We got into the city late at night but the fast CAT train gets into the centre of the city in just 16 mins and this costs 17 euros return, much cheaper than a taxi and then it was just a few stops on the metro and a short walk to the hotel. Public transport is cheap and so easy to use. There are 4 U-Bahn lines and tram services.
The weather was roughly the same as in London, autumnal, not too cold with a little rain on the last afternoon. This is perfect for a city visit, not too hot and not too cold and there is plenty to do rain or shine. Since our first morning was nice and sunny we began with a walk to the centre. Most of Vienna is very walkable (just watch out for trams!) We began with a ride on the Ring Tram which includes an audio guide telling you about the buildings and history of the Ringstrasse. This takes half an hour and a good way to see the city if you are time limited, much better value than Hop On, Hop Off. My tip would be to pick up a leaflet from the Tourist Office and use public transport. We ended up in a Wine Village called Grinzing on Green Line but the tram will take you there too. There are plenty of restaurants and wine tasting opportunities here but if you avoid the ones with the coaches outside you can get a glass of passable house wine for less than 2 euros.In the afternoon, we took a “Scenic” Danube Cruise. Leisurely might have been accurate but scenic certainly wasn’t. The “scenery” is very industrial and there are far better ways to spend 2-3 hours.
On Monday, we took the metro to Schonnbrunn Palace and took the audio self guide tour round the 40 staterooms. This has to be done in order and there are many people so allow plenty of time. The staterooms all all very different and the history of the Austrian Royal Family is fascinating. The grounds around Schonnbrunn are surrounded by a huge park, also the zoo, a Marionette Theatre, and the Orangery. If you have a few days you could actually spend all day there and have lunch. We were eager to get back and see more of the city itself.
By the time we got back it was raining heavily but there is plenty to do even if it rains. Our first stop was to find one of the famous coffee shops and we didn’t have far to walk to Gerstner established in 1847 and this is also a champagne bar. It is actually very affordable, under 10 euros for tea or coffee and a slice of Sacher Torte or Apfel Strudel (I can highly recommend both) . Tempting as it was we didn’t;t want to linger for too long as we had a bewildering choice of museums to choose from. We chose Albertina as it was nearby and the combination of modern artwork and more staterooms appealed to us. There are many famous impressionists here, Picasso, Cezanne, Monet, Goya, Mueller, to name just a few and also an Edvard Munch (The Scream) exhibition of woodcuts. This was very interesting.
This left us a little time for shopping on Mariahilferstrasse. This has the usual high street stores that you will see in any European city but the Euro rate makes a lot of things cheaper than the UK (2015)
We were surprised at how affordable Vienna is for food, drink and transportation. The restaurants serve delicious meals and good portions and excellent value but even fast food can take a little while so don’t be in too much of a hurry but we found people mostly very helpful and friendly. Vitually everybody speaks English and most places will offer an English menu. Vegetarian options are not a problem. Our hotel K&K Maria Theresia was a really high 4* standard and served a good breakfast. There are many lovely museums to choose from all over the city. Vienna is very clean and virtually litter free. It is fairly small with beautiful, elegant architecture.
It is possible to fly direct to Bratislava but it is equally simple to get there by Danube River Cruise or from Vienna by bus, train or boat. We got a EURegio ticket which is valid for up to 4 days and you can use pubic transport in Bratislava included in the ticket. The train takes about an hour. We took passports but we were not required to show them.
We took the 93 bus to what we assumed was the centre as there was a sign pointing to the Castle so we got off and followed the sign to a lovely little square with beautiful fairy tale buildings. We walked through to a bigger square with more colourful buildings, a church and a little market. A really gorgeous little city with a photograph round every corner and a pleasure to just stroll around. We eventually found our way up to the castle which was only about 10 minutes walk and we had acidentally found the gentler slope up to it so the walk wasn’t too challenging. At the top there is a lovely view over the city, the river and the bridge.The castle itself includes a museum with history of Slovakia inside.
We made our way down and found St Michaels Gate which is part of the original city walls. The walls have been renovated, sadly not blending very well with the original and we found our way back to the old town square. Back there we found The Beer House which did some traditional Slovakian meals with home made bread. It was delicious.
Lastly we walked to the the Blue Church which is a distinctive and very unique building before heading back to the station.
Bratislava is really picturesque, a really pretty and walkable city. Not very big so you can walk most of it in a day. A word of warning, do not get a taxi in Bratislava, even for short distances, the taxi drivers rip you off even if it is metered so either get the bus or walk.