The Good Vienna Tours Survival Guide

Airport / Trains / Busses – getting there and away

Vienna International Airport Schwechat is located 19 kilometers southeast of the historic center of Vienna. A taxi to the city center costs around 30 Euros (40 at night), the Vienna Airport Lines buses cost only 8 Euros per person (5 am to midnight) and can take you to Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz in the city center in just 20 minutes. The well-advertised and non-stop CAT (City Airport Train) will bring you to Wien Mitte station (Landstraße) in only 16 minutes, but a one-way ticket costs 11 Euros, and the return ticket 19 Euros. If you are not in an extreme hurry, the cheapest way to get to the city center is by the suburban train (S-Bahn). Simply take any Floridsdorf-bound train on the S7 line, which departs twice an hour until midnight, and disembarks at Wien Mitte station. From there, you will be well-connected, for example, the U-Bahn line U3 connects to Stephansplatz, where the imposing St. Stephen’s Cathedral stands, right in the heart of the city center.

Trains frequently run to all neighboring regions and countries. Night trains and the faster Euro-City trains arrive from virtually every city in Central Europe. High-speed RailJet and ICE trains arrive from cities such as MunichBudapestZurich, and Prague. Vienna Central station (Hauptbahnhof) is located in the 10th district, and the underground line U1 connects to Karlsplatz and Stephansplatz in the city center. One should note, though, that eastbound trains often leave from West Station (Westbahnhof).

International bus lines, including Flixbus, Blaguss, and Eurolines, offer services to many European destinations, especially in neighboring countries. Busses arrive at and leave from Vienna International Bus terminal next to the subway station Erdberg (Underground line U3).

Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, and many more – Welcome to the City of Music!

Despite many of these composers not being native to Vienna, they contributed enormously to shaping Vienna into the capital of the classical music world. Where due to the philanthropy of the Habsburg dynasty and many other aristocrats, they were able to cultivate their art with considerable freedom. The imperial palace, Hofburg, located in the historic center of Vienna, created a thriving environment for artistic endeavors and attracted international musicians and artists.

Suppose you are planning to be in Vienna on New Year’s Eve. In that case, there is a wonderful opportunity to experience the most widely broadcasted annual classical music concert in the world firsthand – The New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Musikverein. But please book well in advance as this is possibly the most famous classical music event in Vienna, and that’s saying something! If you cannot procure tickets to this heavily sought-after event, the Musikverein constantly offers concerts from the biggest names in classical music.

For opera lovers, the Wiener Staatsoper (State Opera House) offers extraordinarily diverse programming where you can hear a different opera almost every night of the week. The State Opera House is also located in the historic center of Vienna and is therefore within easy walking distance of the Musikverein, Haus der Musik (House of Music), the site of Mozart’s last apartment, and of course Karlskirche, Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), and Peterskirche in which concerts are frequently programmed.

 

Coffee Houses

The Viennese coffee house (Kaffeehaus) is a long-standing institution and plays an integral role in Viennese culture and society. You can visit them in the historic center of Vienna or any other district, modern or old-fashioned, but please, as long you are in Vienna, try to stay away from the American chains, go to traditional ones, and support the local economy! Coffee houses offer a wide selection of coffee drinks, international newspapers, as well as traditional pastries and tarts such as Apfelstrudel, Sacher Torte, or Punschkrapfen. The striking design usually features marble table tops, Thonet chairs and historically-inspired interior details. The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig once described the Viennese Coffee house as “actually a sort of democratic club, open to everyone for the price of a cheap cup of coffee, where every guest can sit for hours with this little offering, to talk, write, play cards, receive post, and above all consume an unlimited number of newspapers and journals.” Since then, only one detail may have changed – a “cheap cup of coffee” means at least 3 Euros for a black coffee. Among the most famous Viennese coffee houses are Café Demel, Café Sacher and Café Central in the historic center of Vienna, and Café Sperl in the 6th district.

Danube river

The majestic Danube is Europe’s second longest river, originating in Germany and crossing an astounding ten countries before flowing out to the Black Sea. In Vienna, the “beautiful blue Danube”, to which the famous waltz, composed by Johann Strauss Jr. refers, is completed by the New Danube (Neue Donau), the Old Danube (Alte Donau) and Danube Island (Donauinsel), which together form a huge, easily accessible recreation area with endless leisure and outdoor sports possibilities. In the city center, just on the border of the 1st district, you can enjoy the Danube canal (Donaukanal), which during the Summer time offers many bars with outdoor tables and even beach bars, where you can laze on the deckchairs with your toes in the sand.

Emergency & health care

In case the worst should happen, here are the most important telephone numbers in Vienna: Fire service: 122; Police: 133; Ambulance: 144, Emergency doctor (during the night and on weekends): 141, European emergency: 112.

