Things You Must Know Before Going to Vienna

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Welcome to my most favorite European capital – Vienna! It is the only capital I keep on coming back and still fall in love with every time. How could I not? It is dubbed as the City of Classical Music where Mozart, Strauss I, Strauss II, Brahms, Schubert, Haydn, and Beethoven reigned. It is where the world’s most famous ball, the annual Opera Ball, is held. It is known as the City of Dreams where Sigmund Freud, the world’s first pyschoanalyst, was born. Vienna is synonymous to Baroque and Rococo architectural styles, as well as unique designs of the likes of Hundertwasser. It is the perfect mixture of the rich imperial Vienna as well as its modern and stylish version.

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To properly introduce you to The Imperial City, I made a list of the Things You Must Know Before Going to Vienna. For sure, there is a lot of information to be found over the Internet over the capital, but I am highlighting here the most important details I think that travelers have to know beforehand to have a more enjoyable and enriching experience.

Pronounce the capital’s name properly

The national language is Austrian-German and the local name of Vienna is Wien. To pronounce it correctly, simply exchange “W” in to “V” and read the rest /veen/.

Know how to get around

Vienna has a very extensive public transportation system including subways (U-bahn), city trains (S-bahn), trams, and buses. If you would like to explore the city through public transport (and I highly recommend that you do), I suggest getting a ticket suitable for your needs instead of buying a single ticket every time. For instance, a 24-hour Vienna ticket is valid to almost all-public transport within Vienna for only 15.40 Euros.

Be prepared to walk! I used to think I love walking back home, but I am challenged here in Europe. Stretch and prepare those feet of yours.

TIP: You are allowed to bring your bicycles and pets (usually dogs) in the trains. Also, wear your most comfortable footwear.

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Vienna’s Main Train Station

Standard and cost of living

Vienna is either the first or second most livable city in the world, depending on various international studies ranking different factors such as safety, healthcare, education, and infrastructure. It is also the capital of the one of the world’s richest countries. At first, I find living in Vienna expensive compared to its Eastern neighbors, but compared to 100 cities in Europe, Vienna only falls #37 in Expatistan’s Cost of Living Index. It is 35% more expensive to live in Vienna than Manila, but 45% cheaper than living in Zurich.

Get discounts for students

Almost everything is discounted for youth, students, and senior citizens. Just don’t forget to bring your appropriate identification card.

Access free public WLAN in key places

I did not appreciate it before, but when I travel outside Vienna and Austria, I feel disappointed to note that many European cities do not have available, strong, and free WiFi. For travelers who want to check maps or hotel bookings, bloggers who want to post a quick entry, or social media rockstars who want to update their followers, this information is really important.

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Strong free WLAN at Stephansdom

Coffee lovers, rejoice!

Coffee is more than just a liquid to start the day for Austrians; it is part of their heritage. Vienna is known for its coffee house culture, which originated in 17th century. It became a huge and important part of Vienna and Austria that in 2011 UNESCO listed it as “Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Go out and try the traditional but pricey coffee houses where even Mozart, Schubert, and even Hitler frequented.

TIP: My favorite is Café Central.

Classical music and opera fans, rejoice too!

There are year-round Mozart and Strauss concerts offered in Vienna. As for the State Opera, it offers 50 to 60 operas, 10 ballet productions, and 300+ performances every year.

Mind the stores opening and closing hours

Most places in Vienna still follow the traditional working hours of 0900-1800. The evening off is an important freedom for Austrians. Also, stores and many establishments are closed during Sundays and holidays. This information must be kept in memory when traveling to Vienna. I didn’t know this before and ended up with nothing to get my necessities from since the supermarkets are already closed.

TIP: Spar is usually opened late (around 2000) in Hauptbahnhof and Landstrasse

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Spend (or not) at these shopping haven

Go to Kärntnerstraße and walk along the most famous shopping street in Central Vienna. Do not forget to go to the exclusive Graben for luxury shopping. Also, many shops can also be found along Mariahilferstraße and main trains stations.

