Backpacking Europe: Vienna and Salzburg, Austria (Episode 37)

View from Salzburg Fortress in Salzburg, Austria

Our second destination on our backpacking Europe trip was Austria, specifically the cities Vienna and Salzburg. We left Krakow, Poland on July 4th and took a bus ride with FlixBus to Vienna. 

In this episode, hear all about:

  • Our immediate impressions on both Vienna and Salzburg
  • The rudeness of people in Austria
  • How Couchsurfing in Austria restored our faith in the service
  • The absurd prices 
  • Our surprise while walking around Vienna
  • Viennese coffee
  • A day trip to Salzburg, where Mozart was born and where The Sound of Music was filmed
  • The absolute BEST place to have a picnic in Salzburg
  • Where to find the best views of Salzburg and the best things to do
  • How we had a FREE meal at the top of the Danube Tower in Vienna

And, as always, much more! Thank you so much for listening/reading! If you’d like to see photos and videos of the glorious things we did and saw in Austria, check out the blog post below!

Be sure to follow Roadaholic, our new Brazilian backpacker friends we stayed with in Vienna!

Wine: Vino Zupa - Kupinovo Vino (Serbia) (It was a blackberry wine!)


July 4: Arriving, Exploring, and Spending in Vienna

We left Krakow, Poland on July 4th and took a 7 hour bus ride with FlixBus to Vienna. 

Matt was quite hesitant about traveling to Austria because he was aware of how expensive it would be. It would easily be the priciest destination on our trip! Who looks forward to spending tons of money anyway?

However, I (Marilyn) was very much looking forward to it because I’d heard such wonderful things about Vienna, Salzburg, and Austria as a whole. It was supposed to have glamorous cities and incredible nature to admire. I was aware that it would be expensive, but I honestly didn’t really care! Treat yo'self, as they say.

Just like in Krakow, Poland, which you can read/hear more about here, we used Couchsurfing in order to greatly diminish the amount of money we’d spend in Austria (more on Couchsurfing here). However, our Couchsurfing host wouldn’t get home until around 9:30PM. Therefore, we needed to kill some time before we could go to our accommodation, since we arrived there at around 2:00PM.

That was no issue for us, but we did have one thing holding us back: all of our baggage. There was no way we could walk around Vienna with our oversized backpacks!

At the bus station, we luckily discovered lockers to store our stuff. Unluckliy, however, all of them were taken. While scratching our heads and trying to figure out a backup plan, a woman came over and explained that she’d be taking her things out of her locker in ten minutes if we could wait.

Naturally, it took everything we had to not hop in the air with glee and relief. We agreed, but apparently, we could only pay for the locker with Euro coins— and we didn’t have enough (it was 1 Euro per hour). 

I ran around the bus station, asking different people for change after taking out cash at the ATM. Right away, I discovered that what we heard through research turned out to be true: people in Austria tend to be rude. Everyone refused to give me change— the small coffee truck owner, the restaurant cashier, and even Flixbus’s cashier.

That was fine that they couldn't give change, but there was no need to be excessively rude about it!

Matt then took out just 10 Euros from the ATM, bought a water, then finally had change. 

As it turned out, though, we didn’t even need that much change to use the locker. Just 1 Euro coin until we wanted to take our stuff out! Whoops.

Finally, after all that unnecessary headache, we walked to the subway, which was the stop Erdberg on the U3 line and got off at the stop Stephansplatz.

Immediately after getting off, we realized that this was definitely the touristy area of Vienna. While walking around and squeezing past masses of diverse people, we did manage to admire some famous buildings, like St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Opera House. 

But our stomachs didn’t allow us to admire for too long. They desperately required sustenance! 

By using the power of the internet, we discovered a little place called Bier and Bierli. We only got a water, two soups, and two salads. The cost? 

A whopping 30 Euros. Yikes! For us, that was quite pricey!

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Oh, and we were still hungry. So, out of desperation, we stopped at a busy sausage stand called Bitzinger Wurstelstand Albertina and ate some delectable and perfectly priced sausage!

