We always like to make the most of the time we have out of work over Christmas, so this year we decided to tick another two countries from the list, Austria and the Czech Republic. We ended up also popping over to Slovakia for an afternoon, as it was so close that we couldn’t resist! We spent 1 night in Vienna, and the other 3 in Brno.
We were impressed with Vienna from the moment the plane landed at the airport. The airport was undoubtedly busy but well-designed and clean. There is direct access to trains which take you to the city centre in 18 mins and you easily purchase the tickets for about 12€ each at the airport.
We headed out to find what was left of the Christmas markets – considering it was the 27th December. Surprisingly enough, the full Christmas market at the Museumsquartier was still running. For a post-Christmas market, it was one of the best we’ve seen! There was plenty of traditional Austrian food and we appreciated the low-waste efforts – for hot drinks you had to put a 4€ deposit on a festive mug, which could be returned when you were finished. We got to wizz around on our favourite electric city scooters too!
The next morning we headed straight to the Museum der Illusion,which was 12€ each for adults. Be prepared to queue for this attraction, as it seems to work on a 1 in = 1 out basis. It’s worth the wait though and a great bit of fun! We had also seen adverts for the selfie museum, but didn’t visit this ourselves. The entry is 25€ each and I imagine this would appeal to a lot of people!
Later in the day we paid a couple of Euros each to reach the top of St Stephens cathedral. Which – disappointingly – was a small gift shop and not exactly the viewpoint we had expected. Yes, you had a lovely view over Vienna, but it was shielded by windows and steel bars. I got to see the rooftop from above however, which satisfied the architecture-lover within me!
One word of advice I would give for tourists is… consider booking your restaurant for lunch/dinner in Vienna, or be prepared to queue! Although some may consider this pleasant, Vienna is not polluted by restaurant after restaurant. If you get a bad case of the “hanger” you may be in for a shock! We ate at Le Burger and they were the best damn burgers we’ve ever eaten from both veggie & meat points of view!
Sadly our time in Vienna had come to an end, and it was time for us to board our pre-booked train to Brno. This trip is 1hr30, and cost approx 7€ each. In short, this was the most luxurious train I’ve seen! The price included free movies, a reserved seat, and complimentary water & coffee.
We travelled to Bratislava from Brno by train, as a last-minute, unplanned addition to our trip. We didn’t decide to go until after lunch and therefore didn’t arrive in Bratislava until 15:50. And – by the way – it’s a half an hour walk from the station to the historical centre. So, the sun was almost set by time we arrived.
However, we were both pleasantly surprised by the charm of Bratislava old town. We managed to climb the “Michael Tower” for 5€ each, and walk up to Bratislava Castle. I would’ve loved to have spent a little more time here, but you can walk around the castle grounds for free, and it offers a wonderful view over Bratislava as the castle is set on a hilltop.
The train to Bratislava from Brno wasn’t as luxurious as that from Vienna, but it was approx 15€ each for the 1hr30 return journey. You can choose to jump on a train from Vienna to Bratislava direct, if you decide to plan a similar trip.
After taking some time to chill in the lovely Airbnb we booked, we decided take a trip out of the city to visit the Punkva Caves.
To get there from Brno, you’ll need to follow these steps:
1. Purchase two 4-zone 90 minute tickets at Brno hlvani nadrazi (2 tickets = return = approx 2 euros). Stamp one of the the tickets using the yellow box on the platform, and board a train headed for Blansko.
2. You can get a bus from Blankso station to Skalni Minl – but we opted for a taxi as the buses are pretty irregular. There is a taxi phone number outside of the station, and it costs a set rate of 180czk each way (approx £12 round trip).
3. You can purchase tickets for the Punkva Caves at Skalni Minl. There is also tickets for a shuttle & cable car to the top of Mococha Gorge – although you get to see the gorge as part of the cave tour anyway. You are able to access the view from the top of the gorge for free, if you’re willing to walk approx 4km to the top!
Be warned: we weren’t made aware that the tours wouldn’t be presented in English. I can’t say that they never do, but it wasn’t until we were entering the tour we realised the choices were German or Czech only.
Also, we were sold cable car tickets to the top of the gorge when the cable car closed at 3pm, the same time our tour of the caves finished. We paid approx £20 each for the tour & transport – and although the gorge was beautiful – we couldn’t help but feel a little bit ripped off. The Punkva caves are still worth a visit if you’re in Brno, but it’s best to visit earlier in the day if you wish to use the cable car.
We left the last day for exploring Brno a little further. To cut a long story short, I thought there was going to be more to do in Brno city.
We visited what remained of the Christmas market & the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. You can visit the catacombs and the tower of the cathedral, but you can only access these via a tour. From what we could work out, these tours were quite sporadically timed and we weren’t going to have the opportunity. I would recommend visiting the Cathedral early in the day to ensure spots on these tours. And so with that, we seemed to bounce from McDonald’s to Starbucks, back to McDonald’s again… it was New Years Eve and a lot of places were closing for celebrations anyway!
Brno is a charming city which can serve as a very good satellite location to take day trips to Bratislava & Vienna which are both 1hr30 by train, and Prague if you are willing to travel a little further afield. The accommodation and food will be cheaper in Brno & Bratislava than in Vienna, so I would suggest making either of these locations your base for such a trip.
If you’re a speedy traveller like me, you won’t need much more than a day in each city. All in all, these three cities compliment each other beautifully, but if you’re looking for a Christmas themed break at this time of year, dedicate any spare time you have to exploring Vienna.