The 3 best areas to stay
For centuries, European history has been made in Vienna. Today, people say there is no city in the world that has a higher quality of living than the capital of Austria. Imagine you get there and then the district you chose to stay in sucks. Don't be that person.
Here are the 3 best areas to stay in Vienna:
- Best Neighborhood N° 1 1st District
- Best Neighborhood N° 2 6th and 7th District
- Best Neighborhood N° 3 8th & 9th District
- OH NO! Maybe not
1st District – Stay in the center of the center
Sure, Vienna's First District is a bit more crowded than other areas of the city. Sure, it's more touristy and pricy as well. But, boy, you do get something for it!
The scenery and architecture are impeccable. The density of sights is as high as the density of horse-drawn carriages in the streets. It can feel as if you are wandering around in a Habsburg city 200 years ago. Especially if you take the smaller, narrow side streets instead of the shopping streets.
First District is literally the center of Vienna, with St. Stephans Cathedral right in the middle of it. You will never have to walk more than 20 minutes to get somewhere, unless of course you get slowed down by the allures of the city's most prestigious shopping streets: Kärntner Straße, Graben and Kohlmarkt.
You will get:
- sights in walking distance
- perfect architecture
- shopping opportunities
- other tourists
- expensive coffee
Basically everything inside of Ring Street is First District. What is now also called "Inner City" essentially was the whole of Vienna up until 1858 – before the city wall was replaced by Ring Street.
Today this boulevard is home to some of the most famous buildings and cultural institutions of Vienna: Opera, Burgtheater, Hofburg Palace, City Hall, Parliament, University, Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches Museum, etc.
Most legendary places such as Café Sacher, Hofreitschule, Café Central etc. are situated in the Inner City as well. If you avoid staying directly at Schwedenplatz or Karlsplatz (both a bit sketchy and loud due to traffic), you basically can’t go wrong here. So, are you still wondering where to stay in Vienna? First district is definietly one of the best areas. Believe me.
Never walk more than 20 minutes here.
1st District is compact and right in the center
Practical tip for 1st District
Don’t go to Inner City by car unless your hotel has a garage. Both driving and parking are not fun here. Also, like in most areas of Vienna, there are parking fees (monday to friday between 9am and 10pm). You get the parking tickets (called "Parkschein") at gas stations, post offices, ticket machines at subway stations and small tabacco shops called "Trafik".
If you are looking for a quick overview over the city, just get into Stephansdom (the cathedral) and find the elevator of "Nordturm" on the left side of the church. It's only 5 Euros and definietely one of the best spots in Vienna to start your trip.
6th and 7th District – Young, alternative and hip
Sixth and Seventh districts cover the area north and south of the big shopping street Mariahilferstrasse. Although this street itself can be crowded, the neighbourhood overall is still reasonably quiet. Let’s be honest, it’s still Vienna – just a bit cooler than the rest of the city, because the area is where the young, hip and creative crowd gravitates towards.
Chances of bumping into a longboard riding girl or a guy on his fixie bike carrying a world-war-I-messenger-bag are much higher than finding parking space here. The same goes for your chances of getting decent coffee: artisanal hipster roasters of the Sixth and Seventh tend to beat the – frankly – overrated coffee you will get in traditional viennese Inner City coffee houses.
You will get:
- a vibrant area
- fewer tourists
- young, hip and artsy people
- bars and restaurants
- no parking space
The most beautiful part of this area might be a small neighborhood called Spittelberg. With its small houses and narrow cobble stone streets it is as pittoresque as the city gets. Feels like the Vienna of the early eightteen hundreds, plus: you only have to cross Ring Street to get to the Inner City. The golden rule of Vienna-best-neighbourhood-qualities applies here as well: the nearer to Inner City, the better.
If you are looking for a little more action though, find a place near Naschmarkt. Vienna's most famous market is where to stay during the day and go for food and drinks in the evening. The whole neigborhood is buzzing and never boring.
A bit cooler than the rest of the city.
6th and 7th is where the hip and creative live
Practical tip for 6th & 7th District
Don’t bring a car unless the place you stay at has a garage. Both districts six and seven are a nightmare to park – hipster/bobo residents, a green city government and narrow one way streets do a great job in making this where-to-stay-area more attractive for pedestriants and cyclists than for car drivers.
Also, like in most parts of Vienna, there are parking fees (monday to friday between 9am and 10pm). You get the parking tickets (called "Parkschein") at gas stations, post offices, ticket machines at subway stations and small tabacco shops called "Trafik".
