Schmetterlinghaus (Butterfly House)
After many years in Vienna, I decided to see the Schmetterlinghaus (Butterfly house), which is part of the Palmenhaus (Palm house or greenhouse) within the Hofburg (Imperial) Palace, next to the Burggarten and just 200 meters from the Opera house. The Schmetterlinghaus was advertised like this... "Come and be amazed by hundreds of live, free-flying tropical butterflies, in an exciting recreation of their natural rain forest environment".
Sadly, in reality, we found this advert to be untrue. When we were there last summer 2008, there were not many butterflies ~ in fact we saw only 10 butterflies! When we asked the people there, they said that the butterfly numbers depended on how many pupae they will get from the supplier. We did see some pupae in an glass enclosement container there but still not enough to shout about!
The whole inside area was a lot smaller than it appeared on the outside. The whole place didn't seem to be very well maintained and we didn't see much tropical plants either. The glass windows were dirty and the whole place looked like it could do with a good scrubbing. Inside was was hot, humid and smelly and we wished we hadn't wasted 4 euros each on the tickets.
I have been to the Butterfly Houses in Malaysia (in Kuala Lumpur and in Penang), in Singapore and in Montreal, Canada. There, I saw so many beautiful exotic butterflies in their tropical enclosed garden settings.
Hence, I would have expected the butterfly house in Vienna to be just as good (since they have a very nice Zoo) but alas, it was not to be true. It is a great pity because Schmetterlinghaus has a great potential to attract more visitors if they could clean the place up and get more butterflies.
Unique Suggestions: Just don't go - it's a waste of time and money. But if you are curious, here is the link: Schmetterlinghaus
Fun Alternatives: Go and enjoy a walk in the adjacent Volksgarten or around the Stadtpark instead.
- School Holidays
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
THE VIENNA CARD
A lot of cities have discount cards which I quite often buy after researching if they are worth while.
For me, the Vienna card WAS NOT.
Yes, you do get transport free, but the rest is only small discounts at heaps of places. Just how many places can you see in 72 hours?
If you do the Museums, these are huge and one Museum can take a full day or longer to look at.
All of these things have to be kept in mind.
Do what I do, and tick off the list of what you want to see and do against the card. If you come out ahead, go for it, if not, it's a rip-off, which is what I thought of the Vienna Card.
Do you still remember such a phone booths which, not so long ago, used to stand on every corner in the cities? I recall with nostalgia of those times when we weren't slaves of modern and aggressive technology which is "killing" us slowly. Sometimes one had to have a coin in the pocket and will or desire to phone at home or in the company, letting know that will be a bit late or whatsoever. But today others can tracing each and every step we make and nobody could hide.....
Free walking tours
I read a lot in last year about free walking tour trough some European cities such as Belgrade, Prague or Sofia. There is very good promotions on social networks too. In that time I find a offer for Vienna too.
The program would be start in 11 am in Sigmund Freud park, across Votive Church. It would be last about 3 hours and connected all major attractions predominately within Inner Stadt area.
I even ask in hostel where I stay. They didn't know anything about this program.
Since I have opportunity to go on start point in indicate time I went there and wait some time. I didn't take a online reservation and maybe it is a contribute to this as I find recently.
In meanwhile I visit Votive church and take a walking tour by myself. So, nothing serious happens but still is disappointment. I will make reservations next time.
Unique Suggestions: Be good informed. Don't just seat on some bench and wait. Explore surroundings.
Fun Alternatives: I suggest to arrange to meet some locals to show you city. Or just use a map and Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour!
For those who prefer a professional guide there is several paid walking tours available online.
- Budget Travel
Brick wall is not brick! :)
When we walked around Vienna, in the centre (1-st district) we saw big brick cube and it was not only one cube, but a few of them. From first sight it seems like made from brick, but in real it is only illumination and they need it for reconstruction of different objects.
Some people just work inside these cubes and reconstruct sculptures, the parts of buildings and so on in this way. It is quite good way, I think. This one side of "brick" cube is near Hofburg palace.
Unique Suggestions: Do nothing, just know there are no bricks.
The CAT - fast train to/from the airport
Not worth the triple price compared to the regular S7 train. When at the airport, the walls and signs literally scream with their ads beckoning you to take it into Vienna - so much so that I found it difficult to locate the signs to the regular train.
Horse carriage in the cold!
I don't know how it is in the warmer months but during the winter the horses seem to suffer. I felt sorry for them but we could really do anything, I guess when they are on the move is better but I prefer to walk too...
What's more, its expensive and the ride lasts only 30'. If you want to try them anyway, you can find them next so St. Stephan or at Hofburg area. We just took some pictures of them and went into warmer places.
Unique Suggestions: Put more clothes on and say "I'm a tourist and I do silly things" :)
Fun Alternatives: I suggest to walk, take the tram etc
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
It is some kind of a lovely tourist-trap: The Fiaker - it is a horse-drawn carriage like it used to be the only "taxi-service" of the times of imperial Vienna before WW I.
