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A Local Expert’s Guide to Vienna Travel

Beautiful Vienna by night

Today, we travel to lovely and historically renowned Vienna, Austria with Elisabeth, a local expert and charming guide to this beautiful, culturally-rich city. Learn how Viennese locals will spend their summer, where Elisabeth recommends getting coffee (and tea), and the first place visitors should head upon arrival to marvelous Vienna.

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Q&A with Vienna tour guide & expert, Elisabeth

Q: Elisabeth, what is the first thing a first-time visitor should do upon arriving in Vienna?

A: Go for a walk in the old town, starting or heading to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It is the most central point in Vienna, and the best place to get oriented. If you are tired after your trip, and need some training, go on top of the tower – no elevator – just 343 easy, breezy steps! The view at the end makes the adventure worthwhile.

Next, enjoy a horse and carriage ride (called “Fiaker”), which you can rent just behind the cathedral. Choose a 20, 40 or 60 minute ride. Tip: Make sure the driver speaks English, and you will have a lot of fun (just don’t believe everything he tells you…)!

Enjoy a Fiaker ride in Vienna

Q: What should a visitor to Vienna grab for a quick bite to eat or cup of coffee?

A: Choose one of the many coffee houses and try to “get the Viennese vibe.” Order something sweet (Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel with whatever you like) Rest assured – tea is served in a Viennese coffee house, too! You may also get started with a little Austrian wine, which is usually also available.

Q: What kinds of cuisine do you recommend? Where are a few of your favorite dining destinations in the city?

A: Coffee houses, coffee houses and coffee houses! Most of the coffee houses also serve lunch and dinner, depending on which one you choose. The good thing is that you usually never go over a certain budget and you will always get the most typical options for the region.

My favorite coffee houses (of those which accept reservations) are:

Café Mozart. Ask for a table at the window and look directly onto Albertina Museum and the State Opera.

Café Hawelka. The most original place in town, steps away from the Jewish Museum, which has just recently reset the exhibition. Order “Buchteln,” the sweet pastry Café Hawelka is famous for.

Demel’s Bakery. The secret is to go for lunch, and choose the Eiernockerl or the Schinkenfleckerl. Follow this with the most amazing cakes. Watch as talented Chef’s prepare their cakes. There is also a little shop, where you can get lovely things to take home for souveniers. And don’t forget to take pictures of the DEMEL’s shopping windows – everything you see is made of something to eat (and not plastic!!!)

For elegant dining, my favorite (rather Viennese) places are:

Vestibül. An exclusive restaurant in the main theater, Burgtheater.

Steirereck. Ranked amongst the leading restaurants in the world, very exclusive and original dining experience, located in the middle of Vienna’s most beautiful park, Stadtpark. For more casual dining at the same venue, try Meierei.

Palmenhaus. A lovely restaurant in the middle of a glass house. During summer months, enjoy a large terrace with views overlooking Burggarten and Hofburg Palace.

Plachutta bei der Oper and Plachutta Wollzeile. Here, enjoy the most typical food in Vienna, with excellent service. Each individual restaurant of this family-owned business is wonderful!

Q: What recreational activities do locals most enjoy in the summer?

A: See below:

– Going to the Vienna Woods (hiking, biking, walking, running, “fooding” and culture)

– Strolling along the Danube Canal, a side stream which runs along the Old Town. It recently was turned into a little “lungo mare” with beaches, bars and restaurants. Don’t forget to bring your camera or spray paint – Graffiti is allowed along the walls there. Leave your mark in Vienna!

– Sailing or biking on or around Neusiedlersee (1 hrs drive), a natural reserve and home to lots and lots of amazing “wine and dine” destinations along the bike roads

– Restaurant Mole West, located directly on the lake

– Any Heuriger winery attracting you

– Sports at Prater (running, hiking, strolling with dogs, babies, and friends on the biggest green area within the city, starting at the “Riesenrad” ferris wheel

– Having a bath at the Danube or the “Old Danube,” a popular destination which can be reached by the subway

– Don’t miss the biggest music festival in Vienna in summer 2014, “Donauinselfest” with free music

– Hanging out at “Rathauspark” in front of the Town Hall

– Free movies and food stalls

– Free Opera on a big screen outside Vienna State Opera – Just bring your chair! If you get cold or bored, visit the new dining lounge at Hotel Bristol nearby

The lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria


Stay tuned for our next post, where Elisabeth will share her “don’t miss” shopping list for Vienna travelers, the hottest music festivals in Austria, and more.

Plan your travels to Vienna, Prague, or Budapest through the leading luxury tour operator. To learn more about travel to Viennafamily travel to Vienna, Budapest, or Prague, or other excursions that Exeter International offers, please visit our website or contact us by phone at (813) 251-5355 / (800) 633-1008.


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