“They’re all fake as fuck in Austria, I’ve never seen that before!“. That’s what told me an Irish guy I met in Prague when I told him I was about to go to Vienna. “Oh and you’re french too!? They HATE french people! They think YOU french guys are hypocrites because you call them racists but look how popular the far-right is in your country!? It should be ok because you’re going to communicate in English with them, but you really figure them out, you really see their hypocrisy, when you speak in German with them! Oh and sorry I don’t mean to offend you, but they don’t like black people. Whatever, in general, people from Vienna are disagreeable and unlikable, you’ll see!”
Wow… Listening to this guy, I felt like I was going on hostile territory, and my black skin wouldn’t help. This is the opinion of one single guy, but still, he lived there for three years, there might some truth to what he said. Therefore, I arrived in Vienna with all the things he told me running through my head. And, to be honest, I didn’t feel at all what he talked about, and people were cool with me. Maybe it’s because I just stayed there for five days, but apart from a waiter who had a haughty attitude, nothing to report.
I got there on a saturday in the afternoon, and the first thing that caught my attention was all the hustle and bustle in the streets. For those who know, I was on Mariahilfer strasse, a pedestrianised street. A lot of people outside, shops, stands with guys selling hot dogs, drinks, ice creams… In the evening it was the same, everybody out, group of friends ready to party… But the day after (Sunday), not a single soul outside. Compared to the day before, it looked like a ghost town, I was by myself. Almost everything was closed, the very few groceries open were extremely busy due to the limited options. I guess it’s the Lord’s Day.
Something else I noticed. Vienna is very gay-friendly. Saturday night, as I was walking around, I saw on a little street a party in the open-air with music, alcohol and food. Let’s see… I came closer and soon realized there were almost only men in this party, with the multicolored flag. They were partying outside and nobody was messing with them. As a matter of fact, I saw multicolored flag almost everywhere in this city, tramways also had those flags hung on top of them. This mentality is pushed to the extreme, with the red lights for pedestrians where you can see two women walking or just waiting. I talked to some people from Austria, and they told me they set this up in 2015, a few weeks before hosting the Eurovision (European song contest), to show how open minded they are, blablabla…
Vienna, called “The city of dreams” because Freud lived there. Vienna is also called “The city of music” because it had a great influence on classical music. Looking for what to do and what to see here, I realized that almost everything is on the same area, which is more convenient for me. But before going there, I went to see what was the closest from my hostel, Haus des Meeres (House of the sea). It’s a giant aquarium with several floors, and you’ll see crabs, crocodiles, snakes… The house of the sea is also a “regular” zoo with mainly monkeys you can approach really close. Ideally somewhere to go with kids, they were all over the place, with their eyes sparkling. It’s 17 euros to get in, and on top of the tower, there’s a rooftop with a view on the city.
Now let’s go to the city center! Walking around, you definitely feel this is not a “new” city, and it has a lot of history. I passed by a big church, which is the votive church. This is a neo-gothic church, and it was built during the 19th century. And just next to it the university of Vienna.
Still in the same area is Rathaus, the city hall. I was impressed by its size, and I have to say it’s also an architectural gem. Unfortunately during my whole stay there, it seemed like they were preparing a concert or something like this, and all the area around the city hall was closed to the public. And with the barriers, it was very hard to take good pictures.
Just like Rathaus, I wanted to take a nice picture of the austrian parliament which is nearby, but it was complicated because of the construction work. The parliament was also built during the 19th century, we can see in front of it a statue in gold and stones. This is Athena, the goddess of wisdom. It’s possible to visit inside the parliament, but I didn’t.
Speaking about gold, you have (still in the same area) Hofburg and just opposite Neue Burg. Hofburg is the biggest palace in Vienna and includes the imperial apartments, the treasury and the Sisi museum (it’s 15 euros to get in).
What a bummer! I had no battery left on my camera nor on my phone to take nice pictures of a must see in Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Stunning cathedral, and needless to say, you can get in. It’s also possible to get in the basement to see the ossuary of the cathedral, and go to the roof of both towers of the cathedral. Visiting the cathedral is free, but going to to the roof is just a few euros. Mozart got married there, his kids were christened in this cathedral, and his funeral took place there too. No pictures… 🙁
Outside of the city center, you’ll find the famous Schonbrunn Palace, the most popular touristic place in Vienna. I took the subway to go there and in Vienna, you have magazines INSIDE the subway. I could see people taking them, flipping through them, and putting them back in their place before getting off! Anyway, Schonbrunn Palace is a must see in Vienna. This palace has 1441 rooms, and they propose two different tours (a short one and a longer one). During those tours, we discover the opulence of the royal family. However it’s not possible to take pictures inside the palace. The palace is surrounded by a large garden (free), and there’s a zoo next to the palace (I didn’t go).
Completely opposite of the Schonbrunn Palace is the Prater (and its Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel!). The Prater is a public park. You get there for free, but you have to pay for the rides you want to go on. The most popular one is the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel, erected in 1827 and still here today! Prater closes during the winter, so check if it’s open before going!
Vienna is a nice city, more like a city where you go with your special one, not really the kind of city for backpackers. But it’s still interesting to discover a city full of history.
Info to visit Vienna
- Are you going to Vienna? Do not leave home without a travel insurance!
- Accommodation is quite expensive in Austria. You’ll have plenty of option on Booking, or Hostelworld, specialized in hostels. You can also compare the hotel rates on HotelsCombined.
- Do not hesitate to check all the activities you can do in Vienna.
- You can also get a city guide.
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