Have a look at my top tips for exploring historic Vienna
1. Stay in the Innere Stadt Area
This speaks for itself. If you stay in the Innere Stadt (Inner City) you will be able to walk to pretty much all the attractions! I always think by walking, you see way more. The land is essentially flat so there’s no hills to worry about. Even if you don’t want to walk, the area is well serviced by trams, buses and the underground rail system. Hotels might cost a bit more, but they more than make up for it with their convenience and savings on transport costs.
2. Walk, Walk, Walk
Walk everywhere! As I’ve already said, the land is quite flat in central Vienna so it’s not too taxing. Plus, when you walk everywhere you come across some beautiful buildings and spectacular squares!
3. Think Long and Hard About a Carraige Ride
Stick with me on this one. The horse drawn carriages are a quintessential thing to do in Vienna. They look so cool! BUT… They are really expensive. The standard short carriage ride costs € 55 (approx. £ 47/$ 62) for 20 minutes or the longer 40 minute ride costs € 80 (approx. £ 70/$ 90). If you’re travelling solo, this is exorbitant. Perhaps you might be more inclined to go for a carriage ride. Make sure you pick a nice day for it though to make the most of it!
4. Stop for a Coffee and Cake
Vienna is famous for its Coffee Houses, with good reason! These places are like no other. They are also popular among tourists and locals alike. Be prepared to queue for the best and the most high profile ones. My favourite had to be Cafe Central. There are other good Coffee Houses with little or not wait. They include Cafe Ritter, Cafe Sperl, Cafe Westend and Cafe Museum in the Westbahnhof area. These were recommended to me, but I haven’t had a chance to visit them personally, but they look really cool!
Cafe Central was the most classically decorated. You can sit and sip your coffee (or in my case hot chocolate!) surrounded by wonderful architecture and beautiful chandeliers. Take some time to window shop the amazingly beautiful range of cakes and sample one (or two!).
The other Coffee Houses I would recommend are:
Cafe Sacher – with its beautiful classical architecture and the original Sacher Torte, for which, Vienna is famous.
Cafe Demel – here you can watch a team of pastry chefs hard and work while you enjoy some of the fruits of their labour.
Cafe Landtmann – there is a wonderful outdoor seating area that looks out on the Ringstrasse with lovely views of the Burgtheater and City Hall.
5. Get the CAT
This is a simple one. If you are arriving into Vienna International Airport, this is the quickest and simplest way of getting into the city. The CAT (City-Airport Train) has a dedicated platform leaving the airport and departs every 30 minutes at 9 and 39 minutes past the hour. The return journey from the Wien Mitte Station departs at 7 and 37 minutes past the hour. The journey takes a total of 16 minutes and is non-stop. The cost? € 11 one-way and € 19 return. It might seem expensive, but it is largely in line with similar services across Europe. Plus, the convenience, reliability and speed of the service is invaluable. Especially if you are staying in the Innere Stadt area.
If the Wien Am Hauptbahnhof is a more convenient station for you, then using the Railjet service might be a good option for you. This service takes about 25 minutes and goes direct every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour from the airport and at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour coming from Wien Am Hauptbahnhof. The cost is approx. € 13 return.
6. Try to Eat Where the Locals Do
This can be challenging. You can only really achieve this by observation and recommendation. You can ask the reception staff or concierge of your hotel, or the owner of your AirBnB, etc for recommendations of where they would go to eat themselves. The more natural way is to go off the beaten track and look and see where the busy restaurants are. In general, this means that they are better/better value. This is especially true if they are not directly in the main touristy areas.
My favourite of the whole trip was in a place called Beim Czaak. This beautiful restaurant opened in 1926 and is still run by the Czaak family. They serve predominantly traditional Viennese cuisine. As you can see in the above photo, I chose the combination of Wiener Schnitzel and Traditional Goulash. It tasted phenomenal and the atmosphere was fantastic!
7. Go on the Roof Tour of the Naturhistorisches Museum
This is something that isn’t widely known. You would spend a long time looking for an advertisement for it in the Naturhistorisches (Natural History) Museum. I found out about it when I was researching my trip. The English language tours take place on a Wednesday and Sunday at 4 pm. It costs € 8. The museum itself is free entry with the Vienna Pass.
On the way to the roof, you hear about the collection of human skulls dating back hundreds of years. They were the subject of a failed attempt by the Austrian Nazi Regime during World War II to prove the concept of a master race. Of course, they found no substantial difference based on race or geographical spread.
The view of the Ringstrasse is the best you’ll ever get from the roof of this building! You can survey most of the Hofburg complex as well as view the Parliament Building, City Hall, the Burgtheater and of course the sister building of the Kunshistorisches Museum across Maira-Theresien Platz. This view is quite possibly the best one in the whole of Vienna!
8. Go on a Day Trip
Vienna is right smack bang in the middle of continental Europe. There are so many places that are within an hour or two of the city. The main day trips would be to Salzburg, Bratislava in Slovakia, Prague in the Czech Republic or Budapest in Hungary to name but a few!
I chose Bratislava because I felt the city was quite compact and easy to get around by foot. There was also loads of cool stuff there to see! It was also one of the closest options. I’ll have a post up shortly detailing my day in Bratislava!
9. Get a Vienna Pass!
I’ve saved the best for last! Before I go any further, I have not been asked by the people behind the Vienna Pass to review or publicise them in any way. There was no discount either, I paid full price like everyone else. I debated long and hard about this before getting it. Mainly because on the surface it looks really expensive. The website isn’t overly clear on the surface as to what attractions are included. In short, almost ALL of them are!
Each attraction you visit has it’s own ticket. This is most apparent at the Schonbrunn Palace, where everything from the State Rooms to the zoo to the roof of the Gloriette has a separate ticket. In the one day I visited the Schonbrunn, I reckon all the things I visited would’ve cost the same as my three day Vienna Pass! Beware though. They work on a date basis, so if you activate it in the evening you forfeit the whole day. You can select what days you want when you collect it. There are collection points in Vienna International Airport Arrivals Hall and in an underground shopping area near the State Opera House.
Here’s what they cost. These include a 10% discount for purchasing it online (Prices correct as of April 2019):