TIP: Although not in Vienna, Parndorf is the nearest luxury outlet store located in the boundary of Austria and Slovakia. 

No stress for vegetarians and vegans

There are a lot of food options for vegetarians and vegans in Vienna. From supermarkets, restaurants, ice cream salons, the list is endless!

Beware of carbonated water!

Back home, it is not usual to drink carbonated water. Apparently, Austrians love drinking this. Imagine my surprise when I accidentally bought sparkling water from the supermarket. If you are also not a fan, stay clear of this type.

TIP: If you are buying bottled water, look for “still” or “ohne”. The ones with gas are usually labeled with “prickld” or “mild”.

But drink tap water!

Vienna and the entire country have excellent, potable and clean tap water. You can drink straight from the tap and from many drinking fountains around the city.

TIP: Bring a drinking bottle so you can easily refill it later during your trip.

However, do not order tap water!

When you are in restaurants, it is generally considered rude to order tap water in Austria. For a country with an extreme high quality of tap water straight from the Alps, this may sound weird. I still don’t know why this is practiced, but ordered tap water is usually charged (except in traditional cafés), so why bother.

TIP: I see many tourists do this, but it is also rude to drink outside beverages while inside a restaurant.

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Recommended food to try

Wiener Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel, Sacher Torte, Kaiserschmarrn, Käsekrainer, etc.

Recommended souvenirs

There are the regular ones – postcards, ref magnets, and t-shirts. However, I highly recommend these: Sachertorte (chocolate cake “invented” in Vienna), Manner Schnitten (Viennese Neapolitan wafers), Mirabell Mozartkugeln (chocolate ball), Freywille and Swarovski jewelry (Austrian brands), and snow globes! Yes, they seem like a typical souvenir, but you would want to get one from Vienna where the first snow globe was invented.

Prost!

Say “Prost” when you clink your glasses and don’t forget to use eye contact for sincerity and proper manner.

Be the Belle of the Ball

Waltz was introduced in Austria, so it only follows that the country/city hosts hundreds of balls in a year. This Viennese ball culture has its roots from the Congress of Vienna. When you find yourself going to Vienna between New Year’s Eve and Shrove Tuesday, you may as well try to attend at least one winter ball. You have around 200 – 400 balls to choose from: from the annual glamorous Silversterball on 31 December at Hofburg Imperial Palace to the world-famous and internationally well attended Opera Ball. Alles Walzer!

TIP: Attendance does not come cheap! From ball gowns to tails, a grand ticket festsaal at Silversterball costs 680 Euros while 25, 000 for double stage boxes at the Opera Ball!

Will you invite me?

When Viennese say they want to invite you for dinner, it means they will treat you. Likewise, when you tell that you are inviting them for dinner, then you must pay for meal. Don’t get misunderstood!

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I hope this list helps you get a better picture of the lovely city of Vienna. If you are a Filipino passport holder wishing to visit the city soon, I have written a detailed and step-by-step guide on How to Apply for Schengen Tourist Visa for Filipinos. More details on Top Places to Visit in Vienna, Free Things to Do in Vienna, among others, will soon be available at wheremonicagoes.com. Stay tuned!

DISCLAIMER: All thoughts written are my own unless stated otherwise. I do not pretend to be an expert and everything posted here are based only on my experience. The purpose of this article is to only give a brief orientation to first-time travelers in Vienna. More tips are welcome in the comments below. 

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25 Comments

  1. Vienna is such a beautiful city and I can totally see why it consistently ranks among the world’s most livable cities. It is wonderful that the city has free wifi in public places, too. That would be such an added bonus for someone like me, who has a horrible sense of direction and needs to use google maps constantly. Seems like the affinity for sparkling water is everywhere in Europe. I always order sparkling water on accident in Italy too!

