Vienna: City of Wonder

Vienna! There's nothing else on earth like it. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Vienna! There’s nothing else on earth like it. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Friday, July 24, 2015

Today Viking River Cruises’ Viking Lofn continued her 15-day Grand European Tour to Budapest with a call on my absolute favorite city along the Danube: Vienna, Austria.

For the first-time visitor, Viking offers a comprehensive Ringstrasse tour, as the ring road that encircles Vienna is called. They also offer optional excursions to Schonbrunn Palace and an evening classical music concert in the heart of the city.

Not sure how to take the U-Bahn into Vienna's Inner Stadt? No worries: Viking will provide you with all the necessary details! Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Not sure how to take the U-Bahn into Vienna’s Inner Stadt? No worries: Viking will provide you with all the necessary details! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The coolest thing Viking offers, though, is a walking tour to the nearby U-Bahn, or underground, stop. There, you’re shown how to purchase tickets (which are actually bought for you by Viking), and your guide rides with you to Stephansplatz, where St. Stephan’s Cathedral is located.

Having learned how to take the metro in the past courtesy of Viking, I now had all the tools to get into town on my own. But I always want to do something new in Vienna. To guide me through this fantastic city, I talked last week to Viking Vidar’s friendly Hotel Manager, Thomas. Born and residing in Vienna, I explained to Thomas about what I’d done in the past, and he made some great new suggestions, even going so far as to print out some information for me and circle locations on a map.

A Mapl and a Plan. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

A Mapl and a Plan. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

With a map and a plan, I set out to see and do more in Vienna than ever before!

Take the U-Bahn!

From our docking location near St. Francis of Assisi Church, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Vorgartenstrasse U-Bahn station (which will be listed as Vorgartenstraßs on maps due to the special character in place of the double ‘s’). All U-Bahn stations are marked with a blue square with a ‘U’ character, making them easy to find on maps and in person.

Here's how to get to the U-Bahn from most docking locations: go up onto the pedestrian deck of the bridge...Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Here’s how to get to the U-Bahn from most docking locations: go up onto the pedestrian deck of the bridge…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

...cross the bridge deck...Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

…cross the bridge deck…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

...and find the station entrance marked "Reumanplatz." Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

…and find the station entrance marked “Reumannplatz.” Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

To get to Stephansplatz in the heart of Vienna, take the U1 line bound for Reumannplatz and get off after the fourth stop, Stephansplatz. Announcements can be hard to hear, but most newer trains have digital displays announcing the next station. Alternately, you can get off one stop earlier at Schwedenplatz and be right on the Ringstrasse next to the Altes Rathaus, one of the oldest buildings in Vienna.

12 Minutes Later: Stephansplatz, and St. Stephan's Cathedral! Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

12 Minutes Later: Stephansplatz, and St. Stephan’s Cathedral! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Total time from boarding the U-Bahn to getting off: 12 minutes. Total cost: just €2.20 for a single trip. A day ticket, which allows unlimited use of the U-Bahn, bus and tram system, runs for €7.60. Ticket machines are marked in red, and their text can be changed to English using a button located on the lower left corner of the screen. Purchase the number of tickets you require and, if you plan to use them immediately, have the machine validate them. For day passes, validate your ticket using the small red boxes just prior to entering the track area.

Vienna’s traffic is legendary, and the U-Bahn subway is far faster than the bus, which can take an hour to hit the city center. If you want to get in and get going – and feel like a local doing it – I highly recommend the subway as your mode of transportation for increased flexibility.

Vienna's narrow, winding streets hold many charms and secrets. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

Vienna’s narrow, winding streets hold many charms and secrets. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The Vienna Opera House. Photo ©  2015 Aaron Saunders

The Vienna Opera House. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

I have a love affair with Vienna – or, as the Austrian’s call it, Wien. I’ve loved it since I first arrived there on a cold December night back in 2011. To me, Vienna is a beautiful woman; a lover I cannot get enough of. This is my seventh trip down the Danube, and my seventh visit to Vienna. It’s the port of call, aside from Budapest, that I am most excited about.

Why? Vienna is – and was – the epicenter of culture in Europe. If you were anyone at the turn of the last century, or if you were a nobody who wanted to be somebody, you came to Wien.

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Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Lofn’s Grand European Tour continues tomorrow from Bratislava, Slovakia! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

 

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