Epic Travel Guide to Lisbon, Portugal

Epic Travel Guide to Lisbon, Portugal

Epic Travel Guide to Lisbon, Portugal

Travel guide to Lisbon - things to do in Lisbon Portugal, an epic travel guide to Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass

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There is something for everyone who travels to Lisbon. This Portuguese city will dazzle you with its charming streets, traditional yellow trams, tiled architecture, balconies & vistas. Lisbon has become a favorite European destination, which means it has become busier over the last few years, but fear not, as it’s still a budget friendly destination. You will need at least three days to visit Lisbon, as it has so much to offer.

This travel guide to Lisbon, Portugal includes both well known & more obscure things to do in and around the city. And provides greater insight into the culture and foods to try while in Portugal.

If you need assistance with planning your trip to Lisbon, you’re covered with this post:

Defining History of Lisbon & Lisbon Culture

Europe has done a fairly great job at preserving its history within the streets of their main cities, and Lisbon is no exception. Learning about these defining historic moments in Lisbon’s history and a few of their staple cultural aspects will make your travel that much more fun. This way you can better understand & immerse yourself within the culture of the city.

  • Lisbon is the 2nd oldest capital city in Europe (after Athens, Greece) which means that their history goes way back. The city is perfect for those who love historic tales of classic ‘days gone by’.

 

  • The 1755 earthquake was the most impactful natural disaster Portugal has seen to date:

This earthquake is mentioned a lot throughout this post & you will hear about it when in Lisbon because it was so impactful – not only was the earthquake devastating but the quake lasted for over ten minutes, and was followed by a tsunami in the Tagus River, AND fires broke out throughout the city that lasted for days.

 

  • Fado music is cherished- Fado is a traditional form of music in Portugal. The word translates to mean ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ in Portuguese. It’s a soulful & melancholy blend of music played with mandolins & guitars, typically with a singer performing poetic lyrics. Fado performances are fairly easy to find in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon in the evenings.

 

  • Saudade – Saudade is a feeling of melancholy & nostalgia, and is a characteristic of the Portugese temperament. 

 

  • The ‘Age of Discovery’ began in Portugal – the ‘Age of Discovery’ was a time in Europe’s history where exploratory voyages departed to India and beyond. They brought back spices & foods from across the ocean into Europe. This all started in Lisbon and many of its main attractions are mementos to that time.

 

  • Lisbon really started being internationally noticed as a tourist destination when it hosted the World’s Fair in 1998.

Portuguese Words to know when visiting Lisbon

These are just a few Portuguese words that will come in handy when you travel to Lisbon. Some of which you’ll see throughout this post as well.

 

  • Miradouro – viewpoint – there are over 30 miradouros in Lisbon, with beautifully dramatic views of the entire city
  • Por Favor/Obrigado – Please/Thank you – the language spoken in Lisbon is Portuguese. While there are a few similarities to the Spanish language, it’s important to know that ‘thank you’ is not the same in Spanish as it is in Portuguese.

You can find more useful words and Phrases for Getting Around Lisbon here.

How much does Lisbon cost (to travel)?

As with any destination, the cost to travel there & within the city will vary on your travel preferences. Here is an average of the travel costs for Lisbon, Portugal:

  • Hotel: $50-$100/night
  • AirBnB: $100/night
  • Food: $20-$60/day
  • Cafe’s: 1-2 euros
  • Activities/Entertainment: $40/day

Getting to & around the city of Lisbon

Lisbon Public Transportation

Getting to Lisbon

Travelers can get to Lisbon by direct flight into the capital city. There are also bus connections that typically drop off at the Lisboa Oriente bus station.

You can get to Lisbon city from the Lisbon airport via their subway system. It’s easy to navigate and it is only a 25 minutes ride to the center.

 

Getting around Lisbon

One of the many reasons Lisbon is such a great European city to visit is that it’s fairly easy to navigate around. The city is said to be spread over seven major hills (there are many more than seven hills, but ‘seven’ is the main number that the city officially references)

  • Getting around Lisbon by Foot: you can easily walk around the city, but parts of Lisbon are steep/hilly. If you’re willing to get a good workout in, walking around Lisbon is a great way to take in the city’s charm
  • Public transportation: visitors to Lisbon can safely take the city’s public transportation. There are buses, a metro system, and trams. Purchase a VivaViagem card at a metro station to use throughout the city. You can find a downloadable pdf map of the Lisbon metro on the Metro Lisboa website

  • Tuk Tuks: a newer addition to Lisbon’s transportation are tuk tuks. Tuk tuks are smaller than cars & taxis, so they can more easily navigate the narrow streets of the Alfama & Bairro Alto neighborhoods. You can find more popular tuk tuk companies in Lisbon here.

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Best Food(s) to try in Lison

  • Pastel de nata – Pastel de Nata has become a staple for visitors to enjoy when they travel to Lisbon. They are lightly sweet, custard tarts often topped with cinnamon. The pastry became world famous thanks to the Pasteis de Belem shop, but you can purchase the treat from any bakery in Lisbon.
pasteis de nata in Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass

 

  • Bacalhau – Bacalhau is codfish, it’s very popular in Lisbon. On any given menu you will most likely see codfish cakes, fried cod, grilled cod, etc. There is also an entire store in Lisbon that sells tinned sardines. As a coastal city, they enjoy a plethora of seafood.

 

  • Ginja – Ginja is a delicious red cherry liqueur. You can typically find Ginja in small hole-in-the-wall bars & kiosks that will sell shots (sometimes in chocolate shots!).

 

Things to know about eating out in Lisbon, Portugal

Top things to do & see in Lisbon, Portugal

This section is organized by areas within the city of Lisbon

Alfama

  • Explore the Alfama neighborhood 

The Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon has become quintessential for a quiet life in Lisbon. The area is ancient, colorful & hilly. You can reach the neighborhood by getting off at the Santa Apolonia station. Then meander through the labyrinth of cobblestone streets, colorful homes & beautiful architecture. Almost everyone falls in love with this neighborhood of Lisbon.

Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass
  • Sé Cathedral/Lisbon’s cathedral

Cost of entry: Free
Hours: 9am-7pm to enter the church, to visit the cloister & treasury are different times

Lisbon’s Cathedral is the city’s oldest church. In fact, it survived the damaging 1755 earthquake – it was technically in ruins after the earthquake but it’s bone structure remained and has been rebuilt many times over. The cathedral boasts Romanesque, Gothic, Neoclassical & Rococo styles.

Lisbons Cathedral in Portugal, Blue Eyed Compass

 

  • Miradouro das Porto do Sol

This miradouro looks over the Alfama neighborhood. It’s a great place to catch sunrise. Miradouro das Porto do Sol has a spectacular view of the colorful rooftops of Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood.

 

view from Miradouro das Porto do Sol in Lisbon

 

  • Castelo de Sao Jorge

Cost of entry:  €10

Hours: 10am-9pm

This castle is located on the highest hill in the city. It’s a must see in Lisbon. Many suggest visiting Castelo de Sao Jorge at dusk so that you can catch the sunset view over the city with an uninterrupted 360 degree view. Frankly, any time of day is great to visit this castle, as the views are always beautiful and the castle itself is fascinating to walk through.

 

  • Sao Vicente de Fora Church & Monastery

Cost of entry: free to enter the church, €5 to enter the monastery

Hours: 10am-5pm, closed on Mondays

Sao Vicente de Fora Church & Monastery is an extraordinary church & monastery. With over 100,000+ tiles and a terrace area with great views, it’s worth a visit for travelers. There is also a local flea market (Feira da Ladra) that is hosted next to the church. However the flea market may not be something that travelers will find much value in. (I still remember the random doll heads being sold here, but I’m not an avid flea market shopper, so it may be your thing – it’s up to  you to decide).

Sao Vicente de Fora Church in Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass

 

  • National Pantheon/Panteão Nacional –

Cost of entry: €4

Hours: 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday

Lisbon’s National Pantheon is the resting place of many of Portugal’s most important figures. The building showcases a beautiful white dome that stands out among the Alfama neighborhood skyline. Visitors can climb to the top of the dome for another view of Alfama.

