Vienna Insider Tips. Great Wien sightseeing goes beyond tourism attractions. Build some off guidebook finds into your sightseeing agenda that lead you off the beaten path. This page helps you do that. In fact, for each of Vienna’s top 10 attractions there is an insider twin: A similarly beautiful attraction that comes without the crowds and will turn you from tourist to traveller.
1. Schönbrunn Palace – Hermes Villa
Vienna Insider Tips. Schonbrunn Palace is Vienna’s number one tourist attraction, and rightly so.Once you have seen the representational side of Habsburg life, head for insider gem Hermes Villa further West. The romantic 19th century villa surrounded by lush parkland was Empress Sissi’s romantic bolthole. Hardly noticed by tourists, the Hermesvilla showcases the private lifestyle of Emperor Francis Joseph and Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) of Austria-Hungary: the frescoes, pompous beds, furniture, lavish fabrics and home accessories leave you in no doubt, though, who lived there. Watch out for Gustav Klimt artwork. Read more about Empress Sissi’s hideaway.
2. Belvedere Vienna – Schloss Hof
Vienna Insider Tips. ‘You know one, you know all.’ Not necessarily. Even if you have seen Prince Eugene of Savoy’s Belvedere Vienna Palace, go for his lavish hunting paradise an hour east of Vienna. Both revive the baroque period in Vienna, from a different perspective. Schloss Hof‘s palatial rooms are as beautifully restored but more private, with exuberant wall papers and furniture. In the warm months, Schloss Hof’s vast baroque gardens display splendid flower beds across seven terraces. An estate farm and animal enclosures showing donkeys, camels and even white Lipizzaner horses make this a perfect summer day trip for children. On top you can join seasonal events and special exhibitions throughout the year.
3. Imperial Museums – Museum of Folk and Folk Art
Vienna Insider Tips. The city centre is populated with historic masterworks housed in the vast complex of the Imperial Palace Vienna (Hofburg). Many of these pieces of art were collected by the Habsburg Emperors themselves, or by noblemen and supporters of the Court. If you want to know more about peoples and their lives in the former Habsburg Crownlands of Bukowina, Dalmatia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Ruthenia, and others head for the Museum of Folks and Folk Art (Volkskundemuseum). The small museum in Vienna’s lovely 8th district shows beautiful furniture, ceramics, fashion, tools and paintings from what is today Eastern Europe. Highly recommended.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 10am to 6pm; closed on Mondays, except for public holidays; 24th and 31st December – 10 am to 3pm;
Location: Laudon Garden Palace; Laudongasse 15 to 19, 1080 Vienna; Admission: adults: EUR 5; children and teenagers under 19 years of age go free;
4. Vienna State Opera – Vienna Volksoper
Vienna Insider Tips. My hometown has four opera houses. The Vienna State Opera is the most elegant and renown. This shouldn’t deter you from adding an insider opera experience to your trip repertoire. The Vienna Volksoper originates from the people’s opera, whereas the State Opera was for Vienna’s aristocracy. Today, some Volksoper performances may get better critiques than their State Opera pendants. You will find popular operas like Mozart’s Magic Flute and Verdi’s Il Trovatore. On top, the Volksoper is the best place in Vienna to watch operettas such as Franz Léhar’s The Merry Widow. Check what is on at Volksoper during your stay.
Vienna Insider Tips. Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, or Stephansdom, has housed the good, the great, and the ordinary. Mozart got married at St. Stephan, and countless Habsburg Emperors ‘enjoyed’ their funeral masses there. Our landmark is also at the center of many popular legends. If you like the Middle Ages and mystic places, Minoritenkirche is a must. Even though this church is around 140 years younger, it looks older. This is because it widely lacks baroque elements, which had been added to Stephansdom’s interiors later on. I had been to both churches during Christmas and loved the intimacy and mystic ambience of Minoritenkirche. Don’t miss the large mosaic copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Location: Minoritenplatz, 1010 Vienna;
6. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – Vienna Symphonic Orchestra
Vienna Insider Tips.Kudos if you have set your heart on the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. You won’t be tricked by mediocre tourist ensembles. If a concert by the Vienna Philharmonics is not an option during your stay, go for the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra, our other top quality classical orchestra. The Wiener Symphonieorchester, or Wiener Symphoniker, are a Viennese institution. They have been around for more than 110 years and regularly attract top international guest conductors. If you like romantic classical music, such as Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss and Franz Schubert, get the Vienna Symphonics to play it for you. Visit website for a concert calendar.
7. Danube – Alte Donau
Vienna Insider Tips. While Strauss’ famous waltz is priceless most travellers can’t be fooled with the ‘Blue Danube’ any more. By all means, the Donau in Vienna is majestic. But if you look for truly picturesque spots, you have to zoom in on side arms and hidden spots. One such spot is Alte Donau (Old Danube), a closed side arm which was the former main Danube river arm. On warm days rent a sofa boat and explore the colourful riverside cabins of a close knit local community. There are a few typical local restaurants and fabulous swim spots. More about Alte Donau and other Danube insider tips in my Vienna Danube guide.
8. Fiaker – Bike Taxi
Vienna Insider Tips. You like the idea of gently rattling through historic Vienna in an open-air carriage? Up to 100 years ago, Viennese upper and middle class people used a horse carriage to go from A to B. They are elegant and romantic, but aren’t widely used anymore, except by tourists. If you want something more contemporary with added fun, watch out for bike taxis. They come in the shape of rikshas or little carts. You can book a bike taxi for a sightseeing tour or to take you from one to the other place. For enquiries, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. Vienna Prater – Böhmischer Prater
Vienna Insider Tips.The Vienna Prater attracts tourists because of the Giant Ferris Wheel, and teenagers like my local nephews because of its bone-scaring roller coasters. For that nostalgic luna park experience of organ grinders, punch-and-judy shows, and traditional merry-go-rounds, visit the Prater’s little brother, the Bohemian Prater (Böhmischer Prater). Located on the southern fringe of Vienna, it received its name from the Bohemian immigrants working in the nearby brickyards. In the past years, the Bohemian Prater has added some modern attractions, but tradition still feels strong there. The park is located in Laa Forest at Laa Mountain, a popular recreational area.
Opening Times: early March to 1st November; open daily from 10am to 9pm (with good weather)
Location: Laaer Wald 216, 1010 Vienna
How To Get There: tramway 71 from Vienna State Opera towards Zentralfriedhof, alight at Enkplatz/Grillgasse; take bus 15A to Grillgasse S; walk 15 min from there to the Prater (pdf map).