Vienna Vs Budapest (and comparisons to Beyonce)
We had just left Budapest for Vienna. I’ll have some thoughts on the comparisons between the two cities in a second. But what first came to mind was a recent conversation I had with Lissette about a certain celebrity.
Lissette: “What do you think of Beyonce?”
Me: “She’s ok”
Lissette: “I would think you’d love her. She’s beautiful and has a sexy body. And she’s got a great voice”
Me: “Yeah, I guess. But there’s something about her eyes. I don’t know, I just don’t feel it”.
And that kind of sums up Vienna for us. And I’m not quite sure why because Vienna is a beautiful city full of impressive monuments, grandiose churches, and pretty parks. I’ll get back on that topic below.
But first, a few photos:
The Hofburg (covered above) was the official residence of Austrian monarchs – but Schönbrunn Palace was their summer residence. Located away from the city center, it is today Austria’s most famous tourist site. Lots of rooms and we’re told that the gardens are spectacular in the summer.
Back to our feelings on Vienna (and comparing it to Budapest)
Prior to leaving Budapest we had diner with another couple. I found out that one of them had lived several years in Vienna prior to moving to Budapest. So I asked him what he thought of Vienna. His answer? “Vienna is beautiful and nice place to live. But unlike Budapest, it has no soul“.
We had stayed in Budapest for 3 months. Yes, Budapest can be gritty. It has a certain roughness about it. But if there’s anything it has, it’s soul.
We would think about that over and over again while wandering the city. Vienna is an incredible testament to arts, architecture and history. I get it, I know that and can appreciate it. But finding passion in Vienna for me is like looking into Beyonce’s beautiful – but soulless – eyes. I didn’t feel inspired. Neither did Lissette.
Related: Is Bratislava worth a day trip from Vienna?
– The tourist office is right behind the Opera House:
1st district, city centre
Albertinaplatz, corner of Maysedergasse
Daily from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm
Most of the stuff they have is commercial but they do have an excellent free map featuring a recommended walking tour. It’s worth picking up. Otherwise this map is also very useful.
– The train from Budapest to Vienna took 2 ½ hours and they have trains every hour. Use the DB website to check schedules/buy tickets. I’ve documented our recent travels from Romania through Hungary and now Austria on our most recent newsletter. You can see economic disparities just crossing borders: coming into Austria from Hungary you suddenly see huge wind turbines and solar farms all over the place. Amazing.
Airbnb. Vienna is expensive and we saved money by staying in this Airbnb apartment (good price, convenient location, very comfortable). If you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb apartment, don’t forget to sign up using our link to save money.
Hotels. A few recommendations: wombat’s CITY Hostels Vienna – Naschmarkt (an excellent budget option. Mostly dorms but they have private double rooms with bathroom. Centrally located), Austria Trend Hotel beim Theresianum Wien (nice modern rooms, not far from center, good value for money), Hotel Domizil Great hotel in historic building right in the center of Vienna. A bit more of a splurge than the other options but excellent value for what you get.
Vienna International Airport is 18 km (11 miles) from the city center. The Airport code is VIE.
You don’t get many deals in Vienna but this 2 hour Walking Tour is inexpensive and a great way to get orientated with the city.
We might not have loved Vienna but it is a place worth seeing, even if only for a few days. Who knows, maybe you’ll feel totally different about the city than we did.
Have you been to Vienna? What did you think of it?
Related: Our Guide to Austria
Related: Impressions of Kiev (Kyiv). And comparing it to other European capitals
Related: Comparing and rating our favorite Balkan capitals
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I had to laugh about your comparison, I felt the same way about Milan. Didn’t feel it. I loved seeing all the amazing architecture in your photos above. The sculptures are absolutely incredible!
Thanks for taking the time to comment Sherry. Haven’t been to Milan although it has the same type of glam reputation as Vienna does. I’ll keep it in mind the day we visit 😉
I’m so thrilled to have stumbled across this post about Vienna. I am in the early stages of planning a 4-5 week trip to Europe next November/December and since I’m a travel obsessed research whore I have already begun looking into everything. I was originally thinking of going to Vienna for 3-4 days since that seemed to be the recommended time alotment suggested but the more I read about what was on offer in Vienna, the more I just wasn’t feeling it at all. Your blog post is perfect timing for me. We will be coming from days in Salzburg and Halstatt so I think 2 nights here will be plenty and have now decided to add in Budapest for the final 3-4 days of our epic adventure. Thanks for the great funny and practical write up
Travel obsessed research whore. Ha!
