Heading to Austria, but aren’t exactly sure which cities to add to your agenda? We don’t blame you; it’s much easier to compare big-name destinations like Paris and London rather than lesser-visited cities in Austria. With that in mind, we’ve made a side-by-side guide to help you compare the country’s two most popular destinations: Vienna and Salzburg.
THINGS TO DO
Where traditional and modern collide, Vienna is the perfect place to explore contrast. Enjoy St. Stephen’s Cathedral for a Gothic twist, then head to the Museum of Modern Art for a contemporary fix. Make sure to catch a performance of the Vienna Mozart Orchestra and head to Vienna’s 19th district for some wine. The 19th district, located near the Vienna Woods, is famous for rustic wine taverns.
We know what you’re thinking: Sound of Music Tour. While definitely something to check out, this isn’t the only attraction in Salzburg! Ride the funicular cable car up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress or check out Mirabell Palace and Gardens, one of the finest palace grounds in Austria. Music lovers will love touring Mozart’s Residence, and fashion gurus will thrive in the shops on Getreidegasse.
Budget travelers and students rejoice over the concept of “pay as you wish,” which is alive and well at Vienna’s Der Wiener Deewan. Featuring an all-you-can eat Pakistani buffet, this low-cost haven has built a great community on the foundation of good food for all, at whatever price you can afford. For a true Viennese experience you must visit a beisl (Viennese pub) such as Zur eisernen Zeit or Reinthaler. At a beisl, taste classic Viennese cuisine like tafelspitz (boiled beef or veal) and schnitzel.
For locally sourced ingredients with a gourmet flair, Ludwig is the on-trend gourmet burger joint to visit in Salzburg. Get your fill of vitamins, proteins and greens at Ludwig so that you can justify the inevitable carb-fest when you visit Grünmarkt. While a smorgasbord of fresh fruits and veggies are available here, as well as meats and cheeses, let’s be honest; the real reason to visit Grünmarkt is for the giant pretzels.
For a city rich in history, Vienna boasts a surprisingly modern and design-centric hotel scene. You can’t beat the location at Motel One Wien Hauptbahnhof which is located next to the main train station (hence the name) and also happens to be sleek, modern and reasonably priced. Every room is unique at the quirky and charming Hotel Magdas, which is about a 30-minute walk from city center, but close to amusement park Prater. There’s also the wildly vibrant and colorful 25hours Hotel located near Parliament and the city’s main museums.
Rest easy in Salzburg. Boutiquehotel am Dom is paradoxically sleek and modern even though it’s located in the heart of the old city. Close to all the city’s main attractions, artHotel Blaue Gans has the distinction of being both the city’s first boutique hotel and oldest accommodations (it was originally an inn dating back to 1350). Splurge a little at the Hotel Goldener Hirsch, a centrally located luxury hotel featuring Old World charm and classic Austrian cuisine at its onsite restaurants.
The Vienna Transport network is fast and reliable; it consists of the U-Bahn, the bus and streetcars. The city has a uniform fare for every form of transport, but for benefits and extra discounts, it’s worth it to purchase a Vienna Card. For travelers who would rather get around using the hop-on-hop-off buses rather than public transport, there is a separate Vienna Card option that caters to this.
Salzburg’s public transport consists of buses and trams, which operate on the same ticket with a uniform fare. One journey costs €1.90 from a Tabak Trafik kiosk (€2.10 from the driver) but a 24-hour ticket can be purchased for just €5. The BusTaxi is a safe way to get home at night; it costs €3 and runs along fixed routes. However, Salzburg is a city easily explored on foot or by bike, which is arguably the best way to see it.
Museums and architecture win out in Vienna. Either city will satisfy if you are planning a culture trip, but Vienna’s museums top those in Salzburg. Additionally, Vienna’s dedication to both modern and storied architecture styles brings a level of contrast that is interesting and aesthetically pleasing.
As far as mountain scenery and outdoor adventures go, Salzburg comes out on top. While Vienna boasts enormous, well-manicured Stadtpark and a location adjacent to beautiful Vienna Woods, it simply can’t beat Salzburg’s access to the Alps. You can take a stroll in Vienna, but you can take a hike in Salzburg.
However, if you’re looking for rich history, delectable dishes, and constant access to musical concerts you’ll win either way. While Vienna is more centralized and public systems are slightly more accessible, Salzburg holds its own as a smaller, quieter getaway.
Which will you choose, Vienna or Salzburg? Our pick: Hit them both!
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