5 Vienna travel tips

St Stephens Cathedral in Vienna

The 137-metre spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral towers over the old city in Vienna.

VIENNA — The capital of Austria is one gorgeous, well-managed place and it’s easy to get around here. You don’t have to be a seasoned traveler to find Vienna comfortable and accommodating. Here are some tips for your trip that may make it more enjoyable than you expect:

  1. Explore the old and new city. Like just about every European city, Vienna features a beautiful historic centre with spectacular architecture and a towering church spire looming over everything. Still, to really see what makes it special, you’ll want to get away from the crowds outside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and beyond the Ring Road, which circles the old city. The new part of Vienna is filled with cool stores, innovative restaurants and fantastic bars. Check out Schon Schön, Max and Bar a.m.
  2. Save on transit. Vienna has an expansive and diverse public transit system that includes an underground Metro, buses and streetcar/tram system. There’s a quirk that says you have to pay 2.20 euros if you buy your ticket on a tram or bus, but if you purchase an advance ticket it’s only 1.80 euros. You can get those advance tickets at “Vorverkauf” (“advance tickets”) kiosks in the Metro stations and at some tram stops. Also, if you’re traveling on the transit system for only one or two stops, you can buy a “half-price ticket” for just 1.10 euros. Visitors can purchase unlimited-travel passes for a number of time periods; for 24 hours it costs 5.70 euros and for 72 hours it’s 13.60 euros, and you can even get an eight-day ticket (27.20 euros). Thing is, Vienna is so easy to walk — and walking is always the best way to see a city — that you may not need to take transit more than twice a day, if at all, meaning you can stick to the advance tickets and save, or simply opt to stay on foot. When you want to travel to the outskirts of the city, you can purchase a 24-hour pass that can get you to Schönbrunn Palace and Grinzing in one day.
  3. Know what you want to see. Vienna is one of those places that’s going to surprise you. Once you get here you’re going to want to stay and relax and get to know whatever attraction or establishment you’ve walked into, and you’re also going to want to explore and see as much as you can. So, plan your visit. If you want to see a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic or Boys Choir, or catch a performance at the Golden Hall or see the Lippizaner Stallions, then book your tickets in advance. Otherwise you’re liable to end up lingering at a coffeehouse or on a patio! The city’s laid-back atmosphere is going to hook you.
  4. Hit the museums and galleries. Few cities have as deep an appreciation and understanding of art as Vienna. Modern art installations throughout the city will make you stop and wonder. Some encourage you to interact, others to simply laugh. Such flair is everywhere here. It’s like being at a Nuit Blanche but with an extremely high level of talent and creativity. So, walk into some galleries to see what’s going on in modern art here and make sure you visit some of the museums. I got to the wonderful Kunsthistorisches Museum (12 euros admission) and to the terrific Belvedere Museum (9.50 euros and up), home to Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” Both museums have amazing collections with many masters, including Vermeer, Velazquez and Rembrandt at the Kunsthistorisches and Munch, Cezanne and Monet at the Belvedere.
  5. Apple strudel at Cafe Museum in Vienna

    Apple strudel at Cafe Museum in Vienna. Very good!

    Eat lots. The food here is really good. From the tortes at the Sacher Hotel and Demel to the goodies at the Naschmarkt to the delicous finger sandwiches and wine at Zum Schwarzen Kameel to the pastries at all the coffeehouses in town, there’s a ton of delicious stuff to try. And a lot of it is deceptively light tasting, so if you’re on a diet, consider leaving it at home for this trip.

 Got any tips of your own to share? Or a question I might be able to answer? Leave a comment or send an email!

[Copyrighted photos by Julia Pelish Photography]

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