Some people love Vienna but I’ve seen many people feeling the way I do. So maybe it depends on what you like. Salzburg is also a little “cold” but the setting is magnificent…2-3 days are well spent. By then you’ll have had enough of Austria 🙂
Budapest will give you variety. I think it’s a good replacement on your itinerary.
Thanks for the comment! Let me know how it all turns out!
I’ve been enjoying reading your blog. I came to it, as I’m going back to Vienna and was thinking of doing a side trip to Bratislava. That post led me to here. I had to chime in here to defend Vienna. I’ve travelled through much of Europe, and Vienna is hands down my favorite city. I fell in love with it instantly, and now plan to go back every summer. This year will mark my sixth visit, and I’m staying nine days this time. I can’t get enough of this city.
It’s too bad you didn’t get to see the city in summer – it is full of life that time of year, and yes, the gardens at Schönbrunn Palace are breathtaking in the summer. It is absolutely my favorite palace in Europe. It’s best at 6:00 am, when aside form a few Viennese joggers, you have the whole gardens to yourself, or for a nice evening stroll. Jet lag helps me get there at 6:00 am one day.
Of course, I love palaces, gardens, museums and classical music – these four things are perhaps what Vienna does best, along with coffee and food.
While I respect others views, I hope your post doesn’t steer anyone away from trying out this magical city.
P.S. Not going to Bratislava. Think I will head back to Budapest for a couple days.
Thank you for your comment and for your passion in defending Vienna. You are right, if you love palaces, gardens, museums and classical music then you’ll probably love Vienna. Bratislava is almost the direct opposite of Vienna. Chances are if you love Vienna you won’t love Bratislava (and vice versa).
Thanks for your input!
Paul and Carole
Love the comparison with Beyonce! Some cities just don’t grab you and obviously this was the case with you. We felt exactly like this in Barcelona, just didn’t connect. We are all different and that whats makes comparing travel experiences interesting!
Funny, I was in Barcelona over 30 years ago…and felt the same way. Yes, it’s funny the cities we like and don’t, also how our perspectives can change depending on where we are in life. And there’s cities which are great for a weekend trip but that would be horrible to live in (we are in Rome right now for the weekend so that’s why that came to mind).
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
This just proves it… not everyone of us feels the same about places on this planet. I love Vienna and unfortunately I haven’t been there often enough. It is a city that feels just right to me. But I do understand you. It happened to me, too.
Thanks Laura, nice to hear. We can’t all love the same places, otherwise the world would be boring 🙂
Funny comments about Vienna. Well, I was born outside Salzburg and remember me, the Romanian connection. Well, Vienna, I felt the same when I was there in the 70’s, is reflective of it’s culture and people in general. It is all just sterile….everything needs to be perfection. You feel detached, looking for warmth that just isn’t there. That is why, I commented to you about Romania. With all it’s faults and lack of of modernity, if you are in the country, especially north, you feel the people, the simplicity, the raw earth. So there is something to enjoy for everyone.
Also, I took your advice and booked Airb&b for the first time for upcoming Krakow, but how can I still get the discount since I forgot to use your ink?. Will let you know when I return how it went.
Of course I remember you Sara! 🙂
Two totally opposite ends of the spectrum Romania and Austria. I get what you say about Romania: but they have to fix a few things if they want tourists to come back. Starting with transport (I refer back to those 1st class tickets with the overflowing toilets), crappy service, con artists, and useless tourist representatives. I totally agree, there is huge potential and really it’s just a matter of time. After all, tourism brings in money, you’d think they’ll eventually get their act together in those respects. But lots of potential because there’s lots to see…
Austria is a beautiful place. But you are so right…we felt roughly the same about Salzburg as we did about Vienna.
