I visited 6 major European cities for the first time and thought I'd love somewhere in Italy the most. But my favorite was a place I never expected.

Insider's reporter traveled to TK European cities in four countries for the first time and wasn't expecting Vienna to be her favorite.
Insider's reporter traveled to six European cities across four countries and wasn't expecting Vienna to be her favorite.Joey Hadden/Insider
  • I recently spent two days in Vienna, the capital of Austria, during a train trip through Europe.

  • Vienna was my favorite city of the trip with its baroque royal palaces and modern buildings and art.

  • I only had 48 hours in Vienna, but it impressed me greatly, and I can't wait to return.

On a recent two-week train trip through four European countries, I visited six cities for the first time: Berlin, Vienna, Venice, Rome, Milan, and Zürich.

The author went to Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzrland in October 2022.
The author went to Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland in October 2022.Joey Hadden/Insider

Before my trip, I thought my favorite city by the end of my travels would be in Italy, a country I've dreamed of visiting my whole life.

The author dreams of Italy in her grandparents' suburban home.
The author dreams of Italy in her grandparents' home as a child.Joey Hadden/Insider

And while every city I visited impressed me with stunning architecture and rich history, I was surprised to conclude that my favorite ended up being one that wasn't previously on my radar: Vienna.

The author travels alone in Vienna.
The author explores in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Located in northeast Austria, Vienna has been the country's capital since Austria became its own country in 1955, according to World Atlas. But the city has been around since the Old Stone Age, Britannica reports.

A map of Austria shows where Vienna is located.
Vienna is located in northeast Austria.Google Maps

Sources: World Atlas, Britannica

I traveled to Vienna on an overnight train from Berlin for a 48-hour stay. Even though I was exhausted, I was excited to explore the historic city.

The author arrives in Vienna.
The author arrives in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Before visiting Vienna, I knew the city had a long history of royal families and palaces, according to USA Today.

Architecture in Vienna
A palace in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: USA Today

I also found many colorful, unique, modern buildings, alongside impressive street art and lush greenery. Here's a closer look at the places that made Vienna stand out to me during my travels.

Architecture in Vienna
An apartment building in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

The first was Belvedere Palace, built in the 15th century to house Prince Eugene of Savoy, according to the Vienna Tourist Board. I thought the architecture was impressive, a baroque style that gained traction in Vienna in the 17th century, according to Vienna Unwrapped.

Belvedere Palace
The gardens in front of the Belvedere Palace.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Vienna Unwrapped

Today, the palace is a museum housing Austrian works of art from the middle ages to modern times, according to the same source.

Belvedere palace Vienna
The Belvedere Palace at sunset.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Vienna Tourist Board

At the palace, I admired vast, intricately landscaped gardens with lush flower beds and hedged bushes. This is another element of the baroque art style, according to the Vienna Tourist Board.

Gardens in Vienna
The Belvedere Palace gardens.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Vienna Tourist Board

Amidst the gardens was a pool reflecting the palace and surrounding buildings. I thought the reflections made the garden feel even more magical.

Architecture in Vienna
The pool in front of the palace.Joey Hadden/Insider

Past the gardens and pool, from the lower section of Belvedere Palace, I saw views of the skyline of Vienna, which excited me to see more of the city.

Fountains in front of a palace in Vienna
A view of the Lower Belvedere Palace and surrounding buildings behind a fountain.Joey Hadden/Insider

Another royal residence that impressed me was Schönbrunn Palace, the former 17th-century summer home of Emperor Ferdinand II, which is now a World UNESCO Heritage site, according to the Vienna Tourist Board.

Architecture in Vienna
Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Vienna Tourist Board

This palace was another highlight. It's surrounded by a park with a zoo and baroque gardens. Thought I didn't visit the zoo, I found the park and gardens to be more interesting than the building itself.

Architecture in Vienna
The grounds surrounding the palace.Joey Hadden/Insider

The garden has hedge mazes, which I'd never seen before. Wandering through them made me feel like a kid again.

A garden maze in Vienna
Inside a hedge maze at the Schönbrunn Palace.Joey Hadden/Insider

While strolling the palace grounds, I also came across the Palm House, a dome-like building made of glass and iron. The structure is a greenhouse, according to Schönbrunn Palace.

