Onboarding the night train to Vienna…not really the Orient Express Experience!

Travelers Guide Vienna Austria

No pompous or sanctimonious speeches.

But it’s true that, aware of the ecological impact of travel, particularly by plane, I try to do my best to limit it.

So when I have a choice between train or plane for an intra-European journey, I try to choose the train.

Especially if you can take the night train to get to your destination. This option

  1. Saves you two nights in a hotel. By travelling at night and arriving in the city in the early hours of the morning, there’s no need to book the night of departure and return.
  2. Contributes to the travel experience itself.

As matter of fact, this reminds me of my early travel years, when I would take the night train from Switzerland to go to the South of France with my buddies.

Thus, when we had to look at the two options, plane vs train, traveling from Zurich, we rapidly decided to go for the Night Train. The tickets were a bit more expensive than the plane around 250€ for the round trip.

But again, considering we would save two nights for the hotel, and we would enjoy a direct journey, leaving Zürich around 8pm, and arriving in Vienna around 8am, and limiting our carbon footprint on top, the choice was easy.

Travelers Guide Vienna Austria
OBB Night Jet, Zürich-Wien-Zürich

Travelers Guide Vienna Austria

Not quite the Orient Express experience

Yet, the journey was rather disappointing, mainly because of the size of the cabin in the sleeping-car. We had opted for a larger suit case we would share, rather than having our individual one.

However, the suit case didn’t fit under the bed, which means we couldn’t stand both in the cabin with the door open/closed. One had to jump on the bunk beds and push the suit case all the way against the wall.

Travelers Guide Vienna Austria
The cabin in the sleeping car, Night Jet Train for Vienna

And naively, we thought we would be able to share a glass of wine before heading to bed. But again, it was impossible to seat both in the cabin and face each other. Well to enjoy each other’s company without having to contort ourselves.

And of course no restaurant on the train. So we headed to another coach, where the seating-compartments were. After negotiating with the inspector to use the compartment and after promising to leave it as we found it, we could eventually enjoy a drink. Fortunately, being a well-prepared traveler, I had packed some snacks and a bottle to share 😉 .

Travelers Guide Vienna Austria
Chartreuse, what else?

The night after that was rather ok, once in bed. The train ride was rather smooth and gentle, the tracks gently lulling us to sleep.

The breakfast was another story. Basically, it was included in the ticket price. And the night before, you had to fill a questionnaire and select 5 options: beverage, food, etc. Which looked attractive on paper. But we were told in the morning that they had no hot water to make coffee/tea.

That is a joke. I mean I wasn’t expecting a latte machiato with Oat Milk. But just a cup of tea would have hurt nobody.

Besides that, we arrived sound and safe in Vienna, and headed straight to our hotel, 25 Hours Hotel. Icing on the cake, our room was ready and we could enjoy a hot shower and a change of clothes. After that we were ready to rumble.

A short notice. On the way back, the train was 90 minutes late. It was a bit of a hussle but after a month or so, we could get a 25% refund on the ticket, as stated in the Austrian Passenger Rights. You have to get an attestation (online) to confirm the train was late and then fill out a complain on the dedicated website (here).

I know some people do not like to claim their rights but again, if you can get 25% back by filling out some online forms, it’s worth it no?

Schönbrun, Sissi, Klimt…

Our program for the week was busy but not too much. There were things we really wanted to see like the Schloss Belvedere, Schönbrunn or a classical concert. But we also wanted to wander in the city without necessarily anything in mind.

Being both foodies, there were of course some culinary landmarks we had to indulge: Wiener Schnitzel, Kaiserschmarrn, not to name a few.

However, Vienna has much more to offer. Trusting each year top of the “best cities to live in” rankings, the city boasts a solid culinary scene, covering a broad range of cuisine from around the world. I’ll give you some tips at the end of the article.

So to give you an overview of the menu we picked for our week, long story short the classics:

  • Schloss Belevedere
  • Schloss Schönbrunn
  • Sissi Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • A concert at the Konzerthaus.
    • Make sure to check online for last-minute tickets, depending on you desires.
    • There is hundreds of concert every month, yet some are booked months even years in advance (a.o. Opera)
    • Konzerthaus is a nice go-to-option, as it boasts several music halls.
    • We personally attended a concert at a smaller venue, the Musik Verein, namely the Wiener Mozart Orchester, in the Braahms Saal. We paid around 60€/ticket, to seat at the balco, 2nd raw.
  • The Stephansdom
  • The Karlskirche
  • And a bike tour in the city

More for on this, have a look at the picture gallery at the end.

A few pointers

For the hotel, we picked the 25 Hours Hotel. We liked the central location, the friendliness of the staff, the free bikes you can hire for the day, and the roof top bar which is quite lively. We had a light bite at the Italian restaurant before leaving. It was quite good too.

For the restaurants:

  • We had very good fish at Goldfish, next door from the hotel.
  • For Wienerschnitzel, Figlmüller is a must. Make sure to have a reservation, otherwise long queue ahead. Note that they have also a vegan planted alternative, which was tasty.
  • For Brunch, we enjoyed
    • Café Frida, close to Yppenpark, a lively neighborhood with nice shops
    • Parémi, which offers also great pastries and breakfast options
  • For Breakfast, several options close to the hotel or on your way to a musuem
  • For Wiener Coffee/Pastries:
    • Sacher Café: an institution in Vienna, but also very touristic. Make sure to have a reservation upstairs, or you’ll eat at a standing table surrounded by people
    • Café Central: also another institution in Vienna. We came there by chance, actually. The first day there was a big queue so we didn’t bother. And the following day, we we walked by, there was only a few people so we took the chance. Very nice ambiance, good Apfelstrudel.
    • For Kaiserschmarrn, we tried Heindls Schmarren & Palatschinkenkuchl, recommended almost in every guides. I’m not the biggest fan of Kaiserschmarrn. I find them a bit heavy on the stomach. So probably not the most objective. But my GF who’s a specialist liked them very much.

For evening drinks, we stayed mainly at the Hotel. Good music, descent selection. We didn’t go clubbing. Yet, there is a quite a lively electro scene in Vienna. Make sure to check online too. We missed French 79 and Thylacine for just a few days.

Travelers Guide Vienna Austria

Picture Gallery

I’ll leave you with the traditional picture gallery. Hope you’ll like it.

Schloss Belvedere

Stephansdom & Karlskirche

Natural History Museum

Street Photography

Travelers Guide Vienna Austria