Watching people and witnessing how the locals live is one of my favorite things to do in a new city. That might be a reason why I am keen on spending time sitting in the subway in Moscow or somewhere similar and watching how people use their time and how they communicate with each other. Unfortunately, hanging out in the subway is more difficult to do in Vienna. Not only because I am unfamiliar with it, but also because I hardly ever find a place to sit down at Stadtbahn (a subway station in Vienna). Some stations have enough seating, but in others, that might be a problem. So, what can we see and where can we spend time in Vienna besides hanging around in museums? Most importantly, what can we do for free?
Graben is the most popular street and it is impossible to miss, especially if you come from Hofburg on the way to Stephansplatz. Playing the role of the city center, Graben begins at Stock-im-Eisen-Platz and ends at the junction of Kohlmarkt. So, it is quite a long way. But don’t worry! To kill the time, you can shop till you drop on the stores along the way, give some tips to street musicians if they play well, fill your tummy in one of the restaurants available there, or simply sit on a bench and enjoy how the locals live.
However, sometimes it takes some effort to differentiate between locals and tourists that have already immersed themselves into the culture. Don’t forget to visit the Plague Column which was erected after the Great Plague epidemic around the 16th century.
Stephansplatz is a square in the center of the city. However, the main attraction you can see is Stephansdom, one of the tallest churches in the world. They offer special tours to enter this church and enjoy its interior. But who would do that if you want to enjoy a bit of the locals taste, right? It is for tourists! Personally, I like the back part of the church where there are less people than the front part.
Can you guess what “Museumsquartier” means? Yep, it is a museum complex consisting of some famous museums such as the Leopold Museum. Here, if you want to save some money and energy, don’t force yourself to visit all the museums. Not all locals love the museum, do they? I really have no idea. The square at this area provides some comfortable benches, and during the summer they put up special installations that could be transformed into benches as well. Locals spend a lot of time here, and it was interesting to see how they talk and how they drink coffee. It sounds trivial, but believe me, you have nothing to lose if you don’t need to pay.
Who doesn’t know about Hofburg? I am sure by 100% of percent tourists have put this place at the top of their lists. Hofburg was the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty, and at the same time it served as the winter palace. As you can imagine, the Habsburg dynasty was majestic and big. No wonder their palace has many wings. Wings that I don’t understand, and neither will you to if you don’t plan to explore it. Visiting Hofburg, or in this case the square in front of it, is better to do in the morning while the tourists are still hibernating and locals start their activities.
This is one of the most impressive baroque churches in Vienna. It is an ideal place to watch the locals go by, if you are as obsessed with the local culture as I am. In front of the church, you’ll find a modest sized park frequented by people relaxing and kids skateboarding in warm weather. The location is quite conveniently located near two universities, just a stone’s throw from Karlsplatz museum, and near Stadtbahn.
I prefer Peterskirche, though, with its free musical performances every few hours, including one around 3pm, as well as some special concerts for 32 euros or less.