Vienna | Austria
Whether you enjoy Mozart or hearing about a few of your favourite things, music is central to Austrian culture and its capital Vienna. Classical concerts, cake and coffee houses are all must-dos but you can take more than a waltz around cosmopolitan Vienna to enjoy live music and clubs too. Regal history informs the city’s grand-scale architecture, with Habsburg dynasty palaces from Hofburg to Schonbrunn, and world-class music venues including the Stasoper (opera house). Then there are the art museums whose collections are no less magnificent, and for some seasonal sparkle, there's nothing quite like visiting the Viennese Christmas market during winter months.
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When it comes to local knowledge there's no one better to show you the way than our on-the-ground team. Read on to find out their favourite dining venues, places of interest, customs or secrets that keep them returning to these cities time and again.
Meet Local Expert – Sue Obermoser
Experienced Cruise Director Sue Obermoser has worked with APT for 14 years, accompanying river cruises and also small ship cruises from beginning to end. Living in Vienna, she is ideally placed to share this elegant capital with you. From admiring the gold-leaf artwork of Gustav Klimt to dining at a local 'heurige' (wine tavern), the list of ways to enjoy Vienna is endless so to start, here's a few of Sue's favourite recommendations.
"A concert in true Viennese style is what you must do in the evening. Going to a concert is a long and rich tradition in Vienna. I am sure you will marvel at the show and be surprised at how much of this music by Mozart, Strauss and Schubert you know already, even if you rarely listen to classical music. It is a wonderful way to step back in time as the host of the show escorts you from one century to the next. It is also the only way to finish off the day in style in this city of music."
"We are so fortunate in Vienna to still have many small privately owned shops selling something a bit different and special. Hat shops to shoe shops all specialising in that one thing. I love to drop into the Dorotheum, one of central Europe's largest auction houses, founded in 1707. You'll find everything from art to jewellery and you might pick up a bargain! While in Vienna, don't forget to see Swarovski's latest window decorations at this Austrian company's flagship store."
"It's the crisp winter air, the smell of roast chestnuts, tall Christmas trees and the special mugs of steaming punch that I love! The Christmas markets are a very jovial affair, with the locals meeting up for a 'gluhwein' (mulled wine) or punch after work. Many Austrian artisans have stalls at these markets and there is so much on offer from handcrafted candles and wooden nativity scenes to Christmas decorations of all kinds and knitwear. The choice is endless."
Vienna has some of the world's best museums and you'll find something for everyone and I do mean everyone. Dinosaurs and meteorites, the former homes of famous musicians, the history of the Viennese Jews from the Middle Ages, fine art, modern art and the carriage museum to name a few. As an admirer of artist Gustav Klimt's paintings, I recommend the Upper Belvedere, an art museum in the Belvedere Palace (Lower Belvedere), and surrounding gardens."
"Although Vienna is not the place for flea markets or clothes markets, the Viennese certainly love their food markets. The largest and most historical is the Naschmarkt. After browsing through the stalls selling everything from fresh fish and meat to exotic herbs, spices, nuts, vegetables and cheeses, you can also sit down in one of the restaurants at or near the market and enjoy local life playing out around you."
Currency: Euro (EUR)
International dialling code: +43
Local time: GMT +1
Language: Austrian German
Useful phrases: Gruss gott (good day); Auf wiedersehen (good bye); Einen kaffee bitte (a coffee please)
Water: "Vienna is proud of its drinking water. You just turn on the tap and you are drinking mountain spring water which takes 36 hours to flow to the city from the lower Austrian Alps. If you are here in the summer you will find mobile drinking fountains, which are connected to hydrants. At the press of a button, you can enjoy not only a powerful slug of fresh spring water from the Austrian Alps, but also a cooling water spray."
Coffee: "Try Viennese coffee at a well-known coffee chain such as Aida."
Wine: "Approximately two million litres of wine are produced per year in the city of Vienna, making it the most prolific wine-producing city in the world."
- "The shortest street in Vienna is 17.5 metres long and the longest street is 14.8 kilometers long."
- "Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna was opened in 1752, making it the oldest existing zoo in the world."
- "The first Christmas market in Vienna was recorded in 1626."
- "Parts of the 1987 James Bond movie The Living Daylights were filmed in Vienna. The outside footage of what is supposed to be the concert hall in Bratislava is the Volksoper in Vienna and the inside footage of the concert were filmed in the Sofiensalle, also in Vienna. This footage provides a valuable historical record as the Sofiensalle burnt down in 2001. "
- "My biggest tip is to hang onto your small change. Remember the expression, I need to spend a penny? That penny is now 50 to 70 cents to use a public W.C. however I have to say that they are spotlessly clean. The easiest place to find them is in the underground stations."
(Words by Sue Obermoser)