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Vienna in early-mid November - 1st Time!

Vienna is my dream destination and my first visit will be this November 12 to 14. This is part of a 10 day trip from California to Paris. Friend and I are flying in from London Nov. 12 at 6 am and thought 3 days would be ok. HOWEVER, I see that some Christmas markets open November 15. Now I'm wondering whether to make it 4 days?

We fly back to California at 3:00 pm on November 16 from Paris where we are visiting family. Wondering if it might be too much to fly the day before from Vienna to Paris and the next day from Paris to California.

I also learned it may be cold, rainy and less light. Does this mean getting around to the typical tourist places - palaces, museums, etc. will be more difficult? We have not yet made hotel arrangements. Our budget is around $100 - $150 per night. Of course, less would be great too.

We have both heard lovely things about Vienna and know that neither 3 or 4 days is enough but we are hoping this will be the first of many trips. Just want to make the most of our short stay there.

Posted by
4264 posts

I have been to Vienna a couple times in January. It was a little windy and chilly, but still stunning, and it was fun to see some of the winter activities going on. We didn't have any rain either time. The first time was right after a 6-10 inch snowfall. Still, it wasn't at all difficult to get around by walking or public transportation. I loved Hotel Austria about 7 minutes or so from Stephansplatz. Elegant, well priced with the best hotel breakfast spread I have ever experienced (and its included in the rate)

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and hotel suggestion. We’ll definitely look into that one especially since it includes breakfast. :-)

Posted by
3192 posts

I'm going to do a trip report in a few days, but we loved Pension A and A, recommended in Rick's book. It was extremely convenient to most sites.

Posted by
4684 posts

The weather shouldn't interfere with local travel unless there's very heavy snow.

Posted by
4684 posts

Also might be towards the top of your price range, but worth trying - the Motel One Wien Staatsoper. It's a chain hotel, but has a fantastic location only one street outside the Ring near the Opera, and a good range of gin at the bar.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you so much for the tips especially on accommodations. Will be sure to check these out.

Looking forward to reading about your Vienna trip! :-)

Posted by
613 posts

There is no bad time to visit Vienna. Vienna is one of the world's greatest tourist destinations. And crowds will be down.

Views based on more than 500 days as an EU tourist.

Posted by
2320 posts

I've been to Vienna 3 times now, it's a city I never tire of--hoping to do the Christmas markets maybe next year. I especially loved staying at the Hotel Am Stephansplatz, directly across from St Stephans and right next to a U station--lovely hotel, enormous room with all amenities and excellent breakfast included. Vienna is super easy to get around, very walkable and public transport is abundant. Depending on what else you want to do besides the markets, 3 or 4 days would be about right. Their museums are full of my favorite art--Jugendstihl/Secession era--so I included lots of museums on my visits, Schonbrunn and the Hofburg, and as I am a huge Third Man fan my first visit focused heavily on all things pertaining to the movie.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you all for the additional tips, information, hotel suggestions and shared excitement! I'm a huge ballet and classical music fan so I'll definitely be catching a musical concert. The Viennese Waltz is a my favorite dance second to Ballet. :-)

Posted by
10 posts

Philip - for the Motel One Wien Staatsoper (really impressed so far w/the website especially since I'm a huge Ballet fan). Question - did you include breakfast with your stay? If so, what did you think?

Posted by
1492 posts

I never stayed in the Motel One though, but it is usual in Vienna (and Austria) that you have breakfast at the place you stay, even if it is not included in the room price (typically for for budget accommodations). From the breakfast buffet you can eat as much as you want/can, and having a really big breakfast allows you to skip lunch, giving you more time for visiting the city.

Posted by
4684 posts

As you've seen breakfast in Motel One is not included in the price. Personally, I think that it's quite expensive, as quantities are unlimited but you don't get the variety of cold meats and cheeses that you do in the best German/Austrian hotel breakfasts. At any rate, there are many other places to get breakfast in the area.

