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Best Places For First Time Travelers – Vienna

A quiet dead end side street in Vienna. Parked cars line both sides of the road in front of the shops. Left side of the frame is a pink restaurant with a patio full of empty tables and chairs.

Even though we love to explore, I am still a bit of an anxious traveler. I get the pre-flight jitters, the border control anxiety, and the did-we-forget-something intrusive thoughts. Culture shock, language barriers, and transit problems can make trips infinitely more stressful, so I want to share some of the best places for first time travellers. In this post I want to tell you why you should go to Vienna on your first trip abroad!

 

Pinterest Pin reads "Best Place for first time travellers." A picture on a creamy white background with abstract gold line pattern on the corners.
A man holds his daughter in a tight hug in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna Austria. They both look to camera, she is wearing a flowered dress with sandals and blue leggings with a grey sweater coat. He is wearing a denim button up with small flower pattern and maroon pants. He has a long beard. The girls dark hair is pulled back in clips.

 

Where is Vienna?

As you probably know, Vienna is in Austria. Classified as being in Western Europe, it shares borders with Italy and Germany to the West, and decidedly more Eastern European nations on the East. (Such as Slovakia and Hungary.) Western Europe is what most people think of when they are planning their first trip to Europe.

 

 

So why Vienna?

Western Europe – But Make It Relaxing

 

In terms of fame and beauty, Vienna is right up there with destination hot spots like Paris, Venice, and London, but it lacks a bit of the tourist insanity. Now I’m not saying it isn’t touristy, but it isn’t the mayhem of Paris. I never felt that the crowds were inescapable, and the feelings of anxiety and desperation never hit. For your first international trip, you might not want to experience a full fledged tourist frenzy like Versailles in July!

 

A man holds his small daughter up by her legs in a seated
Flying through Vienna, Austria

 

The main sights can be very busy, but just a few blocks away you will still be able to find a quiet corner. Please don’t take this to mean that Vienna is not cool enough for most travelers! I think it is possibly my favourite city in Western Europe, and was the best city I visited during my first trip to Europe (first trip out of the country for that matter!)

 

Transit Links

 

City Airport Train (CAT)

 

It might sound strange, but the number one thing I like to plan before we leave for our trip is not “what famous things should we see?” but rather, “how are we going to get out of the airport?” I HATE getting fleeced by airport taxis. It starts a trip on the wrong foot for me, so we never EVER take a taxi from the airport. (Also, don’t airport taxi drivers seem the grumpiest??)

 

A small girl stands in front of a floor to ceiling window at the VIenna airport, overlooking the tarmac below. She is holding a pink doll and her hair is in pigtails with coloured elastics. She wears a grey sweater coat, a floral dress, and sandals.
Arriving at Vienna airport

 

Vienna is a dream for anxious (first time or not!) travelers because as soon as you clear customs and exit the secure area, BIG, AMAZING, ENGLISH signs, direct you to the City Airport Train (CAT.) For €12 (€21 return,) you can catch a train every 30 minutes and be in the city centre in only 16 minutes. You don’t even have to leave the airport. Kids travel free (up to 14 years old!) and you can purchase your tickets online before you even leave home. (That’s what a paranoid person, such as I, would do.)

 

Vienna Transit System

 

One you arrive in Vienna city centre, you can purchase a reasonably priced transit ticket that is valid for ALL transit links in the city. Their underground system is the best I have ever used. The machines are easy to operate, there is no question about how and where to validate your ticket, and the stations are all clearly marked. Trains come very regularly so there is no need to plan your timing. Tickets are available for 24, 48, or 72 hour periods, or weekly. They range in price from €8 to €17. Every station has easy to read maps, and the lines are colour-coded, so that you have no trouble finding your route.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Language Barrier

 

I am not one to expect everybody in a foreign country to speak my language, so please don’t take it as that. However, for a first trip to Europe it is nice to have one less thing to worry about. in Vienna, there is not much of a language barrier at all. We found that most people spoke English, or at least enough to help if you were lost, and everyone in hospitality spoke it well. In other places, you might be surprised at how difficult the language barrier can be, but Vienna is a great choice for the anxious anglophone!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Food

 

Austrian food is delicious, and a little different, but not strange in any way. I am a pretty adventurous eater, but if you aren’t, or you just want a comfort meal, you will have no problem in Vienna!

