Vienna, the capital city of Austria, is a city of emperors and composers, boasting beautiful architecture.
The city was the capital and the seat of power of some of the mightiest European empires in history (the Holy Roman, the Austrian and the Austro-Hungarian). Hence, Vienna attracted numerous gifted architects, artists and creators, who managed to create striking architectural masterpieces, famous musical compositions and celebrated works of art. Once, Vienna rivaled even Paris in the fields of art and culture, which a visit of a couple of days fully reveals.
Most of Vienna tourist points of interest are located within the Inner Stadt (Inner City) and a bit outside. The historic center of Vienna is flanked by the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) and the Ringstrasse (Ring Road), which circles around the Inner Stadt. In the area, you can find numerous architectural masterpieces, shopping areas and museums and galleries that would make even much larger cities proud.
Besides, the internationally acclaimed cultural establishments, such as the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) and the Burgtheater (Imperial Court Theatre), stage prestigious shows and performances. The famous Opera Ball takes place in the Staatsoper, and the admission fees range from thousands to tens of thousands of euros. In the wider area of Vienna, you can find impeccably maintained gardens and expansive parks. Some of the most popular are the Prater, the Donaupark and the Stadtpark, with the commemorative monuments honoring Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss Jr. For spectacular views of the Austrian capital city, take a Ferris wheel ride in the Prater, which needs 20 minutes to complete a full circle. In the Donaupark, you can experience superb views of the Danube River and Vienna from the revolving restaurant of the Donauturm (Danube Tower).
The official currency in Vienna and Austria is the Euro (€). Euro consists of 100 cents. Banknotes in use are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 €, while frequently used coin denominations are 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1 and 2 €. Approximate exchange rates between the Euro and other major currencies are: 1 € = 1.07 US$; 1 € = 0.86 GBP; 1 € = 1.07 CHF. If you need to exchange your home currency into euros, you should seek out banks, which offer much better rates than exchange offices. You won’t have trouble finding ATMs in Vienna. Credit cards are accepted, in general, although you would be surprised how many places (bars in the first place) don’t accept them. The most popular cards are Visa and MasterCard.
Approximate tourist-related expenses in Vienna are:
- a 3-km taxi ride – around 10 €
- the adult Sisi ticket (providing entry to the Schönbrunn Palace, certain sections of the Hofburg and the Imperial Furniture Collection) – 30 €
- the public transport ticket for a single ride – 2.2 €
- a room in a luxury hotel – 250 €
- a Ferris wheel ride in Prater – 9.5 €
- a multicourse meal – 70 € and over
- the Original Sacher-Torte (22 cm) – 49 €
- tickets to Opera’s performances – up to a few hundred €
- the Belvedere ticket (Upper and Lower Belvedere + Winterpalais) – 26 €
Vienna is a very safe city, in which you can walk after midnight in a relaxed manner. Basically, all you have to pay attention to are pickpockets, like in any other major city. Registered taxis are marked by TX letters. Tipping in Vienna is a part of the etiquette, and taxi drivers are usually tipped 10% on top of the fare. In restaurants, you can add between 5% and 10% on the amount of the bill. Tipping a hotel porter with a euro or two is OK. Not all residents of Vienna speak English, but you won’t have trouble communicating in English in the tourist areas.
When to travel to Vienna
Any season in Vienna brings something exceptional to the city visitors. Spring and fall feature lesser tourist crowds, allowing you to tour most of the city attractions without much pother. Winter holiday season (December in particular) attracts many people to the Austrian capital, promising festive atmosphere and unforgettable time despite the low temperatures. In summer, you will encounter much more tourists than locals in Vienna and top sites are usually crowded. Spring and fall feature the best temperature/rainfall ratio, while summer features the highest average rainfall.
Don’t be troubled by long queues in Vienna. "German efficiency" is apparent at every step and you won’t wait long in lines, even if they are excessively long.
Arriving in Vienna
Arriving in Vienna by plane is the most convenient for most tourists. You can travel to Vienna from all over the world and the Vienna International Airport (VIE) is located just outside the city. You can fly to Vienna non-stop from London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW) in under two and a half hours. If you are flying for example on British Airways, you can find cheap business class flights under 280 euros (return ticket, November 2017) while return economy tickets can cost as low as 90 euros. While Vienna is not considered as the best possible starting point for cheap business class flights (see our article "How To Find Cheap Business Class Flights - 3 Basic Tips") you can occasionally find great business class deals from there as well.
A taxi ride from the airport to the city center - a distance of around 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) - usually costs between 25€ and 40€. Limo services for the approximate distances usually range between 40€ and 70€. One way door-to-door shuttle fares are up to 50€.
Getting around in Vienna
Getting around in Vienna is the most convenient on foot, with an occasional taxi or public transportation ride. You can cover any distance between tourist points of interest around the Inner Stadt with ease. However, to access the Schönbrunn, the Prater and the Donaupark, you would need to use the public transport. The U-Bahn metro system is fast, efficient and connects most areas of interest to tourists. Taking a taxi is also a fast and convenient way to get between two points. For covering shorter distances around the Inner Stadt (to the Belvedere, for example), the city buses and trams are good options.