Like most other things, "Naschmarkt", the big market is closed on sundays. Saturday though, there is an additional flee market right next to it, if you are into old stuff.
8th and 9h District – Quiet and bourgoise
If you get stressed out easily by tourists, shopping streets and sightseeing obligations, wonder no more about where to stay in Vienna:
Both the Eighth and Nineth districts are more of an insiders’ tip than the other two best areas. That comes with some benefits: These two very authentical Viennese neigborhoods are not filled with sights and thereby not crowded and touristy at all. If you like it a bit more bourgeoise and residential, this is where you should go.
Again, as a rule of thumb: as near to Inner City and as far away from Belt Street as possible is where to stay in Vienna.
You will get:
- an idea of how locals live
- quiet streets
- charming, burgeoise atmosphere
- parks (9th)
- but no parking (8th)
The Eighth is not only the smallest district of Vienna. With its narrow cobble stone streets, theatres, small houses from the eighteen hundreds and residents from almost the same time period, it's also the most charming area to stay in. In my opinion, it is home to the most beautiful square of the city: Piaristenplatz almost has italian flair.
Nineth district is greener and feels more open spaced. It hosts a lot of university institutions and some embassies – places that almost all the time come with gardens and parks attached. Don’t get fooled by the younger student crowd, Nineth district is still quiet and bourgeois for the most part and where to stay in Vienna if you want to live like a local.
Best crossover between quiet & central.
That's why actual Viennese people like to live in the 8th and 9th
Practical tip for 8th & 9th District
Don’t go to Eighth district by car unless your hotel has a garage. It is a nightmare to park. There is just not enough space in the very narrow streets that – at the same time – make the neighborhood so charming. Nineth district is mostly okay in that regard and where to stay if you need to bring your car.
But don’t forget that parking in Vienna is restricted almost everywhere and costs money monday to friday between 9am and 10pm. You get the parking tickets (called "Parkschein") at gas stations, post offices, ticket machines at subway stations and small tabacco shops called "Trafik".
Vienna is considered the city with the highest quality of living worldwide. So even the bad areas are not really bad. But there are two rules when it comes to districts and areas that aren’t as great:
- Avoid "Gürtel". Everything directly at or very near to the "Belt Street" that surrounds districts 3 to 9 is probably noisy, annoying and not so pretty. Stay away from it if you can, the three Favourhoods above are where to stay in Vienna!
- Avoid everything outside of "Gürtel" as well. Especially the districts 10-12, 15-17 and 20-22 are not Vienna’s best neighborhoods. Districts 13, 14, 18, 19 and parts of 23 are nice, but too far away from the city center for visitors.
How is Vienna structured?
- First there is the Inner City ("Innere Stadt" or "1st District"), which is – you guessed it – right in the middle of everything.
- Inner City is completely surrounded by the famous Ring Street ("Ringstraße"). It's home to a lot of the sights you’ll want to visit.
- Outside of Ring Street are the districts 2 to 9, which by themselves are – also quite logic – surrounded by the bigger Belt Street ("Gürtel"). Further out are the districts 10 to 23.
- And if that weren’t reasonable enough, the city’s landmark cathedral Stephansdom is right in the center of the Inner City itself.
How do I get from the airport to the city of Vienna?
Vienna has only one airport, so there is no confusion where you will end up. If you don’t want to spend the 30-40 € for a taxi to the city, your best options are:
- The City Airport Train (CAT) that will take you from the airport to a station near the inner city (and connected to the metro) non-stop in 15 Minutes for 11 €. This ticket then does not include further metro usage. More info here.
- The buses of Vienna Airport Lines. They will take you directly from the airport to the Inner City for 8 € in a little over 20 minutes. Just take care you take the right line that goes to „Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz“ to get to Inner City. More info here.
- The "regular" train line S7, which with a few stops arrives in 25 minutes at the same station as the CAT, but for only 4.80 € (already including the onward journey in the Vienna subway network). More info here.
How safe is Vienna?
What are typical rookie mistakes to avoid in Vienna?
- You want to go shopping on a sunday: that won't happen in Vienna. Shops are closed on sundays, it's even hard to get food sometimes.
- You eat at a restaurant directly at Stephansplatz, Am Graben or in Kärntnerstraße. This three places are the heart of the touristic zone in the inner city of Vienna, so you might get average but over-expensive food at best. Try spots in side streets instead.
