Complete Vienna Travel Guide for first timers.

Cyclists by the danbu canal side in Vienna

COVID Update as of 11 September 2023: No Pre-Travel-Clearance is required when entering Vienna. Check their official website for the latest update.

On paper, Vienna had everything a history buff like me craves – History, Architecture, street art, charming alleys and coffee. I was prepared to swim in the swamp of humans in Vienna after I realised 2/3rd of Austria’s population lives here. My curiosity and confusion drove me to the capital city; what happened later was unbelievable.

Our Vienna travel guide shows you how to enjoy the city on a mid-range budget.


Why is Vienna worth visiting?

A german shepherd dog with its owner standing in the crowded among other travellers in Vienna

Travel to Vienna because it is one of the most pet-friendly cities I have ever been to!

It is a nice medieval town by the riverside: It sounds typical of any European city. But Vienna comes with lots of surprises. The place holds the ancient history of Romans and traditional monarchs, but the city now has a hipster vibe. You see similar-looking heritage buildings. Two lanes away, you find Viennese gone crazy on wall art. Countless restaurants are making Viennese special Schnitzel with veal, but you get hundreds of Vegan food outlets on the same road.

What is so special about Vienna?

Travellers at Vienna near Hundertwasser house that has no stragight line in the facade

That 2/3 rd of Austria’s population and a flock of tourists can’t crowd Vienna because the city is huge. So there is no rush, but the city is fast-paced. The rolling vineyards line this Baroque city with modern skyscrapers on the horizon.

The Hofburg and Nazi history makes you wonder if you are expected to have a polished manner- But I saw Viennese sitting on the footpath eating and chilling.

Viennese dancing Near an ancient plaza in Vienna

Travel to Vienna- Because there is nothing like it.

Honestly, it wasn’t love at first sight for me with Vienna. We took time to go along with the Viennese vibe. That too many options for public transport overwhelmed us. There were too many things to see and do. In places like Karlsplatz and Stephenplatz, the buzz was high. But, 200m away, a non-tourist street was deserted. We could not understand what was going on.

Vienna city with tall traditional buildings on either side of the road with travellers , horse carriage and cars on the road

With the notion of Austrians being cold, we were prepared for an “unfriendly” vibe. But it turned out the other way. At the end of 2nd day, we were pros – the Viennese helped us figure out how to use their subways and trams the first two times. You need time to get Vienna in your veins – What seems complicated is super chill!

How many days should I spend in Vienna?

Beautiful rose-gold coloured sky at Vienna behind a traditional white building

Vienna day trip from its neighbouring countries is famous among city hoppers. But I recommend three to four days.

What is the best month to visit Vienna?

I travelled to Vienna in July – the peak summer season for tourists. I had a good time but with too much sun. So I think April to May or September to October is the best time when the temperature is cooler without heat waves. Plus you can travel to Vienna cheaper that time.

Is Vienna or Salzburg better?

Travellers at Vienna checking out direction and a horse carriage next to them

This is a common question on travel forums. Both cities are different. You can take a hike in Salzburg because the mountains are nearby. But you can stroll in Vienna streets and nearby wood. Salzburg is home to salt mines and castles that line the Salzach riverside, much smaller than Vienna. Vienna is a big city with historical buildings, palaces and glass skyscrapers beside Danube and Donaukanal. My favourite place in Austria is Salzburg, but I would never skip Vienna – Because, without Vienna, you won’t be able to appreciate the other parts of Austria.

What part of Vienna is best to stay in?

Vienna city view from the vineyard
PC – Arno Senoner

Vienna has 23 districts. You must know which district has what for you so you can plan as per your budget – Remember, Vienna isn’t cheap. City’s excellent Metro and tram lines make it effortless to get around. I have wandered in a few districts, and this is what I think –

  • District 1 AKA Innerstadt – Major historical attractions like Stephenplatz and Hofburg palace are located here and is the most expensive neighbourhoods for tourists. Most hotels here are expensive.
  • District 2 to 6 surrounds Innenstadt and is home to places like Belvedere along with Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel, Hundertwasserhaus, and Karlsplatz – Suitable for families and lesser expensive than District 1.
Contrast of old and new building at Vienna
  • I stayed in District 6 at Leonardo Hotel Vienna. – It was comfortable and convenient to stay here because of its proximity to Tram and Metro lines. Mariahilfer street was just 5 minutes walk. Westbahnof, from where I had to take the train to Melk, was 10 minutes walk.
  • District 7 – Neubau: The hipped and coolest neighbourhood for nightlife near MQ.
    • You might have a comfortable stay at Pension Pharmador on a budget (Trust me 100 Euros/couple/night is a budget in Vienna)
  • Districts 10, 12 (Ottakring), and 15 are inexpensive modern Vienna, away from the tourist buzz. And you find more apartment stays than hotels here. Check
  • District 21 and above are the outskirts lining the Danube river, and that is where you find vineyards. More apartments and homestays can be found here.

What is the best way to get around Vienna?

Baroque building in road junction and a traveller on an E-Kick Scooter at Vienna

Name a type of public transport a city can have; Vienna has it. City’s public transport Wiener Linien operates five underground lines, 25+ trams and 120+ bus lines. The Wien Mobil app shows you everything in detail. I used google Maps’ feature Google Transit more than the app. It shows the fastest and most immediate option available.

Public transport runs throughout the year, even on holidays and Sundays. But the frequency on Sundays is lesser compared to the regular days.

