Vienna is an welcoming, elegant, clean and beautiful city for travelers. Resplendent with gorgeous architecture and monuments at every turn, it is easy to imagine this artistic and intellectual capital in the times of Mozart and Freud. Navigating Vienna is fairly easy but if you want to plan a seamless trip, follow these Vienna tips for travelers.
Vienna (or Wein, pronounced veen, in German), still ranks as one of the best cities we have visited in Europe. Since this Central European capital is not as well covered as some of its Western counterparts, I wanted to provide a few of my top Vienna tips for tourists. Read on for practical tips on when to go, getting around, eating out, and more >>>>
VIenna Tips: When to Visit
Vienna, Austria is such a lovely city that it can be a year-round destination. Many choose to visit the Austrian capital when the Christmas Markets are up and running and everything looks magical. Summer is the most popular time to visit Vienna when weather is warm and kids are out of school. If you want to avoid the crowds but still have pleasant weather, the best time to visit is in the shoulder season of April to May or September to October.
If you are visiting Vienna for the first time, use these following Vienna travel tips to pick when to visit:
- Expect rain if you visit in November or March and possibly snow during the winter months. It was pretty windy and rainy a couple of days that we were there in March, but we also had some lovely warm days as well.
- Vienna ball season begins in mid-November and peaks in January and February.
- Check a special events calendar on the Vienna tourism official website in advance so you know if there are any big festivals or events going on that may make the city more crowded than usual (such as annual events like Carnival and Opera Ball in February, Classical Music concert festivals in March, the OsterKlang Festival around Easter, etc.) You can also check for public holidays in Austria when many businesses would be closed.
- Austrian school holidays begin in July so if you are going in summer, June would be the month to go.
- Christmas season runs from mid-November to Christmas Day.
Tips for Getting Around Vienna
Plenty of visitors arrive in the City of Music on Danube River cruises or other tour groups, but it is easy to visit as an independent traveller too.
If you are arriving at the Vienna International Airport, the easiest way to get to the city centre is using the City Airport Train. The train takes 16 minutes to get from the Vienna airport to central Vienna and leaves the airport every 30 minutes. You can buy a single ticket or return tickets online, at the counter, or from the ticket machines.
However, with a family of four or more, it is going to be cheaper and easier to take a cab or Uber, both of which should cost 30-45 euros with standard pricing, and take about 30 minutes.
The main train station is Vienna Hauptbahnhof, offering local train service to main train stations in other European cities. I’d recommend giving yourself at least 45 minutes to one hour from the city center before your train departure time. The train station is extremely easy to find your way around and tracks/trains are clearly marked.
Getting around Vienna is easy. If you stay within the inner ring (Innenstadt or Innere Stadt) of the city center in the 1st District, you can easily walk just about everywhere. However, your feet can get tired so there are other options:
- Underground – the U-Bahn (underground) is easy to use to get to main attractions. You can purchase tickets in the station at machines or ticket windows. Simply VALIDATE your ticket at the entrances before boarding the train. If you have a multi-trip/day pass, you only need to validate it once when you first use it. As an added bonus, children under 15 are free and don’t need a ticket! Just look for your line, which are labeled by color and number, and the end point of the direction you are traveling. It is easy to tell which stations are next and the stations are labeled on the platform so you know when you have arrived. There are also LED signs to let you know when the next train is arriving.
- Trams – these operate the same as the underground, but they are above ground and offer a better view, although they are a bit slower. Both are clean and easy to use. There is also a ring tram that you can use as a cheap tour of the inner city. When you get on the tram for the first time, just validate your ticket in the little ticket validator. It is a little harder to track your route as the stations aren’t as clearly marked but there should be an LED display inside the tram to let you know what station you are approaching. There are both modern and old-fashioned trams. Children under 15 are also free on trams.
- Uber – Uber drivers are plentiful and it is cheap! We found it easier than taking a taxi because you didn’t need to worry about how much cash you had or if they took credit cards. You also can call them from anywhere, versus trying to hail a cab or find one waiting outside of major attractions/hotels. Check out these tips for using Uber or Lyft.
Vienna Travel Tips: Eating in Vienna
Eating out is one of the joys of a trip to Vienna. The wiener schnitzel is unsurpassed and you may also want to try Vienna’s favorite sacher torte (personally I preferred all the other pastries around the coffee houses in Vienna.)
- Reservations are highly recommended!
- Many restaurants will accept reservations online through their website or booking sites like bookatable.com, if not, contact your hotel concierge before arrival and they can help you book reservations.
- Tipping is expected, although it is more modest than what you would do in the United States. At a café, round up and leave a few coins on the table. At other restaurants, they may make a point of telling you that service is not included and you can add a gratuity (I’d recommend about 10%) when they bring the credit card payment terminal to the table.