- You try one of those "Heuriger" places in the district "Grinzing" and end up between tourist buses and big groups of tourists: A "Heurigen" is a special Viennese kind of casual restaurant attached to a vinyard traditionally that's well worth triying. But you better convince a local you know to go there with you, otherwise even the sometimes unusual ordering process can be stressful. And Heurigen are about being everything but stressed.
- You just park your car somewhere in the city: Vienna has restricted parking in most areas of the city. For visitors it's often not clear where it is allowed to park and how to pay for parking to make it legal. I suggest you just ask a local if you are allowed to park here and what you have to do to not get fined.
- You want to make a tour through the museums of Vienna on a monday: Not all of them, but many might be closed that day of the week. Better check upfront.
- You take unfriendly waiters too serious or even personally: Grumpy waiters in Vienna are kind of infamous and it is not only a cliché. Just don't take it too serious and tip the friendly ones generously (maybe that helps in the long run).
How do I get around best in Vienna?
Public transportation is exceptionally good in Vienna. Use the subway ("U-Bahn") for longer distances like getting to "Schloss Schönbrunn". Try to catch one of the old trams going around Ring Street if you wanna get a sight seeing tour and feel nostalgic for 2 Euros and change.
For everything in Inner City you should just walk. It's the only thing that makes sense there. In addition, there is well developed bike sharing ("Citybike", more information here) and lots of e-scooter providers in Vienna.
Taxis are easy to get and usually won’t rip you off but honestly: I prefer Uber – drivers are nicer and it’s still less expensive in Vienna. If you wanna drive yourself: The car sharing program ShareNow (formerly Car2Go and DriveNow)is available in Vienna for everybody who uses it in other cities as well.
What are the opening hours in Vienna?
One thing that most visitors of Vienna find a little weird and surprising are the opening hours of shops: most of them close at 6 pm, on saturdays even earlier. Supermarkets in the city tend to be open until 8 pm during the week, but don't assume you will get anything on sundays and holidays: it’s a catholic country with powerful unions, so shops are closed. Deal with it. Some museums are closed on mondays, so check that before you go.
What's the best time to travel to Vienna?
- January & Febrary are usually cold, a bit dark and sometimes snowy.
- March & April can be nice spring time months, but the unpredictable weather is famous in Vienna.
- May & June are already warmer, but have quite a high number of rainy days (8-9 per month)
- July & August are by far the hottest months of the year. Many of the locals are out of the city, some restaurants stay closed, but festivals of all sorts keep visitors entertained.
- September & October can be very nice: sunny days, crisp air, blue skies and colourful leaves.
- November is usually grey, foggy and can be a bit depressing.
- December is one of the best times to be in Vienna: The whole city changes into christmas mode. Markets, horse and carriage, tasteful christmas lights, punch and ice skating ... It’s a magical month. Even hard boiled travellers like Anthony Bourdain admit that sometimes.
How is tipping handled in Vienna?
Who to tip: Tipping is not really expected in Austria, but common in restaurants, bars and – to a smaller degree – taxis.
How much? Tipping culture in Austria is not compareable to countries like the USA because waiters get paid quite okay in the first place. For bills under 10 € you just round up to the next Euro. For everything higher 5% to 10% tip is normal.
The mode: When you ask the waiter for the bill, he will then bring it, leave it at the table and come back later or just tell you how much you owe right away. In both cases you need to make a decision on how much you want to pay over all (including tip). You then tell the waiter that amount while you give him the money. He will return the difference between what you gave and what you said as change. An example: you get a bill for 38 €, hand over a 50 € bill and say "40!". He will then return 10 € change and you tipped 2 €.
What are faux pas to avoid in Vienna?
- You confuse Austrians for Germans or even completely ignore the fact that this are two different countries to begin with.
- You just order "a coffee". Especially in traditional Viennese Coffee Houses this might get you a snarky answer like "We don't have coffee. We have Mokka, Melange, Cappuccino, Einspänner, Franziskaner, kleiner Brauner, großer Brauner, ..." – notice that a) service in Vienna is not the friendliest sometimes and b) there are few places in the world that know as many differend kinds of coffee preparation methods as Vienna. I suggest you let the snarky waiter advise you a bit on the variety and go with his recommendations.
- You point out to a local that you read Wiener Schnitzel was actually from Milan, Gulash from Hungary and that a "Melange" is nothing but a Cappuccino.