Everyone always talks about what there is to do in Vienna, but sometimes, it would be great if someone could cut the bullshit and tell me what to not waste my time on.
There aren’t that many in Vienna, thankfully, but still, here are my top What Not to Do in Vienna tips.
P.s. They might be rather contentious!
1. Suckers for Sacher?
15 years ago, I had my first bite of the much-exalted cake, the Sacher torte, when I visited the Sacher Hotel. Which is essentially promoted as the hotel to go to if you want to eat this cake.
I don’t recall much except that it was dry. Not exactly what one would look for in a cake.
Fast forward, and I’m back in Vienna and I thought, why not give it a try again? But the long queues in front of the Sacher Hotel dissuaded me, plus there is no shortage of sacher torte in any of the konditorei (cake shop/café) that you see, so I headed to a particularly enticing café and ordered the cake.
And how was it? Same. Dry. Nothing new. You need a mountain of whipped cream to get through it.
Sorry, Sacher fans.
But I spoke with a few locals who also said that it isn’t all that and they don’t quite get the hordes of tourists swarming for the sacher.
2. Tiergarten (The Zoo)
Oh dear, I know I must be offending the tourism board now, but this zoo was a let-down. Now, I am not in the habit of going to zoos when I travel, but for the fact that I was at Schonbrunn, and free entry to the zoo was included in my Vienna pass, I thought I’d drop in.
Sure, they promote it as the animals have lots of space to roam around, a high level of care is accorded to them and so on… but it must have been a super off day because I think I saw all of 10 species. Could it be the time I was there (3pm), or maybe the season I was there (winter) but really, if someone had paid to go in, I think they would be really disappointed.
Maybe in summer it would be different, but just saying, don’t bother if you’re there in winter.
3. The Granddaddy of Cafés
Yikes, another one that’s bound to get me a slap on the hand. If anyone is reading this that is.
Now, this isn’t a Don’t Go, it’s an “it’s ok to miss this, there are other beautiful cafes around too”.
I’m referring to the esteemed Café Central. The one where Freud, Trotsky and Vienna’s great architect, Adolf Loos hung out. Another Adolf, too, hung out there, a very terrible Adolf, and I’m not sure why some guidebooks mention this fact. (Unless they were trying to dissuade customers from visiting Café Central).
I only say this on account of the queues at Café Central. Sure, you could wait out an hour (and freeze if you’re there over winter) but why not pop into one of the many other pretty cafes to warm up in a hurry and get started on Viennese café culture?
I like Café Diglas. And Café Leopold Hawelka. You get delicious cakes and coffee with dare I say, less grouchiness? Yes, they might not have the vaulted history of Café Central, and obviously a lot less imperial looking, but if you’re a tourist, you’d probably look to spend only an hour (or so) at the café, so all things considered, I wouldn’t bother queuing for Café Central.
4. Beware of Mozart
Well, beware of the Mozart-dressed ticket touts that prowl the area around the State Opera. You will 100% encounter them if you are around there, them with their cheery greetings and “tickets for the opera?” question.
But don’t buy from them. I don’t have personal experience of being scammed (I heed my own advice!) but the general feedback is that you pay much more than the actual value of your seat, ie. You usually end up with not-too-great seats and sometimes they make it sound like they are selling you tickets for a concert at the State Opera, but then you realise they are tickets to some other venue.
In fact, the State Opera prominently displays a sign warning people against buying from these touts.
Get your tickets online, at the box office, or if you don’t want to spend too much, consider the standing room tickets at only 3€. Warning, you might need to queue for over an hour, but with 150 tickets up from grabs, you’re highly likely to get a ticket.
5. Wiener Wisdom
And finally, of course you’re going to eat a wiener schnitzel or two while in Vienna. But, you don’t have to eat it only at the much-promoted restaurants such as Figlmuller (they advertise on the baggage carousel at the airport so you can already start getting brainwashed upon arrival) or Plachutta which is a favourite amongst the locals.
There are other restaurants that serve this “national” dish, where again, you do not need to queue forever (you can see I’m all for not wasting time queueing) though it would do you good to make reservations in advance.
One such place is Glacis Biesl, at the Museumsquartier area. While I think Plachuttas’ schnitzel is fine, I personally prefer the more crispy, breadcrumby version at Glacis Biesl.
So that’s about it. Like I mentioned earlier, this really is more about not wasting too much of your precious time and providing you with some tips on things to look out for in Vienna! Also, see my article on Top Tips for Visiting Vienna for more helpful hints and ideas on Free Things to do in Vienna!