The Ultimate Travel Guide to Vienna, Austria
Table of Contents
Dubbed the ‘City of Music’, Vienna, the capital of Austria, is located on both shores of the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river. Vienna can be defined with three big As art, architecture and Apple strudel. Host to famous composers like Brahms, Bruckner, Mozart, and Richard Strauss, Vienna is known as the World’s capital of music.
Pack some glad rags, because you can’t miss a concert, theatre or opera performance when in Vienna and the locals dress up for the occasion. As far as architecture is concerned, you’ll find fabulous buildings from Gothic to Baroque to Art Deco which spread from Paris to Vienna and beyond in the 1930s. The Viennese not only have a great love for their coffeehouses but also a sweet tooth.
Forget about calorie counting and diets and sample the typical deserts like Appelstrudel Kaiserschmarn and Sachertorte. Because there is plenty to do and see in Vienna, plan for at least two days to visit the park and garden of Schloss Schoenbrunn, ride in the huge Ferris wheel in the Prater and enjoy a boat trip on the river Danube. Expect a fabulous experience because Monocle’s 2015 Quality of Life Survey ranked Vienna 2nd in a list of 25 top cities of the world and it has received similar rankings in other organizations.
In this Vienna Travel Guide Blog, we listed some tips on how you can do your own DIY Day trip to Vienna, Austria. We also included Vienna Itinerary, Things to do and see, how to get there and more.
Best time to visit
Vienna’s location in Central Europe means warm to hot summers and cold, dry winters. The most rain falls in June and July. Given the many parks and gardens, visiting in spring when flowers are in full bloom and fall when the leaves are turning, is an added bonus.
How to get there
Vienna’s International Airport, called Wien-Schwechat is located approx. 11m SE of the city and serves many airlines. Bus transportation is available from the airport that brings passengers to the city. Expansions to a 3rd terminal are planned.
Vienna is a major railway hub. More than 1000 trains a day connect the city with many European countries and other destinations within Austria. The services run for the new Central Railway Station which opened in 2014. The Austrian railway company is called OBB.
Vienna is a big city but also one which is well provided with several forms of public transport which all operate on a one fare fee scheme. Metro (U-Bahn), buses, light railway (S-Bahn) and trams will take you easily everywhere. Vienna is divided into districts which you should know to find your way around. The castles with their parks and gardens as well as the historical Ringstrasse are of course, best explored on foot.
Places to stay
With close to 15million overnight stays in 2016, Vienna is bound to have the best accommodation for every budget.
If you want to experience Viennese luxury at its best and feel like Marlene Dietrich or Mark Twain, the 5star Hotel Ambassador in Kartner Str. 22 [check rates and availability] might be your choice. Located near the opera and other places of interest, the hotel offers luxurious suites and rooms and every service you can expect from a hotel of that category. Opened in 1898 it preserves the chandeliers and rich decorations whilst at the same time offering all modern amenities.
For the middle budget, we recommend the 3star Hotel Fuerst Metternich in Esterhazygasse 33 [check rates and availability]. Located in a quiet side street not far from Ringstrasse and near a Metro stop, this cozy hotel is in an Art Nouveau building from 1896. Rooms have high ceilings and Barfly is a popular bar which serves a great variety of cocktails. 24-hour reception service, wifi, and all other amenities are a given.
Ibis Hotels are always a good choice for the lower budget and in Vienna awaits Ibis Budget Wien Messe in Lasallestr. 7 Leopldstadt [check rates and availability]. No art nouveau decorations in this modern 2-star hotel, but clean and comfortable rooms with en suite shower and ample buffet breakfast included in the price.
Close to the famous amusement park Prater and not far from the city center because of nearby Metro stops, this is ideal if you would rather spend your money on other things than accommodation in Vienna.
Best places to eat
Food is very important in Austria and, naturally, you can sample the best in the capital. How often have you eaten a Wiener Schnitzel anywhere in the world? Now you can finally try the real thing.