What is the best way to get to Vienna from airport?

Though City Airport Train (CAT) is the fastest connection from and to Vienna city centre, I recommend you take taxi. Using piblic transport in Vienna is easy, but not right after a long haul or at an odd hour. So I pre booked a taxi to my hotel here and was hasslefree.

Do you have to pay for public transport in Vienna?

A public bus in Vienna with number 77 on the street with old buildings on either side.

Very likely, your hotel receptionist briefs you about your locality and how to get around. And I saw them being specific about saying “You must buy tickets” to all the guests. Because many tourists travel to Vienna thinking public transport is free – which isn’t.

There are no ticket barriers to check if you have a valid ticket or not. Everything works based on an honesty system. And there may be surprise inspections at times to check for the tickets. You may think of getting onto a bus or metro without a ticket and being unchallenged. However, it isn’t ethical to do so. If you get caught, the fines are as huge as 100 Euros.

What does Vienna Pass include?

Ancient roman sculptures in Vienna

The most asked question on the internet among people who plans to travel to Vienna is this. So what is this, and why is it confusing?

  • The Vienna city card is issued for 24,48,72 hrs and six days. The pass is then valid for consecutive calendar days from activation.
  • You can buy it either online or have a QR code. Or buy the physical card at hotels and transits.
  • The validity starts from the time you activate it. So, for example, if you purchased 24hr Vienna card at 3PM today and got it punched at a metro station in those blue boxes at 4 PM, Your ticket is valid until tomorrow at 5PM.

There are three types of city passes. Every card includes a discount price on 60+ attractions, access to all public transport, and one child up to 15 or a dog can be part of the scheme. Three types are

Screenshot of Vienna city card options
  • Option 1 Vienna City card – The basic card as per above
  • Option 2 Vienna City Card +Transfer – Everything as per Option1 + the transfer from/to the airport to/from Vienna included
  • Option 3 Vienna City Card tour includes everything in Option 2 plus hop-on hop-off sightseeing tours.
Vienna's palace glowing with skylight behind queen Maria Terese statue

Does Vienna Tourist Pass worth it? – Nope.

The catch here is that you don’t get free entry with any of these cards – You will pay a discounted price for the monuments. It is like you pay 29 Euro for a three-day pass so you can get a discount on other fees! The 60+ attractions include too many museums and palaces you can’t see even in three days. And you may not even be interested in visiting all of them! There is a discount on specific cafes and hotels with the Vienna tourist card. When you are hungry, you tend to eat at the nearest best place than looking for that particular food joint where you can redeem your discount. Right? 

Cafe by the road side in Vienna beside baroque buildings

So do the math before buying any of these passes if it is worth your money. Ultimately When I did the math for the attractions I visited in Vienna, I would have paid extra 30 Euro each if I had bought an Option 1 card.

Which Vienna Tourist Pass is Best

Travellers at Vienna's Schonbrunn palace

“Verkehrsverbund Ost-Region” ((VOR) passes are the best.

Most public transport in the Vienna area is organised by the fare union (VOR). Any ticket bearing the VOR symbol can be used on almost every means of public transport in the area. You can use the same key for a journey involving trips by bus, tram, metro and train, and you can change as often as you have to without buying a new ticket.

VOR passes are also issued for 24,48,72 hours and also weekly. These don’t include a discount on any attractions. But much cheaper than the city pass.

Where to buy VOR tickets in Vienna.

Every underground metro station will have VOR ticket vending machines- They look exactly like ATMs. You can choose the language to operate and select if you need the ticket. Then, use your Debit card to swipe (Avoid using credit cards as card skimming scam is on the rise in Europe), and enter the safety PIN. The ticket falls at the bottom of the screen. Many tourists stood and wondered where to collect the ticket after swiping. Because it doesn’t make any noise after the transaction, the place where the ticket falls is hidden!

As a first-timer, if you are confused too much, most underground metro stations will have a customer service centre. You can approach one of them and ask them to get you a VOR ticket and pay by cash. But, remember, these customer service offices are closed after 4PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

How do you ride the Vienna Metro?

Taking the Metro in Vienna is super simple.

Tickets must be validated before boarding. To validate your ticket, stamp the ticket at the blue machines located at the entrance of underground stations and on buses and trams. Tickets bought directly from the tram or bus driver are automatically validated and need not be stamped again.

The signboards are in English and German everywhere. So check your google Transit and get on the right route. There are five routes – U1, U2, U3, U4 & U6. The U5 route is missing because it was cancelled later.

Can you walk everywhere in Vienna?

Yes, you can walk anywhere and everywhere because Vienna has designated footpaths and separate cycle lanes beside the vehicular roads everywhere. Unless you are on a mission to walk Vienna as a whole, it is not practical because Vienna is big.

Is it safe to walk at night in Vienna?

In general, you will have to walk a lot in Vienna. And it is safe to walk at night also. We finished our Mozart concert at 10 in Schonbrunn palace of the 13th district and took a Metro back to our room in Mariahilf, District 6. We only found a group of girls still chilling by the public parks with mugs of beer, some fitness freaks jogging, and some men eating Pizza without a worry.

What should you not miss in Vienna?

There are too many things in Vienna. There are some 200+ museums, countless plazas, 14 palaces, charming endless heritage streets and unlimited coffee houses by the Danube canal. So you must know at least a little about them to set your priorities right. The detailed post How I fell in love with Vienna in three days” helps you do that.

Found our Vienna Travel Guide useful? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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