Where the Locals Go In Vienna
8 best things to do in Vienna
Vienna has somehow got the reputation of being a predictable, musty, glamourous, boring city. It has this historical Central European side, certainly, but this prejudice leaves out all the unexpected fun to be had and quirkiness to be enjoyed here if you look just a little more closely.
These tips by our Vienna locals might just convince you that Vienna’s worth visiting even if you don’t care for history and pretty buildings. Visit the rest of the region by rail with a Global Pass or an Interrail Austria Pass!
1. The art of memory
Supersense combines a passion for preservation through photos and audio recordings. They also have a café and restaurant, sure, but where else can you get your voice etched on a vinyl record or have your photo taken on the world’s largest instant photo camera? Or you can even buy a “smell memory kit” to make a new memory extra-strong with the help of the sense most connected to memory of all -- the sense of smell…
2. Wonderful schnitzel curiosities
Across the German-speaking world, the good ol’ schnitzel is called the Wiener Schnitzel -- or the Vienna schnitzel. So if you like meat, you just can’t visit the city without trying one together with some potato salad. If you want to take the experience a step further, you can visit Concordia Schlössl where they serve variations of the classic dish, including filled schnitzel rolls! Local Julia vouches for the chef’s creativity. Another curiosity: all prices are stuck in the era when the schilling was converted to euros, that’s why you’ll see prices like 11.88€ or 14.91€
3. A baroque garden with WWII flak towers
If you spend any amount of time in Vienna, you’ll probably see one or more of the six monolithic flak towers and bunkers from WWII dotted around the inner city. One has been converted into the Haus des Meeres (aquarium), which you can also climb on; one is in low-key Arenbergpark, and several are in the baroque Augarten (open since 1775!) with its neat landscaping that has been taken over by the Viennese looking for beautiful green spaces to relax. Even in winter the atmosphere is delightfully, morbidly Viennese…
4. Concerts almost every evening
Cafe Carina puts up local concerts almost every night, or, to be exact, 300 nights per year! They “exclude no-one, and everyone is welcome!” Come here and let yourself be surprised by the kind of music you will see on stage. Also great: they have a billiards table you can use before and after each concert, and admission to the concerts is free! Not to be missed if you have an eclectic taste and can enjoy a good show.
5. Viennese wine!
Did you know that Austria is actually well known for its wine? And it doesn’t take a lot of moving out of the centre of Vienna to find the first vineyards and small local producers. Local Linda recommends taking tram number 31 to the end of the line to the outskirts and from there it’s just a short walk to the main cobblestone alley with all the taverns, wine cellars and vineyards in the back gardens. Zur Christl is her favorite such locale here, and if the temperature allows, the best is to just sit in the open air enjoying the views and different varieties of white wine.
6. Exposed cobblestones from the 13th century
You wouldn’t know it just by passing by, but this part of the cobblestoned pavement on Freyungs Square (which is actually triangular, ironically) is old. Very old. In fact, it’s more than 800 years old. Local Sabrina confesses: “I find the nostalgic sites you can actually interact with, pass through or, walk along (check the Strudlhofstiege article) the most fascinating ones. They bring history close to us.”
7. The world through their eyes and ears
There is a “double exhibition” in Vienna where you can experience life in total darkness, like a blind person would (in Dialog im Dunkeln) and life as a person with hearing impairments in HandsUp -- the only exhibition of its kind in the world so far. Here you can gain first-hand experience of what living with sign language is like and the barriers - and benefits - that come with it are. All the guides are deaf, too. Are you ready for some deaf-style karaoke?
8. An anatomy museum
Narrenturm was the world’s first psychiatric hospital, which back in 1784 wasn’t good news -- the rotunda consists of 139 solitary cells. Today it’s home to the city’s anatomical-pathological museum. “You can have a look at human and animal exhibits, a lot of diseases (should get some people to start using condoms each and every time!) and malformations, but also medical devices that make you wonder on what planet they might have been in use.” And even if you’re on a budget, the €2 admission shouldn’t be restrictive.
For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.
Header image by Luca Sartoni from Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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