Sausage in Vienna, Austria

After munching on our yummy sausage, we walked a couple of blocks to a highly-rated cafe called Cafe Tirolerhof. There, we tried Viennese coffee.

Melange, Viennese Coffee

In case you didn’t know, Vienna has its own special coffee! One of which is called melange, which is very similar to a cappuccino. The only difference is that it’s made with a milder coffee.

Matt personally didn’t enjoy it because he isn’t a cappuccino fan himself. However, I love cappuccinos, so I was very content! However, the coffee didn’t really wake me up. But, it was worth it to try their coffee!

After gulping down our Viennese coffee, we ventured to the Museum Quarter. Apparently, just wandering around the area is a thing to do there— and we immediately saw why!

The area had numerous gargantuan buildings that were architecturally sublime. I couldn’t help but think that every single one was some sort of castle or palace, but they all turned out to be museums! They were easily the most beautiful museums of all time— from the outside, at least. We didn’t go inside of any of them.

Afterwards, we continued walking to discover the Rathaus, which is Vienna's city hall. Sure, it was a lovely building, but we were more excited about the square attached to it.

Rathaus in Vienna, Austria

In front of the Rathaus was a film festival that was apparently going on throughout the summer. In the square, there was numerous food stands serving cuisine from all around the world! The square was stuffed with loud people, both locals and tourists, enjoying their various grub and drinks. Even though we recently ate, we knew we had to indulge in something here anyway.

Film Festival in Vienna, Austria

After a lengthy decision-making process, we chose some grilled calamari and two glasses of red wine— duh! 

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What a pleasant surprise that festival turned out to be!

It was getting relatively late in the day, so we walked to the subway station in order to return to the bus station to retrieve our bags. We paid 5 Euros for our locker, grabbed our things, got back on the subway, took it far across the city, and finally arrived at our accommodation. Phew!

Before arriving to our Couchsurfing accommodation, we were nervous about it. Sometimes, Couchsurfing can be mindblowingly fantastic, and other times, extremely disappointing. In Krakow, we were disappointed with the place because it was sort of grimey and the couch we slept on was very uncomfortable. 

However, once we arrived at our accommodation in Vienna, we quickly re-found our love for Couchsurfing. 

The space was colorful, clean, tidy, and comfortable. Even though we were sharing the living room with two other backpackers from Brazil, we didn’t feel at all uncomfortable or crammed! 

We chatted with the other Couchsurfers and our host for hours, immediately realizing we all had the same love for travel, friendships, and chocolate!

Our host offered us these Mozart chocolates, which are made in Austria, and me oh my— they were divine!

Fun fact: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most famous composers and artists of the classical era, was originally from Austria, specifically Salzburg, which we visited the following day!

Eventually, all 5 of us crashed hard for the night after talking for hours. 

July 5: Picturesque Day Trip to Salzburg and The Best Free Meal

Matt and I slept like rocks, then woke up completely refreshed around 7:00 AM to take a train to our day trip destination: Salzburg! It was a pretty far day trip— around 2 1/2 hours by train— and expensive— 40 Euros each roundtrip!— but we felt that it would be worth it.

And boy, were our intuitions right

We had purchased our tickets from Vienna to Salzburg online in advance here. But, after boarding the train, we didn’t have reserved seats, so we just walked around train cars, searching for two empty seats together. When we finally sat down, it turned out that we were sitting in first class and were promptly given the boot— but politely, surprisingly enough!

Even though we were sad we couldn’t sit in first class, we still loved it in second class! The seats were comfortable, roomy, and all around perfect. We had no complaints at all about the train— as well we shouldn’t, considering the price we paid for it!

Once again, we arrived to our destination with one thing on our minds: FOOD. Upon disembarking from the train, we discovered a crowded supermarket in the station. We quickly realized people were purchasing food items to have picnics! How perfect! Immediately, we followed suit.

In the supermarket, we purchased some cold cuts, a hefty chunk of cooked pork, cheese, olives, berries, plates, and napkins. Oh, yeah— we were planning on having the best of picnics!