Medical care in Austria is free of charge for holders of a European Health Insurance Card. It is strongly advised that travelers from non-European countries take out travel insurance prior to their trip to Austria.

Food – Wiener Küche – the only Cuisine in the world that is named after a city and not after a region or country! And we are so very proud of it!

Viennese cuisine is best known for its pastries but also includes a wide range of other tasty and hearty dishes, mostly with meat, but Vegetarians, take heart! We recommend that you try Krautfleckerl, Kartoffelgulasch, and Eiernockerl. The most famous of the Viennese cuisine is Wiener Schnitzel, a very thin, breaded and pan-fried cutlet made from veal (a cheaper version is made with pork and offered as Schnitzel “Wiener Art”). You should also try Tafelspitz (boiled beef served with potatoes, horseradish and spinach), Gulasch (beef stew in a spicy paprika sauce) with bread dumplings, or Selchfleisch (smoked meat) with sauerkraut. For typical Viennese fast food, look for a Würstelstand and order a Käsekrainer (sausage with cheese) or a Frankfurter hot dog. Sweet dishes include Apfelstrudel (strudel pastry filled with apples), Topfenstrudel (strudel with curd), Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes served with fruit compote) and Sachertorte (a two-layered chocolate cake with apricot jam in the middle). These and many more Viennese sweets can be savored at a variety of Coffee houses, but for the most extensive selection, visit Café Demel, right in the historic center of Vienna.

Heurige & Austrian Wine

During your stay in Vienna, a visit to a traditional Heurigen, a local wine tavern, is not to be missed! Most of the Heurigen are far away from the historic center of Vienna, but there is one hidden gem, close to St. Stephen’s in Ballgasse, called “Gigerl”. Heuriger means “this year’s wine” and is served by an Achterl (1/8 liter), a Vierterl (1/4 liter), or a half-liter carafe. The best and most touristy area for Heurigen is Grinzing (last stop on the tram line 38, departing from Schotttentor), but there are also many similarly gorgeous spots in Nussdorf (last stop on the tram line D), Stammersdorf (last stop on the tram line 31) or Neustift (bus line 43B).

Austria is home to some excellent local wines. The white wines (2 thirds of the production) are often made from Grüner Veltliner grapes and the red wines from Zweigelt or Blaufränkisch grapes. The city’s outskirts boast more than 200 wineries, but with just a one hour drive from the historic centre of Vienna to Wachau Valley or the area around Lake Neusiedl, even more variety is to be found.

Internet

The majority of hotels and hostels in Vienna offer free internet access. In addition, you can use around 400 free WiFi hotspots (40 in the 1st district) across the city, for example, at Stephansplatz (the area around St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the historic center of Vienna), MuseumsQuartier (home to the Leopold Museum, Mumok, and the ZOOM Children’s Museum, amongst many others), Naschmarkt, Prater, and Donauinsel (Danube Island), as well as in many train and subway stations.

Jaywalking & Vienna’s famous pedestrian traffic lights

Be aware that jaywalking in Vienna can become an expensive exercise, as traffic rules in Austria also apply to pedestrians! The fine for crossing the street at a red pedestrian light can amount to 140 Euros. So, better to stop and wait for the green light. While you wait, have a closer look at the little figures in the traffic lights: At around 50 pedestrian lights, especially in the inner city, you will not only see a standing or walking man but couples – either straight or same-sex couples. The new traffic light symbols were introduced in May 2015 as Vienna was preparing for the Vienna Life Ball and Eurovision Song Contest and are intended to underline Vienna’s role as an open-minded city and highlight the diversity of its population. As the international media response to the campaign was overwhelming, the City Council decided to keep them as permanent fixtures of the societal landscape.

Language

Austria’s official language is German – spoken with an unmistakable Austrian accent. Most locals, especially the younger generations, speak good English, though most people naturally feel much more comfortable in their own language. When attending to official matters (government departments and the like), please be prepared for the fact that many administrators are less than willing to communicate in English.

Money & Exchange

Austria is part of the Euro zone and uses the Euro as its currency accordingly. If you need to exchange money, it is most advisable to visit a bank or an exchange bureau in the city center, as it may offer better rates than you will find at your hotel or the airport. Nonetheless, check for any fees and compare the proposed rate to the mid-market rate to determine the fairest service. ATMs are a good alternative for accessing your cash at a more equitable rate than you may be offered in an exchange shop. Check whether your home bank has partnerships with any local banks in Vienna. If they do, you should be able to use their ATMs for a reduced or waived fee. When using an ATM, always choose to be charged in Euro to make sure that your money is converted at a fairer rate.

