I spent a couple of weeks in December making my way through central Europe, continuing with 2 days in Vienna. It was a pretty short visit, but I still managed to fit a fair bit in, including the very famous Schönbrunn Palace! Here’s reviews of the most memorable places I visited.

In total, I was in Vienna from the morning of Wed 20th (sleeper train!) to the morning of Fri 22nd.

Note: This is part 2 of 4 from this trip: Zurich, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin.

Day 1 (20th December): Arrival & historical

I came in to Vienna overnight via a… cosy sleeper train, unexpectedly via Liechtenstein! Luckily we could check in to our hotel when we arrived (8 AM), and then have a full day exploring the city. It impressively rained for almost the entire day, so there are very few external pictures of all the landmarks visited.

This wandering through all the landmarks in the South West of the city resulted in 19,599 steps (9.3 miles) walked.

vienna 20th

Hotel Daniel Vienna ★★★★✰

I stayed in Hotel Daniel for 2 nights, and whilst the experience was mostly good, it unfortunately wasn’t perfect.

First, the good. The hotel is excellently priced, with even the large hammock room and a pretty good breakfast being cheaper that most hotels in the area. The rooms are well-equipped, with a coffee machine, dimmable lights, large bed, overhead shower, etc. Staff are also quite helpful, managing to check us in at 8am(!) when we arrived.

There are also good transport links, both with the main train station nearby, and trams from multiple nearby stops. This makes getting anywhere in Vienna (or further) nice and easy.

However, there are some problems. Whilst this of course depends on your room, if you’re anywhere near the bins at the back it can be very noisy quite early in the morning, we were woken up both mornings by the clattering of bins. Additionally, the rooms suffer majorly from condensation (see attached image), so expect very humid air. Perhaps related, the metal blinds make odd noises as they move by themselves, which can be somewhat spooky at night!

Our TV’s internet was broken when we arrived, and after raising it with the front desk was informed it would be sorted tomorrow. No problem. However, nothing happened, and housekeeping seemed to have done nothing except place 2 new towels near the sink? Not sure what happened.

Finally, the room design. Whilst having an open room for more space makes sense… there’s no shower curtain whatsoever! Instead, there’s a large glass window to the rest of the room (and a poorly placed full length mirror), making sharing a room somewhat awkward if you want any privacy. Luckily the toilet has a proper private area. The hammock is also mostly just in the way, and I wouldn’t recommend actually sitting in it as an average sized adult! A few too many suspicious creaks…

Overall I would likely stay here again, although perhaps in one of the larger rooms for a bit more shower privacy.

Original review (4 photos)

Belvedere-Schlossgarten ★★★★✰

This is a lovely open garden, which has an intriguing variety of layers and sections even during the winter. There are statues (including a spooky giant spider), flowerbeds, and wide open paths.

It’s worth spending 10 minutes walking along the free gardens from North to South, but the buildings themselves seemed very crowded with tourists so we didn’t attempt them.

Original review (1 photo)

Museum of Natural History ★★★★★

This is an excellent Natural History Museum, and tells familiar stories (such as how different strands of homo divided and spread, or how different animals hunt) in new, engaging ways.

We ended up spending far longer than expected here, and there was still plenty left if we ever return. I highly recommend visiting, and especially appreciated the gallery of “behind the scenes” photos, showing all the storage rooms that usually can’t be seen.

All the newer exhibits are also in English, but many of the historic animal specimens will only have their original language without any additional explanation. Whilst the entrance can look very busy, it’s mostly large tour groups, and you can buy tickets online instantly to skip the queue.

Original review (6 photos)

Lolo & Lola ★★★★★

We visited Lolo & Lola for a late lunch (2-4pm), and were surprised to see no other customers! Luckily we stuck to our plan and had a lovely lunch, with it getting busier later on.

Admittedly my Filipino partner mentioned she’d have preferred the original meals… but it’s a fusion restaurant! I enjoyed my meal & beer, and the great restaurant location made it easy to get to during a busy day.

Staff were very friendly, and happy to answer any questions or make small tweaks to the meal. The interior is also cosily decorated, with little touches like different (real) plants on every table.

Original review (4 photos)

Heldenplatz ★★★✰✰

We briefly visited here during the evening, and realistically there wasn’t much happening in the concrete area. There were 1-2 political / protest groups playing music(?) in front of Hofburg, but the building itself still looks stunning.

It felt a little unsafe due to the darkness and business, so I wouldn’t recommend specifically visiting here, just pass through if needed.

Review pending approval…

Theseustempel ★★★★✰

Whilst Theseustempel is technically closed currently, it is still lit up at night and makes a striking landmark to walk past.

There’s also a statue nearby with an interesting backstory and further information on the structure, take a look!

Original review (1 photo)

Day 2 (21st December): Schönbrunn

This was our last full day in Austria, so we spent it primarily in Austria’s most popular attraction… Schönbrunn Palace! This took up far more time than expected, as it was a great place to explore outside, learn about the palace, and have lunch.

