Ah—the excitement of your first trip after arriving abroad. My first few weeks in Florence were full of cultural adjustments. This could have looked like spending too much time in a grocery store trying to translate products or learning to hang our laundry out our window to dry instead of using a typical dryer. However, these adjustments soon became normal to us! After a few weeks of meeting so many friends, attending classes, and falling in love with my new home base, it was finally time for trip planning! My two roommates and I decided to choose Vienna, Austria as our first destination. We were over the moon to start our first adventure, but there was a lot of trip planning going into our first go around.
Booking the Tickets:
As many people know, Europe has an amazing transportation system. There are tons of apps to help study abroad students find the best price and travel options. My personal favorite is Sky Scanner. I would advise anyone abroad right now to download the app. Sky scanner has a tool that allows you to pick your dates and automatically scans destinations all around you to find the cheapest destinations from your selected airport. For example, my roommates and I decided to fly out of Bologna. For my Florence study abroad students: Bologna airport has a lot cheaper flights and is only an hour train or bus ride to the airport. Sky scanner gave us tons of options such as 40 euros to Madrid or 20 euros to Sicily. It was a hard decision, but we decided Vienna would be a perfect first destination. We bought our train ticket for 20 euros round trip and our airfare was only 15 euros round trip! To this day we continue to use Sky Scanner to explore destinations we wouldn’t usually think of.
What to do in Vienna:
Vienna is typically known for its opera, beautiful architecture, and of course, its delicious cafes on every corner. When we first arrived, we were able to take an Uber to our hotel. As 3 Americans we were excited to stumble upon Uber, as Italy is fairly against it. I booked us a hotel just west of the city center, about 15 minutes out. Staying out of the center saved us money and we were able to use the transportation system. I recommend downloading their transportation app, Wein Mobil. On this app, we were able to buy a 24-hour Vienna pass only for 8 euros. We had access to all buses and trams in the city. From there, we used the app to get everywhere, and it saved us from many cold walks. One extra tip I have is to use Apple or Google Maps to map your distances, and it’ll give you specific details on which tram or bus to get on. Surprisingly, we only got on one wrong bus!
The first night we decided to try a local spot a bit outside the city called Marks. We had an awesome server who kindly gave us suggestions for the rest of the trip. We then took the tram to the city center to the famous Imperial Vienna hotel. I got an overpriced dessert at their café, but it was worth seeing the impressive architecture of the hotel. There were beautiful chandeliers and staircases in every direction. I would recommend popping in for a coffee or dessert just to see the hotel grounds. You can make a reservation on their website, but it usually shouldn’t be too busy.
We started our first full day in Vienna at the famous Belvedere Museum. This is a must-visit. I bought the tickets in advance online and secured the opening time slot at 9:00 AM. For any Museum in Europe, I recommend reserving the opening time slot to beat the noon crowds. If I was with my family of six, this opening time may not be as realistic. I’m sure everyone with a big family can relate! However, we had a lovely morning and saw beautiful artwork. We only got reservations for Upper Belvedere, which is more of a must-see. My personal favorite was the beautiful white staircase up to the artwork. The detailing on the walls was amazing.
One of my roommates especially loved the Klimt’s art. We spent about 2 hours at the museum and that was just enough time. We then headed to the famous cafe Mozart for coffee and dessert. I got the chocolate soufflé which was delicious and included an amazing presentation. This café was located just off the main shopping street.
We of course then headed to do some shopping. My personal favorite was experiencing their local department store. It was quite expensive but fun to see all the different Austrian brands and styles. At the end of the shopping street, there was the famous St. Stephens Cathedral. A great spot for an Instagram photo. The architecture of the cathedral left my roommates and me breathless.
I then headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and relax a bit. Our next stop was S/O Vienna (Das Loft Rooftop), my favorite part of the trip. This rooftop was one of the coolest views I’ve ever seen and it overlooked the city. I was able to make a reservation over the phone in the bar area to get an appetizer. The restaurant was a 100 euro minimum, so this way we could still enjoy the view at a lower price. Anyone who goes to Vienna must go.
After our appetizer, we took the tram over a few streets to Meissl & Schadn for dinner. This restaurant was known for its veal schnitzel, a classic dish in Austria. Our meal was fantastic and the ambiance was perfect. The waiters were dressed up in suits and you could see the chefs from a distance preparing the schnitzel. After dinner, we walked around but had to head back early for an early flight back to Bologna.
Only having a little bit over 24 hours in Vienna was a bit overwhelming at first, but it turned out to be a great amount of time. There were museums like Kunsthistorisches we would have loved to see, but it was a perfect first trip. My two roommates and I got to experience a great deal of Vienna without any bumps in the road. That being said, we caught the travel bug as our wheels touched back down in Bologna. We arrived back in Italy ready to get back on Sky Scanner to find our next destination!