From Vienna to Budapest

Inspired by music and European romance, Vienna and Budapest are the perfect destination companion cities for honeymooners and couples alike who want to be romanced by old world charm with modern sensibilities. Through delicious local eats to historical sights, each city shares its distinctively unique personality to all who visit.

In the late spring, there is still a chill in the air from an exiting winter, so like most European countries, layers are a must pack with light sweaters, jackets, and of course, a chic scarf or two. While packing for both Austria and Hungary, the similarities in style and function were pretty much the same -- tailored, yet casual looks for the city. Though in Budapest, you'll find a lot of locals wearing sneakers (which were once considered a branded image of the American tourist), so any kind of comfortable footwear is a go. And don't forget your umbrella! It tends to drizzle or rain at times.

Quick Tips: If you have a problem staying hydrated like I do when traveling and/or you bring your own eco-conscious water bottle, be sure to pack a lot of individual powdered drink mixes to mix with your hotel's water (my favorite is True Lemon Raspberry Lemonade)! Powdered drink mix doesn't exist in Vienna or Budapest so once you're out, you're out! If it's a hot summer, pack the kinds with electrolytes.

If you plan on stopping into any local grocery stores or markets, pack a reusable bag. Unlike the States where given plastic and paper bags are the norm, these are only available for a fee. Just one of the many ways Europe is leading the way when it comes to eco-friendly practices!

Sadly, Virginia is not the most affordable state to fly out of. Taking a train up to Newark, New Jersey and flying out of EWR is surprisingly more cost effective than if you were to leave from a D.C.-area airport! While this takes a bit more time, it relieves a lot of travel stress of rushing to get places which can be energy-draining and weaken your immune system for that long flight across the Atlantic. Train times might not always match up with flight times, so recharging your body's batteries by staying at the Newark Liberty Airport Marriott, the only hotel on airport property, is the blessing you didn't know you needed. Comfortable beds, noise-blocking windows, delicious in-hotel restaurant, quick airport shuttle, and friendly staff are the refreshing balms to travel-weary couples. If you're going to be in airport security lines for days and a plane for 8 hours, then you might as well be rested!


With ornate Neo-Renaissance architecture befitting of royalty to a history steeped in musical, artistic, and intellectual prowess, Vienna stimulates all the senses the moment you enter the city. Beauty surrounds you even with powerful reminders of the tragedy of world wars dotted through the districts. Honeymooners and couples alike will fall in love with the traditional and modern sweet treats (such as sachertorte, the Viennese cake must eat!) as well as the day trips beyond the city for additional Austrian experiences. It's no wonder that the waltz was born in the suburbs of Vienna -- elegance is everywhere and will romance any visitor with a love for the finer things in life.

Local public transportation is incredibly traveler-friendly, especially with the Vienna City Card which includes free travel on the subway, trams, and buses. While a very walkable city, the subway system in Vienna is connected all over the city and goes to all the popular hotspots and more. Taxis are also readily available for those times when you'd prefer not to drag your heavy suitcase everywhere!

Quick Tip: When you get a subway pass or Vienna City Card, be sure to get it validated with a time stamp at the entrance of any subway station. Unlike American subway systems, Vienna is a bit different when it comes to subway usage. There are no turnstiles or locked gateways to enter tickets, but you will find the subway operators will appear on trains to check your tickets at random. I definitely found it more efficient with no crowd backups to make the train!

As the world's first urban hotel with a zero energy balance, Boutiquehotel Stadthalle is a leader in the sustainable travel movement. While we believe that travel is important for enhancing relationships, we also know that tourism can sometimes negatively affect the environment. Reusing towels is a great step in the right direction but there are definitely more ways to minimize your footprint while maximizing your experience! As a hotel, Boutiquehotel Stadthalle takes it to a whole other level by producing their own renewable solar energy, educating guests about what is eco-minded in the rooms, and even displaying eclectic upcycled art and furniture creations around the hotel. Their lavender roof garden and ivy-adorned courtyard are beautiful, idyllic oasis getaways from the buzz of the city.

Fun Fact: Breakfast is a big thing in Europe! Most all hotels include a breakfast option with the stay, and Boutiquehotel Stadthalle was no exception. An all-organic and true farm-to-table concept, it was a smorgasbord of yummy bites. For fellow gluten-free travelers, the staff was very accommodating in making sure there were options available for me to eat. And when the weather is great, take your plates out to the patio and enjoy the calm and quiet of morning.

The traditional wiener schnitzel and sachertorte are only two Viennese must haves with the city hosting a plethora of cuisines inspired from all over the world. While Austria is a very meat-based food culture, vegetarians or other food allergy sufferers won't have to miss out on local favorites as most all restaurants are very progressive and accommodating to dietary restrictions. Thanks to private local tour guide Alexa Brauner who introduced many cool things to see and do in Vienna, it was a delight to find out that the 100% gluten-free restaurant, Allergiker Cafe, had an English-translated menu and an amazing sachertorte.

As mentioned before, breakfast is a way of life here, so having a memorable Grand Étage breakfast buffet on the gorgeous rooftop of the Grand Ferdinand along the Ringstrasse/City Center is also a must do.

Quick Tip: Use TripAdvisor to find your favorites before you leave Virginia! I created a list under "My Trips" to save the restaurants that offered gluten-free so no matter where the day's adventures happened, there was always a pre-curated list of options from which to choose.

While the city is beautiful, it is only one snapshot of Austria's beauty. Many day trips starting in Vienna can give an appetizer into future vacations and offer the experience of rolling valleys and quiet rivers that have inspired musicians and artists for centuries. And with a personal hotel pickup, Vienna Sightseeing provided just that, so that the Danube River came to life with a boat ride en route to Melk Abbey located in the Wachau Valley.

