In what’s been called one of his finest songs, Billy Joel sings: “Slow down you crazy child / and take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while / it’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two / when will you realize / Vienna waits for you….” With these lyrics in mind, I woke up this morning reflecting on one of the most eventful weekends of my entire life. From Friday afternoon to Monday evening, we spent all of our time exploring the streets of Vienna, a city Kelley described as “bustling” and “fueled by contradictions.”
As a group, we quickly mastered the metro system and split up to experience the city as best we could. One evening at dinner, we had a discussion that involved which city the group liked better: Vienna or Salzburg? The group was pretty evenly split; however, Vienna was strongly favored. Honestly, the question of which city is better is based entirely on one’s personal preference, but there were definitely some noticeable differences and similarities between the two cities, which I’ll outline below. Whether you like the hustle and bustle of the big city or the more quiet and subtle nuances of small town life, the beautiful cities of Salzburg and Vienna truly have something to offer everyone.
- Plain and simple: Vienna is big; Salzburg is small!
If you want the hustle and bustle of a busy city that never sleeps, Vienna is definitely the city for you. Salzburg, however, is more quaint and quiet – made for silent strolls and relaxing afternoons. There is a stark difference between the energy level of the two cities. Vienna requires a broader set of knowledge to navigate the metro, find your way around, and gain a sense of direction. In Vienna, I felt the need to be more aware considering it is a major city – Salzburg has a more calming atmosphere that allows you to simply stop and observe what is around you. This is one of the biggest differences I noticed!
- Vienna provides more historical knowledge for those visiting.
While Salzburg has its own historical elements, Vienna has a rich history in a variety of categories from art to war. You can never be bored in Vienna – you can walk the grounds of palaces, museums, government buildings, and more. There is so much to learn about the city! Like Vienna, Salzburg has sites that have historical significance, but it’s easier to connect with and feel at home in Salzburg because while there is a lot of history, it’s more compact than in Vienna. History and culture are seemingly tucked away in Salzburg’s Old Town and pockets that closely surround the city center, waiting for you to stumble upon them as you amble through town at your own pace. (This is what made it so easy for me to fall in love with the city!)
- Salzburg has easier access to grand landscapes and nature.
On the train ride to Vienna, I noticed as we moved away from Salzburg that the route was becoming less scenic. Since I have been in Salzburg, we have had a few excursions that have given us some amazing views. Close by, there are a series of lakes and parks that people can enjoy. There are even trails in the Old Town that provide a good balance between city and rural life.
- They both provide visitors with a comfortable yet historical atmosphere.
I will say – both Vienna and Salzburg will give visitors a pleasurable experience. Travelers will find joy out of looking at the old buildings, walking the cobblestone streets, peaking into old churches, and listening to the horses saunter on the town. Either city you go to has these amazing things.
- They both allow guests to experience Austrian (and European) culture at its finest.
As obvious as it sounds, one major similarity is simply the fact that they are both Austrian cities that give you an authentic taste of Austria and how it is as a culture. The schnitzel, the beer, the strudel, the history – everything Austria exists in both cities and anyone who goes will get the full experience either way.
- Cliché: They are both beautiful!
Whether it is in Vienna or in Salzburg, everywhere you look is beautiful. There is not a single view of either city that isn’t stunning. Neither city disappoints in the looks department.
So, if you find yourself planning a trip to Austria, you can easily visit both cities by simply taking the rail jet from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof to the Vienna Hauptbahnhof (a journey that takes about 2 hours one-way) and decide for yourself which city you prefer and whether Vienna waits for you.
Personally, when I was in Vienna this past weekend, I struggled to truly know which one I would enjoy more. But when we arrived back in Salzburg, most of us felt like we were back at home. That feeling of “coming home” speaks to the comfort level that the group and I have established within the quiet security of the small Austrian town. Vienna was an experience in and of itself, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. However, I am definitely looking forward to finishing out these last two weeks strong in Salzburg, where I really feel like I can slow down, take the phone off the hook, and get lost for awhile. After midterms this week, we are headed to Bad Ischl on Friday and the Salt Mines on Saturday.
To learn more about our time in Vienna, check out Kelley’s blog posts from Friday and Monday! And don’t forget to follow my hashtag #WasIstDasWednesday on @msmutravels either.