Oops, and too bad about Airbnb. You would have saved money and I also would have received a commission. So we both lose out 🙂
Your pictures are gorgeous! Vienna is stunning. But Beyonce – she’s the whole package! 🙂
Thanks Dana! I’m sure Beyonce appreciates you saying that 🙂
“….has no soul” Kinda sums up Florence too. I needed a phrase for the place and that fits. Oh yes, these cities all have the architecture, cathedrals, statues and the like, but the tourist-trapism has taken hold and kind of ruined them. Getting away from the center helps, like way out to the edge of town and you see a different thing happening. You can talk to locals who aren’t trying to score on your pocket and stuff is a ton cheaper too.
Thanks Ted. We actually quite liked Florence, was way more impressive than Vienna. But that was back in 2008 before we started travelling full-time. I think our tolerance levels were higher back then…but yes, for sure lots of tourists.
And this was in winter, Frank. Summer must be scary….
I wasn’t in the mind for art, just trying to locate a place to stay for 3 months – but it’s nearly as expensive as London so pulled out.
Uggg…Remember when there was off-season? Doesn’t seem to exist any more. We’re in Prague and I think the crowds right now worse than the summer of 2014 when we spent 3 months here.
Our next destination is Italy where we are staying a month. Tried to book an Airbnb place for a month in Verona but it was so damn expensive, about 3k US for anything half decent. So we booked in Podova (Padua) 40 min away – a nice town 20 min from Venice and also close to both Venice and Verona. Some places in Italy overrun by tourists and it’s reflected in the pricing. I can see Florence would be the same.
I think they’re struggling Frank. On a scale of 1-10 for tourist traps I’d rate Florence as a 9. You cannot sit down in the center anywhere, you have to go into a café to do that – and of course buy a drink etc. Don’t even think about going to a park, you have to pay to get into them as well. Trick to see inside the Cathedral or some other big churches, is go to the prayer room or a mass – they don’t charge you for that.
Some people have said I should go to Vienna, that it’s a ton cheaper. But then I don’t write up the main tourist type places much anyways.
Vienna definitely not cheap. On this last vacation spent 5 days in Vienna and 9 in the Bamberg / Wurzburg area of Germany – I’d much sooner recommend this area, overall cheaper and really, really pretty. Smaller towns as well, people were very friendly.
Does Prague have much genuine local scene in the centre still? I heard it has become too touristy.
It is very touristy but yes, it has a local scene. The beer so cheap Tom that almost anyone can enjoy the downtown bars and restaurants. There’s also a lot of competition. so that generally keeps prices down. There are a few places that are tourist traps, but generally you get pretty good value.
That is hilarious Frank, comparing the two. I enjoyed Vienna and it made a difference that we have friends nearby in Wiener Neustadt to show us around. It is a grand city, though Prague does more for me as that was a city that just blew us away. I see where you are coming from with regards to Vienna though, it is a more sedate ‘lady’ perhaps. This past trip I did not take my daughters intoVienna at all, we stayed with our friends and explored the local areas instead. Always a bonus to be with local people and see it through their eyes to an extent.
You’re so right about being with local people and seeing through their eyes. I’m sure Vienna is a fantastic city to live in with its fabulous transport, museums and fancy shopping. But like anywhere it’s a city where you need a bit of money to fully enjoy.
Sedate ‘lady’- yes, someone above compared it to Hellen Miren 🙂
I had the same sentiment about Vienna as well. I was ready to go after one day. I begged my travel companion to just skip it and go to Prague or back to Budapest. The only thing I liked about Vienna was the new train station. Have traveled through there a few times now. A good breaking spot during train travel.
True, it’s an excellent station. Like everything Austrian, supremely well-organized. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
I’ve not been to Vienna beyond a very short stopover, but your photos show it beautifully. I consider it a very expensive city so I didn’t fall in love at all, but I would give it another try for a longer stop. Prague, however.. loved it. Just truly a lovely city in every way. I’ll need to read more about Budapest.
Thanks for your feedback Karen! Budapest is great, but I always say if you only have a few days make it Prague. If you have more time make it Budapest, just because it is a fun place culturally. Prague or Budapest – which to visit?
