Vienna is consistently ranked at or near the top of world cities for quality of life. Three of the primary reasons are low cost of housing, extensive public transportation services and safety. The low cost of housing was the aspect I was not aware of until a conversation in a small pub with locals indicated a bit of dismay at how expensive the cost of housing is for Monterey, California.
Vienna Innere Stadt
While housing in Vienna may be comparatively cheap, the cost of hotels was one of my main concerns with Vienna, even though there were several good deals to be found at hotels a couple miles away from the Innere Stadt, the city’s historic center and main tourist area. I initially booked the Hilton Vienna Danube Waterfront Hotel for $112/night (106 EUR), where we would have complimentary breakfast with my HHonors Diamond status and possibly a room category upgrade. Then I toyed for weeks with booking the InterContinental Vienna on a nonrefundable rate for $135 USD (126 EUR) to qualify for the $100 MasterCard rebate.
In the end, I chose the midscale Best Western Plus Amedia Wien Hotel, primarily due to our scheduled 10:10 pm arrival to Vienna Airport and the ease of hotel access with a short walk from the S7 airport train stop at St. Marx. Also, I had a $100 USD Best Western travel card from a successful Best Rate Guarantee last June from a $94 hotel room stay at Dallas DFW Airport. Two nights at Best Western Amedia Wien at 51 EUR per night left me with a total charge of $7 USD. Best Western stays Nov28-Jan 29 earn a $10 Best Western Travel Card rebate. In summary, I stayed one night in Dallas last June and two nights in Vienna this week spending a total $101 and I will still have a $10 Best Western credit to use for my next hotel stay.
Best Western Amedia Wien was the one hotel I was concerned about for this trip, as to whether it would be a let-down for Kelley. The ease of transportation and a decently furnished room in a 4-star hotel property left her with a good impression. The Landstrasse district of the city is primarily residential apartment blocks and there were several wonderful locals’ pubs we enjoyed in the neighborhood. The fact that two grocery stores were located within 50 meters of the hotel, along with several restaurants and pubs nearby, made it a great location for food shopping and dining.
Snow day in residential Landstrasse, Vienna, Austria
Vienna Public Transportation
The location of the Best Western Amedia Wien was perfect for ease of transportation. We took the S7 train six stops from a station platform inside the Vienna airport to St. Marx in the city for 3.90 EUR per ticket. The Amedia Wien hotel is about a 7 minute walk from St. Marx train stop. The 74A bus stop outside the hotel took us to Innere Stadt in about 10 minutes for 2.30 EUR per ticket. Tram 18, around the corner from the hotel, took us to Wien Hauptbahnhof, the city train station for 2.30 EUR. Transportation to Bratislava, Slovakia was a 67 minute train ride at 9.90 EUR each with a ticket discount for two persons traveling together. The regular price is 10.50 EUR.
We traveled around Vienna and to Bratislava, Slovakia on efficient public transportation for 21 EUR each.
Vienna Airport S7 Wien Floridsdorf train 3.90 EUR.
Snow Day, White Night
Walking around Innere Stadt, Vienna – the historical center, is listed as the number one “Things to Do” on TripAdvisor.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral has major historical significance in Habsburg and Austrian history. The south tower at 446 feet tall, completed in 1433, is locally known as ‘Steffi’ and a major feature of the Vienna skyline.
Horse carriages surrounded one side of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. A Christmas market in St. Stephen’s Square filled the space on the other side of the cathedral.
One dominant feature seen all over Vienna on our walks five days before Christmas were thousands of Christmas trees for sale on the streets.
Only one full day to explore the city and with temperatures a little below freezing and a bit of a breeze, our time outside in the Inner City was limited to a few hours of exploration. The main tourist attraction I wanted to walk around is Hofburg Palace, the Imperial Palace of the Habsburg Monarchy.
