11 things I wish I knew about Vienna before arriving
Vienna kept us traveling for a full week with some of the most bizarre sights across Europe. Here’s what I wish I knew before going.
Vienna is a cross of German efficiency and Swiss creativity, but less angsty than Berlin.
This first impression stuck with me the whole week. There’s still plenty of history despite the many bombs dropped during World War II, and the mash-up of post-modern and centuries-old tradition is what makes Vienna come alive.
Grab the Vienna Card…
Unlimited public transportation for 18.90 € (for the 48-hour card) or 21.90 € (for the 72-hour card) and discounts on most everything else? Yes, please! This tourist-friendly card is only a few euros more than the public-transportation-only card of the same length, and you need not go out of your way to get the discounts. More info at https://www.wienkarte.at/en/.
…but pass on the Vienna Pass.
While this pass offers free admission to Vienna’s attractions, it’s more expensive (69 € for 2 days, 84 € for 3 days, and 99 € for 6 days) and doesn’t include public transportation (though it does include the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus). If you’re hitting up enough of the mainstream destinations included to make it worth your while, good on you. If you’re reading One Weird Globe, however, you’ll find most of the more unusual destinations aren’t included.
Get the pass or tickets ahead of time…
Quite a few tram stops lack the most basic of necessities: a place to buy a ticket. Trams themselves rarely have ticket machines, so plan ahead — purchase tickets or passes at any train station (S-bahn, U-bahn, or Haupbahnhof) beforehand. This won’t matter if you bought the Vienna Card.
…but be aware Google Maps doesn’t show the trams.
This is one time where the paper maps come in handy.
Grocery stores close early…
…though plenty of restaurants are open late. The U3 supermarket is open until midnight (1am on weekends), and is inside the Westbahnhof station on U3 or U6.
Make a reservation for the Old Vienna Brandy Museum.
Also known as the Alt-Wien Schnapsmuseum and the Schnaps Museum, it’s a 30 minute tour and 30 minute tasting — but reservations are required. Also, calling it a museum in a misnomer, as it only shows the former office with turn of the century furniture and a glorified ad for their offerings. No productions facilities, no history on the walls, just a guided tour and tastings. That may be all you desire, of course…
Stop by the Funeral Museum at Vienna Central Cemetery.
It might sound dark, but the Museum of Funeral History / Bestattungsmuseum am Wiener Zentralfriedhof offers a great look at Europe’s second-largest cemetery and the trends behind the ceremonies. When you’re ready to explore the graves, you’ll discover there’s 2.5 million square meters, 300,000 graves, and 3 million deceased to peruse.
There’s plenty of dead bodies outside the cemetery as well.
The Imperial Crypt (Kaisergruft) features dozens of the elaborate coffins occupied by royalty — and it’s one of the few crypts that allows you to take picture AND gives you enough light to take good pictures.
Public water fountains rock — and they’re around most of the touristy areas.
Fill ‘er up.
Vienna is a city with more bizarreness and weirdness than you can handle.
A partial list of Vienna’s weirder museums
- Museum of Art Fakes
- Museum of Contraception
- Torture Museum
- Viennese Criminal Museum
- Narrenturm Pathology and Anatomy Museum
- Remise Transport Museum of Wiener Linien
- Austrian Military Museum / Military History Museum
- Esperanto Museum
- Globe Museum
- Josephinum Medical Museum
Don’t worry, there’s plenty more posts coming — stay tuned.
Have you been to Vienna? What’s your favorite stop? Any protips to add?
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