Vienna was once one of the most important cities in Central Europe. It was the seat of power for various empires over the centuries. Today, it is the heart of Austria and is its cultural, economic and political capital. The deep history of this city is still evident in its historic center, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Palaces, museums, markets, and a glut of music and art make this one of the more interesting cities in Europe for sightseeing. Tourists could spend several days simply wandering the streets and soaking in the historic atmosphere. Located in the heart of Austria, Vienna is a good base for people who want to see the country’s famous mountains, which draw tourists both in the summer and during the winter. However, with so much to do in this city, some people might forget about the alps altogether and instead simply focus on the amazing array of attraction that Vienna has to offer.
Vienna has a useful, easy-to-use, and far-reaching public transit system. A variety of methods can be used to reach even the farthest corner of the city. There is almost no need for taxis or cars. The U-Bahn, Vienna’s subway system, has five lines and can be used to get to most tourist sites in the city. Above ground commuter trains can take people to the suburbs and are useful for those who want to get a little further afield. Trams and buses cover the residential neighborhoods of Vienna. They are not the fastest way to get around, but are a great tool for taking a self-guided sightseeing trip around this very architecture-rich city. Most public transit shuts down between about midnight and one in the morning. Taxis are the best choice for late night travelers. In central Vienna, walking is the best way to get around. Cycling is also possible, with a good infrastructure for bikers making it easy to get around the city on two wheels.
Vienna is a four season city. Spring usually comes to Vienna’s streets in late March and early April. Weather is still cool in the evenings, but doesn’t often dip below freezing. Aside from a handful of hot, humid days, summer in Vienna is generally pleasant in a not-too-hot-not-too-cold way. A light jacket might still be necessary in the evening. June and July are the rainiest months, so an umbrella is a good item for summertime visitors to pack. From mid-September through October, fall comes to the city. This season is characterized by colorful, falling leaves and cool breezes. A light jacket or sweater is a necessity, though warm, summer-like days are not unheard-of. Winter is cold, though daytime highs are often several degrees above freezing. A winter jacket or thick sweater is still necessary, and regular snows make a hat and gloves a good idea as well.
German speakers will have no problem in Austria as everyone speaks German, though some do so with an Austrian accent and a sprinkling of local vocabulary. Unlike many Western European nations, signs are not often in English in Vienna, so people should be prepared to navigate using German names (you can avoid pronunciation difficulties by writing down the names of your destinations and then pointing to the name to ask for directions). Many people, especially younger people, speak English quite well in Vienna, and people who regularly deal with tourists and visitors will usually be quite fluent. If you plan to wander through neighborhoods and shop at local markets, a phrasebook could come in handy.
The Vienna Pass can be used to get discounts on museum admissions and tours. It also includes a 3-day unlimited ride pass that can be used on the city’s public transportation network.
Local markets held away from the central district are much more authentic that the markets found in downtown Vienna. This is especially true when it comes to the Christmas markets, which have lower prices compared to their tourist-focused kin.