Top Vienna attractions
The Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), in the center of the Inner Stadt, is the iconic landmark of Vienna, featuring a multitude of styles. Although the structure features the Gothic design from the outside, its lower, unfinished tower is topped by a Renaissance cupola. Before you enter the cathedral through a Romanesque portal, take a closer look at the sky-scraping tower (ironically called “little Stephen”) and the roof with the imperial symbols and geometric patterns as its main decoration. The Gothic interior features mostly Baroque ornamentation.
The Hofburg, a longtime residence of the Habsburgs (one of the longest ruling dynasties in history), had been continually expanded from the 13th to the 20th century. The imperial palace features Gothic, Renaissance, Neoclassicist and Baroque styles and houses a number of interesting museums. The Imperial Treasury Museum, the Imperial Apartments, the Silver Collection and the National Library are some of them. The Hofburg is flanked by the Heldenplatz (Square of Heroes) and the Burggarten, two beautiful parks.
The Ringstrasse, a grand Viennese boulevard, circles around the Inner Stadt and is lined by architectural masterpieces of the Austrian capital. As you walk along the Ringstrasse, you will have a great pleasure to closely observe different architectural styles. Neo-Gothic Rathaus and Votivkirche, Baroque Burgtheater, Neoclassical Parliament and neo-Renaissance Staatsoper are among the top tourist attractions. The beautiful Stadtpark and museums of History of Art and Natural History are other noteworthy points of interest. The marvelous Karlskirche (St. Charles’s Church) is particularly impressive inside.
The Schönbrunn project was an attempt of the Habsburgs to surpass the grandeur of the Versailles, which failed due to the lack of sufficient funds caused by wars the empire waged. Nevertheless, the Schönbrunn features opulent and elegant rooms and apartments and a beautiful garden. Portraits of the Habsburg dynasty members, subtle details and amazing decoration are ever-present within the palace. The adjacent garden features magnificent works of art and walking paths lined with flowers and trees. You can also find the world’s oldest zoo in the Schönbrunn’s expansive garden.
The Belvedere (the beautiful view) is among the principal museums of Vienna, displaying the works of art of 19th and 20th centuries. The complex consists of two palaces, with a beautiful garden spread between them. The largest collection of Gustav Klimt, a Secessionist artist, is displayed in the Belvedere, while Impressionism and Biedermeier are other significant art movements represented in the museum.
The 5-star Vienna Marriott Hotel is located on the Ringstrasse, next to the Stadtpark. The hotel’s contemporary rooms are large and equipped with Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and coffeemakers. In the upgraded rooms, you dispose of iPod docks and lounge areas. Room service is available. The hotel has complementary facilities, including a fitness center that operates 24/7, an indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a solarium and meeting rooms. After a busy day, you can relax in a lobby with a waterfall. The U-Bahn metro station is nearby.
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The 5-star Hilton Vienna Hotel, also located at the Stadtpark, has upscale rooms with views of the city or the Stephansdom. The rooms dispose of amenities necessary for a pleasant stay, such as minibars, flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers and desks. If you book an executive room, you benefit of lounge serving breakfast and free drinks. Some suites add balconies while each of them has living areas. Room service is available. You can dine in the hotel’s fine restaurant and have a drink in the lobby bar & lounge. Accompanying on-site facilities and services include a steam bath, a massage, a sauna, a spa, meeting and fitness rooms.
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The 5-star InterContinental Vienna Hotel, on the other side of the Stadtpark from Hilton, has elegant rooms equipped with minibars, flat-screen TVs and coffeemakers. If you book an upgraded room, you gain access to a club lounge. The hotel has room service. Additional hotel facilities are meeting rooms, a spa, a fitness center, a grand ballroom ideal for various events, a high-end restaurant and a cozy bar.
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Best restaurants and nightclubs in Vienna
Steirereck is an upscale, double-Michelin-starred restaurant. Located in the Stadtpark, it serves outstanding contemporary Austrian and international cuisine. Take a seat upstairs for beautiful views of the park. Some meals you should consider for an unforgettable dining experience are duck stew, fried lamb and grilled alpine ox. Quince with lavender makes an ideal closure. Make sure to book a table in advance.
Fabios is a contemporary restaurant with intimate atmosphere, located in the Inner Stadt. Its delicious Italian cuisine is based on seafood and fish. Shrimp marinated in lemon and roasted sea bass are some excellent meals you should consider. Reservations in advance are essential.
Club Flex is among the most popular Viennese nightclubs. The club stages live music performances and shows, and is frequented by worldwide famous DJs, especially on weekends. Most people find the sound fantastic and the air conditioning is excellent, in case you aren’t a smoker. Flex features a large outdoor terrace, overlooking the Donaucanal.
Porgy & Bees is another acclaimed nightclub and a prime destination for Jazz & Soul fans in Vienna. The world’s greatest Jazz artists perform at the club regularly and you should book a seat to ensure a good view of the stage. Besides nice music, most guests like food, drinks and atmosphere.