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Vienna Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in ViennaWhere to Stay
Vienna is divided into 23 districts, so your choice of which hotel to stay at in Vienna will most likely be based on which area you want to stay in. For just short stays, the 1st district is ideal as it's where the UNESCO World Heritage historic old city is located. Here you can find fancy digs like the Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof, which is located just minutes from the Hofburg Palace. For longer visits, the 2nd-9th districts are also worth staying in; many are quaint, with upscale bars and restaurants. No matter where you stay, there is usually a metro station close by.
Caution: The Christmas period, with the famous Christmas Markets, and Carnival time in the spring can get very busy here and hotel rates really soar. Plan accordingly and book early.
What to Eat
The restaurants in Vienna are some of the world's best. There is plenty of old school Austrian cuisine to pick from, ranging from the famed local frankfurters and schnitzel to the tafelspitz boiled beef in broth. Make sure to make a pilgrimage to Zum Schwarzen Kameel (The Black Camel), which is where Beethoven dined and has been serving patrons for 400 years! It's Viennese ham is the talk of the town. Another great spot is Steirereck, named as one of the world's 50 best restaurants, with 120 types of cheeses to go with everything else on the menu.
Caution: When dining in old style Vienna restaurants, be aware that the bread in the basket served to you is not free, and you will be charged per piece.
Be Sure to Sample: Frankfurter Vienna sausage, Viennese coffee, tafelspitz, schnitzel.
Things to See
There are an endless array of attractions in Vienna. Many of them, such as the Hofburg Palace, Parliament, and museums of natural history and art are located in the historic old town in the 1st District. However, make sure you get out to some of the outlying districts, like the 13th, where you can find the Schonbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Imperial family, which should be on every visitor's must-see list.
Take It or Leave It: Sometimes a guide or listing will give the name of the district an attraction is in, rather than the number, so be aware of this (for example the 5th district is also known as Margareten).
Places to Party
From Mozart and opera to alternative dance clubs, bars and traditional Kaffeehauskultur cafe life, the choice of nightlife options in Vienna is simply staggering. Make sure to visit a heurigen, which is a family-run small wine tavern, where you can sample the great local city wines and great beer. If Strauss or Mozart performances get a bit too stodgy for you, why not go let it hang loose at U4, a club whose patrons have included Kurt Cobain, Johnny Depp and Courtney Love over the years.
Hot Tips: If in town during August, don't miss the Gürtel Nightwalk, an annual event where one street becomes a mile-long party, with alternative music, open air bars and live international acts all performing.
Where to Shop
Shopping in Vienna runs the gamut from local crafts to high-end fashions to schmaltzy trinkets. Try the long Graben shopping street in the 1st District or the mile-long Mariahilferstrasse, filled with all the brands and chains a shopper could want. Make sure to pick up some Mozart chocolates to take home; they are delicious! If you happen to be in town between mid-November and the New Year, the Christmas Markets are well worth a stop, which are full of stalls selling arts, crafts and plenty of great eating and drinking.
Best Local Souvenir: Mozart chocolate, dirndl dresses.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Vienna: First, there is the music. Mozart, both the boy genius who came to the city and played for the Emperor and also the broken man who died in the city on a cold, December morning; Schubert, Mahler, Beethoven; the Strauß family and a city swinging in three-quarter time; the Vienna Boys' Choir in their sailor uniforms; the majestic Opera House; the great orchestras.
The fin de siècle Vienna of the early 1900s featured Freud and the secession artists whom he so inspired; the heyday of the coffee-house wits; a time when the Viennese were enjoying the newly built grandeur of the Ringstrasse; a time with Vienna in the vanguard of cultural and scientific development, yet the first seeds of political turmoil were being sown that would see the great Empire blown apart on the battlefields of WW1.
Then there's the Vienna of 'The Third Man': a desolate city of tall buildings throwing long shadows down narrow streets; a city cast in melancholy, but retaining a wistful elegance and winning a hint of romantic danger on the front-line of the Cold War.
Interesting times, all of them. But today's Vienna offers much more than history. For a while, Vienna was a city living off its past. It was somewhere to go to... Read more »