Home to the main campus of the University of Vienna, Alsergrund teems with students and student-friendly spots. For visitors on the path of higher learning (or those who just want to relive it) there's the Sigmund Freud museum, the University Campus, and the Josephinum (museum of medical history).
As you might expect, there are plenty of cheap restaurants, würstel stands, and free cinema screenings to keep the aforementioned students entertained. The Alsergrund is a good choice of neighborhood for visitors on a tight budget. Northwest of the Innere Stadt, it's about 20 minutes walk to the center of the city.
The Innere Stadt is the Vienna of tourist brochures and chocolate boxes. This is not such a bad thing. The 'hood is popular because it's still charming and beautiful. The narrow, twisting cobblestone streets and fin-de-siècle façades, the expensive shops on the pedestrian-only Graben, and the alluring Stephansdom are all here. Sure, the Stephansdom is constantly undergoing renovation, but the parts not obscured by scaffolding are knock-your-socks-off gorgeous.
Unlike many old city centers popular with tourists, the Innere Stadt is big enough to boast back streets that appear quiet and undiscovered, thus offering a respite from the frenzy. If the Graben doesn't empty your pocketbook fast enough, there's also the slightly less posh shops of the Kärtnerstrasse, leading to the Opera and the Ring circumscribing the Innere Stadt.
Josefstadt might not have much to boast in terms of museums or tourist sights beyond the overly grand Rathaus, but in many ways it's Vienna's most accessible neighborhoods for visitors. Sandwiched between the student haven of the Alsergrund and the more working-class Neubau, Josefstadt splits the difference between the two.
Many of the buildings in this district are done up in the Biedermeier style (think Habsburg classic) but the district has more of a lived-in feel than does the Innere Stadt's jewel box.
On the other side of the Donau canal from Innere Stadt, Leopoldstadt is Vienna's newest chic neighborhood. Originally the Jewish quarter, Leopoldstadt is now home to restaurants and bars chock a block with pretty young things.
Bear in mind those spots are a bit more spread out compared to the rest of the city. There are areas in Leopoldstadt that feel decidedly empty after dark. Stay close enough to the canal (which has sand and sunbathers in the summer) and it's an inexpensive alternative to the center of the city.
Mariahilferstrasse is the Champs-Elysees or Fifth Avenue of Vienna. Southwest of the Innere Stadt, it's all about bright lights and shopping along this commercial street. The street is jammed with window shoppers, restaurants, and cafes.
Step off the beaten path and you'll find pleasant local spots—at least until you get to the four lane Gürtel, which provides an unpleasant border to the area. The Westbahnhof train station lies at the very southwestern edge of this district.
Neubau is Vienna's nightlife epicenter, a recently gentrified area that still retains a lot of grit despite its nightly metamorphosis into party central. Located north of Mariahilf, the shopping options may seem paltry in comparison, though the dearth of shopping opportunities are mitigated by the expansive, recently birthed Museumsquartier. Home to 60,000 square feet of art and culture, the Museumsquartier includes the museums of modern art and architecture.
And there are certainly opportunities to consume here. Neubau is one of the best places in the city to shop for antiques.