After you have decided about your travel date and long before you advise your bank, mobile phone provider and pet of your trip, use a smart Vienna tourist checklist. Because Austria’s capital is small, many travelers underestimate its rich cultural offer, and booming tourism.
❑ 1. Check Seasonal Peaks, Highlights And Weekend Closures
If you always dreamed of visiting certain cultural attractions in Vienna, make sure they are open during your travel dates: For example, the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Spanish Riding School, the Vienna Boys Choir and other cultural institutions take annual summer breaks. In turn, most Danube boat trips and guided bike tours only take place between April and October.
For travelers on a short break, it’s a good idea to check whether your favorite restaurants in Vienna and shops close on Sundays, Mondays and certain public holidays. Although the large Vienna Museums and attractions are mostly open throughout the year, smaller attractions may have restricted opening times. And Christmas Eve and New Year’s day can turn Vienna into a dire place if you don’t know where to go.
❑ 2. Select Flight And Hotel
Not only is Austria’s capital a Central European flight hub, but a top international congress and cultural destination. Each year, Vienna attracts more than 600,000 congress and meeting delegates alone. When you book flights and hotels, there is usually no rush, unless you plan to visit during peak times, such as the ball season (January to March), the summer or during large-scale international congresses.
❑ 3. Book Quality Events
No doubt you can get tickets for Vienna concerts at the last minute, especially great quality classical concerts in churches. And with luck you can even secure tickets for quality events at top concert halls, though better plan a couple of months in advance. As for opera, booking Vienna opera tickets is no mean feat, either. First, because we have four opera houses, second, because the famous Vienna State Opera on average sells out 98%. When selecting the right Vienna balls and ticket category, a few months’ preparation before the ball season will help.
But it’s not all concerts and opera to sort out in time. Especially niche things to do, such as a Viennese cooking class at a local’s home, require at least a week to set up.
❑ 4. Check Out Local Festivals and Events
Each season celebrates its own festivals. Since Vienna and surroundings stage hundreds of local events each year, add local event checks to your Vienna tourist checklist. To get an overview of the best events each month, feel free to check my Vienna Tourism Calendar For Non-Tourists, and the Vienna music festival guide.
❑ 5. Plan Your Itinerary
Like many modern cities, my home town consists of different layers – historic architecture, famous landmarks, guidebook ‘must dos’, secret tips and hidden corners, plain mundane areas, shabby neighbourhoods, ‘why-would-I-go-there’ ugly suburbs, ‘never-heard-of-before’ events. Make sure you mix well to capture the city’s full flavour and create a personally fulfilling experience. When you plan your itinerary, consult a map of Vienna to create area clusters of what you want to see. To get around, download free local apps such as Wien Mobil.
To create space for personal discoveries, factor in some extra time. If you want to further personalize your travel planning and coordinate travel and ticket logistics, check out Vienna Unwrapped’s award-winning personal travel planning services.
❑ 6. Evaluate City Pass Options
There are a few free events and discount opportunities in town. Come summer, there are loads of free outdoor festivals. On special occasions, such as The Long Night of The Museums and European Heritage Day, you get free access to museums and cultural sites. The annual Summer Night Concert at Schonbrunn Palace allows you to listen to the Vienna Philharmonic Concert for free. And a few local coffeehouses regularly provide free piano music and small concerts. Visit my event calendar for some ideas, month by month.
Depending on your personal itinerary and preferences, either the Vienna City Card or the Vienna Pass are the better options. To evaluate which pass saves you money or increases your convenience, check out my detailed comparison in Vienna Travel Card.
❑ 7. Learn Some German
Knowing a few German words and phrases will connect you better with Vienna. Even the grumpiest Viennese (and there are a few of them) will likely show their sunny side if you manage to say ‘Grüss Gott’, ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ and ‘danke’, order your ‘Semmerl’ at the bakery, and possibly ask for a direction in German. There is no need for linguistic perfection nor mastering Wienerisch, though. Most locals, especially those in the tourism industry, speak English. To complete your Vienna tourist checklist, access my free resource page about learning German for travelers, students and expats.