 

  • Miradouro de Santa Luzia

The Santa Luzia miradouro has a romantic terrace with gorgeous florals and a cafe, so you can enjoy a beverage with your view.

 

  • Miradouro da Graça

Miradouro da Graça stands out because you can see the Alfama neighborhood on the left & the Bairro Alto neighborhood on the right, as well as St. George’s castle & all of central Lisbon.

LEARN MORE about travel in europe by exploring these different destinations!

Belem

  • Mosteiro dos Jerónimos –

Cost of entry: €10, first Sunday of the month is free entry for Lisbon residents. purchase with Archeology Museum ticket for combo price of €12

Hours: 10am-5pm (May-September closes at 6:30pm), last entry 30 minutes before closing time. Sundays 2-5pm, closed on Mondays & major holidays

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is a UNESCO World Heritage site & monastery. The Belem district of Lisbon is best known for this monastery (and pastries). The monastery is breathtaking, and definitely a place that every visitor to Lisbon should witness firsthand. It was built in 1501 and the building’s structure took over 100 years to build!

 

inside of the Jeronimos Monastery cloisters in Lisbon Portugal

To this day, it is still a perfectly preserved masterpiece. Both the church and the monastery cloisters showcase the Late Gothic & Manueline style (named for King Manuel I). The cloisters are mesmerizing as they are two levels of identical stone craftsmanship – fun fact, the cloisters were built as a tribute to Vasco de Gama (a famous explorer), who prayed at the Church of Santa Maria prior to his explorations. The Church of Santa Maria stands out with its epically high ceilings & sculptured columns that lead to one single nave.

This monastery is significant to Lisbon’s history thanks to the Age of Discovery. Ships departing left from Belem, so many sailors would come to this church to pray before they set out to sea.

There is also an archeology museum located adjacent to the monastery – see the next item!

 

inside of the Jeronimos Monastery cloisters in Lisbon

  • Archeology Museum –

Cost of entry: €5, purchase with Mosteiro dos Jerónimos ticket for combo price of €12

Hours: 10am-6pm Tuesday-Sunday, closed on Mondays

Lisbon’s Archeology Museum, located adjacent to the Jeronimos Monastery, has the most impressive collection of archaeological items in all of Portugal; from Egyptian times to the Middle Ages, Moorish to Roman artifacts. It is located in the west wing of the monastery.

 

  • Belem Tower –

Cost of entry: €6

Hours: 10am-5:30pm (May-September closes at 6:30pm), last entry 30 minutes before closing time. Closed on Mondays & major holidays

The Belem Tower used to be a defense mechanism for the city of Lisbon. It was able to see if intruders were coming into the Tagus River & then notify the city in time to defend itself. The tower also housed prisoners, who may have gotten the best view from a prison. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site & is a tall standing reminder about Portugal’s historic successes.

I would suggest that you visit the Belem Tower early in the day as the queue can be over an hour long later in the day. To get to the Belem Tower requires a ten minute walk from the public transport station. As it’s across the road from the Jeronimos Monastery, the Belem Tower is worth a visit to truly experience the architecture that speaks to  Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Afterwards, go to Pasteis de Belem if you’d like a few famous pastries afterwards.

 

  • Padrã dos Descobrimentos

Cost of Entry: €3-€6

Hours: 11am-5pm, Monday-Friday

The Padrã dos Descobrimentos is a monument dedicated to the explorers who allowed Portugal to transform into a superpower in the 14th & 15th century – the Age of Discovery truly was impactful for Portugal, and really all of Europe. There is a viewing platform at the top of the monument that visitors can pay to go up to the top of & see the views.

 

view of Padrã dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon

 

  • Pasteis de Belem

Cost of entry: none

Hours: 8am-11pm

This pastry shop was created by a member of the monastery back in the 1830’s, after the members of the clergy were expelled from their monastery. They sold the sweet pastries that visitors grew used to enjoying at the monastery, and thus this shop became a landmark in the Belem district of Lisbon for traveling visitors. You can either wait in a long line to purchase the custard tart pastries to eat in the shop, or save yourself time and instead go to the to-go line to purchase a box for take away.

Bairro Alto

  • Experiente Bairro Alto nightlife –

The Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon is best known for its nightlife scene. During the day, the area is serene and vibrantly transforms in the evening.

  • Church of Sao Roque –

Cost of entry: none

Hours: 8:30am-5pm

Previously a Jesuit church (in the 1500’s), this church maintains its Jesuit style exterior, however the interior of the Sao Roque church is what makes this a must-see place in Lisbon. Be sure to check out the Chapel of St John inside. It’s made entirely of gold & it was the most expensive chapel in all of Europe at the time it was commissioned.

  • Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara

Cost of entry: none

Hours: n/a

This miradouro has a beautiful garden that has become a popular meeting point. It can be especially crowded at dusk when the view from the miradouro is at its most beautiful, so be sure to arrive early enough to grab a good resting place.

 

view from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara in Lisbon (2)

 

  • Church of Santa Catarina –

Cost of entry: free

Hours: depends on services

The Church of Santa Catarina can easily be missed as it has a bland exterior. But inside, the church is home to a gorgeous golden baroque decor and rococo stucco ceiling. The entire place is a masterpiece of craftsmanship.

Baixa 

  • Rossio Square / Praça de D. Pedro IV

The Rossio Square, which was created during the Middle Age, is located in the very center of Lisbon, and is the liveliest part of the city. The square is teeming with monuments, cafes & restaurants and shops to explore. It’s a perfect spot to hang out with friends and people watch.

  • Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift) –

Cost of Entry: €5.15-€6.65

Hours: 7am-10pm

This 45 meter high famous elevator in the city of Lisbon was originally created to connect two neighborhoods to one another (lower streets of Baixa to Bairro Alto) so that pedestrians didn’t have to walk up and down the steep hills multiple times each day. The Elevador de Santa Justa is a drastic dark color, compared to Lisbon’s colorful buildings. This is because the design was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Elevador de Santa Justa is also known as the Carmo Lift.

  • Praça do Comércio – Town Hall Square

Praça do Comércio is Lisbon’s main square next to the Tagus River. It was formerly used to unload goods from ships in the river. The square is surrounded by what was previously a royal palace (which was destroyed after the 1755 earthquake & subsequent environmental destruction), it now houses restaurants & shops below.

Praça do Comércio is a symbol of Portugal’s wealth & ambitions. The statues surrounding the square are notable figures in Portugal’s history, and the square itself is seen as the symbolic entrance to the city via the Arco da Rua Augusta; also known as the Door to Lisbon’ (see next item)

Praça do Comércio Lisbon travel guide

  • Arco da Rua Augusta

Cost of Entry: to climb to the top €3

Hours: to climb to the top, 9am-7pm

This arch leads from the Praco do Commercio to the main shopping boulevard of the city & heart of Lisbon. The arch was a part of the recovery from the 1755 earthquake & commemorates the city’s loss. Visitors can pay to climb to the top of the arch.

Chiado

  • Carmo Convent –

Cost of entry: €5

Hours: 10am-6pm Monday-Saturday

One of the best places we visited in Lisbon was the Carmo Convent. It’s a medieval convent that was destroyed during the 1755 earthquake (are you seeing a pattern of how the earthquake shattered the city?) What makes the Carmo Convent incredible is how stable the remnants of the convent are. You are able to walk through what still stands of this religious building. It’s so quiet within that you can easily forget you are in the heart of a bustling city.

inside of Carmo Convent in Lisbon

 

  • Largo do Chiado –

Largo do Chiado is a quaint & quiet square that was recommended for us to visit by our hosts. It’s near the Carmo Convent with great shops to explore in the area. A perfect place to catch your breath from walking the hills of Lisbon.

