What do I need to know for 1-week trip to Vienna, Austria?
March 1, 2007 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm visiting Vienna for spring break (And London for a day). What should I know?

Going with my father to check out the music conservatory there (Konservatorium Wien). What should I be aware of while I'm planning this trip? While I have some questions, I'm more concerned about the questions I haven't yet considered asking.

-Weather: Looks like March sees temperatures from 30-50°F and a decent amount of rain. What clothes should I bring? (I'm from California with little experience in cold climates)
-Food: Must-eat locations?
-Sights: Working out of Rick Steves' guide to Austria/Germany, but could certainly use some supplemental advice. Any particularly good day trips out of the city? My father's knee is a bit messed up, so really neat experiences that don't involve miles of walking are definitely a plus.
-Electronics: I have a couple cheap APC Universal Plug Adapters. Can I assume they have a 120->220 VAC transformer inside? If I plug my Powerbook charger into it, will it explode? My cell phone charger?
-Cell phone: Should I get a European sim card here? there? where do I get them?
-Any good Money Belt/under-shirt storage thingy recommendations?

-What am I missing?
posted by sirion to Travel & Transportation around Vienna, Austria (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A warning about the adapter - adapters are not converters. Adapters adapt the plug type; converters change the current. If you plug in only an adapter, you'll fry your electronics. It doesn't look to me like your adapter also converts the current from 220 DC to 120 AC. So be careful.

For food in Vienna, well, not so much food as Viennese cafe excellence, go to the Cafe Sperl and just hang around drinking coffee and eating sacher torte for an afternoon. Classic. Cafe Demel makes famous sacher torte as well, and lots of ripoff-expensive chocolate, but it's really good.

Use a money belt/around the neck hangy pocket thing (the technical name) for your passport, bank/credit cards, and a few large bills. But Vienna is quite safe and low-crime. You shouldn't have a problem.

It's a great city. Really wonderful. Try to get tickets to cheap seats/standing room only (if your father's knee is okay) at the Vienna Symphony (Wiener Symphoniker) or the Vienna Philharmonic. Don't be taken in my the tourist-oriented and overpriced Mozart concerts with all the musicians dressed up like they're in the 18th Century.

If you want to eat Schnitzel, apparently Snitzelwirt Schmidt is the place to go - good prices, huge schnitzels, and grumpy waiters who'll yell at you if you get in their way. It was closed when I was there, which is one reason I have to go back sometime.
posted by Dasein at 5:24 PM on March 1, 2007

Huh. I'm from California and went last April.

1. It rains constantly in Vienna. Pretty windy too. Bring plenty of layers.

2. Universal plug "adapters" dont have transformers inside them. But your apple power adapter "box" does - you just need to provide it with a shape-changing plug (an adapter). Look at the fine print on your cell phone adapter to see if it works (110-220 should be the first line).

3. You dont need a european sim card - you need a 4-band american phone (so they can pick up and use local signals). however, phone calls will be expensive (some companies, like cingular, require that you have an international plan on your phone). not all european sim cards will work on all american phones. the best thing i would recommend is the pre-paid phone card. keep in mind pre-paid phone cards usually "specialize" by country - and that when you call a european phone on a card - the rate differs if you are calling a "land line" or a "mobile" phone. these should be available at kiosks everywhere.

4. the rick steves money belt

5. i recommend the stephensplatz (st. stephen's cathedral). theres a great promenade there with nice stores, great bars, and the occasional good restaurant (wienerschnitzel is a popular street dish).

6. vienna is split into "districts" that have "reputations". i cant remember the exact details, but my friends in vienna are visiting new york right now so ill give them a call. vienna was an awesome trip for me.
posted by phaedon at 5:29 PM on March 1, 2007

by the way, the young people scene rocks in vienna (at least i thought so, people there tend to be kind of down on themselves, but with a little prodding, surprisingly receptive). i got a chance to go to something called the danau festival last year. and then there's club flex. and the gorgeous club leopold suspended between two museums. my google-fu is low (work is wrapping up) but do not sleep on this site's recommendations.
posted by phaedon at 5:35 PM on March 1, 2007

Do you want to know about the day in London too? If you do, how are you getting there, and is a day a full 24 hours?
posted by calico at 6:03 PM on March 1, 2007

I was in Vienna in late March of last year. It was cold, as the above posters pointed out, but not too cold to walk around and enjoy the city. Simply put, it's beautiful. It's a great city to wander around in and enjoy the architecture.

