Vienna is old, knowing and fierce in its regard: Add to my itinerary.
May 26, 2014 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Need guidance on trip to Vienna. Newest questions are from two years ago. Many questions after the fold.

I will be in Vienna the first week of June. I will be located near Westbanhof station. My itinerary is quite open. All I know that I will be going to Babette's to buy cookbooks, visit the Kunsthistoriches and Leopold museums and hopefully, the Central Cemetery.
  • What are your favorite places, no matter how modest?"
  • I have been told not to dress like an American for evening functions. What does this mean exactly?
  • I dress straight out of an REI catalog, on a good day, with Keen sandals, travel skirt and blouse, is this problematic for day wear? I got spooked by the Austrian staff at the conference from bullet point above
  • The more fun question, where to eat?
  • Besides bitter almond extract, and Frisian Sunday tea what else should I bring back?
  • I would like to walk Vienna with someone who loves the city. How do I connect with such a person?
Any and all help would be welcome.
posted by jadepearl to Travel & Transportation around Vienna, Austria (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I lived right near Westbahnhof! Ahh...

The Kunsthistoriches is really the best (although I also really loved the Albertina!). And the Natural History museum, right across from it, is also great. You can wander around the shops on Mariahilferstrasse. I particularly liked the Stabilo store, just because of how it's shaped and its fun interior, haha. You can also get something to eat at nearby Neubaugasse. I liked looking at the antique stores, even though I didn't buy anything, because it's interesting to see what kind of things end up in antique stores in different places.

Demel for apfelstrudel and various other pastries is sort of touristy and overpriced in my opinion, but can be fun to watch. Hmm... and I ate at O'Connors all the time, even though I guess that's not Austrian food. Nice lunch menu.

If you like architecture... The Gasometers can be an interesting place to visit. The Hundertwasserhaus is also a pretty popular thing to see. Also by Hundertwasser: the Fernwärme Wien - trash incinerator. I didn't think that the architecture museum (also in Museumsquartier) was the most exciting thing ever, but it's a quality exhibit nonetheless. Oh, and I guess the Schoenbrunn Palace is on everybody's list... it can get crowded, but depending on how much time you have, you could easily spend half a day there.

Not sure if it will be warm enough, but you can also go for a swim in the Danube, followed by a trip up the Donau turm. The Donauinsel has lots of restaurants, too.

If you have time and enjoy wine tasting, a visit to a heurigen could be really fun! It takes about an hour to get out of the city, and be prepared to walk a bit.

You can bring back Manner. Their flagship store is in Stefansplatz. Or you could bring back Mozartkugeln, which I didn't particularly care for... but they are all over the place.

Couchsurfing is a pretty good way to meet people who are eager to show visitors the city they love. You don't have to crash on their couch-- you can simply agree to meet up for a drink, too!

Have fun!
posted by gemutlichkeit at 9:15 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was just in Vienna for two weeks in April, staying in Wieden (4th district), so have plenty of museum/site suggestions. First, about dress: when you mention "evening functions," could you explain a little further what kind of events you'll be attending? That may help figure out what the staff meant about not dressing like an American.

In terms of day wear, what you're describing should be fine (you probably won't look like a local, but you certainly won't look out of place). I didn't see a lot of people wearing sandals when I was there, but that's probably just because it wasn't warm enough yet. In addition to sandals, something like a cute walking flat (for example) might be useful, too. Take a pair of slightly dressier sandals (for example) for night.

My favorite museums/sites:

Third Man Museum -- not just obsessively devoted to the movie; it's also a fascinating cultural/social/political history of life in Vienna in the immediate postwar period. One of the coolest small museums I have ever seen.

Imperial Furniture Collection -- a little like the V&A, if you're familiar with it. I loved it. (Note: this is one of the three museums on the "Sisi Ticket," which also buys you entrance to Schönbrunn and the Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg. For Schönbrunn, plan on making a reservation ahead of time, as otherwise you may be waiting in line for hours to get in.)

The Prunksaal (State Hall of the National Library), which is part of the Hofburg complex (though not on the Sisi Ticket). There's currently a great WWI exhibition there.

The Jewish Museum, which is split between two locations (entrance fee allows you access to both), both very much worth visiting.

The Leopold Museum is great and is open late on Thursdays.

The Secession is super cool, but it's a pretty quick visit -- Klimt's Beethoven frieze is the only permanent display, along with some small contemporary exhibits. It's right by the Naschmarkt (GREAT shopping and eating!) and Otto Wagner's Majolica House.

The MAK (the Museum for Applied Arts/Design) is also terrific, with more amazing Secession-era collections (plus plenty of other eras) and is free on Tuesday nights.

If you go to the Central Cemetery, the newly relocated/reconstructed Vienna Funeral Museum may be open by the time you're there. It's supposed to be worth a visit.

For food/cafes: I often ended up at Cafe Hawelka when I was in the city center. It's down the street from the Dortheergasse location of the Jewish Museum, and right next door to Rheinthaler's Beisl, where I had some great meals with friends. I also liked Cafe Frauenhuber -- it's the oldest cafe in the city (Mozart used to play there), but it's pricey. Getting outside the first district, I had a great meal at Cafe Wortner. I also found a good beisl in Josefstadt (8th district) whose name I managed not to write down, unfortunately, but there are a lot of restaurants and cafes there, so it's an area worth wandering around at leisure.