  • Rua Nova do Carvalho –

Rua Nova do Carvalho is a street that is known as“Pink Street”. It’s an internationally known nightlife hotspot. The street & surrounding area used to be considered Lisbon’s Red Light District. While great to experience for nightlife, I would not recommend staying near here as it’s noisy well into the morning.

  • Miradouro de Santa Catarina –

Miradouro de Santa Catarina is great as it’s not often visited by tourists. There are many cafes & restaurants nearby with views too.

  • Timeout Market

Cost of entry: free

Hours: 10am-12am

Timeout Market is a massive food market and music venue. It also has multiple bars. A perfect place to enjoy a nice meal & experience local cuisine in Lisbon.

Outskirts of Lisbon

  • Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte –

I dare you to say the name of this miradouro five times fast – what a mouthful! If you travel outside of the main part of Lisbon, make time to ascend Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte for the best view of Lisbon. From here you’ll have a panoramic view of the city & Castelo Sao Jorge. It’s great at sunrise to see the soft morning glow over Lisbon.

  • Oceanário de Lisboa/Lisbon’s Oceanarium –

Cost of entry: €19

Hours: 10am-6pm, last entry at 5pm

Lisbon’s Oceanarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world, and the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. If you’re traveling with children, it would be a great place to spend a day.

  • Museu Nacional do Azulejo/National Tile Museum –

Cost of entry: €5

Hours: 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Sunday

Lisbon is known for its beautiful tile work throughout the city so it’s no wonder there is an entire museum dedicated to it. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo is located within a Baroque style 16th century convent (Madre de Deus). Every inch of the inside of this museum is covered with azulejos (tiles), and the museum goes through different types of tiles throughout the ages You can download their mobile app & use it like an audio guide while there (just bring your own headphones).

tiles of Lisbon Portugal

  • Basilica da Estrela –

Located in the Rato neighborhood, the Basilica da Estrela is a Neoclassical church. It’s known for its interior that has pink, grey, yellow & black marble. If you’re in the area it’s worth a stop to check out.

  • Mercado de Campo de Ourique

Cost of entry: free

Hours: 10am-11pm

Mercado de Campo de Ourique is slightly smaller than the Timeout market. It’s less crowded than Timeout too. I’d suggest stopping here for lunch. The market offers fresh food outside and prepared foods inside- from portugese tapas, to sushi. Note – Some places/stands are closed on Sundays.

Where to stay in Lisbon

Lisbon Neighborhoods

Here are the best neighborhoods in Lisbon that you should stay in when you travel here:

  • Alfama– known for its picturesque streets
  • Chiado – an enchanting area with cute cafes & tiny boutiques
  • Baixa– located in downtown Lisbon, and has plenty of shopping available
  • Bairro Alto– known for its vibrant nightlife scene. The area literally transforms from a quiet area in the day to a party hub at night
  • Lapa & Madragoa– Lapa & Madragoa are both much quieter areas compared to much of Lisbon

Day Trips outside of Lisbon

including Sintra!

Lisbon is wonderfully close to many other beautiful destinations that can easily be reached for day trip excursions. Here are the best places to visit outside of Lisbon:

We spent one full day with Lisbon Riders, a local tour company, and absolutely loved it! We took their Sinta & Cascais full day tour. I would highly recommend using them as your tour guide if you would prefer to sit back, relax & enjoy the scenery while someone else drives you around.

 

Sintra, Portugal:

Sintra is only 18 miles from Lisbon, about a one hour car ride, and even shorter train ride, from Lisbon. There are three main royal palaces and castles to explore, each of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Throughout Sintra there are extensive gardens & colorful architecture.

It should be noted that there are many smaller palaces to check out in Sintra. However, they are more easily accessed by car.

While in Sintra, be sure to stop in to Piriquita. It’s a famous bakery in the area, and has the original custard tarts that true Lisboans know of.

*Note – The main palaces are closed on Christmas Day & New Years Eve

Cascais, Portugal

Cascais is a charming fishing village with soft sand beaches that’s only a 40 minute train ride from Lisbon. It is home to the wealthy, but still maintains its small town charm

Azenhas do Mar

Azenhas do Mar is another gorgeous little seaside town in Portugal.

Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca is Europe’s most Western point. It’s fun to drive to and stand out near the edge for pictures.

Boca de Inferno

Boca de Inferno translates to the “Devils Mouth”. If you are already visiting Cascais, this is a quick stop to see this stunning Tacliffside. Waves crash into the cliffs and form a spectacular view of the coastline.

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Travel guide to Lisbon - things to do in Lisbon Portugal, an epic travel guide to Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass
things to do in Lisbon Portugal, an epic travel guide to Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass
Travel guide to Lisbon - things to do in Lisbon Portugal, an epic travel guide to Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass
things to do in Lisbon Portugal, an epic travel guide to Lisbon, Blue Eyed Compass

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Travel Guide to Amsterdam

Travel Guide to Amsterdam

Travel Guide to Amsterdam

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!  You can view our disclosure page for additional details

Amsterdam is a wonderful mix of modernity, history, quirkiness and cozy comfort. This picturesque city maintains its popularity with visitors from around the world for good reason – it’s beautiful streets, is easy to navigate around and never short on exciting things to do and see. Known for its canals, heavy bicycle ‘traffic’, colorful homes and delicious cafes, read on for an in-depth travel guide to Amsterdam.

How to get from the Amsterdam airport to the city center:

The Amsterdam airport is located southwest from the city, and takes about 20 minutes to get to via their direct train. Once you land in the Amsterdam airport, travelers can take the direct train to the center of the city. The train is easily found at the center of the airport past the security area.

 

Purchase your ticket(s) for the direct train at either a ticket booth or one of the easily spotted yellow machines with a credit card that has a chip reader. Tickets are only 5 euros for the direct train from the airport to the main Amsterdam train station. And for only a 20 minute ride, I would definitely recommend this form of transport.

 

If the direct train is not running due to construction (an issue sometimes found late at night), you can also take a bus into the city. Take one that is going in the direction of Leidseplein. You can pay in cash on the bus, and when you get off at Leidseplein you will be in the city center.

 

If you prefer to take a taxi, you will find the official taxi line outside of the airport. The largest cab company in Amsterdam is Taxicentrale Amsterdam. They accept credit cards and are available 24 hours a day. Here is their number: +31 020 777 77 77.

*Do NOT go with anyone who approaches you in the Schipol Airport about a taxi. In case you need it, the number to dial the police is 112.

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Where to stay in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, like any other city, has plenty of unique neighborhoods, each offering its own charm. The city has no shortage of cute cafes, delicious restaurants and plenty of historic sites to explore. So, where you choose to stay will depend on affordability and what you prefer to be within close proximity to.

 

There are eight districts within Amsterdam, and each district has neighborhoods nestled within. For travelers looking to get the most out of their stay and be close to the main sights you will want to stay in the Centrum district.

Image Credit : Amsterdam Insights

Of course, this will also be one of the more expensive districts to stay in, but you should consider how much time you will be spending in Amsterdam and the convenience of staying close to public transportation and the main sites.

 

Within the Centrum district are the following neighborhoods:

  • Nieuwmarkt : home to the oldest part of the city, Nieuwmarkt is oozing with local culture & history.

  • Spui : Spui is the heart of the old city and is a great central point to explore all of Amsterdam

  • Jewish Quarter (Jodenbuurt) : The Old Jewish Quarter is home to many popular sites to see; including the Hortus Botanicus. This neighborhood has done a great job preserving its history and architecture too.

  • Dam Square : Dam Square is the heart of the city of Amsterdam, so if you stay here you’ll be conveniently close to almost everything, however it will also be crowded anytime of day.

  • Canal belt/the 9 Streets : The Canal belt area, also known as the 9 Streets, is fairly self explanatory. It’s the area where the semicircular canals breathe the charm of Amsterdam to life. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well.

  • Jordaan : west of the Canal belt area lies Jordaan. Jordaan consists of tightly packed streets and has been completely renovated to become a very popular area for young artists, entrepreneurs and travelers looking to immerse themselves in the community.

