If Budapest can be compared to San Diego, a sleepy small town esquive big city, Vienna is surely like Los Angeles, the ugly, bigger stepsister of the antique Austro-Hungarian capital.
Both cities have uncanny commonalities and spending a weekend between them will make you wonder if you actually ever really arrived at or left either city.
There’s the Operahaz and Staatsoper and fashion streets laden with similar architecture and international brands like Zara and H&M.
Both cities have large squares dedicated to Cathedrals for the same saint – István if you’re in Budapest, Stephan if you’re in Vienna.
However, the Viennese version of St. Steven’s cathedral is characteristically gothic, while the Hungarian counterpart is more Byzantine.
Meanwhile if you’re looking for cultural diversity, Vienna is the place to encounter groups of new and old immigrants and cultural diversity in the population.
This is not to say that Budapest is lacking in gastronomical options or that diversity is non-existant, but comparatively it’s slim.
Strangely, in a 2014 census, the population of both cities clocked in at just below 1.8 million inhabitants, each.
Somehow, Vienna just seems larger with an extensive metro system and all the modern conveniences that Budapest is lacking such as English signs, nail technicians who offer acrylics, and a city skyline complete with skyscrapers.
If you find yourself in this little cement jungle, here are some random places to check out.
1. Shiki Sushi What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Austria? Probably not sushi, but if you’re in the area this Michelin starred restaurant is worth visiting. Created by Joji Hattori a conductor and violinist who was born in Japan and raised in Vienna, Shiki combines a love of cuisine with a family history of entrepreneurship. Reservations are recommended but open seating is available at the sushi bar.
2. Om Bar Looking for a cool spot to end the evening? Om bar is an underground bar and with a mini dance floor playing all the top US and reggaeton hits. They offer a full bar with inexpensive drinks and even hookah where smoking inside is allowed. Om also doubles as an Indian restaurant in the day lending credence to Vienna’s diversity.
3. The Belvedere Palace
Built in the late 17th century, during the Habsburg dynasty by Prince Eugene after concluding wars against the Ottomans, this dynamic palace serves as walking grounds for locals and an art museum housing the paintings from Vienna’s own Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and even Western Europeans Monet and Manet. Take a tour of the museum or just stroll the grounds with your morning coffee.
4. Art Corner Restaurant Just across from the Belvedere grounds is an authentic Greek restaurant called Art Corner. Choose from a series of dips to gyros plates or halloum salads after your brisque walk through the Belvedere.
5. Gasometer Planning your trip to Vienna in advance? Check out the concert schedule at the gasometer, a converted former gas tank that now provides a sleek concert venue for local and international bands.