1. The city airport train (CAT) brings you in 16 minutes from Vienna International Airport to the city center, at Wien Mitte station, running twice an hour. Tickets can be bought online, at the vending machines, from sales staff or at the CAT counter in the arrivals hall and costs €12 for a single or €21 for a return trip. A cheaper but slower option is to hop on the S7 train which takes basically the same route but with more stops.
2. The fastest way to get across the city is by subway which consists of 5 lines. The electronic information displays, showing the waiting time and destination, make it very easy to navigate. Many sights in the city center (1st district) are within walking distance, so the multiday tickets are probably only worth it if your accommodation is further out of town. A single tickets costs €2.20, while a 24, 48 or 72h ticket costs €7.60, €13.30 or €16.50, respectively, and can be used on buses and trams as well. Do you know locals only pay €1/day when purchasing a year pass?
3. Prepare your visit to Vienna by reading ‘The Lady in Gold’ by Anne Marie O’Connor or watching ‘The Woman in Gold’.
4. The Vienna City Card offers 24h (€13.90), 48h (€21.90) or 72h (€24.90) free travel on all public transportation within the city and discounts at many museums and a selection of shops, restaurants and cafés. Don’t get too excited yet as most discounts are only in the order of 10 % of the original entrance fee. Check in advance if discounts are offered for the sights you are interested in, otherwise it is money not so wisely spent. If you are a student, senior (60+) or family you get a bigger discount anyway without the card. In my opinion, the 72h Vienna City Card is the only one to consider and will be worth it if you are planning to visit several museums or sights on a tight schedule and use the public transportation systematically.
5. Another option is the Vienna Pass which gives you free entry to more than 60 attractions and museums and unlimited use of the Hop On Hop Off buses. For some top attractions you will get fast track entry which will save you time. Passes for one, two, three or 6 days cost €59, €79, €99 or €124, respectively. Again, you will have to work hard to take profit from the card. As I have a valid student card and like to travel more slowly or take my time instead of squeezing many attractions in one day, I bought neither the Vienna City Card nor the Vienna Pass.
6. The Vienna free walking tour is a must on your first day in the city. This free (tip-based) tour starts each day at 10 am and 2 pm from the Albertinaplatz and takes about 2.5-3 hours. You will visit the highlights in the first district as well as lesser known places (check the hidden garden in the picture below), hear entertaining history stories that you will not find in the average guide book and know where to eat and drink after the tour. It is recommended to book in advance as priority is given to persons with a reservation. When we joined the tour on a sunny Sunday morning in April the tour was sold out and several people were refused as the maximum capacity of 35 customers per guide was reached.
7. Vienna, the city of music, is bursting with classic music sights and every night there are plenty of opportunities to experience live music yourself. Several churches offer diverse concerts as well. Or maybe you want to listen to the Vienna Boys’ Choir on Sundays at the Holy Mass in the Hofburg Chapel? We went to a concert in the Orangery of the Schönbrunn Palace and this was definitely one of the highlights of our stay in Vienna. The orchestra, consisting of about 20 people, played a great selection of Mozart and Strauss’ most popular pieces and was accompanied by two talented opera singers and two ballet dancers. Be sure to negotiate about the prices as the vendors charged €42 first, then lowered the price to €33 and at the end we payed €25 per person.
8. Do you know that the tradition of the Viennese coffee house culture goes back to the late 17th century? The special atmosphere in these coffee houses is created by the little things, such as the small newspaper tables or the box seats. Have a seat in one of the several traditional cafés in the historical center and try an apple strudel, a linzertorte or another pastry.
9. Pavement-side cafés or ‘Schanigärten’ in the German language are another Viennese institution. Coffee houses and pubs place small tables and a few chairs in the fresh air outside their own front doors when spring is arriving. These seasonal open-air cafés are the perfect place to see the world pass by. A nice place to have a drink is the ‘Kleines Café’, a tiny café where you can site outside on the cobbled square of Franziskanerplatz.
10. Ballgasse, a side street from the shopping street Kärntner Strasse, is one of my favorite streets to eat traditional Viennese food. The narrow street with small traditional restaurants is popular with locals but less known by tourists. My personal recommendation, a little outside of the city center, is restaurant ’15 Susse Minuten’ at Favoritenstrasse 45 which serves refined, traditional and less traditional dishes. The restaurant is located near the station Westbahnhof, so perfect after a day trip to the Danube Valley.
Prices were correct at the time of publishing, but please confirm the costs directly with service providers as changes are possible after the date of publishing.
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