Vienna emanates a feeling of underrated coolness. Look behind the curtain of Schnitzel and Sissi, and hack the city of Vienna like a real local without breaking the bank
Although a little exaggerated, tourists usually all take home the same impressions of Vienna. The city has much more to offer than what meets the eye. It’s colorful, culturally diverse, and political. Savoring the real flair of the city and the people who live there, is a much more rewarding travel experience. That’s why I — who lived there for nine years — will help you venture into lesser-known areas and share some of the hidden gems for a full and exciting day of hacking the city like a local.
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But first things first: How to actually get to Vienna
Vienna is not necessarily known for being a cheap destination. A weekend getaway can get a little pricey, but with Kiwi.com it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Depending on where you’re coming from, you can reach Vienna by bus, train, or plane. On Kiwi.com you have all ground and air transport in one place. To make the most of your time and get a cheap bargain, travel during unpopular times, like early in the morning or after 8 pm. Find more tips and tricks for a cheap trip in our ultimate travel hacks guide.
Before tackling your busy itinerary, you should also consider how to get around the city. The best way to save money is by not spending it. Walking is for free and Vienna is a great walkable city. If you‘re sporty, you can also check out a CityBike at almost all public transport stations. The first hour is for free.
Speaking of, public transport is cheap too. Instead of buying a tourist card (which gives you a discounted fare on museum tickets), you can opt for a 24- to 72-hour public transport card. Costs vary between €8 and €17.
Get to know the artsy side of Vienna
Living up to its infamous reputation of being the city of arts and culture, Vienna has more to offer than just your typical museum. How about starting the day by indulging in a culinary treat with Frida Kahlo staring down at you? An insider tip that is probably no longer one only among locals is the charming Yppenplatz in the 16th district. This square is full of little cafés and bars bursting to the seams with people, especially on weekends. Located here is the cute Café Frida that displays a mural with its namesake’s face on it. Since the Yppenplatz is located in the midst of a true Viennese multicultural neighborhood, prices are much lower than in the city center.
Next up on your itinerary is a stroll around the adjacent Brunnenmarkt, Vienna’s largest street market with more than 170 market stalls selling fresh cheese, local produce, and exotic spices.
Sharpen your ears and open your eyes
Now, do you prefer to switch to audio or visual stimulation? For the first one, put your headphones on and start walking. Gehörgänge — which most locals don’t even know about — are free audible city walks about places of political self-justification. The audio files focus mostly on the ex-Yugoslavian community living in the 16th district, and Turkish migrants that moved to Austria as guest workers in the 1960s and 1970s. The downside? The files are only available in a limited number of languages — German, Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Turkish.
You don’t understand any of those languages? Treat your eyes to a bit of color, instead. Choose one of Vienna Murals’ free walking trails and experience the city’s street art and graffiti scene. There are five tours between 6.8 and 21.3 km long. On the website, you’ll find the route for each tour. If you want a more detailed tour with background information on the art pieces, you can buy their street art guides.
See Vienna from above
Believe me when I say, there’s more to Vienna than the typical postcard view from the Gloriette at Schönbrunn castle. If you’re not too tired, you can go to Lainzer Tiergarten, located on the outskirts of the city, where you’ll have a breathtaking and free panoramic view of Vienna from the so-called Wienerblick. The best way to get there is to start at the Lainzer Tor entrance. On the one-hour walk, you can treat yourself to some refreshments at Rohrhaus or set up a picnic at the top.
Pssst! All museum lovers should come by on the first Sunday of the month — that’s when Hermesvilla, located at the main entrance Lainzer Tor, can be visited free of charge.
Pet monkeys and enjoy sunset views
Alternative viewpoints in the city center are the north and south towers of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The €5 entrance fare is worth it. Nowhere else can you get as close to the rooftops of Vienna’s first district. At Haus des Meeres — Vienna’s water zoo — you get to pet monkeys and have an incredible view over the rooftops of the city. But €20 for the entrance is almost a daylight robbery. You can also skip the zoo and go directly to the 360° Ocean Sky café on the top floor for a free view.
See Vienna from below
Besides seeing Vienna from above, how about exploring it from below? Although the Neusiedler See is considered to be the “Sea of the Viennese”, I believe the Alte Donau is more deserving of that title. On hot summer days, Viennese people spread out on meadows, sunbathing areas, and piers along the Alte Donau. The best part? It’s entirely for free.
There are many places you can go for a swim, but at Kaiser Wasser (U1 station Kaisermühlen) you have an amazing view of Vienna’s skyscrapers, especially if you stay for the sunset.
Romawiese (U6 station Neue Donau) is popular among students and young families. Slacklines are stretched between the trees, someone is always playing the guitar, and a group is doing acro yoga or playing beach volleyball.
The most popular spot among young people is the wooden pier Stegen (U2 station Donaustadtbrücke). You can jump into the cold water, relax on the pier, and drink a beer while waiting for the incredible sunset.
Get high on Vienna
Viennese sunsets can leave you a little high. If you don’t want the feeling to pass, you should check Open Airs in Wien for events. Afternoon techno parties are extremely popular among young people. They usually take place in abandoned villas in the middle of the Viennese vineyards, at the Danube river, or in a square in the city center. Entrance fees for these events vary between €2 and €10.
Enjoy delicious food
At this point, you must be starving. Skip the traditional Viennese Schnitzel and get to know some of Vienna’s multicultural community.
A staple among young Viennese hipsters is the Berliner Döner food truck in the 7th district. On the menu: tasty and fresh falafel sandwiches in pita bread, wraps, and chicken kebabs. The prices range from €4 to €6.
Another cheap but delicious treat is the Pakistani restaurant Der Wiener Deewan in the 9th district. If you enjoy oriental food and don’t mind sitting on the floor while eating, then this is your spot. Deewan is a buffet-type restaurant where you eat as much as you want, but you only pay whatever you want.
Hop from bar to bar
Skipped the afternoon rave, and now you’re looking for an alternative night program? How about bar hopping in the 7th and 6th districts?
To round off your day with the artsy theme, you should check out the bar If dogs run free. The creative name alone makes you curious to see what’s hidden inside. It’s one of Vienna’s quirkiest bars with an impressive ceiling design. Once inside, you won’t leave that quickly. The drinks menu is pretty extensive and is sure to have something for everyone. Pro tip: Gin Gin Mule (the name says it all).
The monami bar also scores high on the scale of the creative interior. Antique lamps and upholstered sofas and armchairs are randomly thrown together, making it look like you’re in granny’s living room. The bar regularly hosts game, quiz, and karaoke nights. Pro tip: Monami club in the basement. You can go from casually playing jigsaw to dancing the night away in a few steps.
Keep in mind, fancy cocktails aren’t that cheap. But you could always resort to a Kaiserspritzer. The so-called “Emperor’s Spritz” consists of white wine, soda, and elderflower syrup, and costs around €3 everywhere.
A hidden gem, even among locals, is the Prosecco-Bar Piccaro. Originally only known to the older Viennese generation, this old-school Italian bar has become increasingly popular among students. The reason? You can get drunk on bubbly for under €10. A glass of Prosecco costs only €2.
Alternatively, have some drinks at the banks of the Danube Canal. It’s not just central, but also a hotspot for young people to gather in the summer. You might even have some trouble finding a spot to sit sometimes.
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