I have to be honest, when planning a trip to Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, and Budapest, I was least excited about visiting Vienna. It was time to plan a summer trip to celebrate my submission of my PhD thesis (Finally!!!) and Mari’s PhD graduation/last big trip before leaving Iceland so we tried to think of cities neither of us had been to but wanted to visit before we had to move back to the states.
We decided that Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, and Budapest were all close enough that we could travel to all of them in a little over a week. In our research, it looked like Vienna was the best option for traveling to and from the other cities. For me, Vienna was essentially the hub that would take us to more exciting destinations – boy, was this mentality totally wrong!
Obviously, Vienna is a beautiful city, especially in the summer (I’ll discuss this in more detail in the next post!). However, what put Vienna above Salzburg (hello, The Sound of Music!), Prague, and Budapest for me was how stress-free it was to be a tourist in Vienna.
First, it couldn’t have been easier to get from Vienna Airport to the city centre (Wien Mitte stop). The City Airport Train (CAT) leaves the airport every 30 minutes and costs 11€ one way or 17€ for a return ticket. Don’t worry about having to wander around the airport to find where to buy CAT tickets. Vienna has thoughtfully planned out the location of their ticket machines to minimize confusion and time-wasting, knowing that tourists like us are arriving after long flights. The CAT ticket machines are conveniently located in baggage claim, and they are clearly marked so you know that you can buy tickets to the city centre there.
After buying your tickets, just follow the signs to the CAT trains. When you walk to the CAT platform, you’ll see that there are two sides. If there are two trains waiting on each platform, check to see which train is leaving first. Again, there are signs clearly stating when a train is leaving, and since Austria is close to Germany, you can be sure that the trains always leave and arrive on time 🙂
Once inside the train, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Similar to many trains in Europe, the CAT train is very nice – so clean and comfortable! There are no assigned seats so you can sit anywhere you like; you can even sit on the second floor! Yup, this train is super fancy! I really wish trains in the US were this civilized. Sidenote: I say this about the trains in the UK too…I love traveling by the civilized trains in the UK!
A second concern for me when traveling to Vienna was not only the journey from the airport to the hotel, but finding the hotel from the station in the evening. The train from the airport only has one destination, the Wien Mitte station, so unless you’re staying near there, you have to transfer to another station.
The Wien Mitte station is a rail and U-Bahn station (similar to the metro or subway system) where you can access several different U-Bahn lines. They are all referred to as U1, U2, U3, U4, U5, and U6. Luckily, there are only 6 different lines so it makes finding the one you need a bit simpler.
I actually shouldn’t have been concerned about finding the hotel from the exit of the Hietzing station, which was the closest station to the hotel. I had looked up what the hotel’s neighborhood looked like on Google maps so I not only knew what the hotel looked like, I also knew the directions from Hietzing station. As soon as I got near the exit of the station, I read the street names to see which doors I should use. As I exited the station, lo and behold, the hotel was brightly lit up across the street, giving me a perfect beacon of light to guide me to my temporary home. I can’t tell you the relief I felt knowing that I only had to walk less than 5 minutes to the hotel after a long day!
Here’s an important tip: If you look up your hotel’s location on Google Maps or a similar website, and then use the Street View option, you can actually see what the street looks like and try to virtually walk to the nearest station so the neighborhood won’t be completely new to you when you get there.
Now for the fun part! When comparing costs for hotels in Vienna, understandably they were less expensive the further away from the city centre. Since Vienna has a great public transportation system, we weren’t too concerned about staying outside of the city centre. We finally decided to stay at the Austria Trend Parkhotel Schönbrunn Vienna, which is less than a 10 minute walk to Schönbrunn Palace and its beautiful gardens and grounds and about a 15 min metro ride to the city centre.
Impressive, right? Sometimes after seeing impressive pictures of a hotel online, the hotel is disappointing in person. Not this one!
When you enter the hotel, the check-in desk and hotel restaurant are to your left, and to your right is an impressive hallway where the rooms are located. It seemed like they had a wedding or party going on while we were there because it was very noisy and there were fancy tables being set up.
I guess the room here wasn’t impressive at all since I didn’t take any pictures of it, or maybe I was just so tired after traveling from the UK to Vienna and then finally arriving at the hotel around 10pm. I remember it was comfortable and clean, but nothing on par with the hotel’s exteriors and entrance.
However, that was ok, because it meant that the cost of the rooms at the hotel weren’t astronomical. Similar to our stay at the Hotel Nemzeti in Budapest, we were able to book this hotel at our budget of 50€ each per night due to tons of research and comparing websites. When you look at this hotel and its location, this was a steal! At first we were worried about being further from the city centre, but since there were so many things to see and do near this hotel, this ended up being the perfect location. And there was even an awesome sushi restaurant right next door with the most delicious, fresh sushi for such a low price!
From the outside, Restaurant Hanil Sushi was very unassuming. It’s a very small restaurant with a few seats inside and outdoors, but all of it is very charming and clean. There weren’t many people eating here when we first walked by it, so we assumed it couldn’t be very good. Well, fast forward a few hours to dinnertime and there were a few people dining outdoors there. We were hungry so we decided to give it a try. I am so glad we did! The food was made to order and the staff don’t rush you at all, even though there are a limited number of tables available.
I can’t remember the exact total, but all this food was under $20! We loved the food so much we ate here for dinner twice! Here’s the menu if you want to see all the choices this small but comprehensive restaurant offers. Not a bad way to end our first day in Vienna!
Sometimes staying beyond the city centre is actually a better experience. I think the sights we were closer to were so much more beautiful and worthwhile than anything in the city centre. Plus, the food and accommodation cost less! Instead of making a stay outside the city centre an afterthought, why not consider booking a hotel just beyond the main area?
Check back soon as we explore the hotel’s neighborhood, especially Schönbrunn Palace & Gardens!
Have you visited Vienna? How was your trip? Let us know and thanks for reading!!