  • De Wallen/Red Light District : the infamous Red Light District is home to one of Amsterdam’s top places to visit. The draw for this area is that it’s an officially desginated area for legal prostitution. The name ‘Red Light’ comes from the red lights surrounding the doorways of the individuals ‘ready for business’ as someone so lovingly phrased it to me. It’s a unique area, and one you should definitely explore, but it is loud in the evenings, so if you prefer quiet, I’d suggest staying in a different neighborhood.

  • Leidseplein : Leidseplein is known for its nightlife, and has plenty of great hotels and restaurants.

  • Rembrandtplein : Rembrandtplein is another nightlife square, however it is closer to the city center than Leidseplein. There are well known outdoor cafes and restaurants in this area. If you stay just slightly off of the square you can enjoy a quiet evening and be within close proximity to plenty Amsterdam has to offer.

  • Spiegelkwartier : this area is home to the facades that you’d expect & hope to see in Amsterdam. If you enjoy art and antiques this area will be your haven – it’s home to over 70 art & antique shops!

  • IJ Waterfront : located north of Amsterdam Centraal station, the IJ Waterfront area is further removed from the Centrum district than the other neighborhoods (as it’s separated by the train station), however if you prefer more modern and industrial designs you may really enjoy IJ Waterfront. The area is quickly developing, and home to a few popular museums.

I would personally suggest that staying anywhere on the outer semicircles of the Centrum District. It will be the most ideal if you are looking to be comfortably close to the main sites, but not within a high tourist traffic area.

We stayed at the Amsterdam Canal Residence hotel, and could not recommend enough – we LOVED it here. The location was ideal as it’s only a five minute walk from a metro station, ten minutes from the Museum Quarter and had the cutest view of the canals. Each staff member we encountered was very cordial, friendly and helpful.

The room itself was very modern, with a luxurious bathtub and great amenity kit for each of us. The bed and linens were very comfortable, and of course, I can’t say this enough – the canal view! We also really enjoyed the free snacks and drinks they offered to all guests from 4-10pm daily. I repeat, free drinks and snacks daily for four hours daily! *jaw has dropped, this is an unheard of deal. I would absolutely recommend the Amsterdam Canal Residence hotel to anyone traveling to Amsterdam. And yes, you can totally book your stay through booking.com, which is what I did.

Booking.com

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Best Time of Year to Visit Amsterdam

When deciding when to visit Amsterdam, you really can’t go wrong, as there is no ONE best time of the year to visit. The city is beautiful year-round. Of course the summer season will be hot and more crowded as it’s a high tourist season. With spring having the infamous Dutch tulips in full bloom, fall boasting an array of autumn colors, and winter with the city lit up for the holidays.

How many days/how long should you stay in Amsterdam?

You could spend anywhere from a  minimum of three days to two weeks (or more!) in Amsterdam. I may be slightly biased with this response, as I could move to Amsterdam in a heartbeat, however you will need at least three full days in the city. There are many historic sites and museums that you should check out, and the food scene is incredible too. Plus you’ll want to make sure you take time to enjoy wandering the canals and hidden cobblestone streets.

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How to get around Amsterdam (Public Transportation)

Amsterdam has excellent public transportation. If you take the direct train from the airport to the main Amsterdam train station, Amsterdam Centraal, then you’ll have a peak at its efficiency and convenience.

 

There are buses, trams and ferry’s within Amsterdam’s Public Transportation system, but if you are staying within the centre of Amsterdam then you will most likely be utilizing the tram and metro systems.

 

For the tram and metro you can purchase day passes for 7.50 euro for one day ; prices decrease with 2-4 day passes. Tickets can be purchased online in advance, or you can get single ride passes on the trams; either at the front or sometimes at a desk area towards the rear of the tram.

 

 Amsterdam is very walkable, so you could take one tram line to get across town and then walk to wherever you may want to explore. You can find everything you need to know about public transportation in Amsterdam at GBV.com.

 

Of course, there is also biking. Amsterdam is known for its commuters favoring bikes (the city is not able to accommodate cars and is focused on having clean air quality). If you are a visiting tourist, riding a bicycle in Amsterdam may seem like a bucket list item to cross off. However, be understanding that the majority of locals commute to and from work via bicycle. If you aren’t a great cyclist, I would avoid doing it. At least avoid it in busy areas.

Imagine someone visiting your city and trying to drive a car on the highway with little experience. They’d probably get in your way and potentially cause accidents.

Top things to do & See in Amsterdam

Don’t worry this list of things to do & see in Amsterdam goes beyond the typical museums and historic sites. You can find that list anywhere, so instead of things that you wouldn’t normally hear or read about for what to do in Amsterdam (…mixed in with only a few of those typical places).

 

Enjoy a sandwich and gourmet cheeses at Tromp :

Tromp is an amazing cheese shop in Amsterdam. In fact, they have a few locations throughout the city. They are small and chock full of the best, most delicious cheeses you could find. You can of course purchase blocks to bring home, but the best part of Tromp is their fresh sandwiches. Choose bread from their freshly baked selection for your sandwich, and within minutes you’ll have a warm, delicious meal that’s under 10 euro!

 

Select your ideal museum :

Amsterdam has a ton of amazing museums. And I don’t say that lightly, as I’ve been to way too many museums over the years (I love history!) There is no possible way that you could or even should visit every museum that Amsterdam has to offer, so research the ones available and decide on one to two to visit during your trip.

I personally loved the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum.

Riijksmuseum : the Dutch National museum that is dedicated to art and history. It’s the most famous museum in Amsterdam, and it does not disappoint. There are over 8,000 pieces in its permanent collection, including multiple pieces by Rembrandt. *If you know when you want to go, purchase your ticket in advance online. If you purchase ticket(s) in person go to the entrance on the right side (facing away from the I Amsterdam sign), and go downstairs to the left. Set aside at least half a day here as the museum is massive.

Van Gogh Museum : fairly self-explanatory, this museum features pieces by Vincent Van Gogh. They do a marvelous job not only showcasing his work, but also painting a picture of what his life was like and how his artwork come to life.

Here are other unique museums that are worth a visit.

-Museum Van Loon : museum of a traditional canal home from the 19th century. The name Van Loon is actually the family name. William van Loon was a co-founder of the Dutch East India Company (1602) and the family opens their home for visitors seven days a week.

-Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder : means ‘Lady in the Attic’ and is a museum that’s actually composed of three canal houses that were connected (in secret) by a Catholic businessmen at a time when Catholics were not allowed to practice publicly.

 

Enjoy a peaceful canal ride :

While it may be a little cliche’ to go on a large ferry through the canals, you can experience the serenity and beauty of Amsterdam from the canals on a smaller boat. *The hotel I recommended above offers FREE canal rides to its guests!! Find other canal tour companies & link

 

 Enjoy traditional Dutch dishes :

Such as gouda cheese, stroopwafels and oliebollen (typically served around New Years)

 

Sip sweet liquors from a 300 year old distillery :

This is by far one of my favorite hidden gems of Amsterdam is the Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal Distillery (geez that’s a mouthful to say & type!). This distillery is tucked away in an alley off of a main, busy pedestrian road but remained relatively calm throughout our time there. The bartenders do a wonderful time explaining their products so well that you may be like us and easily be convinced that you have to check your carry on luggage in order to bring home a few bottles with you. Everything is distilled there and they only produce 400 bottles per week! You can ONLY purchase their products there so stock up on their ginger bitters, fruit flavored liquors and barrel aged treats. Tastings are free too!

 

Visit the stunning Hortus Botanicus :

What was once a medicinal herb garden to help fight against the Black Death in the mid-1600’s, is now a plant nerd labyrinth of blooms & flora.

Day Trips from Amsterdam

-Zaans Schaans- Zaans Schaans is known for its beautifully preserved windmills and has a precious historic town center where visitors can walk around and dive into the history of the Netherlands.

-Keukenhof Garden- visit this beauty during the tulip blooming season for out-of-this-world Alice in Wonderland experience.

