Vienna is an incredible city. We visited twice last year and can't wait for the opportunity to return. In today's guest post, Barbara shares some of the great tours visitors can take around Austria's capital city.
Last time I stood and waited in front of the Vienna Opera House for 20 minutes, not to grab last minute tickets but to outwait two large humming tour buses which had settled right next to the entrance. Finally, a small group of tourists was shooed into the carriages among the indignant looks of their already seated fellow travellers and I could shoot the perfect image of the opera house.
Luckily, there is a whole host of different Vienna tours out there. Tours that connect travellers with the city, that blend personal with genuine travel interests and that simply let them breathe.
If you don’t know where to start from, go in a circle. The ‘Vienna Ringtram’ tramway tours the Ringstrasse state boulevard and provides a great first orientation of the city. The 30 minute trip lines up a dozen landmarks, from the Vienna Opera, the Museums of Fine Art and Natural History to the Imperial Palace, the Parliament, the town hall, the University and the Museum of Applied Arts to our finest palace hotels. Videos and audio phones in multiple languages in the carriages provide the background. For EUR 7 per tour, this is great value for money.
Vienna is as compact as a Swiss army knife. Most of its best attractions are based in the city centre within three square kilometres (10,000 square feet). Vienna walking tours therefore have a high ratio of ‘attractions per walked mile’ and are unlikely to cause you blisters. There are daily city walking tours by a number of local tour operators.
Going on themed walking tours is particularly fun as they allow you to explore Vienna according to your own personal interests. I had seen Graham Greene’s Vienna-based cult film ten times before embarking on the Third Man Movie Tour ‘Vienna In The Footsteps Of The Third Man’. The photo shows the doorway where Harry Lime famously appeared in the dark. I also love good architecture and finally did a private tour through the historic Vienna Gasometers with their great architect-designed interiors (I almost bought a flat there before moving to London). Other themed walking tours include a photo safari, a tour about Sigmund Freud, about Jewish Vienna, Death in Vienna, and the Danube National Park.
If you are into quirkier and more individual Vienna tours, private guides will likely cut it. Tour guide and flutist Martha Tretter and her fellow musicians, for example, love to envelope their clients in live medieval sounds as they lead them to hidden places in the old town. There are tours to traditional small trades shops which produce suits, jewellery, shoes, bags and confectionery, gourmet tours and hiking tours in the outskirts.
Biking and Segway Tours
I used to bike everywhere when I lived in the centre of Vienna for 10 years. Vienna is full of bike paths, largely flat and low on air pollution. Most of the Vienna tours by bike include a round trip on tree-lined Ringstrasse, which has a separate bike path, before they dive into the old town or into green outer space like the Prater or the Danube Island. It is also quite easy to rent one of the bikes from the city’s bike scheme and explore Vienna on your own. Travellers can obtain a Citybike Tourist Card for EUR 2 per day and per bike, and then pay an hourly fee between EUR 1 and EUR 4, whereby the first hour is free.
My segway tour through Vienna last summer was good fun. Being a native Viennese, I had given myself a head start on learning the basics of local history. Not so with going on a Segway. On a quiet strip of bike path between the Museumsquartier and the Burgring boulevard, our group of seven practised a few tentative moves before swarming out onto the bike paths of Ringstrasse and the old town. We whizzed and jolted across asphalt and cobble stone past state buildings, the Imperial Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the Stadtpark, with a good many stops and stories in between. There are an increasing number of Vienna tours by segway and private segway tours, which let you explore the centre, the Vienna Prater and Danube Island.
Bio: Barbara Grüll-Cação, a native Viennese, runs travel site Vienna Unwrapped. Barbara has lived in and around Vienna for 30 years and regularly visits the city from London, where she now lives with her husband and two kids. On Vienna Unwrapped, she shares her knowledge as a native, a former local, and a frequent Vienna traveller with you. Says Barbara, “The longer I am away from Vienna, the more obsessed I become about my city.” Stay in touch with Barbara and Vienna Unwrapped on Facebook and Twitter.