- Some restaurants do not accept credit cards, so be prepared with some Euro on hand. (Cafe Diglas is one that only accepts cash.)
- Coffee culture reigns supreme in Vienna but the most famous ones are going to be crowded. To avoid the wait, get there before 12pm or see if you can make a reservation.
- You are unlikely to find a children’s menu and many portions are large and/or hearty so you may want to share. When you have had your fill of traditional food such as Wiener schnitzel, boiled beef and goulash, there are plenty of great restaurants of all cuisines available.
- Check out my recommendations on where and what to eat in Vienna and our favorite coffee houses.
- Be sure to try some of the local beer and wine. Austrian wines are very affordable and delicious. I was surprised to find that restaurants didn’t mark up alcohol nearly as much as what you find in the States.
What you Need to Know Before Visiting Vienna
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- Plan to spend at least 2-3 days in Vienna if you are visiting other cities in Central Europe, such as Prague or Budapest. If Vienna is your primary destination, five days in Vienna is not too much. It is the perfect amount of time to explore Old Town, learn the history of Vienna, take a walking tour of Vienna, and visit all the tourist attractions. You would even have time for a day trip or more time to soak up the arts and culture.
- Vienna is an elegant city and its Viennese people dress appropriately. Shorts are certainly frowned upon. For nicer dinners, plan to dress up and certainly if you are going to the opera house. During the day, you can get away with nicer jeans, pants, skirts or appropriately accompanied leggings.
- You will need to book tickets to performances of the opera, Vienna Boys Choir, and Spanish Riding School in advance.
- Austria use 230 V electrical outlets, so be sure to bring a standard EU adapter/converter like this one that has four USB ports.
- Free WiFi is plentiful in cafes, restaurants and museums. Occasionally, there will be time limits but it is usually more than enough to jump online and check email, request an Uber, start Google Maps, etc. so you can get away with not using an International Data plan.
- English is pretty widely spoken, even if not proficiently at least enough to get by in most restaurants. It never hurts to learn a bit of German (the official language in Austria) before you go though.
- Almost all shops are closed on Sundays. So if you are checking in to an Airbnb on a Saturday, be sure to stock up before the grocery stores close, and if you are arriving on a Sunday, be forewarned that you won’t be able to get basic supplies very easily.
Vienna Money Saving Tips
The Vienna City Card offers options for 24, 48, or 72 hours of unlimited travel on the public transportation lines; as well as discounts at museums, shops and restaurants. The Vienna City Card also includes Hop-On/Hop-Off buses for 24 hours. Just validate your card on your first trip on public transportation to activate it.
There are a few free attractions that the whole family will enjoy, like a walk through the Schönbrunn Palace gardens (but you won’t be able to enter the Gloriette without a ticket) or the Prater (but you’ll need tickets for the rides in the amusement park.) You can also enjoy walking around the Hofburg and Museum Quarter, and admission is not required to walk into St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
The Vienna Pass is the way to go if you are planning on visiting a few attractions. They are available for purchase for 1, 2, 3 and 6 days and can be ordered online in advance. You can have them shipped or pick them up at the airport or city center customer service offices.
The Vienna Pass gives you free entry fee to 70 of the city’s top attractions, sights, and museums like the Albertina, apple strudel show at the Schonbrunn Palace, House of Music, Jewish Museum, Sisi Museum Hofburg, Giant Ferris Wheel, Upper Belvedere (where you can see Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss) and other museums. You will also get fast track entry and many attractions, as well as a Hop On/Hop Off Bus tour and even a boat cruise.
Where to Stay in Vienna
I would recommend staying in the First District, but avoiding the more touristy area by the Opera House. We loved our stay at the Palais Hansen Kempinski. It had a lovely location just within the ring road but in a quiet area, with easy access to the tram or underground. This elegant luxury hotel has spacious rooms, excellent service, and the best breakfast buffet.
There are also many affordable Airbnbs and vrbo apartment rentals in the city center.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best places to visit in Vienna include Hofburg Palace, Schonbrunn Palace, the Upper Belvedere, State Opera House, St. Stephen’s cathedral, Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, and the House of Music. Be sure to check out my post with a 2-3 day Vienna itinerary that includes all the highlights.
We spent five days in Vienna and I thought that was the perfect amount of time to see all the major attractions, enjoy the coffee culture, and take a day trip. I’ve written a post about the how much time you need in Vienna.
Yes, but not as much as in the United States. 10 percent is adequate but if you want to include it on your credit card make sure you tell the server before they enter the check into the mobile payment terminal. Otherwise, be sure to carry small bills and change to leave a tip.
Don’t worry about whether or not you look like a tourist! There are many tourists in Vienna, especially in the inner city. Generally locals will dress elegantly and avoid shorts and casual t-shirts. During the day you will find a variety of styles but people tend to get a bit more dressed for dinner.
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