When I first announced that I was moving to Vienna for a year, one of the first things people said to me was “Ooh…Vienna’s quite expensive though, isn’t it?”
Well the answer is it’s only as expensive or as affordable as you make it. Obviously there are some incredibly fancy and pricey pass-times that you wouldn’t exactly be doing every weekend (the Schonbrunn Orchestra, for example…unless you’re lucky enough to catch it for free one night sitting on the hill!) but there are so many things you can get up to without the fear of emptying your account. And I would know – sad, lowly student that I am.
So, let’s get cracking.
First off, getting here is sometimes a little expensive to begin with, especially if you’re flying into the city in high summer. If at all you can fly into Bratislava, you’re saving for the get-go, as the flights are usually dirt cheap and even the bus to Vienna (which usually lasts 90 minutes and has some lovely views) is only €6.50. You could even squeeze in a day in Bratislava Old Town like I did when I first arrived. It’s a nice little spot to spend a few sunny hours in (you can read about our little excursion here).
Once you’ve arrived in Vienna (and you’ve bought your week-long transport pass for €16.20!) the fun starts.
For under €20, you can:
- Visit the underground Haydn English Cinema. It’s on Mariahilferstrasse. It looks tiny from the outside and then you descend this windy staircase and you end up underground in the dark in what feels like a space pod. All the latest releases in English, should you be a film fanatic or should your hotel T.V. be less than sufficient on a rainy evening.
- Go for cocktails at Grande Cocktail Bar. Last week, my friends Mark and Antonia and I wanted to go for cocktails at the Dachboden (Which I’ll get onto in due time). Sadly it was closed for a function that particular day – so Mark and Antonia took me to this old-style Jazz Bar in the 12 District. Well, I was so lucky to have come upon this gem that night. It’s decorated like an old-fashioned apartment with tassled lampshades, floral, high-backed armchairs, and the best cocktails you could imagine. This is all with groovy jazz playing in the background. Look out for the lift – which is curiously fashioned out of a vintage phone box. It’s the best.
- Do a full tour of the Schonbrunn Palace, including gaining access to Queen Sissi’s bedroom (no easy feat, as Kaiser Franz Joseph the First will tell you – chortle chortle)
- Go to the ‘Haus des Meeres’ 5-Storey Aquarium. I’m honestly not one for aquariums, but this was a little bit different. There’s a rainforest floor where monkey hop from place to place in the open space, and on the top floor you have an amazing view of the whole city.
- Go to any of the museums at Museumsquartier…and there are flipping loads of them. The Leopold houses such delights as the Viennese modernist chaps like Schiele and Klimt, if you’re into a bit of nudity and/or gold-leaf. Otherwise try the massive natural history museum or the art history one, directly across from it. Why not take 45 minutes to sunbathe outside in the extensive gardens afterwards? An afternoon well-spent.
For under €10, you can:
- Get drinks at the Dachboden Rooftop Bar. This is my favourite place in Vienna, hands down. It’s the rooftop bar of the awesome circus-themed 25 Hour Hotel and is right beside the Volkstheatre. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to stumble in on a live band performing, or just in time to see the sun set over the city. An absolute must.
- Take a trip on the Riesenrad at Prater Fairground. A vintage Ferris Wheel. Amazing views. Very romantic. Confusing when a bit drunk. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed. (If you’ve got €400 quid to spare you can have a champagne dinner in a private cart. Worth it, I’d imagine, if you don’t get motion sickness.)
- Go to the opera (with a twist*) – the twist being that you get the ‘last minute’ tickets right before the performance. Instead of paying €60 for a restricted-view seat, you can get a standing ticket for €4. You have to be willing to wait outside the theatre for an hour or so. Bring a bottle of Champers with you and you won’t even notice the time passing. Either that, or you can spend the afternoon in the Cafe Gerstner across from the Opera House and watch the show on a big screen from the comfort of a velvet sofa. Read more on this here.
- Have some Prosecco and shop along Kendlerstrasse: Every so often the shops along Kendlerstrasse, right in the centre of town, do promotionals where they give out glasses of Prosecco and even old-style popcorn. It’s common enough, particularly in underwear stores for whatever reason. It works though – Prosecco and pant-buying do go hand-in-hand. It’s a wonder Debenhams haven’t picked up on this yet.
For under €5, you can:
- Grab a bottle of wine and head to the Stadtpark: A decent bottle of wine here costs €3.00 in any foodstore. Grab yourself a bottle of Gruener Veltliner, some plastic cups and some sparkling water and head to this gorgeous park for a spot of stylish daytime drinking.
- Grab a few beers and head to the Donau: Likewise, beers are desperately cheap. One of the best ways to spend the afternoon is along the sundrenched banks of the Donau with a few bottles of Corona, watching the barges of wavey tourists go by.
- Have a coffee on top of the Kahlenberg: I’m a massive advocate of the Kahlenberg mountain. You can get the 38A bus from Heiligenstadt Station right to the top, do a few mountainside strolls and revert back to the cafes for your caffeine-fuelled award at the end.
- Get an icecream and sit at Stephansplatz: Or walk about by Stephansplatz. The little streets there are amazing and a lot more ‘local’ than the touristy shopping areas. If you want to buy yourself some true Austrian lederhosen, this is your best bet.
Without even opening your wallet, you can:
- Walk along the Donau and marvel at the amazing graffiti: The graffiti in Vienna is most definitely ‘art’ – no rude slogans or anything that you’d find in the tunnels of Urban Britain. Perfect for some cheap entertainment and working on your tan.
- Go to any number of fleamarkets – they’re usually free to get in and you need only open the purse should you find a hidden treasure. This Leica Camera market I went to is a perfect example:
- Take a tram ride around the whole city. If you take the D tram, you can completely chill out for 30 minutes and see the parliament building, the Museumsquartier, Belvedere Castle, the opera house, and countless other beautiful buildings in total comfort (provided you have your transport ticket handy, just in case!)
- Walk about the Schonbrunn gardens: Have I done this 4’000 times? Perhaps. But it really is so beautiful and so HUGE that you can explore a different bit every time you go. Total must, and free – you don’t have to go into the actual palace to get a sense of its grandeur.
…And there you have my favourite things to do on a budget. There are hundreds of things to do here, depending on what you fancy, on your budget and how long you’re staying.
Vienna doesn’t usually jump to mind as a long-weekend, romantic or ‘girls/guys weekend’ destination, and I’ll admit that before I decided to come for the year I’d never really considered it myself (is that a bit backwards? Possibly), but I can’t recommend it enough as a little getaway.
As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about places you’ve been here or places you’d like to go, please leave a comment!