-Rotterdam- the Netherlands second largest city and home to some very unique architecture

-Giethoorn- Giethoorn is a classic Netherlands village that can be explored by gondola!

-The Hague- visit the International City of Peace and Justice, The Hague. It’s home to so much modern and historic cultural significance to the Dutch.

-Utrecht- a university city with plenty of 14th-century Gothic architecture and a medieval castle.

Don't Forget to Pack:

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Passport Wallet

Travel Cutlery Set

Portable Charger

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

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Travel Guide to Vienna, Austria

Travel Guide to Vienna, Austria

Travel Guide to Vienna, Austria

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

Vienna has become a highly sought after destination for many in Europe, and it’s easy to see why – the city is full of old world european charm, is bursting with detailed historic architecture and has become the most livable city in the world.

It’s important to be prepared when traveling anywhere, so this post is a foolproof guide to traveling to and within Vienna, Austria.

Included in this post:

  • How to get to Vienna

  • Where to stay in Vienna

  • Best time of year to visit Vienna

  • How to get around Vienna

  • Top things to do in Vienna

  • Day Trips from Vienna

  • And more!

How to get to Vienna, Austria

How to get to Vienna will depend on where you are coming from.

PLANE

If you are arriving from outside of Europe, then you’ll be flying. You can fly directly to Vienna’s airport.

*You can find great deals for flights at Skyscanner!

From the airport you can take the very easy & convenient Central Airport Train, or CAT.  You can learn more about how to take Vienna’s CAT here.

TRAIN

If you’re traveling from within Europe, you can easily take a train into the city center. There are two main train stations.  One is called Wien Hauptbahnhof, or Vienna’s Central Train Station. The other is Wien Mitte.

Vienna Travel Tip: If you choose to take the CAT, know that it only goes from the Vienna airport to the Wien Mitte station. So, be sure to plan accordingly based on where you’ll be staying.

Which leads us to our next Travel Guide section for Vienna…

Where to stay in Vienna (for first time visitors)

There are 22 districts in the city of Vienna. Yet, there are only a few that a first time traveler should stay in. Which calls into question…

Which Vienna districts should you consider staying in & which ones have the major landmarks? Based on my research & time spent in Vienna, I would suggest the following districts:

1st district, Innere Stadt: located in the heart of the city, contains the cities most popular tourist attractions. Good for walkability & sightseeing, but can be touristy & more expensive.

3rd district, Landstrasse: Within the 3rd district is the Wien Mitte station and Belvedere Palace & Gardens. Landstrasse is great for those who don’t want to sacrifice great quality for a budget – in this neighborhood you’ll get both!

5th district, Margarten: home to both the Naschmarkt and Cafe Demel, Margarten is known as the ‘bohemian’ neighborhood of Vienna. It’s a great area for those looking for budget friendly accommodation that is conveniently close to the Innere Stadt

6th district, Mariahilf: this district sits between the 4th & 7th district & rubs against the MuseumsQuartier. It has the largest shopping street in Vienna and is known for having lots of delicious eateries.

7th district, Museums Quartier: the 7th district contains many of Vienna’s famous museums, has lots of places to eat and outdoor hang out spots. It;s very centrally located & convenient for first time visitors, but can be noisy at night.

-7th district, Neubau: Neubau is a small area inside of the 7th district. It has a younger crowd, with less traditional coffee houses mixed with a retro vibe. I’d compare it to the edgy, hipster part of town. It’s great for those who want more of a cultural experience while remaining close to the Museums Quartier and historic sites.

8th district, Josefstadt: a small & charming district that is close to the Hofburg palace and the center of Vienna, although it is not budget friendly.

 

For more budget conscious travelers, it was recommended to stay in these districts:

3rd district, Landstrasse

5th district, Margareten

*Travel Tips for choosing where to stay in Vienna:

  • Stay near a metro station (U-Bahn) or tram stop. If you stay near one you’ll be able to access the entire city quite quickly, as Vienna’s public transportation system is very efficient
  • There are TWO main roads within Vienna that you need to know:

Ringstraße– surrounds the historical inner city of Vienna, also called Innere Stadt, or District 1

Gürtelstraße– surrounds all of the inner districts, think of it as the barrier street from the inner and outer districts of Vienna

The Best Time to Visit Vienna

I may be biased in saying that the best time of year to visit Vienna is during the Christmas holiday season. However any time of year would be a great time to travel there.

Christmas in Vienna is a unique, one of a kind experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. The entire city transforms into a magical snow globe that they portray in those cheesy but unmissable holiday movies.

If you are determined to go only during good weather, then summer would be the best time for you to visit. With fall offering light fall foliage.

The best time for sightseeing in Vienna is at the end of August through November when there are fewer tourists in the city.

How many days do you need to spend in Vienna?

The number of days that you spend in Vienna will depend entirely on what you want to do in and around the city. I would say you will need at least three full days and nights in the city. If you are a slow traveler, than a week would be best.

How to get around Vienna

On Foot/Walking

The more central parts of Vienna are easily accessible by foot, and it will be the best way to explore the city and all of its hidden historical gems. If you plan on visiting the Inner Stadt and historical monuments like St. Stephen’s Cathedral than be sure to do so on foot.

Public Transportation

Vienna is known for having one of THE most efficient public transportation systems in all of Europe, possibly outranking Switzerland! So, you’ll want to take advantage of their easy to use metro and tram systems.

Transport maps are placed at all stations and stops, so it’s easy to know where you’re going and how to get to where you want to.

Buses & Trams:

The buses & trams are great because you can transfer between the two on the same ticket.

There are over 30 tram lines in Vienna, which makes it the largest tram system in the world. With that being said, as a traveler and visiting tourist, you’ll want to take advantage of Lines 1 and 2 more frequently. These lines travel along the Ringstrasse and stop along famous historical and beautiful landmarks, like the Vienna Opera House and the Hofburg Palace. More on those places below!

*There are night buses from 12:30am-5am, every 30 minutes

Metro (U Bahn)

Vienna’s metro system has five lines and operates from 5am-12:30am. I loved how their metro lines operate both under and above ground, so you can view the city during your trip.

You can find a downloadable version of the metro lines map and all of Vienna’s public transportation lines here.

*On Fridays, Saturdays & the nights before holidays the metro runs for 24 hours

Cost of a bus, tram or metro ticket in Vienna:

-single ticket: 2.40 euros

-passes range from 24-weekly passes, price range 8-17.10 euros

 

Taxi

Like most major cities, taxis are available at a moments notice, and for a ten minute ride will cost around 7-10 euros

From Vienna’s city center to the Vienna airport a taxi will cost you around 35-45 euros.

Bicycle

Yes, you can bike around Vienna! However I wouldn’t recommend it during the colder winter months. In the spring and summer biking would be a great way to get around the city. You can rent bikes for the day and take them onto Vienna’s public transportation for free.

For late nighters, take the bus- there are 26 night buses that run from 12:30am-5am on over 26 different routes

*Travel Tip: it’s usually cheaper if you purchase your public transportation tickets in advance. You can do so here.

*Travel Tip: you MUST validate your ticket for the metro, tram or bus. The metro stations will have blue boxes near their escalators where you can do so, and the trams and buses will have them on board by the doors.

Top Things to do in/around Vienna

While I could list every little thing there is to do in Vienna, instead, here are the major attractions for first time visitors, because I find it more fun to check off a few major attractions & wander as I please around a city finding the small treasures that many won’t write about- make your own adventure!

Museums in MuseumsQuartier

There are both modern & classic museums in this area of Vienna. Personally, I’m quite particular on which museums I visit, and fell in love with the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Open: 10am-6pm

Cost: 16 euros +

Hofburg Palace (plus the National Library & Spanish Riding School)

The Hofburg Palace was home to the former Hapsburg dynasty, which if you don’t know was one of THE most influential monarchies in all of Europe. And they did not disappoint when it came to creating stunningly beautiful palaces for themselves.

