Vienna is famous for its coffee houses and they are indeed something special. Now, with that comes the exploitation of tourists, unfortunately. Luckily, most of the coffee houses, even those listed in guide books are decent and still offer "the real thing", ie. old-fashioned atmosphere and simply good coffee and a selection of newspapers (at least in German language), and it is fine that you stay for a couple of hours even if you only order a small coffee. There are still a few tourist traps among the coffee houses:
- Cafe Diglas: Big screens showing the cliches of Vienna; horses, cakes and balls. Bad enough. Worse is: The coffee is often not even drinkable, some of the too tempting looking cakes in their gorgeous exhibition barely have any taste at all, and even if Viennese waiters are generally grumpy and unfriendly, which is part of the fun, these haven't even got any grumpy charisma. Location in Wollzeile behind St. Stephansdom must be the one thing that saves this otherwise beautiful place from a total disaster.
- Cafe Westend: Good looking cakes from one of the pastry giants, ie. not very home-made. Amazing decoration, but very expensive and with waiters who cheat you. Practical location vis-a-vis the West Train Station (Westbahnhof) and near Mariahilferstrasse shopping area.
- Cafe Sacher/Hotel Sacher: Here you get the real Sachertorte, a verdict states so even, the true Austrian way. Still, arrogant waiters, complete lack of charm and the most boring cake ever, no matter how real, makes this a place you go to maximum once. Been there, done that. Wasn't even worth it.
- Cafe Mozart: Stylish coffe house with cakes from one of the most successful, and righteously so, pastry families in town. Located next door to Hotel Sacher and the Opera, vis-a-vis Albertina, famous from "The Third Man". The lack of charm, style and personality is as impressive as the pastry selection.
Unique Suggestions: Order a small coffee or a small beer and enjoy some ogling.
Fun Alternatives: - Alternative to Cafe Diglas: For an equally great selection cakes plus the sight of Viennese ladies eating them; go right accross the Wollzeile street, and walk a bit upwards, to the left to pastry shop Heiner. This is not a place to spend many hours. If the coffee, newspaper and watching other guests are more your cup of tea, walk down Wollzeile until you almost reach Ringstrasse. On your left side is a true gem, Cafe Prückel. The cakes are way better than Diglas' although they look less pro. Coffee is always good and the lounge-like atmosphere is something special.
- Alternative to Cafe Westend: Some worn-down but wonderful cafes are just a short walk away, such as Cafe Jelinek in 6th district in Otto-Bauer-Gasse, right off Mariahilferstrasse. Another world and homemade cakes. Not many tourists find their way here. Even fewer find their way to Cafe Weingartner in Goldschlagstrasse in 15th district. More interesting and local than stylish. Or take tram no. 5 for approx 10 minutes to 8th district and Cafe Hummel in Josefstädterstrasse. Cakes are delicious, a coffee house loved by construction workers and politicians alike. The waiters are either incredibly nice or Viennese-style grumpy.
- Alternative to Hotel Sacher and Cafe Mozart: Although Demel lost the Sachertorte battle, they do not have the best Sacher alternative. Cafe Tirolerhof in Tegetthoffstraße, between Albertina and Kapuzinergruft, is certainly a better option. Stylish place with properly grumpy waiters. A decent coffee house experience. If cakes are less important, check out Cafe Bräunerhof in Stallburggasse. If the cakes are crucial and you've already picked out one or five you just have to try, Cafe Landtmann near Burgtheater is where you should go. You get the same cakes. Very upscale cafe, always a couple of tables with seriously misfit tourists. If you want to check out further cake options, go to Demel in Kohlmarkt. You may not believe what you see though and you will seriously wonder what the boring Sachertorte is all about after all.
In a beautiful greenhouse in the Burggarten, part of the Hofburg complex, is the Schmetterlinghaus, advertised as "Vienna's Historical Butterfly Greenhouse". The advertising literature invites you in to "relax and get away from it all" and be "astounded" by colourful butterflies, waterfalls and exotic plants through "incredible light-infused surroundings".
In reality, we found this to be an attraction that promised more than it delivered. Yes there were some beautiful butterflies but many of the plants were artificial and the area to explore was a lot smaller than it first appeared. It didn't seem to be very well maintained and we saw lots of dead butterflies that hadn't been cleared up. The glass was dirty and the whole place looked like it could do with a good clean. It was hot, humid and smelly and we wished we hadn't wasted 4 euros each on the tickets.
Unique Suggestions: I'd avoid this attraction altogether.
Fun Alternatives: Enjoy a walk in the adjacent gardens instead.
I see people queuing (sometimes for hours) just to get into the Sacher cafe and then to have an over-priced, not really nice tasting Sacher cake. What is this fuzz about this piece of chocolate cake? Believe me, you WILL survive having been to Vienna and NOT been to the Sacher cafe. By the way, they might have the "original" recipe which does not mean, it is the best! You can get tastier Sacherkuchen or Sacherschnitte in any KONDITOREI or CAFE in Austria.