Sitting atop a hill, the Benedictine Abbey of Melk takes your breath away with its massive size, vivid yellow color, and ornate architectural details. As a still-active-today abbey, the Baroque design is reminiscent of days past when elaborate frescoes and interiors were to inspire guests of what a touch of heaven looked like on Earth. Every corner you turn is a feast for the eyes, and it's all best savored in small bites.

Quick Tip: Reserve a guided tour! If you're traveling not in a pre-arranged tour like with Vienna Sightseeing, booking a guided tour around the Abbey will change your entire trip. It was by far the best museum tour I have ever been on! Our guide was knowledgeable, passionate, and helpful which made the excitement of Melk even more elevated.

Train travel is second nature in Europe. Far more advanced rail systems and companies that operate between the countries make it a must when going through cities like Vienna and Budapest. By using a user-friendly transport booking app like GoEuro, it's easy to find schedules and prices right from your iPhone or computer. Because Budapest is less than a 3-hour train ride from Vienna, you can find multiple trains going back and forth all day making it very easy to find one that fits your schedule. Since flying out of Vienna is exponentially more affordable, you can even leave Budapest on the same day you take your flight back home to the States!

Quick Tip: Book your train tickets ahead of time for the best rates! You'll also need to have a paper copy of your tickets and your passports readily available for the conductor once on the train, so be sure to print these before you leave.


When you step off of the train, you are instantly under the spell of "The Heart of Europe." From the grit of history and the elegance of architecture, you'll quickly learn that less than two days in Budapest just isn't enough and why this city becomes one of well-seasoned travelers' favorite places. Music permeates all throughout the city, the people, and the food, making it the perfect destination for honeymooners or couples who love all things music. Classical favorites and modern melodies showcase the beauty of Budapest culture that is tied together with the allegro and adagio of everyday life. Even when you're relaxing in the world famous thermal baths, there's a musical quality to the baths as visitors swim, play poolside chess, and take in the therapeutic properties of the water heated by the Earth's mantle. Before you leave, you'll already want to plan your next visit because Budapest will always delight your senses with new discoveries to the tune of vacation perfection.

Just like its Viennese neighbor to the northwest, Budapest is a very walkable city with reliable public transportation options. Not only a great transit system and free travel with the Budapest City Pass, Budapest actually has the first and oldest underground subway in all of Europe which makes for a fun story to tell when you ride Line 1. From Keleti Train Station, there are many taxis to take you to your hotel if you will be near city center. And if you stay at Aria Hotel Budapest, they can arrange a private towncar pickup at an additional cost which can be a wonderful relief after dragging heavy suitcases around all day. Most Hungarians speak English, but it's always nice to say thank you to your driver in the local language: köszönöm [koh-sa-nome].

It's not hard to want to go all Tom Hanks à la Big mode on Aria Hotel Budapest's marble piano entranceway, and that's only a sliver of the music-inspired design at this historic hotel in city center. Every wing and every room has a unique musical theme, making it the ultimate music lover's paradise. Light sconces look like subtle harps, carpet has abstract musical instruments, iconic musicians are immortalized in stylistic line drawings on rooftop glass, and so much more. Music is the common language in Budapest, and everyone speaks it.

From epic rooftop views of Budapest and St. Stephen's Basilica to live music during the afternoon's wine and cheese reception to being right next to the central subway station, Aria Hotel Budapest is a home away from home in complete grand style.

Fun Fact: Aria Hotel Budapest is part of the Library Hotel Collection which has themed hotels all over the world. If you're a book lover like I am, you'll swoon over the attention to the details this hotel brand brings to each property!

One of the most wonderfully surprising parts about Budapest is the food. Goulash is something completely different in the States than the actual Hungarian dish, so many Americans might not realize the true culinary delight that Budapest really is and why it has people visiting (and eating) over and over again. Right around the corner from Aria, Bistro Fine is the epitome of casual sophistication for approachable decadent dishes. If you haven't had újházi soup before, then this is a must eat at Bistro Fine. Savory simplicity is the heart of many dishes here that will become a highlight of your trip, particularly if you are a foodie. And for a treat after dinner, the Instagram famous gelato roses from Gelarto Rosa will charm your sweet tooth and iPhone cameras.

In the City of Spas, you cannot not go to a thermal bath while in Budapest. A short subway ride from city center, Széchenyi Thermal Bath is over 100 years old in its majestic beauty that goes on for days and is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Completely heated by natural hot springs, it is the perfect romantic afternoon visit with your partner to cozy up in the water and let the minerals heal your travel-tired bodies. There are many other baths available to visit (such as Gellért being another tourist favorite), and by spending about two or three hours at each, you will find that another vacation to Budapest is in your future.

Quick Tip: Rent a cabin at the bath! You will receive waterproof wristbands that give you all-day access to your locked cabin. Whether you need to change into your street clothes or store your valuables, these cabins are a must to fully enjoy the baths without worrying about your belongings.

Whether you start in Budapest or end in Vienna, the experience is still the same: cities filled with history, beauty, and an otherworldly vibe that only centuries passed can give. It's like an intoxicating impression that each destination leaves upon you, and you cannot wait to return to be romanced all over again.

- Chelsea

Photography: Chelsea LaVere

Disclosure: Accommodations, some transportation, activities, and some meals were provided so we could better experience the cities of Vienna and Budapest. All love and opinions for what's been mentioned in this feature are our own. Some of the above product links are affiliate-linked and purchasing through these links helps support Tidewater and Tulle and its wonderful partners! You can find our full disclosure policy here.