The Hofburg Palace is in the heart of Vienna and attached to it are other major tourist attractions — the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments, and the Silver Collection are all different places inside you can purchase tickets to visit.

Just around the corner (but to be honest, that ‘corner’ is quite large), is the National Library & the infamous Spanish Riding School

Open: 9am-5:30pm

Cost: 15 euros +

National Library

Open: 10am-6pm (*closed on Mondays October-May)

Cost: 8 euros

Spanish Riding School

Open: 9am-4pm

Cost: 13-27 euros

 

Schonbrunn Palace

Another home to the Hapsburgs is the Schonbrunn Palace. Which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It lies a bit outside of the central part of the city of Vienna, but it is well worth the short metro ride to get there.

The palace is known for its pristine gardens and bright yellow exterior. Schonbrunn Palace is typically the most visited attraction in Vienna, which means there can be wait times for when you want to explore inside. It’s suggested to book a guided tour so that you won’t waste any precious travel time waiting in a line.

Open: 8am-5pm

Cost: 16-40 euros

Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere Palace was a summer home to Prince Eugene of Savoy, and has beautifully maintained gardens in between the two buildings travelers can visit. Personally, I would suggest only visiting the gardens and skipping the museum.

Open: 9am-6pm

Cost: 14 euros for Lower Belvedere, 16 euros for Upper Belvedere

 

Walk around central Vienna

As mentioned above, the Innere Stadt contains the pedestrian friendly & historic center of Vienna. It’s easy to walk to from the Hofburg Palace area and where the popular St. Stephens’ Cathedral is located

Open: 24 hours

Cost: free!

 

St. Stephens’ Cathedral

St. Stephens’ Cathedral stands atop the ruins of two other churches & is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church in Vienna. It’s located in the center of Stephansplatz (rightly named!), so once you walk through the church, explore the square. You can learn where to get a cocktail with a view of the cathedral and square in this post.

Open: Monday-Saturday 9am-11:30am, Sunday & public holidays 1pm-4:30pm

Cost: free to enter, 5 to 14.50 euros for the other areas (towers & catacombs)

Vienna State Opera House

The Vienna State Opera House has tours during the day, but I would much rather spend my time enjoying a performance inside instead.

Open: depends on guided tour bookings & seasonal event

Cost: guided tours are 9 euros, performance tickets vary based on seat selection

 

Prater

Located in the 2nd district, Prater is a public park that hosts the large ferris wheel Vienna has come to also be known for.

Open: 10am-8pm (open until 10pm, 11pm, or 12pm depending on the month)

Cost: free entry

While this is definitely not a definitive list of things to do in Vienna, it gives you a taste of the major sites to see – I’m an advocate of slow travel & wandering about, so be sure to allow yourself time to soak in the vibe of the city beyond the tourist attractions listed here.

Day Trips from Vienna

There are quite a few places you can visit for a day outside of Vienna. The destinations listed below are in order of length of time it will take to get there from Vienna.

Rust, Bergenland, Austria – 

Known for: Ausbruch, a sweet wine & its temperate climate. Plus it’s located on Lake Neusiedl, which in warmer months you can kayak on

Time from Vienna: one hour by car

Bratislava, Slovakia – 

Known for: its small town charm of old world Europe

Time from Vienna: one hour train ride

Sopron, Hungary – 

Known for: an enchantingly romantic atmosphere with preserved historic buildings

Time from Vienna: one hour train ride

Graz, Austria

Known for: beautiful baroque palaces mixed with modern structures

Time from Vienna: 3 hours by train

Salzburg, Austria – 

Known for: the Sound of Music – kidding! There is much more to this city than just Julie Andrews singing

Time from Vienna: 3 hours by train

 

Don't Forget to Pack:

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Fun Facts about Vienna

  • Vienna’s city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • And Viennese coffee culture is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
  • Vienna is ranked as the #1 liveable city in the world
  • Dogs are allowed almost everywhere in Vienna. Maybe it’s the #1 most liveable city for dogs too?
  • Vienna technically has two different climates. It borders on European transitional & Panonian
Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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Christmas in Vienna

Christmas in Vienna

Christmas in Vienna

11 things to do in Vienna this Christmas

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

From mid-November through Christmas day, Vienna, Austria transforms into a Christmas holiday snow globe. The city is full of quaint postcard-worthy locations just waiting to be explored. Spending Christmas in Vienna is the epitome of a holiday lovers’ travel dreams. Vienna is known as the Christmas hub in Europe (possibly the world!), in the sense that it oozes traditional holiday cheer, glittery decor and all things festive for Old Saint Nick’s celebration.

From magical Christmas markets to historic sites, and delicious treats along the way, I doubt any other city hosts a more festive Christmas season.

There are SO many posts on what is best to do in Vienna for Christmas, so along with my personal experience, I filtered through some of the bleh things to show you THE BEST things to do in Vienna this Christmas season:

Included in this post:

  • The best things to do in Vienna during the Christmas season
  • A sustainably focused christmas market!
  • Where to stay during the Christmas season in the city
  • How to get around the city
  • Travel tips for visiting Vienna during Christmas season

Top 11 things to do in Vienna, Austria this Christmas Season

(1) Explore all of their Christmas Markets

This list wouldn’t be complete without first mentioning Vienna’s Christmas markets. Imagine rows of sprightly decorated wooden covered stalls, each filled with their own unique, local fare. Some with holiday decorations, others with handmade toys, and the best ones serving a long list of mulled wine-like drinks. (Don’t worry drinking gluhwein is on this list, keep reading!)

Now, depending on how many days you plan on spending in Vienna for the holidays will depend on which Viennese Christmas markets you should check out. There are at least 5-10 Christmas markets in Vienna each season, if not more. Each one is unique with some having more food, or fewer stalls or the focus being on activities versus the vendors. The Christmas markets I would NOT miss while in Vienna would be:

  • Rathausplatz: this Christmas market is the market that you see in the majority of Vienna Christmas market pictures. The square in front of Vienna’s City Hall is completely transformed into an iconic holiday fairytale. With a mile-long market featuring an ice skating rink, a heart filled tree and ferris wheel, Rathausplatz Christmas market should be first on your list of Christmas markets to see when in Vienna.

 

  •  Stephansplatz Christmas Market: In the heart of the historic center of Vienna, the Christmas market at Stephansplatz is perfect for sharing a mug of mulled wine with strangers and enjoying roasted chestnuts. Especially if you are planning to explore the historic beauty of Vienna in between.

 

  • Karlsplatz Christmas Market: In front of the Karlskirche Church is the Karlsplatz Christmas market focused on handmade arts and crafts. This unique market has vendors who must make their items themselves and earn qualification from a jury panel in order to be a part of the market. Meaning you’ll see the most beautiful handmade items here. PLUS, this market has higher quality standards on its food and games as well. Any food or drinks sold here must be free of palm oil and organic. And it enforces strict sustainability foothold, where items like their carousel are built from used goods and runs on pedal power!

 

  • Christmas Village Maria Therisien Platz: centered between three top museums in Vienna, the Christmas Village at Maria Theresien Platz showcases a unique backdrop for visitors. It’s a beautiful traditional Christmas market with the holiday fare you’ll come to expect at these places.

*TRAVEL TIP-  the Christmas market vendors and styles can change year to year. If you are researching for your trip to Vienna during the Christmas season, be sure to reference multiple places for up to date information about the Viennese Christmas markets.

(2) Channel your Michelle Kwan persona & ice skate at Rathausplatz

The ice skating rink at Rathausplatz is not your typical American ice skating experience. Instead of an oval shaped rink, skaters are set up in a looping trail where they can skate in larger areas, but also go on an ice trail (where some areas are set on an incline for faster skating!).

This is definitely something any visitor to Vienna during Christmas should take part in. If at least to mortify yourself at how bad your are at ice skating, and watch young children zip right by you… oh wait, I’m just talking about my own experience with it.