Posted by
1492 posts

@Philip
I disagree with your statements about the breakfast in Motel One. Although the breakfast buffet is most likely not so copious like in a 4- or 5-star establishment, the price is reasonable. If you go to another place nearby for breakfast, you will pay much more for the same quantity and variety (e.g. Café Museum €20, Café Mozart €24, Bristol Lounge €38, Grad Brasserie €36).

Posted by
4690 posts

Or you could do what most Viennese do and stop at a bakery, like Anker or DerMann, and pick up a croissant and coffee for about 3-4 Euro. There is an Anker one block over at Karlsplatz.

Posted by
613 posts

I've got to take issue with Emily. She's right about going to a bakery for breakfast, but a croissant is French food and Viennese coffee is awful if you are an American coffee drinker. If my wife would let me, I would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the kind of bakery called a konditorei (pastry shop), and mostly I would eat cake. After our second trip to Austria, I stopped eating cake in America (after our first 40 days in France, we both stopped eating croissants for 38 years). Fruit pastries make another good konditorei breakfast.

If you can, fly Vienna-Paris-CA in the same day. CDG is a hassle, and staying overnight in Paris doubles the trouble.

Posted by
1492 posts

Viennese coffee is awful if you are an American coffee drinker

The same applies vice versa when Viennese travel to US.

Posted by
3460 posts

Not being difficult , but your assessment of croissants and coffee is a bit off base . Croissants ARE Viennese in origin and the Viennese style is well known in France as Viennoiserie . The croissants in Vienna do give the French a run for their money . The coffee is another matter . If you are accustomed to American style coffee , as opposed to European coffees , which are usually made in true espresso machines , you are are in for a bit of cultural upset . The coffee in Vienna , usually Meinl's , is first rate . I don't drink American coffee at home , having used a Swiss made machine for nearly forty years . As far as the pastry , I would probably eat it on a more regular basis , but it would upset my cardiologist immensely .

Posted by
3111 posts

If you do stay at the very design chic Motel One do consider paying for breakfast for at least your first day. We stay at this chain in Germany and like their style and breakfasts.

I’d also encourage you to stay the extra day if it can allow you to experience a Christmas market in Vienna. If you are concerned about your CDG to California flight, stay at an airport hotel at CDG the night before your international flight.

Posted by
4690 posts

Kb1942 - The croissant was a Viennese invention, thank you very much.

Again, stopping at an Anker, DerMann, Stroeck, etc. is what the Viennese do for breakfast. Whether you get a croissant, a semmel, a zimtschneke, a sandwich or a pretzel, it doesn’t matter.

Posted by
3460 posts

Another place where Vienna gets appropriate credit for croissants and similar pastries is Copenhagen .

Posted by
1492 posts

Again, stopping at an Anker, DerMann, Stroeck, etc. is what the Viennese do for breakfast. Whether you get a croissant, a semmel, a zimtschneke, a sandwich or a pretzel, it doesn’t matter.

But that is not the kind of breakfast Americans expect and are used to.

Posted by
4690 posts

I am American and I eat that kind of breakfast. I don’t eat a huge buffet every day.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks everyone! I appreciate the input and advice. It's funny because we certainly each have our own culture(s), experiences, travel experiences and opinions. I work in downtown Manhattan Beach and we have many European tourists. I almost want to approach someone and say - "Hey, what do you think of California?" or "Guess what? I'm going to your country soon."

For this trip, our focus is Vienna because my family will be in Paris a couple more years so we will definitely visit again. I had no idea about the Christmas markets so hopefully my next trip is for Christmas and maybe even New Year's if I ever win the lottery for the gorgeous New Year's Concert.

