4 Under-Rated Activities in Vienna

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna
What color should we paint it? Yellow should do fine.

The first time I went to Vienna, it rained. I didn’t have an umbrella so I spent a lot of time hiding under shop eaves and stripping Jared of his not-so-waterproof-but-better-than-nothing jacket, leaving him to get wet.

I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do in Vienna, so I wasn’t sure what I was missing. During my informal research, I learned that it was famous for a few things:

–       Opera

–       Sachertorte, a chocolate cake

–       Dancing white horses

–       Waltzing

None of these things particularly appealed to me. Obviously, the cake did, but I tried one and it wasn’t so flash. I’m not into opera and firmly believe that horses should only dance if they feel inspired to, not as part of a show.

I left Vienna a few days later feeling like I hadn’t missed much. Three days of drinking in an underground hostel bar and eating unfamiliar exploding sausage dumplings hadn’t impressed me. It seemed stuffy. Pretentious. Not my speed.

Sausage dumpling Vienna
See. Exploding sausage dumpling.

Then Jared got a job in Vienna.

This was during our courting phase (that’s right, we courted), and it brought me back to Vienna twice. Having an apartment in Vienna as a home base made a big difference, as did being totally smitten with my new tour guide.

4 Easy Ways to Have Fun in Vienna

1. Ice cream parlor

According to the Viennese tourism website, Vienna has the highest density of ice cream bars in all of Europe. It’s fitting, then, that Jared and I had our first real date at an ice cream parlor in Vienna. The interior was all dark wood and brass furnishings, and my ice cream was hand-scooped into a long waffle cone and garnished with a fancy crunchy thing. (That’s the official name). We tucked ourselves away into a plush corner booth and pretended we weren’t backpackers.  Bliss.

2. Wachau Valley

Technically, this isn’t in Vienna, but it is a nice day trip out of the city. Several companies offer guided cycle tours of the Wachau Valley. You can ride along the Danube, sample schnapps and wine, and get some fantastic fresh-air views. We even checked out the cave where King Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. And yes, I envisioned a caged crown-wearing lion in a tunic, because the animated Robin Hood has forever imprinted itself in my mind.

King Richard the Lionheart prison

3. Cycling the City

Bicycles aren’t my thing. They make me nervous and I ride on the sidewalk whenever possible. But I was eager to impress my new squeeze, so when he suggested riding bikes in the city, I nonchalantly agreed. Inside, I fretted. Cycling through a secluded valley was one thing, but in a bustling hub of infrastructure? I’d die! Fortunately, Vienna is a very bike-friendly city, with wide bike lanes that take you anywhere you’d want to go. My nerves dissipated and I ended up enjoying myself. And, bonus, I didn’t die.

Vienna by bike
Oh look at that. Rain.

4. Free Open-Air Opera

Disclaimer: I didn’t get to experience this myself during my whirlwind trips to Vienna, but Jared assures me that it’s a winner. And even I, who gets down on opera for no good reason, have to admit that it sounds fun – in selected summer months, you can see a live opera broadcast for free. But that’s not the selling point. The selling point is that it’s outside on Herbert-von-Karajan-Platz, next to the State Opera House. Get there early, bring a picnic and a bottle of wine, and hang out in the warm Vienna evening. Then tell everyone you’ve been cultured. Brilliant.


Do you have any insider knowledge on Vienna? Spill the beans.

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  1. Hahahahaha Your fist impression was almost the same I had when I was there last year.

    I would add that it is a wonderful city to just run.

    It was also cool to drink white wine near the danube.

    The museums were really nice too.

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