Without diving into world events, the 2023 Prague shooting happened this day, with us already having a train booked there for the next day. This was a little disconcerting, but we didn’t change our plans. As we had a fairly leisurely stroll around the palace & grounds, despite walking most of the day we only managed 16,599 steps (7.18 miles) walked.

vienna 21st

Schönbrunn Palace ★★★★✰

This imposing building is one of the few palaces I’d recommend taking the time to visit and rent an audio guide, despite the high cost. The “imperial tour” will cost around €24 each, and must be booked for a specific time slot in advance.

These timeslots are strictly enforced, so don’t bother coming more than 5 minutes early! However, once you’ve actually started your tour, it is all worth it. The tour takes you around 20-30 rooms of various sizes and uses, providing the perfect amount of information to keep you interested without overwhelming.

Photography and backpacks are strictly forbidden, and there are employees wandering around ensuring no area gets too crowded. This gives it a well managed feel, but I could imagine it becoming uncomfortably busy on a less cold and rainy day!

Original review

Schönbrunn Palace Park ★★★★★

Schönbrunn’s park is an excellent free garden to explore. We visited in the winter, so there were no fountains and it was more brown than green, yet the wide avenue and dynamic use of height makes it a good place to visit year-round.

This large scale also helps ensure it is peaceful and relaxed, regardless of how many other tourists are in the area. I highly recommend climbing the zig-zag ramps up to the upper lake, and walking past the edge of the zoo to peek in at the animals. There’s also some goats lurking near “Spielhaus von Kronprinz Rudolf”!

I’d love to revisit in the summer one day.

Original review (4 photos)

Café Gloriette ★★★★★

Try the vegetable strudel!

We were surprised with how affordable this restaurant was, considering the unique location. Staff were busy but friendly, food was served quickly and cooked excellently, I’d highly recommend making this a part of any trip to Schönbrunn Palace.

Original review (1 photo)

Huth Gastwirtschaft ★★★★★

Make sure you book in advance! We arrived around 16:30 on a Sunday and only just managed to secure a table for 2 for an hour, with at least 4-5 other couples being turned away whilst we ate due to no remaining capacity.

The food itself explains why it is so popular. We went here for traditional Viennese food, and definitely made an excellent choice. I had the “Viennese Boiled Beef” AKA Tafelsplitz, and it was one of the best pieces of meat I’ve ever eaten. I wish I’d taken a photo, but I ate it all too quickly! My partner had the wiener schnitzel and it was also excellent.

Whilst the prices are perhaps higher than other restaurants serving similar food, you get what you pay for. I’d love to come back here and try the other dishes.

Original review

Café Diglas ★★★★✰

We visited here for dessert after a meal elsewhere on a busy Sunday, and it was a little chaotic. Our table was constantly being brushed past by staff and customers, we had trouble getting service, and the cake selection process relied on a waiter guiding you through them all at the front counter instead of a simple list! I know the cakes change daily, but choosing in your own time from a list is definitely a preferable experience.

However, the cakes were relatively nice, with generous portions. I’d also recommend the homemade blueberry (or similar) soda! Whilst I expected a simple glass of drink, I instead got a small vial of concentrated fruit syrup, and a bottle of sparkling water. These could then be combined in a glass to create a soda of your desired strength. A novel idea that made a basic drink a bit more fun.

Whilst my experience wasn’t great, this is undoubtedly partially due to attending at a very busy time, and us making poor cake choices. I suspect the cafe is much better at quieter times.

Original review

Day 3 (22nd December): Departure

We left relatively early in the day, only having time to stop off in a unique coffee shop before our train to the Czech Republic. There’ll be more information about today in the next post in this series, Prague!

Aufzug Café ★★★★★

This unique idea for a café containing converted elevators seemed almost too good to be true! With (at the time of writing) 70+ reviews, all 5 stars, when combined with no street view images I actually wondered if it was just a showroom or something.

Luckily no, it’s definitely a real coffee shop. We popped in for a coffee and croissant before catching a train, and managed to find a table. It can get pretty crowded (with most people wanting a photo in the converted elevators), so I recommend coming at quieter times.

It’s worth mentioning that the pastries are smaller than usual (and are priced lower), so get an extra 1 or 2. There are also postcards available by the door, with the interior’s consistent theme and the owner(?) committing to the bit by dressing up as a bellhop.

Original review (5 photos)

Conclusion

Overall I couldn’t fall in love with Vienna. I enjoyed it, but… it was very palace heavy. Perhaps I just failed to find the attractions I’d enjoy despite plenty of looking on Google Maps / TripAdvisor etc, or perhaps this was just due to the obvious comparison with our last city: Zurich.

I like nature and water with my city trips, and Vienna seems to have not noticed the river running through it, seemingly only using it for a single very long and narrow park island. If I did visit Austria again, I’d probably aim for a totally different style of holiday, and spend some time in the proper countryside.