With tourism booming in Austria's capital, independent travelers have started planning for their Vienna city break more thoroughly. They create their own paths of exploration, avoid queues and tourist pitfalls, discover insider gems and eventually share their distinct stories of Vienna with friends and family back home. Here are 10 tips any great trip planner, travel agent or travel consultant should bear in mind when doing Vienna travel planning.
Hotels, Apartments and B&B: Get Out
Unless you are set on a five-star hotel, it pays in many ways to venture just beyond the city center. Vienna's central neighbourhoods have become home to some of the best boutique hotels, apartments and value for money apartments and bed and breakfasts. Thanks to Vienna's amazing public transport network you will never be more than 10-minute ride from the city center from any district adjacent to the city center. Besides, many places boast neighbourhood charms you will otherwise never discover.
Vienna Museums: Stay Late
Many top Viennese museums stay open until 9 or 10 pm once a week. Why not visit pre- or post-dinner? You will be more likely to get undisturbed access to master pieces and savour the artwork. Besides, you can try out amazing museum restaurants such as those at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Albertina and the Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Arts (MAK).
Schonbrunn Palace: Be First
Earlier than most other local sites, Vienna's number-one tourist attraction now opens its gates at 8 am, basically adding a whole hour to your Vienna travel planning per day. At 8, the usually busy visitor center mostly maintains its morning calm. To sweeten an early rise, consider having a good brunch up at the Gloriette belvedere after your Schonbrunn palace tour, watching the crowds flowing in.
Walks and Tours: Mix and Match
Austria's capital is smaller and safer than you may think. Nothing speaks against exploring the city on your own. The less time you have, the more meticulously you should plan your walking route. Orientation walks and tourism highlights are easiest to do yourself while reading up on history in a city guide. Most travel consultants and trip planners will be happy to help develop your perfect Wien walk. When it comes to discovering hidden gems or dive into a subject more deeply - for example Vienna's historic courtyards or Art Nouveau architecture - an expert tour guide will be worth the money.
Food and Drink: Toast To Culture
The next best restaurant, coffeehouse or winery along your sightseeing route can range from a fabulous insider discovery to a tourist pitfall. If you have a little time at your hands keep it flexible and prepare a list of your favourite places en route. Food and drink is a vital part of Viennese culture, therefore it makes sense to integrate authentic eateries into your sightseeing programme.
Music Events: Prepare For Quality
More than any other tourist attractions, local music events vary immensely in quality. You can have everything, from a variete style orchestra with costumed musicians and singing ballet dancers to internationally acclaimed musicians performing in Wien's top concert venues. In Vienna concerts I share a 9 point checklist to help travellers qualify various music events on offer.
Wien dances to its own rhythm, moving through the seasons: While winter is the season for ballroom enthusiasts and winter magic fans, the warmer months attract active travellers and outdoor lovers. Top Viennese institutions such as the Spanish Riding School, the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Boys Choir interrupt their regular programs for a summer break. However, hikers, bikers, wine lovers and summer festival fans will find a rich offer in Wien and surroundings.
Planning Vienna Travel Inside the City
I keep telling travellers that using a local tram or bus provides a more authentic experience than a tourist hop on hop off bus. Equipped with the right public transport card and a map, you hop around town just as easily. Wien's public transport network continuously comes out as one of the world's best (Mercer's annual Quality of Life Survey). In fact, you are never more than five minutes' walk away from public transport in the center, which makes Vienna travel planning quite independent from most other means of inner city transport.
Top Vienna Travel Planning Tip: Choose The Right City Card
A city discount and travel card makes a traveller's life in Vienna easier. To determine which of the four most common options gets you the best return it pays off to compare your itinerary with the various packages on offer. Essentially, the VIENNA PASS can be a good option for first time visitors who want to do all the top highlights in a short space of time. Likewise, the Red Vienna City Card will appeal to insider travellers who mix top sites with little known gems.
Day Trips from Vienna: Do It Real
Vienna has half a dozen stunning sites, a few of them UNESCO World Heritage Sites, at less than three hours' drive. This means you will get at least six hours to enjoy your day trip destination. If the day trip includes worthwhile stopovers, such as Salzburg's lake district, you will further enrich your experience. If you are tempted by rich cultural cities like Prague or Krakow they will probably overwhelm you in one day, after a five to seven hours drive. Those are perfect follow on destinations on a European round trip.