(3) Enjoy a warm beverage & dessert at a famous Viennese cafe

If you’re a food-driven traveler like myself than you’ll be happy to know that Vienna is known for its decadent chocolate cake known as Sachertorte (cake). This cake recipe dates back to the 1830s when a 16-year-old chef apprentice had to fill in the last minute and created this delicious dessert.

Be sure to enjoy a slice (or two) while in Vienna, and hopefully at one of their historic cafes- Cafe Demel, Cafe Central or Cafe Sperl. Each of which is an opulent opposite to the ‘cafes’ we Americans are accustomed to.

However, if you would prefer a more modern cafe setting check out this list by Culture Trip.

(4) See the lights of the Belvedere Palace Christmas market at night

With some serious majestic flare, the Belvedere Palace Christmas market at night is incredibly beautiful. There are two parts to the Belvedere Palace, the Upper & Lower Palaces. The Upper Belvedere Palace has a lake in the front that reflects the Christmas market lights onto the water beautifully. This Christmas market runs through Christmas Eve so be sure to plan accordingly.

(5) Stroll along the holiday-decorated pedestrian streets on Christmas Eve nights

I can’t think of anything more ethereal or romantic than strolling along holiday decorated paths with a loved one. From the State Opera House to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and then along the Graben to the Hofburg Palace, pedestrians can enjoy magnificently decorated streets, with monumentally large holiday light fixtures and themes in each direction. This stroll is the epitome of holiday romance.

My suggestion would be book an early Christmas Eve dinner and spend the remainder of your evening wandering around the historic center of Vienna.

(6) Experience an orchestra concert inside of a Palace

Each year the Schonbrunn Palace hosts an orchestra concert inside of their Orangery (an orangery is a room at a palace where they used to keep their spring/summer fruit trees safe during winter). Classy, romantic and entertaining, this concert is a beautiful way to spend a holiday evening listening to classics alongside opera singers and ballet dancers.

Click here to grab tickets to this concert at a great low price (compared to other sites)

Want more flexibility with the date(s) of your concert experience? You can also:

(7) Soak in the sounds of Strauss and Mozart throughout the city

At the Strauss and Mozart Christmas concert at the Kursalon – fun fact, the composer Strauss himself performed here once!

You can also watch a choir recital or church concert at the infamous St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Peterskirche or the Minoritenkirche. You can find more holiday concerts here with tickets below.

(8) Spend Christmas day sipping Baileys Spiked Hot Cocoa at the Schonbrunn Palace market on Christmas day

Vienna is Austria’s Imperial capital meaning we can thank the Hapsburg for the many beautifully constructed palaces throughout the city, like the extravagant Schonbrunn Palace. And what better way to soak up holiday charm & history than at the light yellow Schonbrunn Palace’s Christmas market.

This was by far our favorite market to visit in Vienna, besides Rathausplatz, as the vendors were more unique than in other locations. In fact, we found most of our gifts to bring home at the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas market. Plus you have an actual Imperial Palace as your backdrop throughout the market.

I don’t think it could emulate a European Christmas vibe any more than this place. *If you go on the weekends the Schonbrunn Palace Christmas market hosts advent concerts in the afternoons and evenings. And you schedule your tickets to enter the palace – why not do it all in one day!?

(9) Witness the Vienna Ballet or an opera effortlessly perform their holiday shows

The Vienna State Opera House, or Wiener Staatsoper, is a truly grand masterpiece in Vienna. Rebuilt after World War II, visiting this venue for a classic performance is a bucket list item for anyone visiting Vienna.

(10) Drink Weihnachtspunsch and Gluhwein with strangers

Weihnachtspunsch is Christmas punch & Gluhwein is mulled wine. These beverages can be found at every Viennese Christmas market. In fact, the vendors selling gluhwein will often have a long menu of drink options. My favorite being a ginger-based one, and course hot cocoa with Baileys. There are also non-alcoholic ones!

There are belly bar tables at each market, where it’s a great place to strike up a conversation with a group of strangers. Who knows, you may end up getting drinks with them later that day!

If it’s particularly cold outside during your visit, you can warm your hands on one of the unique mugs they serve their holiday punches in. In fact, you pay a holding fee for the mug and it’s returned when you give them back the mug. With the encouragement that drinkers end up keeping their mugs as souvenirs. I try my best not to be suckered into souvenirs traps but dang it did they have some precious mugs like this heart-shaped one that is currently in my cupboards.

(11) Staying for New Years & need a once in a lifetime idea? Attend the annual Hofburg Silvester Ball!

For those willing to don ball gowns and tuxedos, this could be a once in a lifetime event to attend. Imagine your wildest Disney princess moments coming to life while the New Year’s ball drops at midnight. Find out more here.

Where to stay in Vienna during Christmas season

The majority of sights to see and holiday markets are located within historic Vienna. So, visitors will want to stay within or nearby that area. However depending on your budget, it may be difficult to find lodging during Vienna’s Christmas season in the heart of the historic district.

If that’s the case, then I would suggest staying near Wien Mitte, Vienna’s public transportation hub.

Booking.com

How to get around Vienna, Austria during the holiday season

By train: Vienna, like many other European cities, has an excellent underground public transportation system called the U-Bahn. The stations are all centrally located and easy to find for the OBB. You can purchase tickets at their kiosk machines or ticket windows. Be sure to validate your ticket at the entrance! And each train car has easy to follow labels for which stations will be stopped at next.

By tram: similar to the U-Bahn, Vienna’s tram system is great for those who want to see the city while they ride. In fact, there is a circular tram line that is great for visitors to hop onto if they want a quick tour of the city (or if they’re cold and want to sit inside something insulated… yes, we did this, and enjoyed the 20-minute break from the cold). Again, you’ll want to validate your ticket when you enter the tram for the first time

There are of course taxis and Uber/Lyft’s available in the city, but the fun of travel is to walk around to see everything. Plus using public transportation and walking are two great ways to be a more sustainably focused traveler.

If you’re coming from the Vienna airport, I would suggest using the CAT (City Airport Train). As it’s a convenient and affordable option that the city offers. You can read more about it here.

Don’t forget to pack these items:

Tips for visiting Vienna during Christmas season:

  • Book a reservation for dinner for Christmas Eve & Christmas day if you plan to eat out. Many places will require reservations or be closed. I mean it. Reserve this NOW. We had difficulty finding vegetarian friendly menus for the holidays that had availability, and we booked in early November.
  • Bring cash with you to the markets. While some may accept credit cards, it’s best to have cash on hand to make purchases. Especially if you want a mug of gluhwein.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags with you to the markets. If you’re shopping and expect to explore for the remainder of the day, do yourself a favor and pack a reusable bag to hold your new gifts

Scroll through to see more images of Vienna during Christmas!

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

Follow Along!

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Things to skip in Vienna

Things to skip in Vienna

Six things to SKIP in Vienna, Austria

and Six things to do INSTEAD!

Avoid the typical to find the hidden gems

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

With any destination that you visit, you should always research with caution as to which things you must see and which you can pass over. Because let’s be honest, not all museums are created equal, five plus churches in one day begins to lose its lust, and we can’t all go into the same ‘famous’ restaurant.

Before any trip I take, I do a lot of research. I see which blogger recommends what, what’s the best area to stay in and what I should be packing with me. And quite frankly, a lot of what I found online was the same places listed out over and over again.

So, after visiting these places I realized what wasn’t worth our time and what was a much better use of travel time. Read on for the Six things you can skip while in Vienna, and six things you should do instead:

Things you should skip in Vienna, & six things to do instead!

(1) Don’t pay to go into ALL of the Hofburg Palace museums/areas

INSTEAD choose one part to pay for and enjoy your time outside marveling at the Hofburg Empire architecture. I would suggest either the Sisi Museum or the National Library. Vienna is full of exciting and exquisite history, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire time inside of museums. Choose one in the Hofburg Palace to immerse yourself in and then be sure to have time to explore other areas of the city.

