Say ‘hallo’ to the summer city that took me by surprise. Hear what made this trip extra special, and a few of my favourite places to visit in Vienna!
I’ve just spent a few days exploring Vienna in Austria. Before my trip, it wasn’t a city I’d associated with summer breaks. It’s so easy to package Austria into this neat little box of skiing, mountains and Christmas markets, with a touch of ‘the hills are alive’! Rather like my previous adventures in Austria (which took me to Graz, Innsbruck and Salzburg) – it’s a country that keeps surprising me.
I visited the city for the Vienna Tourist Board’s intriguing campaign: #UnratingVienna. They’re on a mission to remind travellers that there’s more to travel than ratings and must-sees. The plan for my trip? Well.. there wasn’t one! It was time for me to discover the city on my own. I wouldn’t be checking Trip Advisor to find the best restaurants or racing around the city trying to tick off the top 10 attractions like the Schönbrunn Palace and the Natural History Museum. I’d be exploring with an open mind and seeing what I found naturally.
As part of the campaign they projected negative ratings and reviews of the Leopold Museum (one of the city’s most important art museums) onto the side of the building. Things like “1 star – no WiFi’ and “2 stars – mostly nudes”! Laughable reviews that bring down the museum’s overall ratings for the most insignificant reasons.
Not only was it a refreshing campaign to be part of, it was also a very confident one! Would I find great spots with zero research? Would I come back with my own recommendations? What if I wandered the city and didn’t find anything that appealed to me?
So… it turns out Vienna has LOTS to shout about, and while I may not have been the first to discover some of these spots, hopefully reading this post will inspire you to approach travel in a different way from time to time.
So what did I find? A swimming pool on a boat, summer beach bars, adorable cafes, independent stores, chic dinner spots and a huge amusement park!
A Few Of My Favourite Discoveries In Vienna
The temperatures were high during my visit in June, reaching 29 degrees during the day. I walked through the city centre to the Danube Canal, and was surprised by what I found.
There are paths on either side of the water, with backdrops of colourful murals and graffiti. Along the route are urban gardens and weird and wonderful sculptures. My favourite part though? How many ‘beach bars’ sit just beyond the water’s edge, each with deck chairs, cocktail menus and some even with real sand! It’s a lovely area to stop for a drink and watch the world go by.
I enjoyed a Hugo (elderflower spritz) at Adria Bar and sat back as Viennese locals passed by on their daily business. People watching is one of my favourite ways to get to know a place, and I felt like I’d found the ultimate spot!
Another fascinating discovery was Badeschiff Wien, a large boat that’s home to a bar, restaurant and sunbathing areas, along with its very own floating pool! It looked like a great spot to relax in the sunshine.
A city with its very own theme park in the centre! What’s not to love?! I spotted the ferris wheel during my walk along the Danube Canal and had to go and find out what was there. Sure enough, located within Prater (a large park area) is a big amusement park with lots of rides and games, along with places to eat and drink.
I LOVE that you don’t have to pay an expensive entrance fee. It’s free to explore the park, you simply pay for the rides you want to go on (most were around 5 EUR). I went on the Praterturm – the tallest swing in the world. It felt like I was flying over Vienna, plus the views were amazing!
This trendy Vienna neighbourhood is THE place for independent shops, vintage items and interesting places to eat and drink. Most of the action is on Neubaugasse Street, but I loved wandering along the side streets too.
My favourite finds included Felicitas (homeware store), Kitsch Bitch (statement tops, interesting clothes and lots of lovely jewellery) and Bootik 54 (vintage store).
I visited Vienna at the start of June, which turned out to be when all of the beautiful roses in Volksgarten started to bloom. What a treat!
As I explored the garden, the air was filled with the most incredible floral scents. Roses bloomed in every shade of pink, red, orange and yellow, while lots of people relaxed on benches around the edge, taking in the colourful views.
Volksgarten is also home to a vibey cafe called Pavillon, just a few metres from the roses. In the summer they hold BBQs too – something I’d love to return for later the year.
