I was fortunate enough to go to Europe this summer for a study abroad trip. Even more fortunately, I was able to convince my mom, sister, aunt, and cousin to come over and meet up with me in Austria so I wouldn’t have to come back to the US so soon. Together, we spent six days in Vienna. I want to do a longer post later with more details, pictures, and maybe some tips, but this is the overview of what we did while we were abroad.
My extremely jet-lagged family rolled into the Airbnb around noon on the first day of our trip. We were super fortunate to be in the first district–which is prime location because most must-do touristy things are in walking distance. So they unpacked a bit before we decided to head down the street to the Hofburg Palace to check out the National Treasury.
This was one of those things that most people say you have to check out while you’re in Vienna because it showcases all of the jewels and is a cool exhibit, but it was a little underwhelming for me. It cost something like 12 euros for me, my mom, and my aunt, but Sarah and Missy got in for free because they’re 18 and 19 and there’s a deal at a lot of these museums to try and attract teenagers.
The highlights, for me, were the unicorn horn (really a narwhal horn) and the baby carriage with a bird perched on the end to symbolize being destined for greatness. We also had Rick Steve’s book with us, so that provided us with some much-needed background information. However, none of us are really that informed on Austrian history and the exhibit itself was really dimly lit, so I think it just set in for the five of them how tired they were.
Afterwards, my mom and aunt sat (read: fell asleep) on the bench outside while Sarah, Missy, and I headed to the cute shops around the corner. I just wanted to show them these shops before they close (stores close relatively early in Europe) but we ended up going back more than once the rest of the week.
So we went back to the flat and they all slept while I continued making plans for the group. When they woke up, it was as good a time as any to go to dinner, so we went to a really good Italian restaurant that was just past St. Stephen’s cathedral. I also used this time to give them a quick overview of the first district (the little I learned in the few days I was in the city before them) and my aunt took tons of photos. Probably half of the pictures in this post are from her.
After dinner we got what I now call “inevitable ice cream” (shoutout to Elisabeth & Austrian history) and each bought a week-long metro pass. Then we went back to the flat to crash before what we would consider our first full day of Vienna.
We got up pretty early and used to metro to go to what I think is considered the seventh district, but is only a few metro stops away. We ate breakfast at a nice place called Figar where I ordered French Toast with fruit and honey plus a cafe latte. Our waitress was also super cool and translated our entire menu for us and talked to us about where we’re from–which is Ohio and Massachusetts. Funnily enough, she was in Cincinnati for a while and then ended up on the East Coast while she was an au pair for a family, so she had been to Boston a few times as well.
After breakfast we shopped along a street called Mariahilfer, but is apparently referred to as Mahu, so that’s what I called it. We found some cool stores and I bought some clothes from Monki and Pull & Bear, because those were two stores that were actually in my budget (unlike, say, Desigual).
Then we ventured around Vienna trying to find Shakespeare & Co bookstore. It took some time, but was so cute when we actually found it. From there I bought Where I Lived, and What I Lived For by Henry David Thoreau as well as Books for Living by Will Schwalbe because I’m a sucker for books about books. Sarah also got Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for her boyfriend.
Afterwards we went to Augarten, where I could’ve easily spent the afternoon, but we quickly moved on to find a game cafe called Sperlhof.
It took us much too long to find and we were disappointed to find they didn’t sell meals, necessarily, but it ended up being one of my most enjoyable parts of the trip. My mom and aunt sipped beer and we all completed a puzzle, which was almost as big of an accomplishment as it was to find the cafe in the first place.
We ended the day in Prater, which is the world’s oldest amusement park. I had already gone on the ferris wheel, so my family did that while I started one of my books (and my sister ended up taking this picture that makes me look ridiculously extra).
Then we got bratwurst and Missy, Sarah, and I picked two rides each. I was deadset on The Toboggan because, even though it’s just a huge slide, two people have died on it. But then Sarah pointed out a random roller coaster and we all decided that’d be fun.
Wednesday was another packed day. We started by visiting a World War II memorial and St. Stephen’s cathedral. For a few euros we got to climb to the top and took some pretty cool pictures of the city. Afterwards, we went to a place called Hungry Guy for lunch, which was prime.
In the afternoon we ventured out to Stadtpark which, in my opinion, is 10x better than Augarten. It just has better foliage, really, and cool statues of musicians and composers, but it was really cool.