We walked into the touristy area of Salzburg, intent on finding a lush and colorful park to enjoy our picnic— but we did even better than that.

We had our picnic with a stellar view, comfortable and luminous grass, and even a garden. Specifically, the Mirabell Gardens from the famous movie The Sound of Music!

After stuffing our faces with unmoving smiles on our faces, we threw out our trash promptly (we were not about to litter in such a gorgeous place!) and walked through the Mirabell Gardens. Just like you might be imagining, we were wowed. 

We exited the gardens and walked along the typical tourist route, like walking over the river and through the old town. There, we discovered more captivating places, like Mozart’s birthplace for example!

Mozart's Birthplace in Salzburg, Austria

 

Continuing on our stroll through the cobblestone streets, we admired different squares, like Residenzplatz.

Residenzplatz, Salzburg, Austria

We saw the Salzburg Cathedral and other pretty sights as well.

Near the end of the touristy road, there was only one thing remaining: taking a funicular to the top and seeing the view of Salzburg from the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

We’d been ogling at the fortress from the city below, but hadn’t really thought about going up to it. We cringed at the price: 12.20 Euros per person.

Prices for Fortress in Salzburg, Austria

Although we didn’t want to pay that, we did want to see some spectacular views of the city and scenery from above. Finally, we crumbled and paid.

And, our intuitions were correct once again: we were not disappointed.

The time was quickly approaching for us to take our train back to Vienna, which was at 5:30 PM. We made our way back down in the funicular and walked around the windy streets toward the train station. We did make time for a glass of wine though!

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After riding the train back to Vienna with no issues, we walked back to our Couchsurfing accommodation to have some preplanned dinner with our host and the Brazilian backpackers! Our host was surprising us with exactly where we were going, though, which got us very excited!

The five of us hopped in a minivan cab together and took it for a while to our surprise dinner destination. When we emerged from the cab, which our host so kindly paid for, we all craned our necks to look at our restaurant: the Danube Tower!

 Our Couchsurfing host, Erika, two other Couchsurfers called "Roadaholic," and us with the Danube Tower!

Our Couchsurfing host, Erika, two other Couchsurfers called "Roadaholic," and us with the Danube Tower!

On the top of this tower, there’s a fancy restaurant called Turm Restaurant that offers 360 views of Vienna while rotating in a circle!

We went into the lobby, where our host paid for our entrance fees (5 Euros each) and 3-course dinners for each of us (35 Euros). Of course, we all felt so bad and offered to pay for ourselves. But, she simply wouldn’t have it and really wanted to treat us. What a genuinely good human being!

We took the elevator up, which was complete with a fancily-dressed chap who controlled the elevator. We walked into the restaurant, confirmed our reservation, and sat down at a table.

We chose from the menu what exactly we wanted from the 3-course menu! Matt and I ordered separate drinks (wine, of course!), then Matt had a soup, the beef with vegetables, and sorbet for dessert. I had a salad, the beef with vegetables, and strudel (3 different kinds at that!). 

Although we aren’t usually into fancy restaurants, this one was GOOD. We enjoyed everything we tried. Yes, even the dessert, which we can’t even eat on our keto diets. Oh, well! It was worth the stomach issues later for sure!

The restaurant closed at 11:00 and that was the exact time we left it because we had such a great time there that time just seemed to slip by. 

It was one of the greatest dining experiences of our lives. Thank you again, Erika!

Once again, Couchsurfing proved to be one of the best resources while traveling! 

Final Thoughts

Austria completely blew away our expectations. Although we wished that we could’ve spent more time there, especially in Vienna, we felt we made the best of it and made memories—and friends!— for a lifetime, including our awesome host and another fellow backpacking couple called Roadaholic!

The (blackberry) wine:

Not so good. It tasted like delicious blackberry juice with hardly any alcohol. Kindof a bummer.


Would you ever visit Vienna and Salzburg? What would you do differently or similarly while in these places?


Wine: Vino Zupa - Kupinovo Vino (Serbia) (It was a blackberry wine!)


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