*I spent 3 days in Vienna in April 2012. In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
Who knew you could still have fun in a city when it’s 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) outside?
Well, that was the case when I went to Vienna on a freezing cold weekend in the middle of February. Despite wearing scarves, boots, beanies, extra socks and gloves, Austria’s capital city was stunningly beautiful with an amazing culture. I had a wonderful time.
And visiting Vienna was extra-special for me because I connected with my heritage. My grandfather came to America from Vienna, so it was awesome to see the land that he lived in!
It’s no surprise that Vienna is ranked highly on the “Most Liveable Cities in the World” survey by The Economist. in 2014, the city ranked 2nd behind only Melbourne. And I couldn’t agree more, because I could feel a special ambiance as I was strolling around town — it made me never want to leave (even though I was freezing my butt off).
Some of the my favorite things to do around Vienna were going to hipster nightclubs, seeing precious art galleries, admiring old and modern architecture, educating myself in the world-class museums, and checking out the nostalgic shops.
I can’t wait to go back on to Vienna on my next Eurotrip!
Let’s get into some quick facts:
– Currency: Euro (EUR)
– Language: German
– Population: 1.8 million (city), 2.4 million (metro)
– Until the beginning of the 20th Century, Vienna was the largest German speaking city in the world
– Vienna hosts the headquarters of the UN and OPEC
– The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
– Vienna is known as “The City of Music” because Beethoven, Motzart and Strauss all lived there. Some of the best music museums in the world are in Vienna.
– Pez candy was invented in Vienna, and Pez is an abbreviation for the German word “Pfeffermintz”
– Vienna was divided into 4 pieces after World War II
Culture & People
The culture in Vienna is amazing- from music, to art, to architecture, to fashion & design. Everywhere I went around the city, I could sense the historic vibes in the air from the things and events that have taken place over time.
Even though they speak German in Vienna, it’s important to remember that Austrians are NOT Germans. There is a long and diverse history of wars, territory conquers and politics that go beyond any of our knowledge. Don’t call an Austrian a German, and don’t even talk about it, or else you will pay the consequences…
But don’t let that change your assumption about Austrian people! I found them to be very polite, respectful and warming. They also speak perfect English (much like the Germans), so there was never a language barrier.
What amazed me the most about Viennese people was was how cultured they are. Every single person that I met had traveled all over Europe and many other places in the world. They all speak multiple languages. It’s almost like traveling and seeing the world is forced upon them from a young age (contrary to Americans…) Granted, it’s easy to jump on a train from Vienna to any of the neighboring countries, but I still really enjoyed that part about Austrian culture.
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and make some new Austrian friends! Click this link to learn the Top 10 German Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
Vienna has so many things to do that you’ll never get bored.
Take a stroll down the Mariahilfer Straße– Austria’s longest shopping street located in the middle of Vienna. This mile-long street is a local favorite and is filled with tons of shops, stores, street cafes, food vendors and activities. If the weather is nice, you can sit outside at one of the coffee shops and people watch in this area. That’s a great way to adapt to the culture and enjoy the people watching.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral (shown in pic) is worth a visit to the top. The entire view of Vienna is spectacular and the interior design of the church is fantastic to see.
Usually I am not one to go to museums, but the museums in Vienna are fantastic. Wander through Museum Quarter and you can admire the artwork and music that have been a part of this city for centuries.
My favorite museum was the House of Music museum, where I learned about sound and I even got to compose my own waltz! If you are into art museums, then stop by The Albertina Art Museum, which is one of the largest and most famous art museums in the world.
The Schonnbrunn Palace is pretty amazing, and it’s the cultural monument of Austria. This palace has over 1,400 rooms and is decorated in fancy Rococo architecture. My jaw was dropped to the ground for the 2 hours that I explored this palace.
For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Vienna.
If there’s one thing to remember about Viennese Cuisine– it is their passion for eating meat.
Eating street food is a necessity in Vienna. Make a pit stop at one of the street vendors on Mariahilfer Straße and try a sausage. The sausage that I kept eating had oozing cheese coming out of the middle. Your taste buds will be in ecstasy.
Viennese cuisine is sort of mixed between German and Central European, so in addition to meat, you can also find other delicious foods and restaurants around town.
If you want to find out more of the best local dishes, then please visit my post on 5 Austrian Foods to Try.
Viennese people like to drink and they party harder than most places I went in Europe. Beer is heavily consumed, during lunch, dinner and throughout the night.
Moreover, people in Vienna have a strong love for electronic dance music, which is reflected in their incredible nightlife scene! Whether you like hipster disco pubs, full-scale clubs or multi-floor discotheques, be prepared to have lots of fun experiencing the Vienna nightlife scene.
Be aware that the bouncers at upscale clubs will deny your entrance if you are not dressed appropriately or if you are acting like a fool, so be sure to look nice (no jeans, sneakers, hats etc.) Vienna also is home to a large variety of pubs, catering to every possible taste whether you’re a student, a backpacker or a local.
To find out the best hotspots around the city, check out my post, The Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Vienna!
*Thanks for reading! Have you been to Vienna before?