Nowadays you will find them mostly waiting for tourists next to the cathedral Stephansdom or at Heldenplatz next to Hofburg.
Unique Suggestions: It is best to fix a price before you enter, so it will not be a surprise afterwards...
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Bottled Water @ Hotels
I found that the Tap water in Vienna is perfectly find and there is absolutely no issue when you drink it. Vienna is a developed country and one does not have to have bottled water like a third world country.
However every restaurent that I had been too in Vienna seems to push bottled water and also charge outrageous rates of 4 Euros per bottle.... 6 US$. That is a rip off... when you ask to Tap water they have NONE.
In fact in one restaurent "Colobo Hoppers" as Sri Lankan restaurent I was told that some Drik or Water is mandatory to be ordered with the buffet.
Unique Suggestions: Just ask to Beer its cheaper than bottled water...
Fun Alternatives: Either carry your bottle of water and drink it or just order beer it costs cheaper.
Mozart Balls (Not what you think)
The Mozartkugel (English: Mozart ball), originally known as the “Mozartbonbon”, was created by the Salzburg confectioner, Paul Fürst in 1890 and named after the famous music composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I am not such a fan of these chocolate balls (because I don't like marzipan) but tourists buy because it's considered as a typical Austrian souvenir.
Buying mozart balls itself is not a tourist trap, but it is where you buy them would be a big tourist trap. The Mozart balls are sold in all souvenir shops or at the airport duty-free shops are very very expensive.
Unique Suggestions: If you really have to buy them, go ahead and have fun.
Fun Alternatives: You can buy the mozart balls at the BILLA or SPAR supermarkets around the city. The prices are very much lower.
Don't Do the Opera House Guided Tour!
I went on a guided tour around the Opera House with a group of friends. The tour cost is Euro 6.50 per person for about half an hour, and I don't think it was such a good value. There were many groups on tour and we were herded around too much, not leaving much time for the tour guides to explain much, not giving us much time to really look around. We didn't see much of the Opera House - front and back of the curtains, some empty rooms, and 2 ballrooms, that's it.
For Euro 6.50 per person for half an hour? That is too much for too little time.
Unique Suggestions: If you really want to see the inside of the Opera house and don't have time to explore it, try to go during low-peak season or in the morning when there are less tourists around.
Fun Alternatives: If you have the time, bring your guidebook along and explore the Opera house on your own. If you happened to see a guided tour group, you can sort of eavesdrop on the group tour...hehehe. :)
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
Expensive Beverages in City Centre
When summer comes to Vienna, it comes suddenly and with such heating force. One day, it is nice and cool, and then the next, it is hot and sunny. When it gets hot, people gets thirsty easily and they will be wanting a nice cool drink - fast.
But do not be tempted to buy drinks from the city centre's food stalls, souvenir shops, etc. The prices of these cold drinks will be very expensive when compared to supermarket prices. A 0.5L bottle of mineral water will cost Euro 1.50-1.80 while in supermarkets will cost less than Euro 0.50. A cold Coke or Iced Tea can cost you Euro 1.80 - Euro 2.00 per 0.5L bottle.
Unique Suggestions: Well, if you are really dying of thirst, go ahead and pay a premium price for the bottled water, coke, or soft drink beverages.
Fun Alternatives: If you plan to spend a long time outdoors, it is better you buy from the supermarkets or carry your own bottled water. By the way, the water from the tap is cool and delicious as Austria has good quality tap water. There are a few supermarkets located around the city centre - these are called BILLA or SPAR/INTERSPAR or HOFER or ZIELPUNKT. It is nice to visit these supermarkets (especially in summer) because they are air-conditioned and they sell good snacks (ready-packed sandwiches, pastries, cakes, donuts, etc.) and different sizes of bottled water.
- Budget Travel
Opera tickets sellers
Vienna is the city where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived. And of course you will notice it. Especially in the summertime there are street sellers dressed in special clothes, and some have barock clothes just as Mozart was dressed.
They want to sell Opera tickets to tourists. Some may say that a show like this is a great experience when you are in Vienna. But if you don't like opera, the street sellers can be quite annoying. I some of them are watchdogs for tourists. See the photo where one of them where hiding behind the trees, just to show up right in front of new tourists.
- Castles and Palaces
Tourist guides in Royal dresses around palaces
I came across this in more than one tourist location in Vienna and hence, I was forced to conclude this as a tourist trap. To me it was simple. These men dress like royal staff and offer you tours around the palaces and it might be easy for tourists to get convinced by their attire and book with them. I don't see any other logic, i'm sorry.
I came across one set of 'Royal tourist guides' at the Hofburg palace and the other at the Schoenbrunn palace.
Garden Not Completely Free
This is just a word of caution regarding the Schonbrun Garden. Although the main garden is free, the smaller but more spectacular Princes Garden, has an entry fee. That aside, it is still well worth a visit.
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