Backpacking Lesser-Known Europe: Vienna and Salzburg, Austria (Part 2)

Salzburg Fortress

July 4: Arriving, Exploring, and Spending in Vienna

I left Krakow, Poland on July 4th and took a 7 hour bus ride with FlixBus to Vienna. 

I was very much looking forward to it because I’d heard such wonderful things about Vienna, Salzburg, and Austria as a whole. It was supposed to have glamorous cities and incredible nature to admire. I was aware that it would be very expensive, but I honestly didn’t really care! Treat yo'self, as they say.

Just like in Krakow, I used Couchsurfing in order to greatly diminish the amount of money I’d spend in Austria (more on Couchsurfing here). However, my Couchsurfing host wouldn’t get home until around 9:30PM. Therefore, I needed to kill some time before I could go to my accommodation, since I arrived there at around 2:00PM.

That was no issue for me, but I did have one thing holding me back: all of my baggage. There was no way I could walk around Vienna with my oversized backpack!

At the bus station, I luckily discovered lockers to store our stuff. Unluckliy, however, all of them were taken. While scratching my head and trying to figure out a backup plan, a woman came over and explained that she’d be taking her things out of her locker in ten minutes if I could wait.

Naturally, it took everything I had to not hop in the air with glee and relief. I agreed, but apparently, I could only pay for the locker with Euro coins— and I didn’t have enough (it was 1 Euro per hour). 

I ran around the bus station, asking different people for change after taking out cash at the ATM. Right away, I discovered that what I heard through research turned out to be true: people in Austria tend to be rude. Everyone refused to give me change— the small coffee truck owner, the restaurant cashier, and even Flixbus’s cashier.

That was fine that they couldn't give change, but there was no need to be excessively rude about it!

As it turned out, though, I didn’t even need that much change to use the locker. Just 1 Euro coin until I wanted to take my stuff out! Whoops.

Finally, after all that unnecessary headache, I walked to the subway, which was the stop Erdberg on the U3 line and got off at the stop Stephansplatz.

Immediately after getting off, I realized that this was definitely the touristy area of Vienna. While walking around and squeezing past masses of diverse people, I did manage to admire some famous buildings, like St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Opera House. 

By using the power of the internet, I discovered a little place called Bier and Bierli. I only got a water, a soup, and a salad. The cost? 

A whopping 15 Euros. Yikes! For me, that was quite pricey!

Oh, and I was still hungry. So, out of desperation, I stopped at a busy sausage stand called Bitzinger Wurstelstand Albertina and ate some delectable and perfectly priced sausage!

Sausage in Vienna, Austria

After munching on that yummy sausage, I walked a couple of blocks to a highly-rated cafe called Cafe Tirolerhof. There, I tried Viennese coffee.

Melange, Viennese Coffee

In case you didn’t know, Vienna has its own special coffee! One of which is called melange, which is very similar to a cappuccino. The only difference is that it’s made with a milder coffee.

Well, I love cappuccinos, so I was very content with my melange! Only problem was that the coffee didn’t really wake me up. But, it was worth it to try!

After gulping down my Viennese coffee, I ventured to the Museum Quarter. Apparently, just wandering around the area is a thing to do there— and I immediately saw why!

The area had numerous gargantuan buildings that were architecturally sublime. I couldn’t help but think that every single one was some sort of castle or palace, but they all turned out to be museums! They were easily the most beautiful museums of all time— from the outside, at least. I didn’t go inside of any of them.

Afterwards, I continued walking to discover the Rathaus, which is Vienna's city hall. Sure, it was a lovely building, but I was more excited about the square attached to it.

Rathaus in Vienna, Austria

In front of the Rathaus was a film festival that was apparently going on throughout the summer. In the square, there was numerous food stands serving cuisine from all around the world! The square was stuffed with loud people, both locals and tourists, enjoying their various grub and drinks. Even though I recently ate, I knew I had to indulge in something here anyway.

Film Festival in Vienna, Austria

After a lengthy decision-making process, I chose some grilled calamari and red wine— duh! 

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What a pleasant surprise that festival turned out to be!

It was getting relatively late in the day, so I walked to the subway station in order to return to the bus station to retrieve our bags. I paid 5 Euros for the locker, grabbed my stuff, got back on the subway, took it far across the city, and finally arrived at my accommodation. Phew!

Before arriving to my Couchsurfing accommodation, I was nervous about it. Sometimes, Couchsurfing can be mindblowingly fantastic, and other times, extremely disappointing. In Krakow, I was disappointed with the place because it was sort of grimey and the couch I slept on was very uncomfortable. 

However, once I arrived at my accommodation in Vienna, I quickly re-found my love for Couchsurfing. 

The space was colorful, clean, tidy, and comfortable. Even though I was sharing the living room with two other backpackers from Brazil, I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable or crammed! 

I chatted with the other Couchsurfers and the host for hours, immediately realizing we all had the same love for travel, friendships, and chocolate!

Our host offered us these Mozart chocolates, which are made in Austria, and me oh my— they were divine!