The Hofburg has been the seat of government since 1279 when the Habsburg dynasty established their base in Vienna. The Kingdom of Hungary was one of the dominant political powers in central Europe for centuries until the early 16th century when the Ottoman invasion from Istanbul conquered much of Hungary, including the capital Buda. The death of Hungary’s king in 1526 during the Battle of Mohacs against the Ottoman invasion created a power vacuum with opposing claims to the Kingdom between a Transylvania royal recognized by Suleiman the Great and a Habsburg royal. The Habsburg kingdom in Vienna was central to holding back the Ottoman forces in the siege of Vienna in 1529.
Hungary remained divided between Ottoman rule and Habsburg rule for the next 170 years with the capital of Hungary relocated to Bratislava, Slovakia, known for centuries by the German name Pressburg. The city name Bratislava is only since 1919 when Czechoslovakia was created following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in WWI.
One of my fascinations with travel in Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria over the past 15 months of European trips is learning more about the significance of these countries and their monarchies in central European history for a beter persoanl understanding of the overall development of modern-day Europe.
London, Oslo and Stockholm are places I have seen Royal guards manning the palace watch. The Hofburg royal guard stations are permanently sealed.
The President of Austria resides in a portion of the Hofburg with the Austrian flag flying overhead.
The weather forecast over the weekend had shown clear sky sunny days for Tuesday and Wednesday in Vienna. In reality, there were only gray skies with oscillating periods of snow.
Äußeres Burgtor is the outer castle gate to the Hofburg.
We walked through the Hofburg and continued to Maria Theresa Square into another Christmas Market.
For readers in the USA familiar with the Berlin Christmas Market terrorist attack on December 19, the attack site in Berlin was at one of dozens of Christmas markets around the city. Vienna also had small Christmas markets in many locations across the city.
Maria Theresa statue and Christmas market at Maria Theresa Square/Maria-Theresian-Platz.
Empress Maria Theresa 1717-1780 was the only female ruler of the Habsburg Monarchy.
Vienna has over 100 museums and many of them are consolidated in an area adjacent to Maria-Theresian-Platz called the Museum Quarter.
One of the issues with walking the streets dressed appropriately for the winter weather is overheating when inside museum buildings. We attempted a museum visit, but within minutes we chose to get back outside in the cold air we had dressed for with our winter boots, socks and layers of clothing.
Vienna street musicians adorned in animal heads. I assume this kept them heads were suitably warm in the cold air.
Kelley decided she was ready for some dining and drinking Viennese pub style. A quick search on my iPhone indicated we were ten minutes walk to Bier & Bierli pub, which turned out to be around the corner from Le Meridien Hotel Vienna. We ate a late lunch with 2 liters of beer for 30 EUR. The décor of the pub is 20,000 beer cans and coasters filling most of the multi-room wall space. A liter stein of beer for 7 EUR ($7.35 USD) was less than I expected to pay for beer in Vienna. Standard beer size in pubs is 0.5L. The price for 0.5 L glasses of beer was 4 EUR at Bier & Bierli. All the other pubs we visited around our hotel in the Landstrasse area charged 2.80 EUR for 0.5 L glasses of lager.
After Bier & Bierli, Kelley asked me to take her on a pub crawl.
The Raven was a tiny locals’ pub near the Best Western Amedia. The only available seats were at the bar and before long we were being offered shots of liquor. Despite it being rude to refuse an offer of free drinks, I absolutely refuse to drink hard liquor due to its ill effect on my system. Kelley manned up for the two of us and bonded with the female patrons with a discussion about the uselessness of men. We showed photos of Monterey on our iPhones. There were questions about why we would leave the beach of California for cold Vienna at Christmastime? One reason is the last time we remember snow in Monterey, California was in 1977. It lasted into the afternoon before melting.
There were some other cool pubs we found before finding our way back to the hotel and I honestly don’t recall the name of any of them. The snow continued to fall creating streets of white below Christmas season lights.
Wien Greetings from California
Vienna was a brief visit, but memorable for us. The city is immense and we saw only a small fraction of places. I assume we will return, but next time I would like to visit when the city is covered in green.
December Trip Report – Vienna, Bratislava, Krakow, Stockholm
- Trip Report: Los Angeles to Vienna First Class lounge dining British Airways A380 Economy Class
- Trip Report: Vienna Snow Day, White Night
- Next Up: Bratislava, Slovakia Winter Wonderland