Specific things I remember:

1. The art deco museums and architecture.
2. Naschmarkt, the outdoor market. It was open in late March when I was there. It's a great place to stroll and get lunch or an afternoon beer.
3. Cafe Sperl is a little cafe we discovered accidentally. I don't know the address, but I'm sure you can find it online. The food (esp. the pastries) was amazing, and it was obviously a place that locals hang out. A great place to sit and people watch. I highly recommend it.
4. The Opera House is really cool, too. Definitely take the tour - we got to go backstage and see all of the setups behind the stage.
5. The museum in the former castle (maybe Hoffbrau? I can't remember the name). Really cool pieces that you've probably seen in books before. I especially liked the Klimt paintings.

Also, you might want to check out "The Illusionist" before you go. It takes place in Vienna, and might get you excited for you trip. Have fun!
posted by elquien at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2007

You must see The Third Man before you go. I mean--everyone must see that movie, but if you're going to Vienna, it's extra-triple essential.
posted by chinston at 6:52 PM on March 1, 2007

The Secession and the Leopold are great. Must sees.
posted by amber_dale at 7:03 PM on March 1, 2007

Response by poster: I get to Heathrow airport at 4:30pm and leave from Heathrow the next day at 11:15am. Not much time.
posted by sirion at 7:08 PM on March 1, 2007

Response by poster: Is there a Vienna craigslist for opera tickets?
posted by sirion at 7:10 PM on March 1, 2007

Chinston: When I was there there was a little arthouse cinema on the Burgring that showed the third Man Every day. Vienna becomes a very different place after you have seen that film.

I believe the theatre is called the Burgkino.

One of my favourite things to do whilst I was there was to just sit outside a coffee shop and watch the people pass. The vieneese are a curious bunch.
posted by gergtreble at 7:14 PM on March 1, 2007

Burg Kino thank you google.

And yes, the Third Man is shown daily.
posted by gergtreble at 7:16 PM on March 1, 2007

A bit odd, but entirely worth seeing, are any of the Flaktürme (flack tower) in the city. My wife and I went to the see the two tucked away in Arenberg Park. They are worth seeing simply due to their astounding size and to see how amazingly Vienna has handled their presence with the building of astoundingly beautiful and serene parks around them. (That photo is from our trip in October of 2005. The entire set from Vienna is here if you're interested.)

I also enjoy Kunst Hause Wien quite a bit. It's a permanent collection of the Austrian artist Hundertwasser, but they also usually have another exhibition going at the same time. (We were VERY lucky when we were there that they had an exhibition by Albert Watson.)

If you eat meat, you would be remiss to miss the Hoher Markt sausage stand. Oh god... I'm getting whispy just thinking about that sausage... *gurgle*

One of my favorite things we did was visit the Fernwarme Wien, which is a gigantic incinerator plant which was given free reign to Hundertwasser to decorate. It's like nothing I have ever seen in scope and size. They talk about it a little

Have a GREAT trip! Vienna was my favorite part of my first trip to Europe. :)

posted by smallerdemon at 8:01 PM on March 1, 2007

(whoops! Sorry about the mangled formatting! It didn't look that was in preview.)
posted by smallerdemon at 8:02 PM on March 1, 2007

If you eat meat, go to Plachutta for tafelspitz. If you are there during the summer, go to Zu den Zwei Lieseln and eat outside under the branches of the chestnut tree that covers the whole space--it had the most tender of the bratens. There is also a synagogue which wasn't destroyed during the Holocaust (it was part of a gentile apartment complex) which you can tour with a combination ticket at the Jewish museum.
posted by brujita at 9:19 PM on March 1, 2007

I wondered if that might be the case - something reminded me of this thread. Heathrow is quite a way from central London, so it might be better to stay overnight local to Heathrow.
posted by calico at 10:20 PM on March 1, 2007

Wow, there's LOTS of good advice here already! One of my best friends lives in Vienna so I've spent a few months there over the years.

