The national capital, largest city, and one of nine states of Austria, Vienna is Austria’s most populous city, with about 2.6 million within the metropolitan area, nearly one third of the country’s population. It’s the cultural, economic, and political centre and the 6th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. (wikipedia)
🇦🇹 KmikeyM Guide to Vienna
I spent a week in Vienna and my American brain was instantly charmed. Something about the maze of streets and five story high buildings with courtyards? I think the biggest takeaway was I will be happier having a wine spritzer early in the day and a coffee in the evening.
My impression of Vienna is that like it is like a Dobos Torte, which is to say, it is layered and wonderful. I barely got past the first layer (tourist layer) but was fortunate to quickly make many friends and new shareholders because I was giving a talk. This helped me push the tiniest bit into the next layer. This is less a guide and more a recap of my time in Vienna.
The Best Time To Visit
You might as well go in October during the TEDxVienna event because I’m planning on returning and it would be fun to run into each other. Plus that lines up with the Vienna Open Tennis Tournament, so if you love watching tennis that is another bonus. And sure, it’s a little cooler and you won’t be able to swim in Danube (do people swim in the Danube? I don’t know, I didn’t) but you can walk for miles and miles and miles every day fueled by coffee, wine spritz, sausages and fried potatoes from street vendors, and sweets.
Also, I didn’t bike on my first trip but next time I’m going to rent a super fancy bike and head up into the woods. There is a bike route from Vienna to Budapest along the river. I want to try that.
Oh, October 26th is Austrian National Day so a lot of things are closed and they fly some fighter jets around the sky. Someone told me a joke that those two jets were 25% of the Austrian airforce. Turns out the joke is close to true, they only have 15 fighter jets.
Where To Stay
I stayed at the Hilton Park Plaza and it was a fine corporate hotel that was always having some kind of conference. The breakfast buffet is included for free was very good (except the coffee), the fitness center was nicer than expected, and as I visited during the pandemic I really appreciated their safety protocols.
But if I was coming again I would want to stay in one of two places:
Hilton Vienna Plaza – This is a fancy hotel that used to be a bank. Honestly, it’s probably too expensive and they surely stripped all the wonder and charm of the bank out when they converted to a hotel, but i love the idea of staying in an old bank.
Airbnb / Apartment Rental – I just rarely need a hotel. If you’re going to stay in a place longer than one night you should rent an apartment. It’s a better way to be in a place!
What to Do
Walk – I spent most of my time in Vienna just walking around. If you keep your phone in your pocket it’s easy to get a little lost, but the city is very reasonably sized, so it’s never far to get back on track. Plus the public transit is easy to understand.
TEDxVienna – Obviously you should go to TEDxVienna. I spoke in 2021 and now a bunch of the volunteers and organizers are shareholders! Plus, it’s a day full of talks curated from around the world.
Austrian Open – If you like tennis, then you should go. If you don’t like tennis, then maybe try it for a day to see if you like it? Or just skip it, I don’t care, I just think it sounds fun.
Austrian Stock Exchange – I emailed them and asked if I could come visit and they said yes! They don’t really do tours but 2021 is their 250th anniversary and they have a red cube in their courtyard with some history on it. They will probably let you see it.
Money Museum – Kind of disappointing to be honest. Small and seemingly designed for kids. Still, I like looking at money, and part of the gallery is a rotating exhibit inside an old vault.
Art Museums – I’m not going to list them all because there are just over a million. Many of the big ones are part of the Museum Quarter and you can go nuts with a single pass. It’s too much. I like more modern stuff because I have no art history education and so the classics all look the same to me.
Other Museums – Vienna is full of museums. There are maybe too many. Is it some kind of tax haven? Anyway, whatever you like there is a probably a museum for it here. You like that movie The Third Man? Illusions? Crime? Yeah… museums for all of it. I like the modern art stuff.
Other Stuff – Obviously Vienna is insanely famous for their opera and classical music. Do that stuff too. I got hints of a vibrant smaller scale theater scene as I was walking around and from some of the people at the event I was at.
What to Eat and Drink
Everything – I love food and drink as a means to explore a new place and the only places I avoid are chains and what seem to be overly touristy looking spots. (I do think I got overcharged for a sausage once when I was clearly not a local, but whatever, it still tasted great!).
Coffee – I was warned that the coffee can be less than ideal if you’re a 3rd wave coffee drinker but I only had good coffee (except the hotel had bad machine-made espresso at the free breakfast buffet. the coffee they made at the hotel bar was great tho!). Balthasar was the best 3rd wave coffee, but my favorite was this little mobile espresso cart built into a scooter that was in the Stadtpark.
Wine – You’ve probably been drinking a fair amount of Grüner Veltliner because it’s the perfect summer wine. Well, it is everywhere here and I would get the cheapest glass and it was still great. The spritzer thing is not to my taste, but I kept ordering it because I wanted to like it. I just feel like wine doesn’t need to be diluted… but I like that they will start drinking it at 10:30am and that coffee is available well into the night. And I didn’t even go to any of the wine taverns!
Street Hot Dogs – YES! I love the way they do hot dogs. They take a little baguette, carve a hole into it, and then jam a delicious sausage into the hole with mustard. It’s like a giant pig-in-a-blanket. There are street vendors who sell these but from permanent kiosks, and you can get a beer or a wine from them too.
Döner – Ugh, just thinking about these sandwiches is making me hungry. I love street food and these were perfect sandwiches. Definitely a meal, and I liked that I could walk and eat.
Meat – There are signs for vegan food everywhere, but I ate a lot of meat. Breakfast meats, lunch meats, and dinner meats. Meat and bread. A lot of brown food, and not a ton of fruits and vegetables until I went out of my to find it.
Pastries – I’m not a big sweets person, but there are so many cakes, pastries, and powdered things you have to at least try some of them. There are famous ones and people have a lot of strong opinions. If you like sweets this is going to be very fun for you. There is a dessert for everyone here, my favorite was the topfentorte.
I didn’t really do any shopping but every store in the world is here including all the fancy ones. I dunno, do you need more stuff? On the other hand, I did buy a really expensive dog collar because we have this joke about Georgie putting on her “dressy” collar and then I found one in this upscale dog boutique and I think it’s funny to come home from Austria with a “gift” for the dog.
The main shopping area where all the fancy stores are is fun to walk though because it is also an interesting neighborhood (and close to the stock exchange!). But there also seemed to be a lot of second hand stores as I got further from the center.
I went to two book stores because I am an addict and I like to buy books, stack them in my room, and never read them. It’s a problem. But not being able to read German prevented me from buying anything (I did pick up two free catalogs from the Money Museum).
I think my trip to Austria was great because I got to meet a lot of people. This is probably not a reproducible piece of advice, but having people to meet up with means you get see their version of the city. Try to find some reason to meet a person or be a part of a group.