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Travel Tip: A Weekend of Art in Vienna

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Helsinki chapter.

Art, music, cakes, palaces, the feeling that you only get from visiting a Central European city? Vienna may sound like a very expensive city for students, but it does not have to be so. With a few tricks and good planning you are ready to visit and enjoy the Austrian metropolis.

The main attractions of Vienna are located quite close to each other in the compact city centre. This makes the city ideal for exploring by foot. To save money on public transport (chiefly trams and U-bahn a.k.a. the metro), you can buy 24/48/72h tickets only for days when you make more than 3 journeys further away from the centre.

Pick out a hostel or pension located close to the Ringstraße, i.e. the road circulating the old town, and you should be able to easily walk from place to place. It is the old town that hosts the most pompous buildings. To be honest, even the simpler houses look rather classy even if they aren’t allowed to stand out for all the grandiose style. Old town is mostly pedestrian anyway, so at least you won’t get hit by a car when snapping that selfie in front of old town’s landmark, St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

If you love art, Vienna is heaven. With its collections of works by Klimt, Monet, Brüger, and others, you can spend ages wandering in museums. It really depends on what you’re into. For photography there is WestLicht, for modern art there is “mumok” – museum of modern art. And of course, there is the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the art history museum, located conveniently opposite of the Museum of Natural History.

The Museum of Natural History

Of course, Vienna also has a history of classical music: operas and concerts in Vienna are sure to be beautiful, but unfortunately tickets may cost more than a student is willing to pay… If you are interested in music but not in a concert, you can visit the former homes of Viennese composers: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Schubert, Schönberg… All of whom lived in Vienna and have a museum dedicated to them, some of them in the composer’s former home.

For museums dedicated to local non-composers, there are those of Sigmund Freud, Viktor Frankl and… well, the palaces of the former imperial family. Vienna has palaces where you can marvel at the interior design of the imperial household, Belvedere, Schönbrunn, Hofbug… Schönbrunn’s park also hosts a zoo, admittedly.

If you are short on time, do not try to overdo the museums – by picking just one (plus maybe a backup plan) you’ll still have time for other things. Honestly, depending on how much into imperial interior decoration you are, on a good day just exploring the grounds of one palace can be nice (it was for yours truly).

View over Schönbrunn park

A piece of practical advice: if you do plan to go to Vienna on a weekend, be aware that shops close early on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. This also applies to most grocery stores. The only places open are souvenir shops and a handful of small grocery stores in central railway or U-bahn metro stations. Plan accordingly: don’t schedule picnics for Sundays and do stock up your fridge if you’re the one cooking. Restaurants, cafes and some bakeries will still be open, so you won’t go hungry. The Viennese well advice you to get a Wiener Schnitzel, but there are plenty of eat-out options, even from just hot dog stands (würstelstand), some of them including vegetarian and vegan options.

Speaking of hunger, the Viennese coffee house is on UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage. At one of the classic 19th century cafes you can get a slice of cake for 5€. This is not too different from some Helsinki prices and it may be worth it if you’re also looking for the kaffeehaus atmosphere experience (you’re paying for the fancy setting and being served by a man in a tux), but not if you just want yummy cake. Pro tip: tasty Austrian cakes can be bought much cheaper, as low as 2.50€ in konditoreis and bakeries, even at the metro-station ones. If you’re coming for the coffee, go ahead, but locals can surely recommend places where you can get a tastier cup for cheaper.

All in all, Vienna can at times be packed with tourists, but they are there for a good reason. Compared with Finnish prices it’s not that expensive and you may be able to find good deals in hostels, pensions and smaller hotels. You may run out of a small budget if you join several more expensive palace tours (even student tickets cost over 20€) or heavens forbid if you go on a shopping spree in old town with all its luxury brand stores (Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Tiffany & Co, Emporio Armani and like 30 more). If you take your time exploring the Habsburgian architecture from the streets and dining more like a local than a millionaire, Vienna is not a bad destination to enjoy the sophisticated artsy life.


Ylva Biri

Helsinki '18

Ylva is a PhD student at the University of Helsinki researching the linguistics of social media discourse. When not studying, procrastinating and overthinking, she enjoys shonen anime and trying out new foods.
Helsinki Contributor