With a look and feel something between the likes of Paris and Manhattan, Vienna is a dream in the heart of Central Europe.
One of the most open and fun-loving cities in the area, Vienna is also one of the music capitals of the world and boasts a proud history of operatic and orchestral music. Its claim to fame is arguably its ties to great composers from Mozart to Beethoven to the guy who was super jealous of Mozart (what was his name again? Oh yeah, Salieri). Sit endlessly in cafés sipping cappuccinos and eating strudel, stroll major shopping streets, or relax in one of Vienna’s many parks to soak in the city’s spirit. A haven of chic, fashion-forward sun-seekers (who are perhaps less stuffy than those of Paris), Vienna is the place to take a risk. Break out those mustard yellow trousers, wear beige from head to toe like a Kardashian, or try to bring back flare jeans. We still, however, recommend against wearing a fedora, as with anytime and anywhere in the world. (Possibly the only exception is if you are in Cuba, under very specific circumstances. We think you should be Cuban, wearing white and/or linen pants, and your name should not be Pitbull because something about that guy just pisses us off. If you’re racially ambiguous and playing someone Cuban for a movie like Vin Diesel in The Fate of the Furious, that’s probably fine. You didn’t even wear a fedora in that movie, but you’re eternally off the hook, Vin.) With that digression, enter Vienna, land of culture, land of fashion, land of modern European living. Think New York City, if it were sunnier and more pedestrian-friendly.
Vienna rests on the Danube River (known as Donau in German), but because the river used to flood the city in the rainy-season, the city center makes less use of the river and it isn’t as useful as rivers typically are in Central Europe. Damn the floods. Instead, orient yourself in relation to the Ring Boulevard (the name of this street changes in its different segments, but “Ring” is always in the name, and it is easy to identify on a map because of its circular shape). This street encircles the inner city, running the approximate route of the former city walls. Within the ring is the historic city center, including the Hofburg Imperial Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Rimming the ring to its southern and western edges are many important public buildings like City Hall, the Vienna State Opera, and Maria-Theresien-Platz, which ties the city center to the Museums Quartier. Within the city center, major streets include Kärntnerstraße and Herrengaße. Another important neighborhood in the city is Neubaugasse, situated southwest of the city center in the seventh district. The neighborhood centers around Neubaugasse and Mariahilfer Straße, especially to the northeast of their intersection.
Vienna is accessible by plane or train from just about anywhere. Trains come right into the city at Wien Mitte (city center), Wien Westbanhof, or Vienna Central Station. Planes fly into the Vienna International Airport (“Flughafen Wien”). Be aware that the airport is not actually that close to the city. From the airport, the fastest public transport to the city is the C.A.T. train to Wien Mitte (€12). The S7 train (€4) also runs from the airport to Wien Mitte, although it makes several stops. Wien Mitte is a metro transfer station to metro lines U3 and U4. Taxis are expensive, but may cost less than the C.A.T. if you are traveling in a group.
Public transport in Vienna is easily navigable. If you need to go a significant distance within the city, the metro is often the simplest way to travel. Metro stops are demarcated by a “U” and each line is associated with a number and a color. For example, the first metro line is called “U1” and is always marked in red. Single ride tickets for the metro are €2.20. Within the historic city center, most destinations tend to be reachable on foot. Bicycles are also extremely popular in Vienna. City Bike in Vienna is free for the first hour and then the cost doubles in each of the three following hours.
Tourist Offices: There is one main tourist office in the city center called Tourist-Info Wien (Albertinaplatz S; www.wien.info/en; open daily 9am-7pm).
Banks/ATMs/Currency Exchange: Even in this large city, do not expect every business to accept cards. Cafés, especially, often only take cash. ATMs, however, are widely available; if at all possible, though, avoid using ATMs in major tourist areas such as St. Stephen’s Cathedral because there have been increasing reports of ATM fraud.
Post Offices: There are post offices throughout the city. The post office website, with a branch locator, can be found at www.post.at. We have listed a central location (Fleischmarkt 19; open M-F 7am-10pm, Sa-Su 9am-10pm).
Internet: Many major attractions, plazas, and public transport stations have free Wi-Fi (look for networks like Freewave or Free Austrian Internet), though network connection and strength are often unpredictable. Free Wi-Fi access is also available at the tourist office.
BGLTQ+ Resources: The tourist information office of Vienna produces a pamphlet called the Gay & Lesbian Guide (and stocks others) with information on BGLTQ+-specific events, sights, bars, and more. Pick up a pamphlet in person or go to www.vienna.info/gay to learn more.
Emergency Number: 112
Police: There are police stations available all over Vienna, and most of them are marked on tourist maps. We have listed one central location (Brandstätte 4; open M-F 8am-6pm).
US Embassy: The US Embassy in Vienna is located on the north side of the city center (Boltzmanngasse 16; 1 31339 0; open M-F 8am-4:30pm)
Rape Crisis Center: If you have been a victim of sexual assault, you can reach out to Weisser Ring. They are not a sexual assault-specific crisis center, but they specialize in victim advocacy and their services are free (Nußdorfer Straßs, 67, 1090 Wien; 01 712 14 05; open M-Th 9am-4pm, F 9am-3pm).
Hospitals: There are two main hospitals in Vienna. The first is Allgemeines Krankenhaus (AKH), which typically treats sickness and disease; if you contract Ebola, you should go here. The second is Unfallkrankenhaus (UKH), which typically treats traumatic injuries; if you’re hit by a car, you should go here. In case of a life-threatening emergency, an ambulance will transport you to the nearest one; they are both well equipped to deal with a range of medical issues.
- AKH (Währinger Gürtel 18-20; 1 40400 0; open daily 24hr).
- UKH (Kundratstraße 37; 5 93 934 50 00; open daily 24hr).
Pharmacies: Pharmacies typically will say “Apotheke.” They are marked with a red symbol that looks like a cursive “L” connected to a pillar, making a shape that looks sort of like a “4.”
- Internationale Apotheke (01 512 28 25).
- Apotheke am Naschmarkt (01 586 51 59).