The original plan was to have 2 days in Vienna, during our Europe trip in December, but after needing to rearrange our itinerary due to available flights when booking using miles (unfortunately they limit the flights you can select from), we ended up adding Munich and Salzburg to our trip, which ended up working out well (and I loved)! The only downside was time cut short in the original planned cities, one of which was Vienna.
I’m trying out a new format today for the travel recap, would love to hear your thoughts on which type of format (detailed times or general walkthrough) you prefer!
Day 1 // 12:35 – 1:35 p.m.
Arrived at the Wien Westbanhof train station (important note: there are TWO train stations in Vienna!) and were picked up at the end of the platform by our Blacklane driver, and taken to our hotel, Hotel Altstadt Vienna, where we checked in, got settled, and determined our plan of action for the day.
1:35 – 4:15 p.m.
We hailed an Uber (I was so excited when I realized Uber’s in Austria!) from our hotel to Austria’s most-visited site, Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence, which was a bit removed from the city center. The one-time 1,441 room palace is a key site in the country, with so many important architectural, cultural, and historical moments taking place. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we pulled up at the palace gates. It was unbelievable!
We opted to get tickets for the guided “Grand Tour” (~$20 each), to learn more about the World Cultural Heritage site, and property of the Hapsburgs (are you flashing back to your high school history class? I know I sure did)! Vienna was the only day I didn’t fully plan out, so fortunately, we were able our tickets on site. This place is extremely popular, so you’ll want to plan ahead and buy your tickets online (or get to the ticket office super early), if possible!
Our tour was incredibly interesting and filled with lots of drama and secrets of the royal times, as well as seeing what life was like for them (at least in the summer, when they lived in this huge palace)! Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to snap photos inside, but looking at it as a whole from the outside was my favorite anyway!
After our tour, we wandered around the Christmas market, checking out the local goods and enjoying the Christmas atmosphere! The market wasn’t too big (or that exciting with the exception of one stand that kept offering us samples), but our timing ended up being pretty great, as we were able to see Schönbrunn both in daylight and lit up at night.
4:15 – 6 p.m.
At this point, we were starting to get pretty hungry. We trekked back over to the main part of town near the largest Christmas market in the city to find a bite to eat, and honestly, we were so hungry that we just looked down the street and chose a random restaurant (Cafe Eiles) that had decent reviews. It was definitely more of a locals cafe/diner-type place, but it really hit the spot! I wish I could rave to you about a traditional Viennese meal I ate, but really, I went for a Greek Salad, because 1) I love them, 2) I needed to throw in a little something I’d eat at home into the mix of all the foreign foods, and 3) it just sounded so good. And it was!
6 – 9 p.m.
Post-dinner we walked over to Rathausplatz, where the biggest and most beautiful Christmas market in Vienna is. In fact, it was my favorite market in all of the 6 cities that we visited! There were lights everywhere and it was SO magical. The market was packed too, even on a Tuesday night! The big Christmas tree in the center was lit up in French colors (blue, white, and red), something Vienna set for the season, to remember the tragedy in France less than a month before our visit. I thought that was something really special!
In the back of the market, there was a huge area dedicated to more kid-friendly activities, including the cutest little animated cottage of elves at Santa’s workshop! My favorite, however, was this inflatable that included the Christmas figures around the world, honoring all of the different traditions during the month of December. There was an informational sign posted too, letting you read more about each of the “characters.” I couldn’t stop laughing at the little witch sitting atop the sleigh. She doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the others, but hey, to each their own!
9 – 11 p.m.
To unwind from the day, we headed back to the hotel to relax (and defrost) in our hotel’s lobby with a couple drinks before retiring to the room to sleep. Along the way we caught a glimpse of Vienna’s Parliament building in the Museum Quarter, which surprisingly looked a bit like the buildings you see in Washington D.C., it was so beautiful at night! The best surprise when getting back to the room? American Christmas movies in German! I had no idea what was being said (in German), but it was so entertaining to watch some of my favorites in another language, and that other countries were enjoying the films as well!
Day 2 // 8 – 11 a.m.
The next morning we woke up, packed up our bags, and hit our hotel’s delicious breakfast buffet for a quick meal, before venturing out for our last hour and a half of free time to explore in the city. While we were bummed we didn’t have enough time to hop on another tour, we decided to walk around the Museum Quarter. We had briefly passed through here walking back to our hotel the previous night, but it was an entirely different view to take in during the day. The most amazing architecture!
11 – 11:45 a.m.
The time to head back to the hotel and get on the road came before we knew it, and we were off to the train station to catch our 3.5 hour train to Budapest! Remember what I said earlier in the post about there being 2 train stations in Vienna? I didn’t realize it and thought we were going to the train station we arrived in. ROOKIE MISTAKE, GUYS. They’re actually on the opposite ends of town. Fortunately, we made it with time to spare and didn’t miss our train. But yikes! It felt like it was going to be a close one.
We barely scratched the city’s surface during our quick stop in Vienna, but I loved everything we were able to take in. This is one city I definitely want to get back to. SO much of Europe’s history lies in this city, and there’s a lot more to see/do!
Have you visited Vienna? If not, is it on your travel bucket list?