(2) Don’t pay to go to the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral

INSTEAD enjoy a view of the cathedral and all of Stephansplatz (St. Stephen’s square) from Do&Co Hotels Onyx bar. Their interior and cocktails are almost as stunning as the views! You can still, and should, go into St. Stephen’s Cathedral, as it’s beautiful and is the city’s most important and standout church since it’s construction in 1160. But don’t pay to go up to the top of the tower. It’s like paying to be inside of the view, when the view should be the cathedral itself.

(3) Don’t visit every palace in Vienna

INSTEAD head further outside of the city to explore the Schönbrunn Palace. This palace is one of the main attractions in Vienna, but it is massive so you won’t feel like you’re walking through a crowded space (although I would still suggest you arrive early in the day to avoid some crowds).

With over 1400 rooms, gardens that are comparable to those of Versaille and it’s own zoo, you will have plenty to explore here all while getting an incredible sense of history of Austria.

Since you’re a smart sustainable traveler, you’ll be purchasing your tickets to the Schönbrunn Palace in advance. I love these ‘skip-the-line’ options!

*Please note- I often will not promote the visitation of zoo’s, as many around the world are not animal friendly and are often seen as abuse to the animals. I personally did not visit this zoo, but have read that the ‘animal enclosure areas’ are quite large and mimic their wildlife habitats. I’m unaware of their conservation efforts at this time (however, I have reached out to them for details) besides careful breeding of endangered species. Visiting and contributing funds to this zoo would be a personal consideration that you will need to make.

(4) Don’t go to Hotel Sacher for the famous Viennese Sachertorte (cake)

INSTEAD go to Kleines Cafe or Cafe Sperl for Sachertorte. Both are smaller and more authentic cafes, with a traditional Viennese cafe vibe. Kleines Cafe is located in Franziskanerplatz, and Cafe Sperl is near the Naschmarkt. Plus both of these cafes are not nearly as crowded as typically tourist frequented Hotel Sacher or Cafe Demel will be.

(5) Don’t eat schnitzel or sausage

I mean for one thing, true traditional schnitzel is to be made with veal, aka baby cow so no thank you 🙁

INSTEAD Enjoy the city’s best bakery, Joseph’s Bakery & Cafe. This is where the locals are enjoying their weekend brunches or lunches. Josephs has a few locations throughout Vienna, and some of the best bread you could enjoy. They also have a handful of vegan and vegetarian options, which pair amazingly well with their delicious coffees, juices and teas.

(6) Don’t visit every museum in Vienna

INSTEAD- visit the Kunsthistorisches museum. Known as the city’s fine art history museum, the Kunsthistorisches museum is incredibly beautiful inside and houses works of art from many famous and well known artists. Such as Caravaggio and Bernini – what can I say, I’m impartial to Italian artists

Click here to get discounted tickets to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum!

Don’t forget to pack these items:

With Vienna being the most livable city in the world, and home to the center of European history it is chock full of beautiful places to discover, foods to sample and history to learn about. I hope this list provides you with some insight into what you can skip over during your visit to have an even more authentic visit of Vienna.

Happy travels,

Laura

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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How to use the CAT in Vienna

How to use the CAT in Vienna

How to use the CAT in Vienna

This page contains affiliate links to products and tours that I have used for my own travels, purchased & enjoyed. Clicking these links does not cost you anything, however doing so will support Blue Eyed Compass and allow the site to continue.  THANK YOU!

You reading this post means you are already an excellent sustainable traveler (and a smart one too!). Researching how to travel from the airport to the city centre using public transportation is imperative when it comes to fast-tracking your vacation enjoyment.

Vienna has an awesomely convenient transportation system called CAT, or City Airport Train, which transports riders from the Vienna airport to Wien Mitte, a central location within historic Vienna.

It is easy to use, cost-saving, efficient, and something I would definitely recommend to anyone trying to get from the Vienna airport to City Centre.

Read on for an easy How-To guide for Vienna’s City Airport Train (aka CAT).

Included in this post:

  • The perks of taking the CAT
  • How much the CAT costs
  • How to buy tickets for CAT &
  • An additional way to get to the center of Vienna from the airport

How to get to Vienna from the airport

What is the CAT?

The CAT is short for City Airport Train and is Vienna’s streamlined train service to and from the Vienna airport to its city centre. The CAT stops at Wien Mitte in Vienna. Which is the main transportation hub in the city of Vienna.

Benefits of using the CAT in Vienna:

  • You can safely and easily check in your luggage so that you don’t have to lug it onto and off of the train
  • CAT passengers can print their boarding passes at the CAT terminal in Wien Mitte
  • Certain airlines have partnered with CAT, so that passengers can check-in their luggage at the CAT terminal in Wien Mitte straight to their departing plane!

Find the airlines HERE : Austrian, Lufthansa, Eurowings, Swiss & Brussel Airlines

  • The CAT is direct to/from the airport and Wien Mitte. There are no additional stops to worry about.
  • It only takes 16 minutes to get to or from the airport- you can beat so much city traffic!
  • If the CAT is delayed more than 30 minutes & you miss your flight, they will cover your flight costs. And if your missed flight requires an overnight stay, they’ll cover those costs as well. CAT calls it their CAT Travel Guarantee
  • They offer storage lockers for your luggage FREE of charge!
  • Their train cabins are spacious & very comfortable
  • There are newspapers & magazines supplied on the trains
  • There are WLAN and power outlets at each seating area

How do I get from Vienna airport to City Centre?

The CAT-platform is a short five minute walk from the Vienna airport entrance, from both the Check-In area and baggage claim areas.

Once you’ve landed in Vienna you’ll want to go to Terminal 3 at the Vienna Airport. Once at Terminal 3 exit to go outside and walk to your RIGHT. There will be signs pointing you in the correct direction. You will then take an elevator down to the CAT station.

You can purchase your ticket(s) at the baggage claim hall from their kiosks or their counter.

Trains depart from the airport to the Wien Mitte station every 30 minutes until 11:07pm.

*Timetable of CAT train in Vienna

Where does the CAT stop in Vienna?

The CAT goes to and from the Vienna Airport to Wien Mitte. Wien Mitte is one of the main stations for all public transportation in Vienna.

How do I get to Wien Mitte from Vienna’s city centre?

Visitors can easily get to Wien Mette and the CAT station by using Vienna’s public subway system. called U-Bahn. The public transportation stations are in another part of the Wien Mitte, so travelers need to walk from the CAT terminal through the mall. It’s an easy walk, and all indoors.

See the map below for Vienna’s metro system.

How much is the train from Vienna airport to City Centre?

The CAT costs between 12-21 euros. See their pricing here

Taking Vienna’s CAT to the airport

Inside of Wien Mitte is the CAT station. It operates like a mini airport terminal where you can check into your flight on their kiosks, purchase your train tickets and potentially even check in your luggage. There is a comfortable waiting room and storage lockers as well.

Once you have your tickets you can hop onto the train. It departs every 30 minutes from 5:37 am-11:07 pm, with only a 16-minute train ride to the airport.

*Timetable of CAT train in Vienna

How to buy tickets for CAT Vienna?

You can purchase tickets for the CAT in Vienna a few ways:

  • At the counter of the Wien Mitte CAT station
  • From a CAT vending machine at the CAT station
  • At the airport: in the baggage claim hall from their sales staff or their vending machines

If you’d prefer to pre-purchase your ticket in advance, you can do so HERE. However, you will pay an extra bit in change. So consider your time of arrival and departure.

How to get to Vienna’s City Centre by train?

In addition to the direct CAT, there is also a public train called the Schnellbahn S7. A regular ticket costs only 3.90 euros, with an average travel time of 25 minutes as it makes multiple stops.

Passengers can find the Schnellbahn by following signs at the baggage claim hall and Check-In hall

Tips for taking the CAT in Vienna to & from the Vienna Airport:

  • Keep in mind once you arrive at the CAT station in Wien Mitte you need to transfer to the Vienna metro. This is a 5-10 minute walk inside of the Wien Mitte mall.

  • CAT is not a part of Vienna’s public transportation system, so you will need to purchase different tickets to use their metro system

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing online brand strategist. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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