The Vienna subway system is very easy to use, and you can buy a pass for days or for a certain number of trips & go all over town on the U-bahn or buses. FYI, the U-bahn operates on the honor system that you will get your tickets stamped as you come and go... I've heard some tourists say how they think it's amazing that the underground is free... BUT IT ISN'T. That said, I've never seen the metro police check anything but my friend says it's not good to be caught riding for free.

There are some cards you can purchase for various discounts around town, I'd check into those. I second going to Naschmarkt on Saturday during the fleamarket, and you really can't go to Wein without walking through St. Stephansdom. Schönbrünn Palace is beautiful & has a nice tour. I love the art at the Belvedere Palace. Vienna actually has incredible museums of all kinds (even a schnapps museum), but especially if you like art. The Kunsthistorisches Museum has some amazing, famous paintings if that interests you. I'm a fan of the Albertina Museum too, but I'm an even bigger fan of the 16th century wine cellar/cafe (Augustiner-Keller) hidden just underneath it on street level.

On most Tuesday through Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., visitors are allowed to watch the Lipazzan stallions do their morning workout routine at the Spanish Riding School. It's very cool.

If you're going to see The Third Man, why not see it when you're there? It's always playing at a theatre there (I forgot the name of it... but it'll be listed in the paper) and you can also go to The Third Man Museum if you like.

If you like ice skating, right now they have a giant skating rink set up at the Rathaus (City Hall).

As for Viennesefood, it always does a number on my stomach but nonetheless I always make a point to have some of the following before I go home... shnapps, Mozart kugeln, schnitzel, späetzle, gulaschsuppe, apfelstrudel, etc.

I agree that Demel is very good, but if you're going to have Sachertorte, as a once in a lifetime thing I recommend going into the Sacher Hotel's cafe & sitting down and enjoying a piece of it there. You definitely should explore the Viennese coffee culture while you are there too. Too many cool little kaffeehauses & cafes to list here, but I enjoyed breakfast at Cafe Landtmann last time I was there. I had some nice little snacky sandwiches at Trzesniewski too.

Lordy, I could go on & on. So I'm going to stop for now.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:26 AM on March 2, 2007


The Kunsthistorisches Museum for the amazing art (don't bother visiting the modern museums in the MQ, but go there anyway for the atmosphere). If I had even only 5 hours to spend in vienna, i would pass the entire time at the kunsthistorisches.

Demel for the best espresso and esterhazy torte (much better than the Salzburg Demel, too).

Meinl am Graben for the old school, more elegant vienna version of dean&deluca.

Billa supermarkets (a few around teh city) to stock-up on chocolate and mozart kugeln as gifts for peeps (the best prices are in the supermarkets).

Mariahilferstrasse for shopping and sensible eating (c'mon, you can't eat in the cafes the entire trip).
posted by naxosaxur at 7:18 AM on March 2, 2007

Great tip -- going to Billa. I totally agree, that's what I usually do. I forgot to mention Mariahilferstraße too. Between all of the comments made in this thread, you're probably pretty set!
posted by miss lynnster at 7:52 AM on March 2, 2007

Oh, and if you want to do a walk (maybe while your dad is resting one afternoon?), might be cool to take a tour of underground Vienna. There are underground caverns all over that most people never see, a lot of them were used for filming The Third Man.

And here are interesting answers to FAQ about using the Vienna U-Bahn. Reading it should take away any fear you have of jumping on the subway. Sometimes trying public transit is intimidating at first when you don't understand a language & don't know the procedures.

Have fun!
posted by miss lynnster at 8:03 AM on March 2, 2007

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