For souvenirs to bring back: I second the suggestion for Manner! You should also go to Julius Meinl, on the Graben -- it's basically the Viennese equivalent of Harrod's food hall. I found it a little overwhelming (because I'd saved it for my last day), but it was perfect one-stop-shopping for chocolates, coffee, jams, etc. to bring back.

Have fun! I had the best time and am already planning a trip back next year.
posted by scody at 11:43 AM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, one more, especially if you are either a Habsburg history geek or a fan of over-the-top death cults (or both): check out the Kaisergruft.
posted by scody at 11:49 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I live there and am happy to show you around. (Difficulty level: baby tagging along). Memail me!

As for your questions:
Off the beaten track I would love to show you the anatomical museum which is situated in an 18th century lumatic asylum and observatory and which houses historical specimen such as pickled limbs and plastinated baby poop. At the tour you also get free gugelhupf to eat, and coffee. This is very, very Viennese.

Eveningwear: If you are planning to visit a concert or a fine restaurant: No jeans, no sneakers, stylish shoes or sandals (heels) only for the ladies. No short pants for men, no t-shirts (buttoned shirts only), maybe sports jacket.
However. Most touristy venues don't really care what you wear and there'll be plenty of people who are underdressed.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:18 PM on May 26, 2014

Best answer: Eating: we differentiate between cafés which serve coffee and some strudels and cakes, and "konditoreien" which specialise on cakes and which you must, must eat at if you love cake.
Best Konditorei is Konditorei Oberlaa at Neuer Markt. OMG. Try the chocolate mousse cake.
The iconic Viennese cake is Sachertorte which is chicolate covered chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam. You buy it in all sizes at the elegant Café Sacher. Is also a typical gift for friends back home, in a fine wooden box.
Best Café? Opinions vary but I personally like Café Mozart at Augustinerplatz behind the opera.
Best ice cream: probably the parlor on Schwedenplatz or Zanoni's at Lugeck. Vienna is a great ice cream place.
Don't forget to eat at the sausage stands. Best one is at Hoher Markt. You need to eat a Käsekrainer (sausage filled with bits of cheese) and a Käsleberkäs, which is like baloney except it is Good.
Most people want to eat a Schnitzel. Best place for that, just memail me, I could go on like this for days!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Vienna has a huge Couchsurfing community and it should be easy to find someone who'll meet you for drinks/dinner or show you around. (I currently live abroad, so can't offer to take you on a tour myself, but feel free to memail me.)

Sampling the many different pastries and cakes available at cafés and bakeries should definitely be very high up on your to-do list. One could easily conceive of a trip to Vienna exclusively devoted to the consumption of pastries and cakes. ;) Go to Gregors Konditorei for a less touristy experience. They only opened a few years ago, so it's not one of the grand old traditional cafés, but you'll get an authentic Austrian Konditorei experience, including the old ladies who spend entire days there being charmed by the waiters. Apart from the truly mouthwatering cakes and pastries, they also have a small, but very delicious selection of ice cream. And by all means, don't go to an Aida (it's a horrible, horrible chain of pastry shops).

One of my favourite churches is Ruprechtskirche, just around the corner from Hoher Markt, where, as Omnomnom mentioned, eating a Käsekrainer is practically a must for all non-vegetarians.

To bring back: Austrian pumpkin seed oil (Kernöl) is really delicious (use it for salad dressings or on vanilla ice cream) and you can get it at every supermarket.
posted by wavelette at 4:10 AM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In addition to the great suggestions above I'd recommend to pick up (or print out or digitally store) the local Use-it guide for further inspiration and, if we share the same humor, laughs:
posted by bigendian at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2014

Best answer: If you visit the central cemetery: the main entrance is at Tor 2 (2nd entrance). If you walk/take one tram station city-wards, to Tor 1, right across the tram station there is a restaurant, Schloss Concordia.

It looks very shabby, and service is so-so, but the schnitzel there really is very good. Ignore everything else, even salads, they're sometimes very meh - the schnitzel will be big enough on it's own. You can just order a basic Wiener Schnitzel, but they also have a lot of variations that are interesting.

It's out of the way, but if you're out there already, you might as well. I think it gets a lot more traffic in the evening, but I usually go at noon, where it's very quiet, especially during the week.
posted by ari_ at 4:52 AM on May 29, 2014

Response by poster: I am marking everyone as best answer because it was ALL good. A special shout out to Omnomnom who was the best tour guide for Vienna. My only sincere regret was not having various participants of the Life Ball not take photos with my hand puppets. Omnomnom and her very cute baby showed me a great time in Vienna and also helped with puppet photos. Vienna is a huge city and it needs planning to get it all in a short time of a week. One insider tip: the boarding pass for Vienna Air gets you MASSIVE discount at the museums (it even impressed Omnomnom.) and seriously map out the nights that museums open late in the evening. I could not eat or enjoy enough all that the seat of empire made available.
posted by jadepearl at 7:38 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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