Will you visit Vienna? Top 5 Tourist Traps – And Alternatives!
Everybody knows that as soon as a perfectly rational human being goes on vacation, he loses all common sense and ends up buying trinkets and knickknacks in souvenir shops at astronomical prices. You’ve probably also visited a tourist mecca and heard all about can’t-miss shows and sights, only to shell out a wad of money and be very disappointed. Vienna is no different. However, I am here to help you stay away from holiday disappointments and find the highlights of Vienna.
Tourist trap n. 1: the Lipizzaner horse shows
The Spanish Riding School was founded in 1572, which makes it the oldest and most prestigious in the world. With beautiful Baroque architecture located within the Hofburg Palace, the architecture alone is worth a visit, not to mention the majestic Lipizzan horses. However, before you pay up to € 173 for the performance (don’t bother with a cheap or standing ticket, all you’ll see are people’s heads and some white specks doing pirouettes), why not check out their morning workout? You will see the horses up close and personal (€ 12) or add a guided tour of the stables with a combo ticket (€ 26).
Tourist Trap # 2: Grinzing – or any other restaurant with tour buses in the parking lot
You’ll want to try authentic Viennese cuisine while visiting Vienna, and there is no better place than a traditional Heurige (wine tavern / restaurant). One of the main Viennese attractions is Grinzing, a collection of Heurige in the vineyards overlooking Vienna. Instead of pushing the hordes of Japanese tourists, you will be much happier venturing outside of Vienna to Heurigefrequented by locals. There are big Heurige in Austria Weinviertel (Wine district) in Stammersdorf and Hagenbrunn or in the picturesque town of Perchtoldsdorf to the south. All these towns are within easy reach of Vienna.
Tourist Trap # 3: Hotel Sacher
While in Vienna, one must try the world famous Sachertorte. This world-famous dessert consists of two layers of chocolate cake separated by a layer of apricot jam in the middle and topped with a dark chocolate frosting. Now the Hotel Sacher has the right to the “original Sachertorte”, which makes it the most expensive, but definitely not the best. While Café Sacher, located directly across from the State Opera, offers a sumptuous atmosphere, if a really good Sachertorte is what you’re after, then I would personally recommend L. Heiner, located at Wollzeile 9 or Tirolerhof in the city center.
Tourist Trap # 4: Café Central
Cafe Central was one of the most venerable coffee shops in Vienna. Intellectuals and authors such as Peter Altenberg, Theodor Herzl, Egon Friedell, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Anton Kuh, Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Loos, and Leon Trotsky would meet here to discuss politics, philosophy, economics, and the like. With such famous clients, a long history, and a beautiful atmosphere, it’s no wonder all tour guides recommend it. However, this is all a bit misleading. The real Café Central was located in another part of the building, the Palais Ferstel, and was closed at the end of WWII. Although you’ll see these celebrities of yesteryear smiling at you from the informational signs around the cafe, they never actually sat at your table. Also, there is nothing special about this cafe. The architecture is nice, but the food and drinks are mediocre and not worth the inflated prices in my opinion. If you want to visit a Viennese coffee shop, try Café Prückel or Café Hawelka, where they have Buchteln, dumplings of sweet yeast dough with jam filling. Under no circumstances should you choose a Starbuck’s and thus pass up the opportunity to experience the unique personality of each Viennese café.
Tourist trap n. 5: any souvenir shop in Vienna’s first district: the city center
I know, I know, you are in Vienna, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. You’ve traveled, seen the sights, had a wonderful time, and you want a souvenir to remind you of your stay here. However, before you decide to buy a Klimt poster for 50 euros (there are some excellent poster / print shops in Vienna), why not think about a) if you really need it and b) if you are wasting your money. it was hard to win a real piece of Austrian culture, probably made cheaply in China. My advice: don’t bother going into a souvenir shop in the city center, there is nothing you need there and it is not worth the price. So before you bring that snowball to the register, try some of the following for some unique Viennese souvenirs:
Museumsquartier gift shop – off the beaten track, cool, but not necessarily inexpensive memorabilia
Naschmarkt: why not take home some Austrian specialties like brandy or pumpkin seed oil?
Antique Stores – There are fantastic finds hidden beyond the city center, especially in Districts 4, 6, and 7.