 

Schnitzel, a breaded meat, is widely available and often served with french fries. Many other local foods are similar to dishes in North American cuisine, goulash (stew) and of course Apfelstrudel (Apple strudel.)

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Besides the local food scene being comfortable, basically every European city has McDonald’s and most have KFC. You may think “don’t be ridiculous, I will be elegant and cultured!” I thought this once, and now I have been to McDonald’s in several countries, sometimes multiple times a day. You’d be surprised at how attractive a convenient McDonald’s snack becomes! Especially if this is your first trip abroad, you may quickly crave some familiar food. Food is usually the first thing I miss from home on a longer trip.

 

Of course Viennese coffee is also delicious and available everywhere, so on that front, you will be fine.

 

Where to Eat

 

Cafe Alt Wien was our favourite stop when we visited Vienna as a couple. It is a few streets off the main square, in a quieter area. Don’t let the name fool you! It is more of a pub/restaurant than a cafe. (I am not too sure if they allow kids, because it is a pub type spot.)

 

 

Sights

 

Vienna is a beautiful city, full of rich history. Without even visiting a specific tourist area you can enjoy looking at the architecture and get that Vienna feeling. If it is your first trip out of the country from North America, the beautiful buildings will floor you!

 

Vienna centre is the area around St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The cathedral is set on a picturesque square with horse and carriage tours all around. Inside the cathedral, it is well worth taking the catacombs tour and paying to see the rooftop.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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My favourite thing to do in Vienna was to walk around this area, looking for secret streets and quiet cafes. You can walk from St. Stephen’s to the famous Vienna Opera House and on to the museum quarter and Hapsburg Palace. There are a lot of things to see in a very condensed area!

 

There are a few other palaces to see in Vienna, including Belvedere and Schönbrunn. You can take an underground line from St. Stephen’s easily.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Of course there are many more things to see and do in Vienna, depending on what you like! Ask at your hotel and they will usually have a free map and some suggestions. You could also get a hop on hop off bus tour, which are quite fun if you want to spend the money. With Vienna’s amazing transit, it isn’t really necessary, but they usually talk about the sights as you go, which is interesting.

 

Affordability

 

One of the reasons that Vienna tops my list of best cities for first time travellers, is because it is affordable! For a quintessentially “European” experience, you pay a fraction of what you would in Paris or Venice!

 

A quiet dead end side street in Vienna. Parked cars line both sides of the road in front of the shops. Left side of the frame is a pink restaurant with a patio full of empty tables and chairs.
A quiet spot for the anxious in Vienna

 

Vienna isn’t exactly a “cheap” destination, but it’s on par with traveling closer to home. So you will spend money, but you won’t cry. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant will be €10 – €15. A hotel room for two in the city centre will be about $100 – $200 Canadian dollars per night, depending on the season.

 

Where to Stay

 

We stayed at myNext Johannesgasse Apartments Vienna. A convent turned hotel in the city centre near a beautiful park. We chose it because it was walking distance from both the City Airport Train (for our early morning departure,) and the tourist area.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The great thing about Vienna’s amazing transit, is that you don’t necessarily need to stay in the centre like I usually prefer to. Take a look at the transit map and try to pick a hotel near a station and you are golden! This will also save you money at restaurants.

 

People

 

Probably the best part of Vienna is the people! They are friendly and offer to help even before you ask. This is not a typical touristy city where the locals resent visitors and treat them as a nuisance. And why wouldn’t they be happy? Vienna has been named the world’s most liveable city at least 11 times by various different organizations!

 

 

If you are planning your very first trip out of the country, to Europe, or just looking for your next destination, I know you will love Vienna! After spending all this time explaining why it is the best city, I am craving to visit again!

I know international travel is a bit of a dream right now, so check out my post of Staycation Ideas You Haven’t Thought Of!

Looking for a different quiet spot in Europe? You might like Fatima, Portugal.