Don't take the City Bus Tour!
The City Bus Tour is the Hop on and off bus tour, where you can visit the main tourist site and get off and then get on later. For this, you pay almost Euro 30 and you get a crappy headphone with audio guide, then circle around the city and maybe visit a few sights away from Vienna (e.g. Schonbrunn, etc.).
Unique Suggestions: Do the city bus tour when you don't have much time in Vienna. The bus tour is good for busy people because the bus will bring you easily and directly to the main major attractions without much hassle. If you take this tour, get off at every stop and enjoy the sights as much as possible.
Fun Alternatives: Go to the tourist office and get the map of the city. Then you should walk to every tourist attractions; you don't have to walk far because most of the attractions are close to each other. You can take the Tram # 1 or # 2 and enjoy the ride around the "Ring" road. You get to see the Hofburg palace gates, the Empress Maria Theresa square and the 2 museums, the Parliment, the Town Hall, the Votiv church (from far), then around to Schwedenplatz, the Stadtpark and the Schwazenburgplatz. You just pay Euro 1.50 for the Tram ticket and you can use the ticket for the underground as well, as long as it is within one journey or 60 minutes, whichever is earlier.
100 Mozarts everywhere !
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 !
When in Vienna, we decided to end our trip on a high note by saving the Schönbrunn and Hofburg for last. Big mistake!
After having visited Schönbrunn, we had the unfortunate surprise of finding out that the information presented in the headphones at Hofburg was very similar to that presented at Schönbrunn. The feeling of redundancy was accentuated by the fact that nearly all the rooms at Hofburg are decorated in the same fashion (imperial red).
Our ticket also included an entry into the seemingly endless Silberkammer (Silver Chamber), which houses an exhibition of pompous table decorations and silverware.
And let us not forget the Sissimuseum. The museum in itself is not at fault, since it makes an earnest effort to present the real life of Sissi. The only problem is her life is very uninteresting. By the end of the tour, it is obvious movies made her into a cult figure when in fact she is quite undeserving of our attention.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure you're a huge Sissi fan before entering Hofburg. If not, save your time and money and just walk around the palace. I personally liked the Schweizerhof (Swiss Courtyard).
Fun Alternatives: Visit Schönbrunn instead. You'll learn just as much about the Habsburg family and see a much greater variety of room decorations.
Coffee houses turned tourist traps
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.
- Arts and Culture
- Food and Dining
TAXIS to and from the AIRPORT !!!
Viennas airport is situated in Schwechat, 18kms from Viennas city center and lies in the federal state of Lower Austria.Flagging down a taxi in Vienna for a ride to the airport may become expensive, because some drivers may try to get paid also for the ride back to the city.
Unique Suggestions: You can avoid this either by taking the CAT (City airport train) from Schwechat to Central Vienna (and hire a taxi there to your hotel) OR by making a reservation by phone in advance at one of the cheaper taxi companies, like most Viennese already do !
At the moment the best rates are by Airport-Service (+0043 676 351 64 20) one way EUR 27,- and C&K (+43(1) 44 444) EUR 29,- The drivers will expect you in the arrival-hall,carrying your name-plate.The Viennese telephone-taxi company tel 60160 will charge EUR 31,-
In Schwechat you should go to the official taxi-counter in the arrival-hall, the ride to the city will cost also around EUR 31,-
If you flag a taxi in Vienna or at the airport, you have to bargain: you should never pay more than EUR 31,-
The first address has now a new website at: http://www.airportservice.at/airport.htm
Both companies as well as the telephone-taxi 60160 are reliable, I tried them several times !
Fun Alternatives: Another choice would be to take the CAT or the (slower and cheaper) train to the citiy:
See more details on trains and CAT at my Transportation-tips !
- Business Travel
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. :)
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
Pick your catering stop carefully
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
- Castles and Palaces
- Food and Dining
Overrated Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher
Almost every Vienna guidebook will tell you that you must try the infamous Sacher Torte, an extremely rich Viennese classic made with layers (usually three) of chocolate cake filled with apricot jam and enrobed in a creamy-rich chocolate glaze. And, they say you must try at the Hotel Sacher. Well, I do enjoy the occasional sacher torte but not enough to pay top money (a small whole cake will cost you over 30 euros) when I can get a nice torte in another coffeehouse or Oberlaa Cafe
Unique Suggestions: Go ahead and have your cake. At the very least, soak up the glamour of having cake & coffee at a famous fancy hotel
- Food and Dining
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
You don't get what you booked
When booking the Salzburg tour of Vienna Sightseeing Tours,we were asked which language we wanted and said "German". It was noted on the receipt and we paid almost 100 Euro. However, when we were in the bus and after the tour had started, the tour guide told us that there weren't enough German speaking tourists in the bus, so the tour would NOT be in German. It was in Italian and English. To me that meant I had to do lots of translating, and I'm sure I forgot many details since all this was new to me,too.
I wouldn't have minded if they had told us when signing up for this tour, but nothing was mentioned about a minimum number of people for a language. I guess we were lucky that there were enough Americans in the bus, so the tour was at least given in English. Had there been many Japanese tourists, we would have paid and would have understood nothing.
The tour guide was nice,but she said she couldn't do anything about it, it's the company's policy.They know that tourists are only in Vienna for a short time and once they've got the money, they couldn't care less.
Unique Suggestions: Go with a large group of people who all speak the same language and ask twice, if the tour will be given in your language.
- Historical Travel
CAT - City Airport Train
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).
- Budget Travel
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
Some of the most important traps
The most important tourist traps in vienna are
Fiaker (the horse carriages you see mostly in the 1st district)
Many Heurige in Grinzing and surroundings (in particular those to which the tourist buses are going)
The ticket sellers on the streets dressed in historical costumes (you get all tickets cheaper at the official ticket offices or directly at the theater counters)
Secession Museum is not worth the money
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.
Cheap Concert Tickets? No way!
When you walk pass the Opera in the 1st district, you will notice that there will be some people dressed up as Mozart or period costumes and stopping you to ask if you would like to go to a classical concert. You might think that the concert is held in the infamous Opera but far from it. These people are trying to sell overpriced tickets to concerts held in smaller theatres in other parts of towns.
Unique Suggestions: If you still would like to attend a musical concert for a lower (but not cheap) price than the Opera, go ahead and buy a ticket. When you get home, you can always say that you've been to one in Vienna.
Tourist stores do offer a lot of "made-in-China" stuff, which has nothing to do wth Astria or Vienna. Music CDs are cheaper, if you buy them in a local warehouse. Chocolates are cheaper from a local supermarket. Austrians do not wear grey alpine hats and also the wine and liquor in the tourist stores is heavily overprized.
Fun Alternatives: Typical Austrian quality products are:
- pumpkin seed oil, which you can get in very beautiful bottles at the local BILLA supermarkets for half the price you pay in toursits stores or at the big "Naschmarkt"
- dont buy wine at the "Naschmarkt" - better enter small wine stores in the inner circle districts or also check the BILLA for higher-priced Austrian wines
- Svarovski is an Austrian company producing jewellery. Not everyone's taste - but for sure produced in Austria
- further products, where Austrians are leading in high quality: ski and skiing equipmment, hiking boots, outdoor gear
- if you can bring it over the border "mountain cheeese" (Bergkaese) and Salami or other dired saussages (partially also from Hungary) are very delicious
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