Vienna sightseeing tips – have fun in Wien like a real Wiener

Vienna sightseeing: enjoy Wien like a real Wiener




Here are some tips for Vienna sightseeing, if you visit Vienna for holidays or conferences, or live in Vienna!

Vienna: Lots of friends ask me for recommendations when visiting Vienna, so I wrote up some tips here, I’ll keep updating these tips, so let me know any comments, or add new tips in the discussion section below after the end of this blog post!

Spanische Hofreitschule – since 1521

visit the morning training or a performance of the Spanische Reitschule – that is something you cannot see anywhere else: dancing white horses – the “Lippizaner“.

Or look at some photos here on spanischehofreitschule on Instagram.

The Spanische Reitschule theatre is inside the Emperor’s Castle in Vienna, and was built for the Emperor and his entourage, so there is very little seating available, and tickets are difficult to get. If you can’t make it to a performance, every morning during the winter months, the Lippizaner horses are trained and exercise and practice for the performances. You can visit the stables, and you can also watch the morning training.

You can buy tickets online on the Spanische Reitschule website.

During the summer months, the Lippizaner horses move from Vienna to their summer residence in Piber, which you can also visit. Its about 250 km from Vienna to Piber, and you can find the way here on Google.

And you can even buy Lippizaner horses.

Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper)

go to the Opera – if you cannot get seats, then every evening there is a number of standing tickets for sale. you have to stand, but you can get a cheap ticket, usually you can also get Opera tickets with a mark up via your Hotel, or ticket offices (sometimes these tickets cost 2-3 times more than the official prices).

A friend asked me who the owner of the Wiener Staatsoper ist. Read the answer here.

Vienna Volksoper and Theater an der Wien

There are other operas in Vienna also, for example the “Volksoper“, which mainly shows operettas, and the “Theater an der Wien” also sometimes shows operettas and musicals.

In case you know German, and are wondering why this theater is called “Theater an der Wien” – “Wien” here refers to the river Wien. The Wien is a river flowing through Vienna, and you can see the Wien river close to the Theater an der Wien, if you look for it. Its covered and flows under the streets for a small part of its way though. Read here about Wien Fluß (in German, in English). The Wien River starts not far from Vienna at the “Kaiserbründl” and is about 34 km long.

Burgtheater

The Burgtheater, here on Wikipedia, (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgtheater, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgtheater) is/was the Emperor’s Theater, and “Burgtheaterdeutsch” is something like the official Austrian version of the German language.

Stefansdom

walk the 343 steps to the top of the 137 meters high South-Tower of Stefansdom – the Cathedral in the center of Vienna. Open 9:00-17:30. Costs EURO 4. Here are the instructions.

There is no better place to look at Vienna from above than from the top of the Stefansdom tower.

The Stefansdom has two towers, a short one – “the Bell Tower”, which you can mount using an elevator. The other much higher tower, has no elevator, and you have to walk up 343 steps to reach the top. Until some years ago, there was an observation room of the Vienna Fire Services, where firemen were watching Vienna from above, looking out for fires during day and night. Today this observation room is conserved, and you can visit this observation room.

Views from the South Tower of Stephansdom
Views from the South Tower of Stephansdom

Schönbrunn

go to Schönbrunn – it was the Summer palace of the Austrian Imperial family. Do you know Maria-Theresia? She is the mother of Maria-Antoinette – and had 16 children! She loved her husband so much, that she broke the bed during the wedding night (ahahahaha – I am not sure its true, but at least its a funny story….)

Today Schönbrunn Castle is inside Vienna, and you can easily get there by taxi or subway or tram. There is a beautiful park, which includes a restored Japanese garden, and on a hill inside the park you can go to the “Gloriette” building, from which you have a great view over Vienna.

If you are with your kids, they will love the Zoo, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn, the history of which goes back to 1452! Almost 600 years – about as long as Vienna’s University.

Baden bei Wien

In Baden you can go to Hot spring bath (Onsen) and to the Casino!
If you have time – take the “Badner Bahn” tramway from Oper in Vienna to Baden (takes about one hour by tram). You can see the trip to Baden here on Google maps.

Heurigen

One thing I definitely recommend is for you to go to Heurigen! “Heurigen” comes from the Viennese word “heuer”, which means this current year. Since long ago, Vienna wine farmers had the privilege to sell their own wine, especially this year’s wine, on location. So, “Heurigen” means something like a vinery, which sells their own wine. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heurigen, http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heurigen)

Don’t go to Grinzing where all the tourists go, but go for example to Sirbu – you can take the No. 36 – D tram line to the end in Nussdorf, and then walk about 1/2 hour up the hill
Sirbu is here [Sirbu on Google maps], and here is how you walk from the end tram stop in Nußdorf to the Sirbu Heurigen

Sirbu even offers “Die romantische Bank – für Verliebte” (the romantic bench for lovers), with a great view over Vienna.

