Thomas is sitting on the train when he hears the sound from the speaker: “Next stop is Wien Hauptbahnhof.” He puts on his backpack and gets ready to see as much as possible of Vienna in six hours.
Thomas is on a quick-stop in Vienna during his intense interrail in Europe. He doesn’t like wasting money, so he lives in hostels, sleeps on trains, and spends almost nothing on transportation, museums, and other expensive activities. Now he has arranged it so that he has six hours in the city, and then he will travel to Munich with a night train from Vienna. But, before he gets on that train Thomas wants to watch as much as possible of Vienna.
Thomas is good with maps, so he has made a plan. He knows that he will miss out on quite a lot of attractions, most importantly Schönbrunn, but he will cover the most important sights in the inner town of Vienna.
Thomas is ready to discover Vienna
Thomas leaves the train at Wien Hauptbahnhof, and he heads directly for the exit. He has already spotted the start of the super-popular shopping street Mariahilferstrasse. It is supposed to be around 2km, but for most ladies (luckily Thomas doesn’t have anyone around him on this trip) that means at least a day. Our hero doesn’t have a day to spend in this street packed with stores of all sorts, so he just walks through the street as soon as possible. He has, however, noticed that there are quite a lot of grocery stores in the street (Billa, Hofer, Merkur, Spar), meaning that he will buy some cheap food there before he gets back to the train again.
As he reaches the end of Mariahilferstrasse, Vienna starts to unfold before his eyes. Looking to the left he can see the majestic Maria-Theresien Platz, and on it, two fantastic museums (Natural History Museum and Art History Museum). These are both museums in world-class, making them must-visit places for those interested in either of the subjects.
Thomas already feels sad. He would have loved to enter the Natural History Museum, but he knows that time will not allow it, and since he doesn’t have any leftover money for such action, he walks between the museums and gets to the “Ringstrasse.”
A short visit to Hofburg
He feels tempted to go both left and right as he reaches the ring, but instead, he walks straight forward. He can see some fantastic building in the background, and a quick search makes him understand that he is staring at Hofburg. This is the official residence of the President of Austria, and during the Habsburg reign, this was known as the Winter Palace. There is so much to see in the area, but Thomas knows time is ticking (just like it always did for Jack Bauer in 24), so he forgets about the Imperial Library, the horse school, the museums and all the other interesting places he could have visited in the Hofburg palace.
Thomas turns around 180 degrees, gets back to the Ring and walks to the right. He immediately discovers a classicist building that looks important. An Austrian flag is raised in front of the building which turns out to be the Austrian Parliament. Again Thomas feels overwhelmed by the beautiful and majestic buildings of Vienna. But, it is far from over…
Thomas keeps on walking along the ring, and soon he can see another giant building. It is the City Hall that was built around 1880 (just like the Austrian Parliament). He likes the neo-gothic style of the building and quickly grabs his smart-phone to make a selfie in front of the building. During some surfing Thomas did online he also read about the beautiful Christmas market that is arranged at the square in front of the City Hall every year, and Thomas has already decided that he wants to return to Vienna for a longer period of time and in order to visit the Christmas markets sometimes soon!
Time to leave the ring and enter the inner-city
Thomas walks on along the ring and smiles as he walks by Cafe Landtmann, a cafe in which celebrities such as Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Peter Altenberg, and Felix Salten have discussed life’s big issues while drinking coffee a long time ago. Thomas would like to stop for a cup of coffee and a wiener schnitzel himself, but that will have to way. There is much more to see in Vienna before he returns to the train.
As Thomas gets to Schottengasse (located by the metro stop Schottengasse) he turns right. He doesn’t feel convinced that he has read his map correctly, but he trusts his instinct and walks in a high tempo. He is getting warm, and his back is soaking wet as he is sweating a lot because of his big backpack. He sees a Starbucks and feels tempted to take a break, but once again his will is stronger and he keeps on walking.
He reaches a Billa on the right side of the street. He walks in and buys a bottle of water and some chocolate. He leaves the store and walks along Freyung (which is a bit to the left). This is another location known for a big and nice Christmas market, but since it is in the middle of the summer, Thomas doesn’t see anything related to Christmas currently.
He walks straight ahead touching Heidenschuss, Am Hof, and Bognergasse, before he discovers that he has entered into the famous Graben (one of the big main shopping streets in Vienna). Before he got there, he passed by some very luxurious stores like Prada, Briono, Saint Laurent and others. Thomas has never understood why people will spend so much money on clothes, but if he gets very rich one day, maybe he will understand.
(Thomas considered walking in Herrengasse instead of Freyung. If he had done so, he would have passed by some beautiful buildings, museums, and ended up Michaelerplatz, from which he could have entered into Hofburg using the opposite entrance compared to where he entered a few hours ago. Had he done so, he would now have walked to the left down Kohlmarkt and ended up at the same spot at which he is currently standing).
Graben, Stephansdom, and Kärtner Strasse
Thomas is impressed by the size Graben. The street is big, with majestic buildings surrounding him on both sides. There are thousands of people walking around drinking coffee, eating ice cream, or just rushing home from work.
As Thomas gets to the end of Graben, he spots the most famous church in Vienna on his left side. He closes up to take a picture of the Stephansdom and also walks in to see what it is like on the inside. He has seen lots of churches before, and he isn’t that impressed with the church itself, but that doesn’t ruin his general impression of the city.
He returns to the end of Graben and continues his walk in the Kärtner Strasse. This is maybe the nicest looking shopping street in all of Vienna, and it is crowded with people. There is a mixture of locals and tourists walking up and down, and Thomas runs into a souvenir shop to buy a Manner (chocolate biscuit kind of thing from Austria). At the end of the street, he discovers the famous Hotel Sacher. Based on his quick math, he could stay about 15 nights at almost any hostel in Vienna for the same price as he could stay one night in this hotel. But, even if he doesn’t want to stay in the hotel, he would have loved to enter the cafe in order to taste an authentic Sacher Cake at the legendary Hotel Sacher. But, that will have to wait for another visit.
Instead, Thomas finds his camera. Beautiful building coming up! It looks majestic as he walks next to it, and as he gets to the face, he simply knows that the Austrian State Opera is another building he wants to take a closer look at some other time. And even if he cannot stand listening to opera, even Thomas feels tempted to buy a ticket for a performance based on the extraordinary look fo the building.
Thomas is preparing to get back to the train station
Thomas has had a fantastic walk so far. He is now getting ready to return to the train station, but he decides to walk straight ahead in Kärtner Strasse. He is soon at Karls Platz, and he can see the Karlskirche at the end of the square (to the left). He walks in the opposite direction, follows the ring, and soon he can see a big Nordsee sign. This is the start of “Naschmarkt”, a popular place in Vienna for shopping. It is a market where you can buy fresh meat, food, and groceries, and of course, eat a lot. Thomas takes a look at this for a few minutes.
Once finished, Thomas along Getreidemarkt, and after a few hundred meters he has reached a spot he has been on before, the end of the Mariahilferstrasse from which he spotted the Maria-Theresien Platz many hours ago.
Thomas walks into the Mariahilferstrasse once again. He has time to enter the Merkur store where he buys some fresh groceries and drinks that he will enjoy during his train ride. He also buys some more Manner biscuits, a package of “Mozart kugel,” and a bottle of Austrian schnaps for his father.
After 5 hours of intense walking, Thomas has now returned to the train station. He is happy about his stay in Vienna, but he looks very much forward to visit the city again. There is so much he hasn’t had time to see and discover, and highest on the list is Schönbrunn and Belvedere.