No-goes

To avoid offending locals, try to avoid some rookie errors: Don’t order a cappuccino – in Vienna it’s a Melange! The same applies to mixed drinks with soda: Don’t call it Schorle, the correct word is Spritzer – it doesn’t matter if you fancy a white wine with soda (Weißweinspritzer), equivalent to the national drink, or just a fruit juice with soda (e.g. Apfelspritzer). And never ever think about fare evasion on public transport! Traveling without a valid ticket costs 103 Euros if caught in one of the sporadic controls.

And last, but certainly not least …. Don’t call Austrians Germans. That’s the biggest mistake you can make!

 

Opening Hours

Opening hours for shops and supermarkets are regulated by law in Austria. On weekdays stores in the main shopping streets are usually open from 9 or 9.30 am to 6 or 7 pm, some until 8 pm. Malls such as Wien Mitte and Lugner City open at 9 am and do not close until 9 pm, at least on Thursdays and Fridays. Supermarkets are open between 7 or 8 am and 7 or 8 pm on weekdays. On Saturday most shops and supermarkets close at 6 pm. Only souvenir shops and supermarkets at major train stations (e.g. Wien Hauptbahnhof, Praterstern, Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof) and at the airport are open on Sundays and national holidays. A small “Spar” supermarket opposite Museumsquartier (Babenbergerstraße 9) is also open on Sundays. If you are in the historic center of Vienna, you will find a small supermarket, Billa Corso on Neuer Markt, which is also open on weekends!

Prater  

The Prater is a park outside the historic center of Vienna, approximately 6,000,000 square meters in Vienna’s 2nd district – and therefore almost twice the size of New York’s Central Park! Best known is its amusement park, called Wurstelprater, with the giant Ferris wheel. But the biggest part makes up an expansive recreation area, where the Viennese go to stroll or walk the dog, for picnics or sunbathing, for running and other kinds of outdoor activities. In addition, the Prater houses several playgrounds, a planetarium, the Prater museum, and the Liliputbahn, a little narrow-gauche railway. Underground U1, red line, stop Praterstern.

Queues

You will find queues at many places in Vienna, especially in the historic center of Vienna, at many restaurants and museums. But not only there, even at Bitzinger’s hot dog stand, one of the best in the city, on Albertina square, just next to the meeting point for our Free Tours. Incidentally, you may also have to queue for our Free Tours, if you didn’t book a spot in advance via our website – so better to hop online and book! Of course, the most extended waiting times are usually expected at Schönbrunn Palace, but we have a straightforward solution to this, too: Just come on our Schönbrunn Palace – skip the lines with us – tour!

Restrooms

You can find public toilets in many places in the historic center of Vienna, but also in parks such as Stadtpark or Prater. In most cases, you need to pay 0,50 Euro to use them. Opening hours are not standardized, but most are open during the day between 9 am and  6pm. In some metro stations in the city centre, public toilets are open 24 hours a day. Some restaurants and cafés also offer their restrooms to non-consuming guests but charge for it. If you are dining in, most of the time you take your toilet ticket from the machine and when paying your bill it will be deducted from the total! So make sure that you always have a one euro or 50 cent coin on you!

Safety

Vienna is a very safe city, especially in the historic center of Vienna you don’t need to worry! In general, you will not have trouble walking around at night. However, there are some areas that you should avoid in order not to encounter dodgy figures: the area around Praterstern station and the metro and tram stops along Margareten Gürtel and Wiedner Gürtel. Apart from that, just follow the usual rules: keep in mind that pickpockets feel most comfortable in large crowds or around the current tourist hotspots. Also, don’t trust vendors dressed up as Mozart, typically stationed around tourist locations – especially in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) and the State Opera House (Staatsoper). All of them try to sell tickets for classical concerts, but some are pedaling tickets with hugely inflated prices for shows that do not deserve to be called concerts. And be aware of cyclists and cycle paths! They are everywhere in Vienna. The cyclists are fast and they don’t give way when you accidentally set foot on their cycle path!

Top 10 Must-Dos

There is simply so much to see and do, not only in the historic centre of Vienna, but also on the outskirts of this wonderful city. Here is a list of our top 10 experiences to enjoy during your stay.

  1. Saint Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) is the iconic landmark of Vienna and Austria.
  2. Schönbrunn Palace, Sisi’s former summer residence, and the Imperial Palace (Hofburg), from where the mighty empire of the Habsburg was ruled.
  3. Spanish Riding School and its world-famous Lippizaners.
  4. Visiting a coffee house and trying the pastries, especially our Apfelstrudel, but all of them are delicious!
  5. Having a Wiener Schnitzel or another hearty traditional meal at a “Beisl”, a typical Austrian restaurant.
  6. Tasting local wine at a “Heurigen”.
  7. Visiting the State Opera (Staatsoper) or a classical music concert at the Musikverein.
  8. Taking a ride on the Ferris Wheel at Prater to see this stunning city from above.
  9. Going to a museum (to see all the wonderful treasures you would need several weeks – so maybe you need to choose between the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunsthistorisches Museum), the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum), the Museum of Applied Arts (Museum für angewandte Kunst), the Leopold Museum (featuring numerous works of Schiele and Klimt), the Upper Belvedere (home to the world’s largest Klimt collection and “The Kiss”), or the Albertina (Dürers “Hare”). You’re spoiled for choice!
  10. Exploring the beautiful Danube area in summer, or experiencing the magical atmosphere of the Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) in Winter.