Wiener Heurigen Sirbu with view to Leopoldsberg
Wiener Heurigen Sirbu with view to Leopoldsberg

Vienna Restaurants and Coffee Shops (Kaffeehäuser)

Here are some recommendations by one of my primary school friends – who is high up in one of Austria’s largest newspapers:

Wiener Tafelspitz
Wiener Tafelspitz
Wiener Buchten beim Hawelka
Wiener Buchten beim Hawelka

Looshaus and the Loos American Bar

Looshaus

The Looshaus was built by architect Adolf Loos following a competition in 1909, opposite the Austrian Hungarian Emperor’s palace in central Vienna. Alfred Loos broke with Vienna’s neoclassical architectural conventions of the time, and created his own new style. At the time the Looshaus created a huge shock and was regarded as a scandal by many at that time.
Street address is: 1. Bezirk, Michaelerplatz 3.
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looshaus

Loos American Bar: Kärtner Bar, American Bar

This bar was build 1907-1908 by Adolf Loos, initially named Kärtner Bar or American Bar, now often named “Loos American Bar”.
Street address is: 1. Bezirk, Kärnter Durchgang 10
http://www.loosbar.at

Adolf Loos

Adolf Loos (born 10 October 1870 in Brünn, died 23 August 1933 in Kalksburg) was a Vienna based architect and one of the defining creators of modern architecture in Vienna.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Loos

Wiener Bälle – Vienna Balls

During the Fasching (= carnival) period of the year and until Ash-Wednesday, the Professions and many other organizations and clubs hold 100s of Bälle. You don’t know Vienna, if you have not been to a Ball in Vienna. Bälle generally start around 9pm and last until about 5am or 6am in the morning.

The Vienna Bälle are generally open for anyone to attend provided you can purchase tickets. Tickets are mostly sold via the professional associations and in some cases you need to purchase the tickets in person at the offices of the organizing profession. So if you don’t live in Vienna, often its best to ask your Viennese friends for help.

The most famous Ball is the Opernball, but there are many more. Watch this video to get an idea.

…and where to find Ludwig Boltzmann…

Ludwig Boltzmann is probably Austria’s greatest physicist – and one of the greatest physicists ever. Read more about Ludwig Boltzmann here. And he is the Great-Grandfather of the author of this blog.

To find Ludwig Boltzmann related memories in Vienna:

  • Ludwig Boltzmann’s bust in the central courtyard of Vienna University: Ludwig Boltzmann’s Bust is in the Hauptgebäude (central building) of the University of Vienna, near Schottentor. If you enter the University’s main building you will find Ludwig Boltzmann’s bust soon on the right hand side on the ground floor.
  • The Boltzmanngasse, a street named after Ludwig Boltzmann, is here. Both the US Embassy, and also the Physics Institute of the University of Vienna are located in Boltzmanngasse.
  • Ludwig Boltzmann’s grave: Ludwig Boltzmann (together with several immediate descendants, including the Grandfather and Grandmother of the author of this blog) is buried in an honorary grave at the Vienna Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof). To get there, you take tram No. 71 and get off at the “Zentralfriedhof 2. Tor” stop.
    You can find out here how to get there (official Vienna Government Cemeteries website), and here on Google maps.
The D tram going along Ringstraße heading for the vineyards of  Nußdorf - the dome of the Natural History Museum in the back ground. There used to be a steam cog railway train up to Kahlenberg from Nußdorf. You can still see the station - its a pub now.
The D tram going along Ringstraße heading for the vineyards of Nußdorf – the dome of the Natural History Museum in the back ground. There used to be a steam cog railway train up to Kahlenberg from Nußdorf. You can still see the station – its a pub now.

Getting around in Vienna – transport

Tram, bus, and subway (U-Bahn) and S-Bahn are very good, and can get you almost anywhere in and around Vienna. Most services run between approx. 4:30am and 00:30am, and 24 hours over the weekend.

All operate on an “honor system”, you are responsible to have a ticket, and if you can’t show a valid ticket they’ll treat you essentially like a shoplifter: you must pay an on-the-spot-fine, and they might even hand you over to the Vienna Police if you argue or can’t show an ID. Sometimes the ticket checks are done with the assistance of police, so if you don’t have a ticket, you might immediately have to deal with the Vienna Police. Vienna Police is very robust, pragmatic and effective with all kinds of people from around the world- so better not get on their wrong side. So always make sure you have a valid ticket to avoid creating trouble for yourself.

