Vienna Backpacking Travel Guide

Information on hostels, transportation, cheap food and drinks, sights to see, activities and more.

Search for Vienna hostels at Hostelworld and budget hotels at Agoda.com

About


Vienna is the capital of Austria and by far its most populous city. It is also the country's artistic, cultural, economic and political centre. Until the early 20th century it was the 4th largest city in Europe and the largest German-speaking city. Vienna was home to Beethoven, Haydn, Liszt, Mozart, Schubert and Johann Strauss II and has always been known for its rich musical life. The historic city centre of Vienna is filled with monuments to its imperial past and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Vienna is not as popular a destination as other Central European cities. This is most likely due to it's higher prices and less obvious sources of cheap entertainment compared to backpacking hotspots such as Prague and Budapest. But as you will see below there is more than enough rich culture to tap into to make it well worth visiting.

Hostels


Hostel Ruthensteiner

A very clean and social hostel, the perfect place to stay close to the Westbahnhof train station. The location is well connected to the city centre and all the major attractions are a short tram ride away. Very comfy beds, kitchen & BBQ, lovely gardens, musical instruments and affordable bikes for rent. The hostel has a great atmosphere and the bar has cheap beer. The staff and volunteers are really friendly and helpful with information and are just all round cool people.

Wombats City Hostel Vienna

This Wombats hostel is in a great location overlooking the Naschmarkt Market. It's also a short walk from the Hofburg Imperial Palace and Vienna State Opera, making it ideal for those looking to soak up some culture while in the city. This modern, secure and clean hostel has friendly, helpful staff and a popular and lively bar serving cheap beer. They also offer an all-you-can-eat breakfast for 4.50€. Quite decent value if you want a big breakfast before exploring the city.

Sights and Highlights


Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is a former imperial summer residence and 1,441-room Baroque palace. It is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the country. Since the mid-1950s it has been a major tourist attraction. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

Check out schoenbrunn.at/en/ for information on entrance prices, directions to get there and all other information. The Vienna Zoo is also located within the Schönbrunn Gardens and is worth a visit.

Austria-00926 - Schönbrunn Palace

Museums

There are many great museums in Vienna. Many of them are found in and around the Museumsquartier and nearby Maria-Theresien-Platz. A few others, such as the Belvedere and Albertina are located inside historical buildings of Vienna that are many centuries old.

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Often referred to as the Museum of Fine Arts, this museum in Vienna is the largest art museum in the country. It was opened in 1891 at the same time as the Natural History Museum. The two museums have similar exteriors and face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz. The two museums were commissioned by the Emperor to find a suitable shelter for the Habsburgs' formidable art collection and to make it accessible to the general public. Notable works include pieces by Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Raphael, Rembrandt and Velázquez.

Museum of Natural History Vienna

On the other side of Maria-Theresien-Platz is one of the most enjoyable museums I have been to. The combination of the building, its ornate decoration, furniture and precious exhibits makes the museum itself an artefact for historical preservation. The upper floor has a very detailed display of precious stones, minerals and meteorites, along with large dinosaur displays and rare fossils. The first floor displays the variety of the animal world, from insects to highly developed mammals including ancestors of the modern human.

Belvedere Museum

The Belvedere Museum is housed in the Belvedere palace and built in the early eighteenth century. Visitors not only encounter artworks drawn from over five hundred years of art history but can also experience the magnificent staterooms of this Habsburg Palace. The collection presents an almost complete overview of the development of art in Austria and, thus, an insight into the country’s history.

Opera

The Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) is one of the most famous opera theatres in the world. Visiting an opera theatre to watch a performance may not be something you would normally consider while travelling but in Vienna it is well worth it. Tickets can be regularly be purchased here for a range of different shows for under 20€.

The Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper)

To Eat


It is quite easy to find really tasty and cheap food in Vienna. They secret is to find cheap street food vendors. The traditional Viennese street food is the sausage. You can buy hot sausages and hot dogs at snack bars called "Würstlstand" all over the town. The famous Vienna sausage is known as a frankfurter in Vienna, but many inhabitants prefer bosna (with onions and curry), burenwurst, and käsekrainer(with melted cheese inside).