Let’s start with traditional Austrian cuisine and the place where you can get the best Schnitzel, served there since 1905. Figlmueller in Wollzeile cooks the real thing, a schnitzel which overlaps the plate and a breading as fluffy as air. With a wedge of lemon and nothing else. As tradition demands.
You’ll love the atmosphere and the waiters who still wear long aprons and smoking jackets.
Combine art nouveau architecture with more Austrian specialties like a variety of dumplings (Knoedel) and fish if you don’t like meat in Otto Wagner Schuetzenhaus in Obere Donaustr. 26. The building was created by art deco architect Otto Wagner with floral motives climbing up the façade.
And, finally the sweets at the finest and oldest coffeehouse of Vienna: Dommayer in Dommayergasse 1.
Sachertorte, Kaiserschmarrn, different kinds of strudel, petit fours, and excellent coffee in all its Viennese varieties will tempt your palate after a walk in the park and Schloss Schoenbrunn which is just around the corner.
Another famous coffeehouse is Demel and if you fancy a snack on the go: have a Wiener Wurstl from a stall, the Austrian variety of a hot dog, only much more elegant.
Things to do and see
Let’s start with something not everybody does and which will delight movie buffs. In 1948 the classic The Third Man was shot in Vienna with the famous soundtrack of the Zitherplayer Anton Karas in the Café Mozart in Albertinaplatz 2. You can actually go on a Third Man tour which includes descending into the sewers, visiting the café and the Third Man Museum.
Back on the surface, walk along the Ringstrasse. In the late 19th century, this boulevard which encloses the Old Town was constructed as a prestige object and you find many interesting monuments and buildings like the Town Hall and the Opera House along the way and can enjoy a ride in a historical tram.
As a city of art and culture, predominantly since the 18th century, Vienna has an incredible number of theatres and more than one opera house. The best known is the Staatsoper which currently celebrates its 150th anniversary. It’s also the venue of the sumptuous Wiener Opernball. Other theatres are Burgtheater, Theater an der Wien, Wiener Musikverein, etc. Remember, we said at the beginning to bring some nice clothes, you’ll want to see at least one performance.
Architecture plays as much a big role in Vienna as music. Baroque masterpieces are the Karlskirche and the Stephansdom. Art Nouveau, originating in France, spread quickly to Vienna where you can find many buildings in this style. Concurrent with Art Nouveau the Wiener Moderne developed, the foremost representative being Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He believed that there should be no straight lines, as you can observe in the colorful and unique Hundertwasserhaus.
The Hofburg, the royal Palace of the former Habsburg dynasty, dating from the 13th century, is now the official residence of the president of Austria. Several museums are to be found within, like the treasury where the crown jewels are kept and the Sissy museum. You can also watch a dressage performance of the elegant horses of the Spanische Hofreitschule.
More museums are to be found in the Museumsquartier, the quirkier of them being a burial museum, a museum of art fakes and a clock museum.
Whilst the Hofburg was the winter residence of the Hapsburg’s, Schloss Schoenbrunn with its vast park was the place to stay in the summer. The park contains the world’s oldest zoo, created in 1752.
Other parks are the Stadtpark and of course, the Prater, the world’s oldest amusement park with its giant Ferris wheel. An added attraction is that you can actually have a candlelight dinner in one of the static cabins of the wheel!!
Two waterways pass through Vienna, the Danube River, and the Danube canal.
Best places to shop
Vienna’s main shopping street is the Mariahilfstrasse with designer boutiques and department stores. The newly opened Hauptbahnhof also contains an American style shopping mall with approx. 90 shops, cafes, and restaurants. But the real pleasure is to browse in the many art galleries and antique shops of Vienna.
Currency is the EURO. The official language is German but English is widely spoken. WiFi cover is good all over the city. Credit cards are accepted everywhere except for minor purchases like snacks.
Even if you have visited all of our suggestions, you will only have scratched the surface. Vienna is an endless treasure trove of sites and attractions, big and small, so your only choice will be: a return visit.
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