Tips for spending a weekend in Vienna and Bratislava, including sightseeing, coffee culture, the Vienna State Opera house, Schönbrunn Palace, Bratislava Castle and more.
Our final trip before the coronavirus pandemic began was to Vienna, Austria, and Bratislava, Slovakia, in February 2020. We didn’t know then that it would also be our final trip before moving back home to the United States in the summer — ending our several-years-long staycation in Europe.
Getting there & accommodations
We flew with Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Vienna and stayed at the Renaissance Wien Hotel, slightly outside the city center near Schönbrunn Palace.
We normally choose to stay close to the city center for convenience, but this hotel was an easy distance for half the price. The hotel is modern and spacious with a restaurant and bar on site. It’s right across the street from the metro, so getting to and from the city center is quick and simple.
We were limited to a day and a half in Vienna. We spent the bulk of our time walking around seeing the sights, to include:
- St. Charles’ Church (Karlskirche)
- The shopping streets surrounding Stephansplatz
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stefansdom)
- The Butterfly House (Schmetterlinghaus)
- Café Central — to experience Viennese coffee culture
- Street art along the Danube River
- Naschmarkt — large outdoor market with stalls and restaurants
Attending the opera in Vienna
In the evening, we attended a show at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera House). You can do this on a budget by buying standing room tickets! More than 500 standing room tickets are sold 80 minutes prior to a performance ranging from €3-10 each. You can barely see the stage from some of the standing room areas, but it’s a cool experience for a much lower price and is worth it for the opportunity to roam the building.
Tip: The earlier you get in line for tickets, the better spot you’ll get once you’re inside. Bring a scarf or something you can tie around a railing to hold your standing spot. This allows you to claim your spot first, then go explore the building or get a drink. We used this blog to plan our visit, but be advised our tickets were €10 instead of €3-4 as mentioned.
We were able to squeeze in a tour of Schönbrunn Palace before leaving Vienna on the final day of our trip. Taking photos is not allowed inside the building, but I definitely recommend checking it out! The palace is very impressive and we really enjoyed the tour.
Since it’s only about an hour away from Vienna by train, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend a day in Bratislava.
Visiting Bratislava was a peek into some of my family history. My grandfather grew up in Slovakia, and Bratislava is where he attended college and met my grandmother. This was a brief introduction to Slovakia, and I hope to take a real trip through the country someday.
We loved exploring old town Bratislava! Aside from simply walking around and enjoying the quaint city, our main stops were:
- Bratislava Castle
- The Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary — (AKA the blue church)
Bratislava Castle first appears in written reference in the year 907, and has been rebuilt in various styles throughout the centuries. Today, the castle houses collections of the Slovak National Museum.
You can visit the castle grounds at no cost. A guided tour of the historical museum is available with a paid ticket. The castle also offers a restaurant with hearty dishes and a beautiful view over the city.
The Blue Church
The Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, also known as the Blue Church, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bratislava. Both the exterior and interior are painted shades of blue and it truly stands out as a must-see gem.
Our short trip offered just a taste of what these two great cities have to offer. We’re so thankful we had the opportunity to make it there and hope to return again one day!