Grandiose palaces, stunning cityscapes and dynamic museums with enviable collections lure travelers to Vienna. Spectacular performance venues showcase works by musical greats like Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn—all of whom once called the city home. And if you think the only menu option in Austria’s capital city is schnitzel, think again. Coffeehouses, pubs and fine-dining establishments will please a wide variety of palates.
Tourism is Austria’s main industry, which is clear to anyone who visits Vienna. But the economy also benefits from machinery, metallurgical products and textile manufacturing. Agriculture is an commercial and cultural mainstay. Austria’s thousands of organic farms—producing everything from vegetables and meat to cheese and wine—have earned the country a reputation as “Europe’s deli.” You’ll find many of these homegrown foods on display in Vienna’s street markets.
Getting to and from the airport
Vienna International Airport is about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the city center. The City Airport Train (CAT) connects the airport with the transport hub of Wien Mitte Station in 16 minutes. The train leaves every 30 minutes. A single transfer is €11 (US$13.27, using the exchange rate US$1 = €0.83); a return trip is €19 (US$22.92).
Taxis are readily available at the airport. A one-way trip to the business district typically costs between €28 (US$33.78) and €35 (US$42.22).
Getting around Vienna
Vienna’s extensive public transport network is safe, reliable and user-friendly. A single ticket is good for the U-Bahn (subway), streetcar or bus and costs €2.30 (US$2.77). It’s valid for one trip in one direction, including transfers, anywhere in the city zone. It’s also easy to hail a taxi on the streets of Vienna. A 10% tip is standard.
Or do as the Viennese do and ride a bike around town. Vienna has more than 250 kilometers (155 miles) of marked bicycle paths within the city limits. Citybike Wien is a public bike rental system for short trips. Citybikes may be rented and returned at over 120 local rental stations. The first hour is free, and the second hour is €1 (US$1.21).
Things to see and do
Vienna was once the capital of the Habsburg empire, and its grand buildings reflect this history. If you’re short on time, tour the Ring Road that circles the city center. Constructed in the 1850s to replace walls that once fortified the city, the Ring Road passes several magnificent structures. The Parliament Building, Hofburg Palace and towering St. Stephen’s Cathedral, with its mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, are all on the route.
If you have a few hours, visit Schönbrunn Palace, an enormous complex that dates back to the Middle Ages. The palace and grounds were rebuilt in the 1700s and largely retain that style; the furnishings make you feel like you’ve returned to the Habsburg empire. A “grand tour” takes you through 40 rooms of the complex and costs €17.50 (US$21.11).
There are plenty of museums to choose from in Vienna, but for variety and sheer number of works, Kunsthistorisches Museum (The Museum of Fine Arts) is an excellent choice. It’s brimming with art from ancient Egypt to classical Rome to the Renaissance and beyond. Within the walls, you’ll find masterpieces from Holbein, Bruegel, Vermeer and Velasquez. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is €15 (US$18.10).
The State Opera House is the city’s preeminent venue for performing arts. You can watch a performance or take a guided tour through the magnificent building. The tour costs €9 (US$10.86) and tour times are posted online. If you visit between April and September, catch a free outdoor performance on the front steps.
Danube Island offers walking, jogging, mountain biking, tennis, soccer and swimming in the Old Danube, a large lake that once was a part of the Danube River. When the weather is fine, locals and tourists flock to the island to be surrounded by nature without leaving the city.
Where to eat
The open-air Naschmarkt market takes you on a culinary tour of Vienna in just a few blocks. Hundreds of vendors arrive every weekday to set up stalls stocked with meats, fruits, cheeses and regional dishes. Come with cash and an empty stomach. The market is open from around 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. It’s closed on weekends.
Steirereck, in a beautiful park, is professional and customer-oriented. The top-quality food is praised by restaurant critics. Find it at Am Heumarkt 2A, im Stadtpark, A-1030 Wien; Ph: +43 (1) 713 31 68.
Plachutta, with three locations in the city, serves the traditional Austrian dish tafelspitz, tender slices of beef that melt in your mouth.