a Romanesque church was built. In 1258, a fire destroyed much of the religious building, which was restored in the following years. Starting from 1300, a gothic extension of the church took place. In the second half of the century, Rudolf IV stated that the building should not have been a simple parish church but should have aspired to become the reference cathedral for the diocese of Vienna.

St. Stephen's Cathedral is a must-to-see in Vienna, even for those traveling on a budget. Access to the church is free, with only some internal areas requiring a ticket. It is also possible to take photos inside, but only for private use.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Belvedere

Belvedere is one of the most famous examples of Baroque architecture in Austria. The building complex has its importance, not only for having been the residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy but also for having been the place where, in 1955, the state agreements that marked the birth of the Second Austrian Republic were signed. Today, inside the two buildings, there is a famous art museum: the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere.

The visit to the Belvedere has different prices depending on the buildings you intend to visit. The cost of the tickets varies from €15 to €20 per person. Even cheaper, and perfect for those traveling on a budget and appreciating contemporary art, is the entrance to the museum: the ticket costs around €10.

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View on the Danube

A pleasant and cost-free activity that you can do in Vienna is to look at the Danube. There are several places from which you can see the river. In our case, we enjoyed an excellent view from two positions:

  • Gaswerksteg: a bridge over the Danube Canal, located near the Erdberg subway station;
  • Schleusenbrücke Wehr 1: a weir system in the New Danube.

Eating in Vienna

Eating in Vienna is expensive, but not much more than in other European capitals. In any case, the best way to avoid any nasty surprises is to always read the online reviews of a place before entering. One of the best restaurants we have tried in Vienna is Lugeck, located in the city center, the first place where we tasted typical Viennese dishes.

Herb Pasta - Caramelized Austrian pasta with onion, white cabbage, and green salad.

Herb Pasta - Caramelized Austrian pasta with onion, white cabbage, and green salad.

Vienna is, above all, famous for its pastries and, in particular, for the Sachertorte. The iconic chocolate cake filled with jam apricot is Vienna’s signature dessert and one of the most popular cakes in the world. One thing I missed during my trip was tasting the authentic Sachertorte, the one created by the Sacher Hotel. As you can guess, the queue to enter is often long. If you don't want to take time away from other city explorations, you can still order the cake online and deliver it to your home. It is an alternative solution even for those who do not plan to visit Vienna but still want to taste the authentic Sachertorte.

During our trips, we happened to stop for coffee. Coffee in Vienna is much more expensive than in Italy, perhaps in line with prices in the US. However, the service is generally excellent: coffee is almost always served with a glass of water and a small milk jug.

Coffee in Vienna

Coffee in Vienna

In the late afternoon and after a day of sightseeing, we decided to relax at Groissböck U4 Meidling, a pastry shop 8 minutes walk from our hotel. A place away from the crowds of tourists, where I could try an imitation of the Sachertorte. The pastry shop is large and very relaxing. The Sachertorte may not have been the original, but it was still one of the best I have ever eaten. In a country where this dessert is as iconic as pizza in Italy, I find it difficult for a local pastry shop, already more displaced by tourist traffic areas, to be able to afford to serve a poor Sachertorte. And in fact, tasting the cake in this place was a surprise: it was fresh, and one thing I liked was that it didn't leave me dry, as it happened to me in the past, especially with many industrial products. The amount of apricot jam was also generous.

A Slice of Chocolate Cake at Groissböck U4 Meidling

A Slice of Chocolate Cake at Groissböck U4 Meidling

In addition to the slice of cake, we had ice cream and two coffees. The prices were lower than those of more central cafes, even if, of course, still high. This place remains a good choice for those traveling on a budget. The only negative note was not being able to pay by card: being European and always having local cash with me, it was not a problem at all, but for a tourist who comes from outside Europe, it could be. In any case, right in front, there is a bank where you can withdraw money. Apart from this aspect, I recommend visiting this pastry shop to relax and delight in a wide choice of cakes and ice cream. In addition to going there, I would recommend trying, at least once, the original Sachertorte too, maybe by going to the Sacher Hotel very early and organizing on purpose to have this experience, avoiding my mistake of going there during rush hour and as the last stop.

Ice Cream

Ice Cream

The Main Places I Went to in Vienna

© 2022 Alessio Ganci

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