Despite lying outside of Germany, the Austrian capital of Vienna has the second largest number of German speakers, behind Berlin. This popular city is located in the east of the country, close to the border with the Czech Republic and has a city centre that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is well known that culture oozes from within the city limits here, with music, art, architecture and history being found around every corner. Many famous names of the past were born in Vienna, including Johann Strauss and Sigmund Freud; prompting the respective nicknames of 'The City of Music' and 'The City of Dreams'.
The city has regularly been ranked highly in various reports that highlight the most 'liveable' places in the world and has a unique charm that seems to win over everyone who visits. This is heightened even further when the magic of Christmas comes to town.
Vienna International Airport is situated just outside the city; around 12 miles from the centre. It is served by a range of different airlines including British Airways, Jet2, EasyJet and KLM, with direct flights from Gatwick, Heathrow, Stanstead, Manchester and Newcastle. Those departing from Scotland can also fly direct from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
In regards to getting into the city centre once you have arrived, there are a few different options. However, taking the train is probably the easiest and cheapest choice. The City Airport Train, or CAT as it is known, can take you directly to Wien-Mitte station in the heart of Vienna at 5 and 35 past every hour. Alternatively, there is an S-Bahn service which runs just as regularly and will travel through the same station.
Other connection options include taxi and bus. Taxis can be picked up from outside the terminal, whilst a number of bus routes can take you into town at 20-30 minute intervals.
If flying is not your preferred way to arrive in Vienna, there is also the option to travel by train. However, this involves multiple trains and will take around 15-20 hours. Therefore, it may be wise to stop off for the night in Paris and another major city along the way. The quickest route involves taking the Eurostar to Paris, the TGV on to Stuttgart, an inter-city express into Munich, and then a regional train on to Wien Meidling station in Vienna.
Where To Stay
The Hotel Ambassador in the heart of Vienna offers four-star luxury from around €150 per night. It balances the traditional with the modern whilst showcasing the art and culture that Vienna has become famous for. This elegant hotel is also a regular haunt for famous faces and has been a permanent fixture in the city for over a century.
There are even rooms that are themed around the celebrity personalities that have stayed here in the past. However, before you retire to your comfortable quarters, be sure to head to the restaurant's winter garden for some al-fresco gourmet delights.
As the perfect example of a mid-range hotel, the Boutique Hotel Stadthalle is another great choice for anyone wanting to stay in the city centre. This establishment has a heart of green and tries to look after the environment in a variety of different ways. It is the first city centre hotel to maintain a zero-energy balance, as throughout the year it manages to produce as much energy as it consumes.
This is done through a range of means, including solar and photovoltaic panels and ground water pumps. Guests who arrive by train or bike will receive ten percent off their stay and there are even plans to install wind turbines and terminals where you can charge your electric car whilst you stay. The greenery extends further into the small but delightful garden, which is only watered with water from the hotel's own well.
Anyone on a budget may want to consider the Meininger Hotel Downtown Sissi, located close to the banks of the Danube and next to the Augarten. Rooms here could cost as little as £42 (based on a one night's stay in March) and only increase to around £50 when visiting in June (provided you book early). This may be a budget option but the décor is modern and clean cut, offering contemporary Viennese charm. As well as benefitting from free Wi-Fi, you can also rent a bicycle to aid you in your explorations of the city.
Public transport in Vienna is both extensive and easy to use. It includes five different underground lines, or U-Bahn routes, along with no less than 27 above ground trams. Any ticket purchased will allow you to travel on any kind of public transport including buses, trams and even high-speed trains, as long as you are journeying between two stations within the city limits.
A variety of tickets can be bought including those that last for 24/48/72 hours, a week and a month. If you are just making a single trip, though, you can buy a ticket costing just €2 which allows you uninterrupted travel in a single direction. The transport network runs until half-past midnight sun-thurs but continues throughout the night on Fridays and Saturdays. There are also night buses in operation each evening.
Where To Eat
Steirereck, located with the Stadtpark, is one of the most refined restaurants in Vienna. It serves a mixture of classic Viennese dishes that have been given a modern twist by Chef Heinz Reitbauer and international fare which wouldn't look out of place in a gallery. The ingredients are sustainably sourced and provided by local producers where possible, and the menu includes 'Barbequed cap of Alpine beef forerib' and 'Crispy deep fried crepe with Japanese Medlar and violet jam'.
If you are looking for something a little simpler (and possibly less expensive), Reinthaler's Beisl is a hidden gem that should be hunted down. It is located on Dorotheergasse, close to the Hofburg Palace, and serves straight- forward Viennese dishes like you would find in any home across the city.
Motto am Fluss is another great choice when dining out during your Vienna city break. The first thing you notice is the unique design of this restaurant as it sits elevated above the river Danube. There are two floors comprising of a café and restaurant, but the venue also regularly hosts DJs in the lounge area. The atmosphere is relaxed inside and the menu changes each week. They are particularly fond of their freshly baked bread, which is likely to be the first smell to hit you as you walk through the door.
Top 3 Things To Do
Lounge On The Beach
Although Austria is entirely landlocked, there is no shortage of beaches within the city of Vienna. The banks of the Danube offer many chances to relax with a drink in your hand and take in the sights around you. Some of these man-made beaches are secluded clubs which charge an entry fee, but there are plenty of free spots if you don't want to pay. Just be careful you don't wander into an area marked FKK on your map as these are designated nudist areas.
Chase The Culture
You cannot visit Vienna without submersing yourself in its world of culture, and there are plenty of options when choosing to do so. Whether you explore Hofburg or Schönbrunn Palace, discover the Gothic Stephansdom, or walk the many halls of art in the MuseumsQuartier; you are sure to learn just what makes Vienna so unique. The trinity of museums includes the Leopold Museum (featuring extensive collections of Austrian art), the Kunsthalle Wien (featuring local and international pieces), and the Museum Moderner Kunst (offering up contemporary displays from famous names such as Picasso and Andy Warhol).
Rise In The Riesenrad
If you are looking for great views of the city and an exciting activity combined into one; the giant wheel known as the Riesenrad is perfect. This attraction features in the film 'The Third Man' and is a nineteenth-century version of the London eye. Step into one of the bright red, wooden gondolas to be transported over 200 feet in the air with the entire city laid out before you. One rotation takes approximately 20 minutes and admission is €9 per adult.
If you would like to embark on a Vienna city break with Fred Holidays, we can tailor-make a stay to your personal preferences. Call us today or submit your request online.