 

Underground lines / Trams / Busses – getting around

Public transport in Vienna is incredibly efficient and it is absolutely not necessary to have a timetable because all of the services run so frequently! Within the city, it allows you to move around quickly and comfortably. A one-way ticket costs 2,20 Euros and is valid for 90 minutes. If you plan to be on the move a lot, a day or multi-day ticket will be the most convenient and cost-effective. Prices are 7,60 Euros for 24 hours, 13,30 for 48 hours and 16,50 for 72 hours. Each kind of ticket can be purchased at the ticket vending machines at any metro station. At larger metro stations there are also ticket counters. Please remember to validate your ticket in one of the ticket validation machines, but only do this once for each ticket – validating a ticket more than once will make it instantly invalid. Single tickets for trams and buses can be purchased at a ticket machine on the tram or from the bus driver. To reach the Good Vienna Tours meeting point in front of the Albertina, take the underground lines U1, U2 or U4, disembark at Karlsplatz, take the “Oper” exit, go around the State Opera House (Staatsoper). There you will see our green umbrella. Tram lines 1, 2, 0, D and 71 bring you to the “Kärtner Ring/Oper” stop at the Ring Road (Ringstraße), a two-minute walk from the Albertina.

 

Endearing yourself to the Viennese

There are two rankings in which Vienna is listed in the top position regularly: The city has won the title of “most livable” city in the world several times. And there is another survey that concluded that Austria’s population is considered by ex-pats one of the most grumpy in the world. But don’t worry! Though the Viennese may seem a little cranky on the surface, you will quickly see that they have hearts of gold.

Here are a few tips to help you endear yourself to the Viennese:

1. Use the local greeting. “Grüß Gott!” (pronounced groos got, with a slightly rolled r and the emphasis on groos) Even if you don’t speak German, learning a few polite words will instantly stand you in good stead to experience the best hospitality Vienna offers. Even if you speak some German, it is best to avoid “Guten Tag!” – we’re not in Germany! In Austria, aside from Grüß Gott, you may also hear “Servus!” as a greeting.

  1. “Danke” (“thank you”) – let’s face it, being able to show gratitude in the local language never goes astray.
  2. “Bitte” is an enormously helpful word – it means both “please” and “you’re welcome”. So you can add it to a request or use it when someone says “Danke!” to you.
  3. It’s best not to order a Cappuccino – in Vienna it’s a “Melange”.

Even with only this much language knowledge, you can already politely order coffee or anything on the menu and show your gratitude when it arrives at your table!

 

Christmas

Christmas is a magical time in Vienna. The historic center of Vienna is elaborately illuminated with festive lights, and the Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) are a highlight of the year for locals and tourists alike. In the heart of the city, at Stephansplatz (the area surrounding St. Stephen’s Cathedral), at the Town Hall (Rathaus), as well as in the Museumsquartier you can experience the wonder of the festive season, drink warming Glühwein (mulled wine), eat freshly roasted chestnuts, and see the marvellous craftsmanship of the mostly hand-made Christmas ornaments and gifts in the many stalls.

 

Free museum entry for people under 19 years of age!

In and around the historic centre of Vienna there are many museums that offer free entry for anyone under 19 years of age. These include:

  • The Albertina Museum
  • The Belvedere
  • Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (the Military History Museum)
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)
  • MAK – Museum für angewandte Kunst (Museum of applied Art)
  • Mumok (Museum of Modern Art)
  • Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum)
  • Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian National Library)
  • Österreichisches Theatermuseum (Austrian Theatre Museum)
  • Technisches Museum (Technical Museum)
  • Wien Museum Karlsplatz (Vienna Museum, Karlsplatz)
  • ZOOM-Ausstellung im ZOOM Kindermuseum (ZOOM Exhibition in ZOOM Childrens’ Museum)

 

Vienna Zoo

Located on the magnificent grounds of Schönbrunn Palace, Sisi’s Summer residence is the oldest Zoo in Europe (since 1752!)  that is still in existence. Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Zoo, or Vienna Zoo) is home to an extraordinary menagerie – from our famous panda twins to orangutans, polar bears to giraffes, Siberian Tigers to koalas, and hornbills to rhinoceros, just to name a few.

From the very center of the city, the Zoo is easily reached with the U4 U-Bahn line, (from either Karlsplatz Station, next to the State Opera House, or Schwedenplatz Station, just near the Danube Canal)