The local snack culture also include the döner kebap. Places that sell kebap often sell take-away slices of pizza too. Good kebaps can be bought at the Naschmarkt. The Naschmarkt gets cheaper the further you get away from Karlsplatz. Another good place to find snacks is Schwedenplatz.

By far the cheapest way to get a fast food meal in Austria is buying a sandwich from a supermarket. Supermarkets with a deli counter will prepare sandwiches to take away at no extra charge. There is a large choice of meat, cheese, and bread rolls available. One of the favourites is the "Leberkässemel", which is like a bigger but less dense version of a high quality hot dog on a bun.

For Drinking


Viennese Coffee House

The Viennese coffee house is an institution of Vienna that has played an important role in shaping Viennese culture and is listed in the Austrian inventory of the "National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage", a part of UNESCO. A decent blog post on the best cafes in Vienna can be found at TheCultureTrip.com - The 10 Best Cafés and Coffeehouses in Vienna.

7Stern Bräu

A great place for beer lovers. This gastropub is also a craft brewery. They brew 8 types of beer on site and all are available on tap and as a take away order. The food menu is also quite reasonably priced. At only 2.50€ for a soup and 6.60€ for a main course from 11am to 4pm, this is a really good option for an early afternoon meal and dinner.

Fischerbräu

Another highly rated craft brewery gastropub. Great beer, food and service. A 0.5 litre beer is 4€. Beware that they only open at 4pm each afternoon so won't be suitable for lunch or day-drinking. A cheap meal here starts at about 6€ and lots of options are less than 10€. To get here with public transport take the U4 U-Bahn train north and get off at Spittelau.

Transportation


Local

Vienna has a well-developed public transport network. Buses, trains, trams and underground lines will take you almost anywhere in the city in no time at all. A Vienna subway map can be found here.  Note that google maps does not currently provide public transport directions. However if you turn the transport layer on you can still see all the stops and routes.

Getting In and Out

Bratislava

Buses run all day everyday between Vienna and Bratislava. The easiest option is with Flixbus. Purchase tickets online starting at 5€. Journey takes about an hour.

Trains are also available several times an hour through the day. Just turn up at the Vienna Hauptbahnhof buy a ticket at the station for a fixed price of €15 and hop on.

Salzburg

There are two train options for Vienna to Salzburg. As always Seat61.com has an excellent write-up of the options. To summarise the best option for getting a train to Salzburg is through Westbahn.at. Tickets cost 25.50€ and are fully flexible. Note that these trains leave from the Vienna Westbahnhof station. Any attempt to find a decent bus route between Vienna and Salzburg always ended up trying to sell me a train tickets. It is safe to say that the train is the only option.

Budapest

Every hour or two trains link Vienna Hauptbahnhof with Budapest Keleti station. You can buy cheap advance-purchase sparschiene fares from €19  using the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at. The full fare price is 38.80€ so if discount tickets are not available, the best alternative is to catch a bus. Flixbus runs a bus roughly every 2 hours. Tickets bought online start at 19€ and can be found at Flixbus.com/bus-routes/bus-vienna-budapest.

Prague

Trains to Prague depart roughly every 2 hours starting 07:10 am. Check the timetables at seat61.com/.../prague-vienna-railjet-train and buy tickets at cd.cz/eshop/ or www.oebb.at. A sleeper train makes the same journey each evening departing at 22:50pm.

Zagreb

There is a direct train to Zagreb departing each day at 15:58. More details can be found at seat61.com/.../trains-from-Vienna.htm. The journey takes 6hrs 44mins. Try and book at least a few days in advance in order to get access to discounted tickets for around 30€.

If the discounted tickets are not available or it is a last minute trip, I would opt for a bus journey through. By your bus ticket at flixbus.com/bus-routes/bus-vienna-zagreb for around 25€.

Ljubljana

A direct air-conditioned EuroCity train links Vienna with Ljubljana, leaving Vienna Hbf around 07:58 in the morning and arriving in Ljubljana around 14:06 for a journey time of a little over 6 hours. Unfortunately the cost of the tickets seems to sit at 64€. You need to weigh up whether the comfort of the train is worth that price.

The other alternative is by booking a direct bus from Vienna to Ljubljana with Flixbus.com. Online tickets are 25€ and the journey time is only 5hr 30min, quicker than the direct train.

(Header image Vienna by Thomas Fabian under CC BY-SA 2.0)

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