For dinner, Sarah and I decided to go to a Wurstlstand on Hoher Markt because it was a little infamous. In the 1900s, there were two of these stands on this street and they were fighting to be the best. The conflict escalated until one day, the owner of one stand chased the other around the square and eventually shot him dead. That stand is now the favorite.
Afterwards, Sarah and I decided we wanted to see a movie so we reserved tickets for Baywatch at the Haydn Cinema, which has a good selection of movies in English. We took the metro out there around 7:30 and got some ice cream before it started. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, as I thought I would, and the cinema, itself, was really cool. It was a fun end to a really good day.
On Thursday we left Vienna for Salzburg by bus for a Sound of Music tour. Salzburg is about three hours away but our tour guide used this time to give us some information on the movie, what we’d be seeing, and then some random information about Vienna and Salzburg, themselves. He played music from the movie as we drove around and we got out at two different spots and took some pictures.
Once we were in the heart of Salzburg, I guess, he took us on a little walking tour and told us about spots we could visit like where Mozart grew up and what very well might be the oldest restaurant in the world (he said it dated back to the year 800). Then he gave us a few hours to explore.
My family and I mostly used this time to grab a bite to eat and tour Mozart’s museum before getting back on the bus to return to Vienna. Salzburg is beautiful and today was still a great day, but this is the one part of the trip I wouldn’t necessarily recommend.
What I would recommend is to visit Salzburg how my friends did it, but I might get into that in an entirely separate post. I will say that I think the Mozart museum is well worth it (just don’t forget your student ID) and was a highlight of my trip for sure.
We spent Friday morning at Schonbrunn palace. The night before we made sure to get online tickets and chose the “family package” because it easily saved us 30 euros. I had already been to the palace with my friends the week before so my family did the tour with audio guides while I waited in the cafe area and wrote some journal entries.
When they came out we decided we might as well eat at that cafe because I had already been sitting there for well over an hour. Their muffins are amazing, by the way, and their paninis taste like Hamburger Helper (which is a compliment, for the record). Then my mom and aunt explored the grounds while Sarah, Missy, and I did a few mazes (which was included under the family package) and posed with the statues (which was free).
We took the metro home and Sarah wanted to send a postcard to her boyfriend so we spent part of the afternoon exploring Vienna and going in random shops. After the post office we took a longer way home because I wanted to walk past the Hotel Orient, which is a hotel where people can rent out rooms for three-hour blocks. If we had time, I would’ve liked to find a cafe nearby to watch the people coming in and out of this hotel, but we had dinner plans.
While we were in Stadtpark on Tuesday, we decided to buy tickets to a classical concert/ballet/opera. The guy told us that we could wear whatever, but we thought it might be fun to dress up a bit. So after our outfit changes, we went back to Stadtpark and had dinner at a restaurant right outside the park. I had pizza and beer and I have no shame in saying that it was my favorite dinner of the whole trip.
We took some nice pictures and went to the concert, which really was a lot of fun and reminded me how much I miss cello, and then we took the metro home.
You know when you go on vacation and then all of a sudden you realize you didn’t get anything for certain people that you probably should? That happened to all of us on varying degrees on Saturday, so our day basically just consisted of shopping and packing.
The first place we went to was Naschmarkt which was a bitch to find, let me tell you. Once we did, though, it was so much fun. Not everyone in my family likes to barter, but I LOVE it. I’m not overconfident in my abilities, but I really like the game of it all. And the fact that this was just like a huge flea market was a ton of fun. I got two tapestries–one for me and one for a friend’s birthday–and then my mom got Sarah and I these wooden plank things that were really cool looking.
Afterwards we went back to Mahu because my aunt loved Monki so much. I was basically out of money and said friend was the last on my list so I just got ice cream with Sarah, but everyone else found cool things they were looking for.
Once we were back in the first district, we went to those shops I pointed out the first day: 1900, the I Love Vienna store, and another one I forget the name of. I got some cute postcards and a mug I had my eye on since the first day but wanted to make sure I still wanted it by the end of the trip. I still wanted it.
After shopping my family annoyingly forced me to pack before we could get dinner (they all were waiting on me) so that took up the rest of the afternoon, but then we went to dinner around the corner of our flat. I got pizza and beer again and my mom and aunt actually got to keep their beer glasses because they made friends with our waiter after Sarah, Missy, and I left to get ice cream for dessert.
Here’s the only picture we took that day:
So that’s my quick, 2,000-word synopsis of how we spent our days in Vienna. I’ll probably write on this subject again, in some form or another, but for now I think this post will suffice.