The Sacher is a place for people who want to spend too much money for a cup of coffee or a piece of cake and sit among the pseudo-riches and riches of the world.
Unique Suggestions: Simply don't go there.
Fun Alternatives: Eat a Sacher cake in any other Konditorei, it is much tastier and cheaper.
I had an unpleasant experience in one Pizza-restaurant. I haven't been reading the Menu, and just ordered Capriciossa (standard pizza with tomato,cheese, ham, mushrooms and an olive). Only this time I got a Capriciossa but with sardines on it and I didn't knew that. However, I'm allergic to fish-oil so I don't eat any tipe of sea-food or river-food. The result was, when I tasted just one small bite of pizza, my stomach got up in my throath and I almost vomit (this is how my allergy manifests) on the table, the lucky thing was that I was sitting near the toilet so was able to get there on time.
At first, I thought they made something wrong, that I got the wrong pizza. So, I read the Menu, and it clearly said: SARDINES.
Unique Suggestions: Always read menus. Simple as that. I'll be more careful next time.
Please - if you want to see a concert - do NOT book any of the street selling ones! Ignore the ridiculously Mozart-dressed people running around the city trying to sell you low-quality tourism-trash concerts or whatever. The good stuff is NEVER sold on the streets, be it a concert, a restaurant or whatever. Go to the opera, the Volkstheater, the Raimundtheater or the Theater an der Wien for example (see other tips that I will write on that topic). Your money is much better spent there ...
Unique Suggestions: ignore the streetsellers, don't buy anything
Fun Alternatives: as mentioned above, go to the good places, the opera, the Volkstheater, the Burgtheater, Theater an der Wien, Raimundtheater, etc.
The Central Cafe first opened in 1860 in the former Bank and Stockmarket building in Herrengasse 14, and was a meeting place for Viennese intellectuals to come to discuss over coffee & pastries. Therefore, the cafe holds some historical value which is one of the attractions apart from their good food & drinks.
When I got here, I waited for 20 min but the waiter never came round to ask for my order so I left without ordering anything. I guess since the place is packed with tourists, the cafe can afford to choose their patrons. From the menu, the prices are higher than average so bring extra money in case you want to have more than a hot beverage.
To get from Vienna's International Airport in Schwechat to the city centre by train you can take either a CAT (City Airport Train) or a regular suburban train S7.
The CAT train is a non-stop service which takes you to Wien City Station in 16 minutes. A single ticket costs 9 Euro, whereas a single ticket for the S7 costs only 3 Euro (2005). It can even be combined with a 24 hour ticket.
The trip by normal train is slightly longer, but also gives you the chance to get off the train at other stations than Wien Mitte. Apart from that it goes more frequently than the CAT train.
The only real advantage of the CAT train is the fact that you can check in your luggage and collect your boarding pass already at Wien Mitte Station.
Fun Alternatives: Instead of taking the expensive CAT train from Vienna Airport to the city centre, take a normal train (e.g. S7).
Should you climb the hill to the Gloriette on warm day, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel the need for a cool drink, as we did. Aha, there's the outdoor refreshment area at the rear of the Gloriette waiting for you!
I have an abiding caution about places such as this – it seems that the price of food and drink is proportional to the locale (or height of the lookout) no matter where in the world you may be. And so it was here. Cool drinks which were available locally near our hotel for about 1.20€, or in the snackbar/souvenir shop inside the Schönbrunn entrance (0.5L for 1.90€) suddenly rose to 0.25L for 2.30€ - half the quantity for almost twice the “outside” price!
Fun Alternatives: We had our drinks when we returned down the hill to the Schönbrunn entrance
The Prater amusement park and Riesenrad (the giant ferris-wheel). Although I would not exactly call it a tourist trap this is not the first place I would visit on a short trip to Vienna. Nevertheless the ferris-wheel is a landmark in the city and from it you’ll have a great view. There are several restaurants around, f. ex. the famous Schweizerhaus, overcrowded most of the time. – By the way, the ferris-wheel and post-war Vienna was the set for Carol Reed´s film “The third man” (1949) after the novel by Graham Greene, starring Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard etc. A classic espionage thriller. What really happened to Harry Lime?
If you walk by the Vienna Opera or in the pedestrian-zone between the opera-house and St Stephens you will meet dozens of mozart-like, baroquish clad men and women, trying to sell you tickets for "Original Viennese" concerts.
As long as you like the rather "light" type of music, Strauss walzes, operette-melodies or if you savor small orchestras of (nice) young ladies performing those kind of music-styles, as long as you want to watch 1 or 2 ballet-couples doing the Vienna-waltz, everything is ok, although the tickets are rather expensive (about 40-60 EUR)
BUT do NOT expect performances, like you might know from the Viennese Opera or our NEW YEARS CONCERT !!
