Travel Guide to Vienna and Budapest
When: I traveled during the week of Christmas and left before New Years. Both cities are very cold in the winter but it is still considered high season because of the Christmas markets and winter wonderland feeling it portrays.
Route: Flew to London Heathrow → Vienna → Bus to Budapest → London Heathrow → Home
Airlines used: British Airways
Bus: OrangeWays (no wifi on the bus unless it is stopped at a rest stop)
+ Vienna: Kibi Rooms. It is an affordable chic + modern hotel with breakfast down the street at a local bakery. The breakfast voucher included: orange juice + tea/coffee, two pastries with jam & butter. Light + hearty enough for me to skid-addle into the city.
+ Budapest: AirBnB. You can read about my wonderful + comfortable stay HERE. Sights/Things to do:
• St. Stephensdom Cathedral: I took a tour to the top as well as below to the catacombs. Afterwards, I explored the heart of the city by wandering around + snapping photos. Got too cold + feet aching – I stopped by any cafe that was open and had a glass of wine to warm up and got my bearings with my map & guidebook + checked in online with family/friends
• CHRISTMAS MARKETS – I went to the one located in the city center. Festive and fun + bit crowded & cold.
• Schönbrunn palace: Hopped on the train to spend a full day exploring the palace & since it was Christmas, there was a nice market out behind the grounds. There was a huge zoo as well but it was too frigid to really enjoy and some of the animals were not outside as they should have been. The indoor rain forest exhibit was fun (not because it was just inside) as well as the giraffes & wild big cats.
• Hofburg Palace was another palace to visit. There’s a lot of museums to look at so take your pick of what you want to see. I saw the Treasury – loved it. My only regret was not buying tickets for the Spanish Riding school. Would have been amazing. You can easily spend a good day getting lost.
Sights/Things to do:
• St. Stephens Basilica and there was a Christmas market going on right in front with a mini ice rink for the kids + metro stations & restaurants.
• Parliament • City itself. My city post HERE
• Visit a ruin pub
• Central Food Market: my food and sweets tour HERE
• Ice Rink
• Szcheyny Thermal Baths and Spa
+ Austria (Vienna) is part of the EU (European Union) so they accept euros as currency
+ Hungary (Budapest) is NOT part of the EU and they only accept Hungary currency known as the Florint
+ I just got money from the ATM when I got to Vienna and in Budapest, I also got money from the ATM near my AirBnB apartment as well as exchanged my euros at a nearby money exchange store. +I found Hungary to be a bit more affordable than Austria
+ I totally felt safe…everywhere but kept a hand on my purse on the subway especially when it was crowded (and at night)
Random Advice, Tips & Tricks:
+ If you go in the winter, dress WARM. I had to wear leggings under my jeans and it was essential to have a scarf, gloves, and a hat. If you can get those hand warmers, those are excellent. In Vienna, there would be times where I had to step into a cafe to warm back up because it was so cold. Definitely drink some hot mulled wine or hot chocolate when you’re at the Christmas Markets to help keep your fingers toasty!
+ I wish I had spent more time in Budapest vs. Vienna. Vienna is bigger but has much less to do and didn’t seem as lively and energetic as Budapest. If I had an extra day, I would’ve went to the quiet Pest side + explored some of the underground caves.
+ Escalators move FAST so be careful! I was expecting an elderly person to fall and break a hip at any moment.
+ Vienna subway system is based on the honor system. I totally never bought a ticket or fare card the entire time and wasn’t stopped once. This was probably a bad idea but I didn’t think much of it at the time….oops.
+ Budapest subway system is corrupt and security guards DO check – especially for unknowing tourists. They usually are standing by the escalators so just have it ready to show them as you walk by.
+ The Vienna subway system was much more confusing for me. Budapest was wayyy easier to navigate.
+ Don’t bother visiting the ice rink in Budapest – the lines are wrapped around the blockkkkkkk and ice skating always sounds better than it actually is. I just took pictures at the empty ice rink before it opened.