Vienna: the most underrated city in Europe?

I’ve been avoiding Europe like the plague for several years now due how expensive it is thanks to the weak dollar (though that’s becoming a problem just about everywhere, and not just Europe anymore). Aside from trips to Germany to visit my family, I really haven’t done a whole lot of exploring in Europe otherwise, but have instead focused most of my travels on Asia, where the dollar goes a lot further in most cities.

That being said, when I was younger I saw just about every major city in Europe, since I spent about four weeks in Europe every summer, about half of which my parents and I spent visiting nearby countries.

While I had previously been to some small towns in Austria, I had never been to Vienna. My visit to Vienna was actually a mistake of sorts. When I was planning my trip, I knew I would be flying from Melbourne to London on Qantas and then London to Los Angeles on Air New Zealand a day later, on two separate tickets. The UK imposes a hefty premium cabin tax of about $200USD for a longhaul departure originating in the UK, so the easy way around that is to originate in another country. By tagging on Vienna on both ends (flying British Airways on the outbound and British Midland on the return), I managed to avoid that fee, since the UK just became a transit point instead of a destination.

With that out of the way, Vienna is probably now one of my favorite cities, and that’s after only spending an afternoon there. I have no clue why, but previously I hadn’t heard a whole lot about Vienna, positive or negative, though I found it to be one of the most charming cities in Europe.

What makes it different than many other major European cities is that it has a small town feel. There’s no massive downtown skyscrapers, but instead plenty of nice pedestrian zones, great restaurants, and lots of sites to see. Yet it still doesn’t feel like a tourist trap, which is the vibe I get from many similar cities.

I’ll definitely be back, next time hopefully on Austrian Airlines (which I’ve been meaning to try for a very long time now).

More to come with the trip report…

Filed Under: Travel
  1. I studied in Vienna when I was in college. It was the best experience… a great European travel hub (many trains took us around on cheap student prices) and loved the rich history, great food, and endless amounts of things to do. I truly loved it and glad you enjoyed it, if only for an afternoon.

  2. Ben, I went to school in Vienna & am heading back in a few weeks for college reunion. It’s truly one of my favorite cities in the world. Cheers.

  3. Couldn’t agree more. We got engaged there and have spent many memorable nights strolling the Kaertnerstrasse eating Zanoni & Zanoni gelato.

  4. Genau. The last photo (of the Opernring?) brings back great memories of visiting last summer. It really is a charming city.

    Also, Lucky can hotel-hop between Starwood properties with minimal effort. Le Meridien, the Bristol, and the Imperial all lie along a 500-meter stretch of the ringstrasse; Le Meridien was excellent, and I believe the FT consensus is that the others are even better.

  5. Haven’t made it to Vienna yet but I enjoyed Salzburg.

    I’d like to visit Prague and Berlin in the near future.

  6. I am curious, which European cities do have ‘massive downtown skyscrapers’, apart from maybe,,,, Frankfurt?

  7. Wow, I didn’t realize that people would be in T Shirts in Vienna, this time of year. It looks like it was a pretty nice day!

  8. Lucky,
    I’m still learning terminology. What does “tagging on Vienna on both ends” mean?

  9. Vienna is an excellent spot. I agree with beltway, Le Meridien is great. Viennese people are some of the nicest I’ve met anywhere. Great coffee shops, funky side streets to wander and easy to get around. Looking forward to going back.

  10. OS is a standard mid-grade European carrier. On par with OY or SK. Fine, but nothing to make a point to fly on (unless you’re just trying to build your aggregate set of carriers).

    @hessel: +1

  11. “Shhh. Let’s just keep Vienna a secret.”

    I’m sure you’re joking here. Maybe when you compare it to an extremely overdone Venice Vienna may fare well but this place hasn’t been a “secret” in any sense of the word for a loooong time.

  12. @lucky: What do you look for in cities? Art? Culture? Nightlife? Food? Architecture?

    Do you have any plans of living in another city/country in the future??

  13. I want all the Fed governors to be forced to live in Europe, Japan, and other high cost global locations and receive their salaries in American dollars. Maybe then they would not print all this money and do all of these stupid policies like QEI, QEII, etc. The dollar is debased and devalued, and we have high inflation. The Australians, Canadians, and Europeans, are all now wealthier than Americans.

  14. @chitownflyer,

    Unfortunately with the humungous debt the US only options are weakening the dollar or increase taxes & cutting expenses and the latter options are things citizens/voters don’t really want to face.

    I can remember my father visiting Japan (1980s?) and it was over 200 yen to the dollar. What is it now? 80?

    Many of the countries you’ve mentioned have shown better discipline with spending so they are reaping the rewards.

    Kind of sucks but that is the way it is.

  15. Vienna’s a wonderful city. I too love the smallish scale — and the fact that you can practically eat off the sidewalks and the floors in the U-Bahn! Marizpan bon-bons don’t hurt, either. 🙂

    Did you make it out to Schonbrunn Palace?

  16. I love Vienna….did a photo TR on Flyertalk last year!

    Wonderful food, great history, lovely people…..don’t understand why people keep flocking to Paris and London for overpriced hotel, food and overrated everything else.

  17. I visited Vienna for the first time this past holiday weekend and I loved it as well. I stayed at the Hilton Vienna, right next to the train station that connect you to the airport. My only problem for coming back more frequentl is that Neither COntinental nor United fly there directly (I was hoping CO did). I transited in Heathrow on Thursday and sat on the plane at the gate for two hours due to weather. I don’t like transiting at Frankfurt either. But otherwise, I found Vienna both charming and stately.

  18. I couldn’t agree more. I picked Vienna because I wanted to skip the usual European capitals (plus spend a week in the Alps). It is thoroughly delightful – the intimate feel of the city center vs. the grand architecture of the Ringstrasse – and the many fanastic museums, food, wine, art, and music. Vienna is a jewel. I am so glad that I decided to go, and I’m already planning my next trip.

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