Anybody who has ever had a conversation with me knows my name, what I do and that I love Vienna. I don’t know how, but it always comes out – everything reminds me of something amazing in my chosen home town.
Why did I choose it in the first place?
I always say that I don’t remember anything from my very first trip to the Austrian capital: I was four at the time and even though there are some cute pictures of a tiny blond girl running around the city, the somehow bigger blond girl I am today has no memories whatsoever of this time.
Eight years later, my parents decided to send me alone for a summer German course to a village 20 km away from the city. I saw Vienna only on the few day trips we made, and it was enough to fall for it.
Was it love at first sight?
Until today I can’t explain well how it happened, but I simply felt like this was my place on Earth. Like we were meant to be. Vienna & Kasia, forever. Even though I didn’t really know it well nor had friends here, I felt an incredible connection. As crazy about this city as I was, I kept coming back every single year; once I even decided to fly there and take a train to Slovenia (where I was going to visit a friend) instead of a direct flight just because it was my only chance to visit my love that summer.
As soon as I finished high school and was free to move, I moved – and it was the best decision of my life. Of course, it isn’t heaven on Earth as the famous Mercer’s Quality of Living ranking has claimed for 9 years in a row; it’s quite close though, for me at least.
What do I love about Vienna today?
One thing that always stuns me is the Viennese architecture. The city center is basically an open-air museum of the Empire encircled by the majestic Ringstraße. That’s where you’ll find the most impressive buildings, cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, beautiful hidden courtyards and even Roman ruins.
Vienna is not all grandour though. At the turn of the 20th century Art Nouveau was born and left its golden and floral marks all around the city; nowadays the Austrian capital also counts with many contemporary architectural masterpieces that take our breath away and make us feel as if the future was now… and then there are Hundertwasser‘s colourful wonders.
2. Coffee culture
I can’t imagine a good day without having at least one cup of coffee and if I have no time for that at home or just feel like giving myself a treat out, Vienna’s always got my back. Hell, even UNESCO recognised the Viennese coffee culture as Intangible Cultural Heritage! It’s described as a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill” and I can’t agree more. Not only in the case of the traditional coffee houses with their special bohemian atmosphere, newspapers and piano music in the evenings, but also the hip third-wave cafés with specialty blends, modern brewing techniques and latte art. If you spend there the whole day long sipping on your favourite beverage and free tap water that always comes with it, working, exchanging ideas or just contemplating life, you can consider yourself very Viennese. Congrats!
3. Tap water
Speaking of water, it’s amazing – I’ve even heard many times that it’s some of the best in the world. Straight from the Alps, it reaches the taps and drinking fountains all around the city letting you stay hydrated for free anywhere you are. Living in Vienna, you sometimes forget what a great luxury this is – until you travel and discover that Leitungswasser (tap water) in other countries tastes differently or isn’t potable at all.
4. It’s chill
Of course, Viennese residents aren’t some sort of superheroes that never experience stress. They do. Nevertheless, you usually don’t notice that in the streets where people walk leisurely and horse cabs leave the clatter of hooves behind. My mum always says that she feels calmer every time she comes to visit me – and not only because she knows I’m alright. It’s probably the most relaxed capital city I’ve ever seen.
5. It’s green
More than half of Vienna are green spaces: parks, gardens, meadows and even forests. Anywhere you go, you can find a perfect picnic spot (which is by the way what the whole city does whenever it’s warm and the sun is out). Moreover, if you like hiking, there are some lovely hills surrounding the city; if you prefer sunbathing and swimming in crystal clear water, you can enjoy both along the blue Danube. I particularly love the Danube Island – it’s the perfect green oasis for hot summer days.
Of course, the colours change. In the spring the city is full of trees with pink or white flowers and a huge variety of plants blooming however they like, in the fall it’s rather golden, red and brown and in the winter, for some time at least, white. So you never get bored!
6. It’s diverse
Vienna is mostly known for the traditions that are conserved here and while they´re playing an important role in the city, alternative culture and the 21st century have also arrived and left their marks. Here you can find the State Opera and alternative concerts along the Danube Canal, historical coffee houses and the third wave of coffee, places that offer long drinks for as little as 0,5€ and others that serve the fanciest cocktails you have ever seen… The list could go on and on, but I´ll stop here. You get the picture.
It’s also diverse speaking of its inhabitants: 40 % of Viennese residents are not Austrian. This doesn’t only enrich the city itself, thanks to this international environment you can make friends from all around the world, learn about their cultures and practice a foreign language, even if you’re not travelling at the moment.
6. You never need a lot of time to get from point A to point B
Vienna offers everything a big city would, but on a relatively small area – in the city centre and in the neighbouring districts. Moreover, if the place you have to go to is for some reason out of this compact circle, you can use the public transportation to get there. It’s fast and reliable. Plus, on Fridays and Saturdays the metro service is all night long.
8. Rich cultural offer
There’s always something to do in Vienna. Starting from permanent attractions like museums with world-renowned art, one of the globally leading opera houses, an amusement park and a variety of (music) theatres, there are all kinds of events happening every single day, especially in the summer when the city is full of festivals; not to mention the ball season when thousands of people dress up and dance waltz, even in the city centre on the opening day. Oh, and let’s not forget the Christmas markets that turn the city every fall into a magical wonderland!
The best thing is that many are for free or at least offer discounts for students. Examples? Many museums are for free for people under 19, Donauinselfest is the biggest open-air festival of Europe without entrance fees and anybody who doesn’t mind standing in line can get in the State Opera House for as low as 3€.
9. Spritzer (Spritzwein)
Spritzer is a chilled mixture of wine and sparkling water; often upgraded with a flavour syrup. I don’t drink beer and this drink saves me from getting weird looks and having to explain that I don’t like the taste. Spritzer is not only refreshing and delicious, it’s also a widely accepted alternative and you can order it anywhere you are or easily prepare it yourself. It also entered the pop culture as Michael Häupl, the mayor of Vienna at the time (that governed the city for 24 years and thus became a part of it), exclaimed: “Man bringe den Spritzwein!“, a rough equivalent of “let’s drink Spritzer!”.
I’m in. Always.
Fun Fact: vineyards take up 1,730 acres of Viennese grounds which makes the city the only world capital producing significant quantities of wine within its limits. The best places to enjoy it are Heurige – cozy wine taverns. When it’s warm, their terraces fill up with people laughing in the sun or in the shadow given by grapevines.
10. Good base to travel
Last but not least, Vienna is located in Central Europe which makes it a good starting point for many trips. You can easily go by bus, train or a short flight anywhere on the continent. Also, these months numerous budget airlines are finally starting to fly to Vienna!
If you don’t live in Vienna, this also means that you have more possibilities to come and explore it. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll fall in love with it too?