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Baroque Architecture in Vienna

Simply put, Austria is a beautiful country. I also have yet to truly explore it, but I have spent a good amount of time in Vienna. I went there to experience The city’s museums and cultural history. That’s the reason why their tourist industry is bustling right? Who doesn’t want to see the place that gave us Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Strauss and Haydn! The countryside of Austria is also breathtaking. From steep snow covered slopes to the lakes and forests of the alps, Austria has as much natural beauty as anywhere, packed into a small country that’s right in the center of it all.

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Horses outside St. Stephen’s

I highly recommend making Austria a part of any itinerary on a European vacation, for at the very least it’s convenient. The country is a place you want to see by train. Use that Eurail pass you blindly purchased and take a look and I will tell you this: The rich culture of Austria will leave you baffled. From great museums (MuseumQuartier) to beautiful churches (St. Stephan’s) to incredible baroque architecture, they’ve got you covered. Oh, and the beer is good too.

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ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

  • The Euro is the currency and has been since 2002. Use hard cash as a priority when paying for goods and services. In Austria, credit cards are still not that common and nothing screams tourist more than handing over your card to pay. That said, ATM’s are all over and most larger stores will happily take your card.
  • Some Austrians speak English. Actually a large amount at least know the basics! That said, it’s still much more polite to say “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” — Do you speak English? Most people will be willing to at least try to help. As always though, I recommend trying to learn a few basic phrases. You should never expect someone to speak your language when aboard — yes, even someone working in the tourist industry; unless they have a sign under their kiosk that says “Yes, I speak English” (these do exist!). More on that in my post on Romania
  • Austria incredibly safe, but watch out for the usual of course. Pickpocking and bike theft seem to be the most common injustices. I was almost run over by a bike in the Vienna, so watch where you are walking and be aware of bike lanes. Even though pedestrians do have the right of way, you wouldn’t think they do. Seems to be the same deal in all of the Germanic countries.
  • When dining out in Austria You have to ask for the bill. Although the service is generally great, tipping a Euro per person is considered a great tip. Simple rounding up a bit will usually do the trick. If you give a larger note, you can specify how much you wish to pay, with tip included. They will know the proper change. For example. You offer a €50 for a €42 tab. You say “fünfundvierzig Euro” — which means “twenty five”.
  • Austrians really put a value on art and have some of Europe’s greatest museums within their border. In fact, pretty much any larger city in Austria (Vienna, Graz, Salzburg) has at least one incredible museum with a unique collection of work. Head to the MuseumQuartiers in Vienna first.
  • You need to experience the cafe culture. Austria is known for it, especially Vienna, and you would really be missing out if you don’t partake. People will go relax in the various cafe’s and here’s a new concept for Americans — really take their time. They’ll stay for hours. Sometimes, if you look around, people don’t really seem to be doing much of anything. If you can find an outdoor cafe. It’s a great place for people watching.
  • Drinking in public is legal, although drinking on public transportation is very forbidden and is going to get you looks. Also, Graz has implemented a ban in the city center and Salzburg has a law where open containers are not legal in the Rudolfskai area (popular for bars and pubs).

COSTS / SAVING MONEY

  • Austria isn’t a cheap country, but deals can be had. Check out street vendors and ethnic food restaurants for the best deals. Convenience stores for beer (usually  $1.50-2). In general though, food is quite pricey here, especially in Vienna.
  •  Comparing Austria to other great European cities, this country actually has decently affordable lodging. Try to find something centrally located as most cities in Austria are very walk-able and you can save on public transportation that way.
  • Outside the cities is always going to cost you less. Vienna especially seemed harder to find deals. Perhaps that’s because most of the tourist spots, museums, and churches were fairly close together.
  • I found a few great happy hours at cafes. Just watch the signs and make sure they know that you want to order from the pre-fixed menu.