You can buy tickets at many stores in Vienna, from ticket machines, online (https://shop.wienerlinien.at/index.php/tickets).

I recommend you buy a ticket for the full period of your stay online and print the ticket out + transfer it to your smartphone app:

…and you can rent a full tram for up to 220 people for about € 270/hour (add € 50/hour during the night between 22:00 and 6am), see: Tram mieten.

Trips outside Vienna

Kahlenberg

Kahlenberg is a 484 meters high mountain in the Döbling district in the northern part of Vienna. Great views over Vienna and beyond. You can take the bus up, and walk down through the vineyards.

Kahlenberg seen from Grinzing
Kahlenberg seen from Grinzing

There used to be a cog railway train up to the top of Kahlenberg from Nußdorf. The steam cog railway is long shut down, but you can still see the track and the terminus station building in Nußdorf: take the tram line D to the terminus “Nußdorf Beethovenstiege”. The tram turns around a loop at the terminus, to make its way back to the Vienna Central Railway Station along the Ringstraße. The former cog railway station is now a pub in the center of this tram loop.

Beethoven and Nußdorf

Beethoven used to live in several houses in Nußdorf. Take the D tram to the terminus “Nußdorf Beethovenstiege”, look for Beethoven’s houses and go to some of the Heurigen there.

Klosterneuburg

Klosterneuburg is a small town with a Augustiner monastery dating from 1114. To get there you can take the train from Franz-Josephs-Bahnhof.

Baden bei Wien

Go to the Thermal baths in Baden bei Wien. About one hour direct with the blue Badner Bahn tram from across the street from the Staatsoper (Opera house).

Krems and Wachau

Wachau is one of Austria’s oldest cultural areas, full of cultural treasures and one of the best wine making areas in the world. Take the train to Krems to get started (about 1 hour by train from Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof) or take the ship.

Schneeberg

Take the Schneebergbahn cog-railway (wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneeberg_Railway_(cog_railway) ) to the top of the Schneeberg (2076 meter). Great views if the weather is good.

Salzburg

Salzburg is about 2 1/2 hours by train from Vienna. Trains go almost 24/24.

From and to Vienna Airport

The Vienna-Airport Railstation is directly under the Airport, about 5 Minutes walk from arrivals/departures. Regular S-Bahn trains, and regular ÖBB (Austrian National Railways) trains go every few minutes, take about 15-25 minutes to the center of Vienna, and cost between € 2 – 8 (US$ 2 – 8) depending on how you buy the ticket, reductions etc. Take care: entering the platform or taking a train without a valid ticket is illegal and may get you into trouble in Austria.

  • Cheapest and most convenient way: S-Bahn, line S7: from Wien Floridsdorf via Wien-Mitte/Landstraße (in the center of Vienna) to / from Vienna-Airport. First train around 4am, last train around midnight in both directions. takes 25 minutes from the Airport to Wien-Mitte. Costs about € 2.40 or € 4.40 (about US$ 2 or 4) depending on discount etc.
  • ÖBB trains. Regular Austrian Railway (ÖBB) trains go from the same Vienna-Airport station as the S-Bahn to Vienna-Hauptbahnhof), and to Linz, Salzburg and other long distance destinations, from about 6am to 22:00 or 23:00, every 30 minutes. Takes about 15 minutes from Vienna-Airport to Vienna-Hauptbahnhof. Tickets from Vienna-Airport to Vienna-Hauptbahnhof cost about € 3.90 – € 8.60, depending on how you buy, online etc, and even less if you buy online and have already bought a Vienna Centralzone ticket.
  • CAT Train. Vienna-Airport to Wien-Mitte/Landstraße, from around 6:30am to 22:00/23:00, every 30 minutes, travel time 16 minutes, cost single trip € 11. The CAT Train takes about the same time as the other trains, is a few minutes quicker than the S-Bahn S7, but costs a lot more.
  • Taxi. You can flag down taxis almost anywhere in Vienna, and the prices are quite reasonable. After midnight, after the trams have stopped running taxis are normally the only option. Taxi between Vienna and the Airport cost about € 40-50, and you can get discounts by booking early.
  • Bus. There are also buses from and to Vienna-Airport, called Flughafenbus, but I have never taken them. Infos here.

Have a nice time in Vienna!

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