Unique Suggestions: If you cant get away without savoring some music in "the city of music" Vienna, check the program and location, before booking your tickets. Compare prices and do NOT book with the first "Mozart", you meet.
BETTER check with your reception-desk clerks, who might get you better prices and better concerts!
Fun Alternatives: One thing you should do, if you are a serious lover of classical music: check the online- ticket-site of
WIENER KONZERTHAUSGESELLSCHAFT and WIENER MUSIKVEREIN at
Here you could easily book your tickets several weeks or days in advance at nearly the same price, you would have to pay for the above mentioned "Viennese" concerts !
The Hudertwasser village is also knowns as Kilke village - and it was not born as a tourist trap. it is a wonderful example of Hundertwasser's architecture... and it has thoroughly been spoilt by commercialism... Go inside this house and you can buy all sorts of tourist junk, not all related to Hundertwasser, actually. And there are so many people walking about that you can't even appreciate the details of the building.
Fun Alternatives: Pay 60 cents and use the village's toilet - it's really worth it: 60 centrs for the self-proclaimed "toilet of mdern art", inclusive of a water fountain with neon lights. It's stunning... never has modern art been so cheap - and I guess never will be.
The wost thing to see the old city is by horse-drawn carriage or cart. Ok, this is how rich people used to live and move about, but these times are gone. Now it's just for tourists who want to waste some euros in a touristy way.
Fun Alternatives: You have feet, so walk. If you had wanted to see Vienna sitting down comfortably, you could have done it from home... watching TV or looking at photos on a book. I believe that you should "go" to the city, not wait until the city comes to you.
You will see them all over Vienna, outside every major tourist attraction. They are dressed up like stereotypical artists from the 18th century, and speak English in a variety of accents from all over Europe. They are selling "discount" tickets to music concerts at various locations, but none of them at the famous places in the city. I would normally avoid them like the plague, but for once I ended up being suckered in so you can actually hear about what the trap was like.
I was caught out because the friends who I met up with in Vienna had already bought tickets from them. I had wanted to go out with them that evening so I was forced into buying a ticket myself. At 44 euros I thought it was damned expensive, but it was being held at the Kursalon, which I'd seen earlier in the day and looked impressive.
For 44 euros I got herded into the Kursalon with hundreds of other people, and put on a small side chair in a small room with not particularly good acoustics. The musicians themselves, however, were excellent, and so after the performance I didn't feel too ripped off, although I know that I could have seen at least a good a show at the Staatsoper for as little as 9 euros, and probably had a more comfortable seat, a better view, and vastly superior acoustics. Go there instead.
Fun Alternatives: The Wiener Staatsoper.
The Secession Museum is a building with cupola of golden laurel leaves and its art deco facade. It is one of the keyworks of Viennese Art Nouveaux architecture and was planned and built by Joseph Maria Olbricht, a student of Otto Wagner. Laurel leaf garlands decorate the facade and front of the building, the masks of 3 gorgons preside over the entrance symbolizing the 3 art forms of architecture, sculpture and painting. Above the entrance you can read the motto of the secessionist: "Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit." (To the Age its Art. To Art its Freedom)
The Secession museum specializes in contemporary art.; it is a museum that exhibits radical - sometimes contraversial, sometimes weird - and modern works of arts. However, the so-called works of arts are really not worth the visit.
The last time I went there, it was in 2005 and I was not impressed at all with the so-called work of arts at the time. It was an exhibition of sound and media, and I saw dark empty spaces in cubicles with TVs in the middle of the rooms. There were shadows and light plays which meant nothing at all. I was flabbergasted at these "Arts". Then I decided to see Gustav's Klimt's exhibit - it was located in the basement of the building and I was very disappointed to see that Klimt never finished the paintings. The "Beethovan Frieze" paintings were small, way up near to the ceilings and they only covered less than 1/4 of the walls.
I was very very disappointed - I felt I was ripped-off.
Unique Suggestions: If you really have to enter the Secession Museum, go and see the famous Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze (the Secession Museum's best-known exhibit). Designed in 1902 as a decorative painting, it covers 3 walls and is 34 m (110 feet) long. It shows interrelated groups of figures and is thought to be a commentary on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Fun Alternatives: Go to the Belvedere Museums. You can see much more and better works of arts for Euro 10.
I bought Vienna Card like in other cities(Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels), but this one turned out to be a total mistake. 1. It doesn't entitle you a big discount, not like in other places, you'll have free entrance to some museums, it only deducts the prices for 1 or 2 euros. 2. If you are a student, you get bigger discount with your student ID than Vienna Card, and it's not mentioned at all in the manual! 3. It has only 3-day version, not like in other places you have the choice of 1 or 2 days.
This product by Vienna official tourist board did a bad job in showing a good image of Vienna to tourists, I would say...