  2. This is very informative. I thinks posts like this help us understand the culture and situation more in the country. We dont want to go there clueless. Getting to know the country before is important! Thanks Monica for the superb post 🙂

  3. Vienna certainly is a stunning city and you have lots of great tips. It’s interesting all the things you said about water. The French love to drink carbonated water too, I think most continental Europeans do.

  4. Vienna is a great city! One thing I enjoy about Austrian and German culture is that often, coffee and cake, “Kaffee und Kuchen” go together. I feel like coffee and a Sachertorte are a must-try combo in Vienna. As is the Wiener Schnitzel of course.

  5. I’ve been twice and it is a lovely city. A bit too arranged for my liking but still absolutely amazing. Who wouldn’t want to live in a city where there is a castle at every second step. I found the city center easy to just walk and not use transportation. There is a lot to be seen in a walking distance. Great list of advice. Would have loved to know them before my trips.

  6. I’m planning to visit Vienna in the autumn. I was there when I was a child, but I don’t remember that much from this trip. Now I want to discover everything that this beautiful city has to offer. Thank you for all your fantastic tips! 🙂

  7. This was a very great read! Glad I got to read this because I already have my tickets booked for Europe next month. Spending 2 months there and will definitely go to Vienna! Will read this once again as the date gets closer!

  8. Oh yes, the dreaded bubbly water! Happened to me all over Europe actually. Pretty annoying, but definitely not the worst that could happen. Keep posting! 🙂

  9. Fantastic tips for visiting Austria! Especially for the tip on paying for tap water. It’s usually my go-to in Europe since the water is so clean, but maybe I’ll try the ohne!

  10. We have seen many pictures of Vienna and for sure Vienna is a beautiful city. It is always great to visit and explore historical city like locals and your tips here on how to pronounce the city name, public transport, concerts, eat, stay amongst other are just awesome and very helpful.

  11. I’ve been to Vienna only once, when I was a high school student, and I remember very few of the city. The Vienna Secession, because of its golden top, the Sacher Hotel, no need to say why, and the Prater park for the giant ferris wheel. And I remember Mirabell Mozartkugeln as well, of course! 😀

  12. I have been to Vienna several times and enjoyed it so much. It’s a fabulous city and your tips are right on. I love carbonated water so I am happy there. I was lucky to purchase standing room at the opera house and enjoyed Carmen while standing in my hiking boots. Enjoyed your post.

  13. This is a great guide to a city that I have never visited. I will pin for future reference as I would love to go one day. Really great to know that vegetarians are well catered for. I can almost taste the apple strudel already!!

  14. Glad to see your blog, your travels just made me want to go out of the country when I am capable. I am really into nature so I always consider the location of the place when I plan my travels, but learning stuffs like that, that’s all priceless. Thank you for sharing!

  15. I don’t like carbonated water, either, interesting that it is so popular there! I usually order water at restaurants because I don’t like to drink too much sweet drinks. I definitely never knew how to pronounce the name of the city in the local language! Very educational post!

  16. Nice overview 🙂
    One more tip: Supermarkets at train stations (Main Train Station, Praterstern etc.) are usually open even on sundays and holidays. Also not only Spar is open until 20.00, also Hofer for example (and Hofer is cheaper than spar if you are on budget travel).
    There are many bars for going out in vienna and also many places for eating ice cream – TICHY as the most important and best ice cream in vienna 😉

  17. Vienna is a lovely place and has been on our bucket list for some time now. Hope to get there along with some other East European cities, Great tips that will help us when we do get there. The tip regarding the availability of Vegetarian/Vegan food options, is specially something we are happy about.

  18. Great tips. I also don’t like carbonated water and would probably ask for water from the tap. I think that’s a super American thing to do now that I think of it though. I went to Vienna more than a decade ago when I was in middle school. I definitely need to go back.. looks beautiful and sounds amazing too. ^^

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