Architecture in Vienna
The Palm House at the Schönbrunn Palace.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Schönbrunn Palace

Inside, I was impressed by the wide variety of plants, from palm trees to flowers and vines.

Inside the Palm House
A look inside the Palm House.Joey Hadden/Insider

I thought the Palm House was peaceful and fascinating, and an unexpected surprise since I was initially there to see the palace.

Inside the Palm House
Various plants in the Palm House.Joey Hadden/Insider

After the palaces, I found a whole other side to the city that impressed me with neighborhoods filled with modern architecture, street art, and urban gardening.

Architecture in Vienna
Snapshots outside of unique building in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

One of the most striking modern buildings I saw was the Hundertwasser House. Known for his expressionist-style architecture, Friedensreich Hundertwasser built this apartment complex in the 1980s, according to Google Arts & Culture.

Architecture in Vienna
The Hundertwasser House in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Google Arts & Culture



As I approached the Hundertwasser House, my jaw dropped. I thought its whimsically-painted facade with curved lines and tiny shapes made it look more like a page in a coloring book than any building I'd seen before.

Architecture in Vienna
The Hundertwasser House's facade.Joey Hadden/Insider

Beneath it, pillars made of varying materials stood perched on a hilly cobblestone sidewalk. It reminded me of a child's art project — in a good way.

Architecture in Vienna
Pillars beneath the building.Joey Hadden/Insider

The next modern building that intrigued me was the Spittelau waste incineration plant in northern Vienna.

Architecture in Vienna
The Spittelau waste incineration plant in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Hundertwasser also created this building's facade, according to the Vienna Tourist Board. I thought the Spittelau had a quirky look similar to the Hundertwasser House.

Architecture in Vienna
The Spittelau waste incineration plant.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Vienna Tourist Board


The Spittelau plays a serious role in the community by taking in household waste and supplying environmentally-friendly heating to more than 60,000 homes a year, according to the company's website.

Architecture in Vienna
Snapshots of the Spittelau waste incineration plant.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Wein Energie


Modern architecture in Vienna continued to wow me, next with the Zentralsparkasse Bank building. Created by architect Günther Domenig, it has a facade made of reflective aluminum panels that appear to melt into the street, Metropolis reported.

Architecture in Vienna
The Zentralsparkasse Bank building in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Metropolis




I stepped inside to get a closer look. I was surprised to find that the facade's installation was partially exposed. Looking up, I could see industrial piping.

A view of the facade's installation from beneath the entrance of the building.
A view of the facade's installation from beneath the entrance of the building.Joey Hadden/Insider

After admiring these modern buildings, what surprised me most was that they're all used for what I consider to be mundane aspects of life: apartments, a power plant, and a bank building. To me, it shows how creative the city is.

Bank building Vienna
Domenig's bank building.Joey Hadden/Insider

Beyond royal palaces and modern architecture, street art splashed over concrete walls inspired me as a further display of Vienna's creativity.

Street art on a canal n Vienna
Graffiti on the canal.Joey Hadden/Insider

Lining the 10.7-mile Danube Canal, I saw a wide variety of artwork, from graffiti and cartoons to detailed pictures.

Street art in Vienna
Street art lining the canal.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Visiting Vienna

As I looked at the paintings, I noticed how some of the walls had layers of different art works on top of each other. This made me think that street canvases are ever changing.

Street art in Vienna
Layers of art on the concrete walls.Joey Hadden/Insider

My favorite pieces of art along the canal were those that appeared to utilize the environment around them, like these street markings that led my eye towards a portrait of a man on a yellow background.

Street art in Vienna
Street art in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

Finally, I'm still thinking about pockets of urban gardening I saw. According to the Vienna Tourism Board, these carts lining the entrance of a nightclub serve as pots for the plants growing out of them.

Street art in Vienna
Plants growing from grocery carts.Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Vienna Tourism Board


With its creative art and DIY planting, the Danube Canal showed me a side of Vienna that felt like a stark contrast to the baroque palaces and modern buildings I visited earlier.

Street art in Vienna
Street art along the canal.Joey Hadden/Insider

In just 48 hours, Vienna impressed me greatly with its royal grounds full of garden mazes and artsy streets with contemporary buildings. I'll definitely be back to uncover even more.

The author in Vienna
The author in Vienna.Joey Hadden/Insider

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