Fun fact: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most famous composers and artists of the classical era, was originally from Austria, specifically Salzburg, which I visited the following day!

Eventually, all of us crashed hard for the night after talking for hours. 

July 5: Picturesque Day Trip to Salzburg and The Best Free Meal

I slept like a rock, then woke up completely refreshed around 7:00 AM to take a train to my day trip destination: Salzburg! It was a pretty far day trip— around 2 1/2 hours by train— and expensive— 40 Euros roundtrip!— but I felt that it would be worth it.

And boy, was my intuition right

I had purchased my ticket from Vienna to Salzburg online in advance here. But, after boarding the train, I didn’t have reserved seats, so I just walked around train cars, searching for an empty seat. When I finally sat down, it turned out that I was sitting in first class and was promptly given the boot!

Even though I was sad I couldn’t sit in first class, I still loved it in second class! The seats were comfortable, roomy, and all around perfect. I had no complaints at all about the train— as well I shouldn’t, considering the price I paid for it!

Once again, I arrived to my destination with one thing on my mind: FOOD. Upon disembarking from the train, I discovered a crowded supermarket in the station. I quickly realized people were purchasing food items to have picnics! How perfect! Immediately, I followed suit.

In the supermarket, I purchased some cold cuts, a hefty chunk of cooked pork, cheese, olives, berries, plates, and napkins. Oh, yeah— I was planning on having the best of picnics!

I walked into the touristy area of Salzburg, intent on finding a lush and colorful park to enjoy our picnic— but I did even better than that.

I had my picnic with a stellar view, comfortable and luminous grass, and even a garden. Specifically, the Mirabell Gardens from the famous movie The Sound of Music!

After stuffing my face with an unmoving smile on my face, I threw out my trash promptly (I was not about to litter in such a gorgeous place!) and walked through the Mirabell Gardens. Just like you might be imagining, I was wowed. 

I exited the gardens and walked along the typical tourist route, like walking over the river and through the old town. There, I discovered more captivating places, like Mozart’s birthplace for example!

Mozart's Birthplace in Salzburg, Austria

Continuing on my stroll through the cobblestone streets, I admired different squares, like Residenzplatz.

Residenzplatz, Salzburg, Austria

I saw the Salzburg Cathedral and other pretty sights as well.

Near the end of the touristy road, there was only one thing remaining: taking a funicular to the top and seeing the view of Salzburg from the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

I’d been ogling at the fortress from the city below, but hadn’t really thought about going up to it. I cringed at the price: 12.20 Euros per person.

Prices for Fortress in Salzburg, Austria

Although I didn’t want to pay that, I did want to see some spectacular views of the city and scenery from above. Finally, I crumbled and paid.

And, my intuition was correct once again: I was not disappointed.

The time was quickly approaching for me to take my train back to Vienna, which was at 5:30 PM. I leisurely made my way back down in the funicular and walked around the windy streets toward the train station.

After riding the train back to Vienna with no issues, I walked back to my Couchsurfing accommodation to have some preplanned dinner with my host and the Brazilian backpackers! My host was surprising all of us with exactly where we were going, though, which got me very excited!

We all piled in a minivan cab together and took it for a while to our surprise dinner destination. When we emerged from the cab, which our host so kindly paid for, we all craned our necks to look at our restaurant: the Danube Tower!

Our Couchsurfing host, Erika, two other Couchsurfers called "Roadaholic," my ex, and I with the Danube Tower!

Our Couchsurfing host, Erika, two other Couchsurfers called "Roadaholic," my ex, and I with the Danube Tower!

On the top of this tower, there’s a fancy restaurant called Turm Restaurant that offers 360 views of Vienna while rotating in a circle!

We went into the lobby, where our host paid for our entrance fees (5 Euros each) and 3-course dinners for each of us (35 Euros). Of course, we all felt so bad and offered to pay for ourselves. But, she simply wouldn’t have it and really wanted to treat us— no strings attached. What a genuinely good human being!

We took the elevator up, which was complete with a fancily-dressed chap who controlled the elevator. We walked into the restaurant, confirmed our reservation, and sat down at a table.

We chose from the menu what exactly we wanted from the 3-course menu! I ordered wine, a salad, beef with vegetables, and strudel (3 different kinds at that!). 

Although I’m not usually into fancy restaurants, this one was GOOD. I enjoyed everything I tried. Yes, even the dessert, which I can’t even eat on my keto diets. Oh, well! It was worth the stomach issues later for sure!

The restaurant closed at 11:00 and that was the exact time we left it because we had such a great time there that time just seemed to slip by. 

It was one of the greatest dining experiences of our lives. Thank you again, Erika!

Once again, Couchsurfing proved to be one of the best resources while traveling! 

Final Thoughts

Austria completely blew away my expectations. Although I wished that I could’ve spent more time there, especially in Vienna, I felt I made the best of it and made amazing memories—and friends!— for a lifetime, including our awesome host and backpacking couple friends called Roadaholic!


Next stop: Slovenia!


Would you ever visit Vienna and Salzburg? What would you do differently or similarly while in these places?


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