History is at the heart of Vienna both literally and figuratively. The narrow streets of the Innere Stadt (Inner City) snake through antiquated buildings, providing an atmosphere so authentic that you almost expect a Vienna native like composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or psychologist Sigmund Freud to round a cobblestone corner and greet you with “Guten tag.” Extravagant baroque palaces from the Habsburg Monarchy loom over the city, just as Mozart’s classical arias pour from contemporary cafes. If it’s culture you seek, you’ll find it here.
But there’s more to this city than just music and monarchs. Vienna is also a great place to spend some cash, with independent bookstores competing for business alongside haute couture. There are also a surprising number of attractions for young ones, including an amusement park and a top-notch zoo. And although many Viennese retire early in the night, that doesn’t mean you have to; sneak out to one of the bars along the city’s Bermuda Triangle, or drop by one of the wine taverns skirting the Vienna Woods.
Vienna travel guide for first-time visitors
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Vienna is from April to May or September to October. The mild weather in spring and fall brings mild crowds. Most visitors aim to enjoy the warm, sunny weather that Vienna experiences in the summer months. Between June and August, you can expect the city to fill up and room rates to skyrocket. December also sees a spike in tourism since many Europeans flock to the city for a taste of Christmas spirit served Viennese-style, but chilly temperatures can be a deterrent.
How to Save Money in Vienna
- My home is your home Many Viennese rents out their houses to visitors as a means of making extra money, and often rates are much lower than hotel rates. This is especially true for longer stays.
- Widen your hotel search Avoid properties within the Ringstrasse since they are the priciest. You’ll find plenty of affordable digs scattered throughout the inner and outer suburbs.
- Spring for the Vienna Card For 21.90 euros (or about $25), the Vienna Card lets you experience more than 200 city sites, restaurants and live performances (not to mention public transport). Each card is valid for 48 hours.
Culture & Customs
You will find that most Viennese tend to dress conservatively. If you are travelling on business, make sure to wear proper business attire, such as a dark-coloured suit or dress.
If you’re dining out in Vienna, it is polite to eat most of your food with your fork; a knife is used to hold food in place while using the side of a fork in place of a knife. If you are dining alongside Austrians, do not begin eating until the host says “Gesegnete Mahlzeit” (bless this meal) or “Guten Appetit” (enjoy your meal). It’s not polite to leave food on your plate; however, if you’re full, make sure to leave your knife and fork side by side on your plate. If you are invited to dinner, don’t fight for the bill. Your host expects to pay. If you are paying the bill, the gratuity – normally 10 percent – is usually already included. However, it is polite to round the bill up or leave an extra 5 percent for good service.
What to Eat
Dining on delectable Viennese cuisine is one of the city’s major must-dos. But vegetarians beware Much of Austrian cuisine centres on meat. Traditional Austrian taverns (known as beisls) serve up hearty portions of Tafelspitz (boiled beef), goulash (a rich stew made primarily from beef and potatoes) and wiener schnitzel (deep-fried, breaded veal). If you’re looking for an authentic Austrian meal, recent visitors recommend Lugeck and Ofenloch, both of which are located in Innere Stadt. If you’re looking to save some coin, though, you may want to avoid the Innere Stadt neighbourhood. Instead, check out the streets just beyond the city centre. Travellers recommend Motto in Weiden and Gmoakeller in Landstrasse. Over the past few years, Vienna has also seen the rise of international cuisines as well, ranging from Asian to Italian fare. No matter where you decided to dine, carry cash; some Viennese restaurants do not accept credit cards.
When it’s time for dessert, cafes cater to customers with a sweet tooth, serving wide assortments of pastries like gugelhupfs (marbled bundt cakes), Sacher-faschingskrapfens (sugared doughnuts) and apple strudel. The Viennese are also big fans of wine (more than 1,700 acres of vineyards exist within the city limits and the wine can be enjoyed in tasting rooms, bars and eateries) and strong beer.
Vienna is considered one of the safest capitals in Europe and it often appears high on the much best quality of life rankings. Still, travellers should use common sense and keep an eye out for petty theft. The Prater amusement park and mass transit are popular hunting grounds for pickpockets.
Getting Around Vienna
The best ways to get around Vienna are on foot and by public transportation. Many historic attractions can be found within the compact Innere Stadt and are easy to reach with just a sturdy pair of walking shoes. But if you are interested in exploring some of the more remote districts, the city’s subway, bus and streetcar routes will get you where you need to go. Taxis are abundant as well. There are also several methods of public transportation connecting Vienna to the Vienna International Airport (VIE) – about 12 miles southeast of the city centre – including the City Airport Train (which costs 11 euros for a one-way ride).