Explore Some of the Best-Kept Secrets in Austria’s Capital City
Want to get to know the Vienna not on any guided tour? Check out some of these lesser-known destinations to feel more like a local than a tourist. The magic of Vienna goes beyond its beautiful palaces, art museums, and theaters. Here are just eight of the city’s hidden treasures that should make it onto any traveler’s To Do list:
Great Neighborhoods to See in Vienna
Grinzing: Though admittedly fairly popular with tourists, particularly in summer, this district is definitely worth a visit. Plenty of Heurigen (traditional Viennese wineries) and restaurants are scattered throughout the center. This area looks more like a small Austrian village than a part of the country’s most populous city, so if you are looking for a quieter place to stay in Vienna, this is it. The easiest way to get to Grinzing is via the U-Bahn (subway/underground/metro) line 6, known as U6 (the brown line), to Nussdorferstrasse. From there, take the streetcar (the “Bim” in local lingo) line 38 to Grinzing. Streetcar stops are indicated by the signs that say “Strassenbahn Haltestelle.”
Hietzing: Take the green line, U4, in the direction of Hütteldorf to this district. Home to Schönbrunn Palace, Hietzing contains many gems, including the cemetery in which artist Gustav Klimt is buried, quiet and charming side streets, and a nice selection of cafés. For a modern atmosphere, go to Rosso e Nero on Hietzinger Hauptstrasse; for traditional, hit Café Wunderer across the Kennedybrücke—that’s right, “Kennedy Bridge”—right near the Hietzing U-Bahn stop.
Fun Destinations in Vienna
The Prater: Basically the equivalent of a small amusement park or large fair in the United States, the Prater also gets its fair share of tourists, but is frequented by locals, too. It is a great place to take kids who might get bored going to yet another museum. There is also a lovely area for a stroll or bike ride, known as the Praterallee. Reachable via the U2 (purple line). Be sure to hop off at “Messe Prater” and not “Praterstern.”
Schwedenplatz: This area is located within walking distance of centrally-located St. Stefan’s cathedral, but is also reachable by the U1, indicated on the map in red. Schwedenplatz is great for grabbing a quick (and inexpensive) bite to eat. The first thing to do, especially on a warm day, is go straight to Fratelli, a café that has some of the best ice cream (called “Eis” or “gelato”) in Vienna.
Donauinsel: For a good time in a place that looks more like a beach resort than anything else, go to the Donauinsel (“Danube Island”) a.k.a. party central and Vienna’s version of Cancun. Themed bars, clubs and restaurants (everything from Greek to Hawaiian) line the riverbanks. A fun place to go for an afternoon cocktail or an evening of dancing, reachable by the U1.
The British Bookshop: The store is full of English language literature and English language learning tools (great for English teachers abroad), and is within walking distance of St. Stefan’s. Downside? It’s a bit pricey. Positives? An English-speaking staff, plus it’s a fun place to meet other English-speaking tourists. Take the U1 or U3 to Stephansplatz. The shop is located at Weihburggasse 24.
Interesting Historical Sites in Vienna
Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum): Situated near the Südbahnhof (south train station), this place is, to use sophisticated terminology, very cool: a historian’s paradise. Every bit of info related to Austrian history, particularly military history, is packed into this building. You can even see, macabre as it is, the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Archduchess Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo in 1918. The best way to get here is to take the U1 to the Südbahnhof and walk to Arsenalstrasse. The museum, which looks like a medieval castle, is located in the Arsenal, a huge building complex difficult to miss.
Schönbrunn Park: This place is nice for a quiet, fairly tourist-free stroll or run. “Tourist-free” only due to the sheer size of the park. It’s full of gardens, a zoo, and, not to mention, a palace. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not get off at the “Schönbrunn” stop on the U4 (green line). Take it to Hietzing, which is closer to the park entrance. Vienna is a wonderful place to visit, and with knowledge of places not always frequented by tourists, it can be an even more enjoyable travel experience.