Vienna is famed for its cafe culture, and over the years, notable figures in music, writing, art and philosophy all met at the city’s grandest coffee houses. While I was expecting to see a number of these smart, classical style cafes I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across several in a more youthful style. Many have their own terraces and courtyards, perfect for al fresco experiences in the summer months.
My favourites include: Burgasse24 (a cool vintage store with its own café), Amerlingbeisel (a cute café tucked away in a courtyard with a leafy canopy), Cafe Latte (another hidden gem, with big orange lanterns hanging overhead) and Das Möbel Cafe (a café dedicated to showing the works of independent deisgners). Or for something completely different, head to teeny tiny Kleines Cafe – one of the prettiest spots in the city.
Unique Restaurants In Vienna
There’s more to Vienna than schnitzel, dumplings and sachertorte… a lot more! Being such a cosmopolitan place, I felt I could feast on different cuisine every single day. As I wasn’t guided by reviews, I let myself wander until I found somewhere with a menu that appealed to me – thankfully I didn’t pick any duds!
Design lovers will love dining at Salonplafond (and no doubt want to take a few photos too!) Located inside the Museum of Applied Arts, the mid-range restaurant has chic décor, with large vases of flowers, a pink and beige colour scheme and beautiful high ceilings. Continue through the dining room and you’ll find a sunny terrace, plus a casual area by the grass – perfect for balmy summer evenings. I tucked into a tasty burrata salad, which was served with rocket and a basil sorbet. It was absolutely divine!
I passed Santos Neubau during the day, and it planted the idea of tacos in my mind. By the evening, I couldn’t imagine eating anything else! Forget street food, this restaurant serves smart Mexican food, with a bit of a twist. The beed tacos I ordered arrived with generous portions of pulled beef, topped with spiralised vegetables and pomegranate seeds. I also sipped on a tasty ginger mojito – good value at just 6.90 EUR during happy hour.
One of Vienna’s prettiest dining spots, Palmenhaus is located in one of the old greenhouses overlooking Burggarten (a city centre park). It’s certainly a unique place to dine! The building is magnificent, filled with tall palm trees and foliage, and while prices are a little higher than other restaurants, the setting is unique. I was impressed with the reasonable lunch menu, with dishes under 12 EUR.
I was attracted to the brightly-coloured tables lining the pavement at Die Rundbar. A crowd in their early 20s sat enjoying the warm weather with cocktails and tapas-style plates. The Latin American inspired menu was filled with delicious sounding dishes, including tataki, ceviche and calamari
I couldn’t resist the ceviche, which was so tangy and flavoursome. Also the yucca fries with chimichurri were crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Washed down with a fragrant mint and cardamom cocktail, it definitely felt as though summer had started in Vienna!
Nguyen’s Pho House
One of my favourite cuisines is Vietnamese. I’ve always adored the zingy flavours, deep broths and interesting raw ingredients. I visited Nguyen’s Pho House and tucked into a bowl of nourishing beef pho. It was flavoursome and filling, and very reasonable at just 8.50 EUR.
Where I Stayed In Vienna
As a first time visitor to Vienna, this was a great place to stay. The brand has opened a number of hotels across Germany and Austria, and is known for its intriguing designs and cheeky approach. Above the entrance there’s even a sign saying ‘We are all mad here’! Inside are retro pinball machines, a wall of polaroid cameras and a retro photo booth dating back to the 1970s.
The rooms have a circus theme, with playful murals, unusual lighting fixtures and funny privacy notes to hang on your door (e.g. Beware there’s a monster behind this door). One of the best features is the 8th floor bar, which has a magnificent panoramic terrace. It was a lovely spot to take in the cityscape over a tasty cocktail.
So what was it like exploring Vienna beyond the must-sees and ratings? Refreshing, interesting and rewarding. I discovered a lot of great places in just a few days. Plus there was something so special about having an open mind and not letting those who’ve visited before dictate my experiences. While no doubt you’ll want to see some of the key sights, it’s definitely liberating to let go of some of the planning.
Thanks to the Vienna Tourist Board for inviting me to experience the city as part of the #UnratingVienna campaign. If you’re looking to visit Vienna and want some inspiration for unusual things to do, be sure to spin the wheel here, and you’ll be rewarded with an intriguing place to visit. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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