Witty comparison 🙂 though I always preferred Prague to Vienna, for some reason I am moved to write a few lines in defence of Vienna. If you spend a short time in the city, you’ll mostly experience its Habsburg heritage, the Baroque architecture, grandiose churches… etc. To me, Vienna is most interesting from the Art Deco epoch, with Gustav Klimt’s strong presence there and let’s not forget that this city is the cradle of modern psychoanalysis. The more I learned about the historic period of the early 20th century, the more Vienna opened up to me… 🙂
Thanks for the different perspective Andrea!
LOL. So Frank, why do you think this is? Too commercialized and perfect with no actual character? Every friend I know who have been to Vienna always praise how beautiful it is. I suppose it’s just a shell? No inner beauty?
It might be a reflection of the people. I used to think Germans and Austrians must be very similar but having visited both countries numerous times I find the Austrians actually much more like the Swiss – generally more reserved, formal and conservative. The other thing I’ve noticed is that in Germany people are always drinking: beergardens and pubs are full, and that brings a certain life out in the street. In Vienna we thought of stopping and having a beer in a pub and the ones we passed looked dead. I remember the same in Salzburg. Maybe Austrians prefer to do their drinking at home?
Maybe I’m talking a whole bunch of shit but that’s my experience and observations as a visitor to both countries. I’d be really interested in what Austrians have to say about that.
Anyway, that’s my theory 🙂
Very interesting indeed! I haven’t made my way over that part of the world yet so I wouldn’t know but I have a friend who frequently goes over there – he agrees that budapest is the BEST. I’ll pick his brains tomorrow and see what he thinks about Vienna.
Beyonce is ordinary looking with crappy songs. Who in 20 years is going to care about her crappy pop songs? At least Bowie and Jackson produced pop songs to be remembered.
Always nice hearing from you Tom 🙂
Agnieszka (Wandering Owls)
We haven’t been to Vienna (and probably won’t be anytime soon), but it looks impressive, very Austro-Hungarian with all these grandiose buildings and superfluous statues. Lovely photographs, I can almost smell coffee and hear classical music 😉
Thanks Anieszka! Although we didn’t love it it is definitely worth a visit. I would imagine that it is doubly beautiful in the summer.
I have never been to Vienna and it is not top of my list, although looking at your pictures I do think I would’ve liked Vienna. The beautiful architecture, history, clean and elegant. I would possibly compare it to Helen Mirren instead…sophisticated, confident, self – assured, timeless. Vienna often comes top as a city that provides great quality of living, but I can imagine that it would be an expensive place to live. Thanks for your amazing pictures.
If you like Vienna then this is probably a perfect description Gilda! 🙂
You know what, I think I’ll start incorporating the names of famous women in all my post titles. No, just kidding.
Frank, I agree 100%, it is a beautiful city but you have the feeling that something is missing. Without a doubt or hesitation I will go back to Budapest, Vienna, I think the time we spent there was enough, maybe long time from now we will repeat it. We went up to the Sky bar, top floor in one of the buildings close to the cathedral (5 to 7 floors recommended in Tripadvisor) where you have a better look for the entire cathedral roof, and a few from the street, nothing special. We went to Vienna from Budapest by bus because due to the immigrants problem I did not want to go to the train station. The ride was nice, 3 hours and beautiful landscape.
As always, great pictures, and comments, thanks for the post.
Thank you Carlos, always appreciate your comments!
I totally cracked up at Spanky’s answer about Beyonce. I always say the same thing about all the “singers” of now. I hate all that kind of music..Lady Gaga, JLo, everybody..I am totally and proudly stuck in the 80’s, 70’s, 60’s and even farther back :-). Newere music?.. Indian DJ’s :-). Anyway, l have heard the same thing about Vienna from so many people, including an ex-boyfriend who was Austrian and lived there for a long time before moving to the U.S. Even now, he stays just long enough to visit his dad..then bounces. It’s not high on my list, but it sure looks pretty..
You’re even worse than I am Kemkem! Yes, I still think the 70’s – 80’s music the best but I like some of the recent stuff to work out too, the techno beat usually up tempo and good for the gym. I actually really like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, JLo…but have never gotten into Beyonce. Spanky likes her though.
Good to know even a local wants to beat it and get out 🙂
And oh, I forgot to reply to what you said about Lissette’s comment. Don’t all women do that? “What do you think of her? Do you think she’s hot?” You never ask Federico stuff like that?
Nope! I never ask him if he thinks anyone is hot. l just assume he thinks they are, especially when most of them wear leotards and bikinis as outfits :-). To assume you guys are not looking is naive..haha! You’re not as good as women at covering it up however, because we look too, but you’d never know it :-). I usually say.. “What would you do if Charlize Theron or Halle Berry did so..so and so..to you?”, Then l crack up at his answers. He can look all he wants..he has as much chance as live meat in a lion’s den 🙂 .
Oh, that’s really sweet! Poor Federico.
Lissette’s the coolest, she’ll even point out the hot chicks to me on the street. Hey, we’ve been together over 10 years so might as well help each other out with the imagination…
We felt the exact same way about Vienna- didn’t connect with it at all. It has some pretty areas, but nothing that makes it more special than other cities in Europe. Plus, we found it quite boring and way too expensive!
Yes, I only mentioned that in passing – but Vienna really expensive isn’t it?! We would usually stop at a cafe for lunch but evenings we would come back to the apartment and cook our own stuff to save a bit of money.
I have never been to Vienna, but just by looking at the photos I’m not that much attracted. Everything seems so perfect about Vienna- monumental buildings, cathedrals, theaters, operas, but… as you said… it seems not to have a soul. I have exactly the same feelings towards it as you. Have you been to Salzburg or Hallstat? Hallstat is absolutely amazing! Reminds of Bled a bit. Don’t miss it! Remember also that you are traveling in Europe in the worst time possible – right before the spring when everything is grey, gloomy and there is no color after winter so it might affect your experience. I’ve been to Prague in June and also on a horrible, early winter day (there was no snow, only grey weather) and it looked like a different place.
You’re very right on all points Tom. We’ve had a few people tell us that Schonbrunn is gorgeous when the gardens in bloom. But in winter the gardens looked drab and honestly we weren’t that excited by the inside of the palace (the Hall of Mirrors above was the most beautiful room in my opinion). We’ve seen some incredible palaces and Schonbrunn didn’t do much for us.
We have been to Salzburg but not Hallstatt. We want to go to Hallstatt and Lake Bled but it’ll have to be when the weather a bit better..
You need some sun, or at least variable skies. We’ve been back in Europe a month and I would say 80% of the time it’s been exactly as you describe. I’ve had days when I haven’t even wanted to go out because its so gloomy and depressing…
Great job on the title – comparing any place to Beyonce is sure to get more than a few clicks! You certainly make a good case for your position. I can only hope I’m able to visit Vienna within the next few years so I can see if i agree or disagree! 🙂
Ha Ha! It’s called “writing about something that bores the crap out of me and making it palatable by sexing it up”. Hopefully I get all those people googling to find out the next time Beyonce has a concert in Vienna…
hmmm I kinda agree with your thoughts about Vienna, but not about Beyonce! I think she has plenty of soul.
Vienna I remember feeling a little disjointed from. I really felt like a tourist there, that it’s really JUST a tourist city and not much else is going on there. But there are plenty of people who simply adore the place and there must be a reason. The architecture is amazing. It’s a stunning place for photos, but yours like mine belie the fact that it feels empty. Even when I was around crowds in the Shonburn and other places.
I’ve never been into her or her music. Yesterday I was doing some spinning on the bike and listening to that song “Telephone” and thinking “oh shit, I’ll have to take it all back because I LOVE that song”. Then I realized she’s singing it with Lady Gaga and that it’s a Lady Gaga song (love that Lady Gaga, she’s so crazy). So I’ll maintain my position for now – just haven’t been able to get into Beyonce’s music. I guess it’s all subjective.
You hit it on the nail “belie the fact that it feels empty. Even when I was around crowds in the Shonburn and other places”. There’s an emptiness to Vienna that I can’t describe. Again, some people might like that but just felt like a lack of life to me…
Travels and Tipples
Love the comparison! I did a long weekend in Vienna, without Mr. Tipples, about 5 years ago. I liked the city well enough but my traveling companions made it a very……”interesting” weekend. And I don’t mean that in a good way. So really, I have to give it another shot with Mr. Tipples to see how I really feel about the place.
Patricia, you can’t through a teaser like that out there and then just leave us hanging. So what happened?