We are so happy we decided to stay 3 nights. Motel One actually does include breakfast in the price. It was an additional 17 euros per night. I can't speak for all Americans but for me - breakfast is usually 2 eggs and toast or a small breakfast sandwich from Starbucks. Sorry but they really do have good choices! ;-) A big breakfast would include pancakes or french toast in addition to eggs and bacon or sausage but that's not daily at all. Maybe once every few months. Coffee isn't necessary but sure, I enjoy it here and there - cold or hot. I imagine the coffee is much stronger there but I'm good as long as I can add some dairy and sugar. I enjoy tea with a little bit of cream of sugar as well.

The one habit I hope to inherit is to NOT eat cake when I return to America because I do have a sweet tooth. I'm sure I can eat your delicious Viennese pastries for breakfast, lunch or dinner. :-)

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10 posts

Forgot to add that we are flying back to Paris from Vienna around 9:00 pm since my family does expect to see us and have a meal with us before we fly back to California at 3:00 pm. They are going to be taking us so we don't have to worry about getting to the airport. Thanks again for all the tips and suggestions! I will definitely post about my 1st Vienna trip when I return :-)

Posted by
4690 posts

I definitely appreciate the idea of a hotel breakfast when on vacation. That said, for 17 Euro, you could really splash out just about anywhere. As I type this, I’m actually having breakfast at Joseph Brot, THE breakfast spot. Having an omelette and tea with wonderful bread. Won’t be more than 12 Euro. Austrian breakfast buffets usually feature cold cuts, cheeses, bread, yogurt, muesli and soft boiled eggs.

As for the Christmas Markets in Vienna, sounds like the tourist board needs to up their game. It’s kind of what Vienna is famous for...

Posted by
613 posts

Emily & others: Should KFC be called backhendl? There is better case for that than for claiming the croissant is not French. Wikipedia's interesting history of the croissant says the crescent shaped roll was invented in Egypt, popularized in EU by Vienna, and perfected by the French, who kept the shape but started using puff pastry which defines today's standard. So. if today's Vienna croissant uses puff pastry, its French. If not, its Egyptian.

While that's all fun and games, there is an interesting point lurking here. When visiting a foreign country, is it more rewarding to eat local food or to eat like the locals do? I would guess that Vienna eats more hamburgers & pizza than Wiener schnitzel, but when I'm in Vienna, I go for Wiener schnitzel 80% of the time. I don't care who invented it (probably Italian), or how popular it is among the natives. It is the epitome of Austrian food, and Austria, at its best, does it way better than anywhere else (Italian veal is often of dubious quality).

Posted by
613 posts

The advantage of hotel breakfast buffet: you can eat enough that you can skip lunch. Get a piece of cake about 2:00 pm

Posted by
3030 posts

I've stayed at the Motel One Staatsoper 2-3 times and liked it quite a bit. They had nice croissants, as I recall. :)

Posted by
3192 posts

Keila C, I'm less interested in cakes at home now because the vast majority won"t begin to measure up to those in Vienna.

Posted by
4690 posts

It’s so interesting to me that people go so Gaga for the cakes in Vienna. They are really not great, in my opinion - dry, bad flavor combos. Desserts in the US are so much better. Really.

Posted by
2097 posts

Keila,
I'm going to Vienna for the second time this coming December! I will be on a RS tour - Munich Salzburg Vienna, I signed up mainly to experience the Christmas markets. I will be in Vienna 3 nights and am excited to see the markets there. It's supposed to be magical.

You mentioned museums so I would recommend several: the Albertina is a smallish one and an exhibit of Albrecht Durer will be on when we are there. At the huge Kunsthistoriches Museum a special exhibit of Caravaggio and Bernini will be there. I plan to buy my tickets in advance on line before I leave the States.

Also, there will be lovely concerts in the churches and cathedrals as well.

I need to start planning my packing as the time for departure is fast approaching! Enjoy your stay.

Posted by
2269 posts

The croissant is in the shape of the crescent due to the apocryphal story about the bakers in Vienna:

"The kipferl, the ancestor of the croissant, stretches back to the 13th century in Austria. The modern croissant's saga began in 1683 when the invading Turks attempted to tunnel underneath the walls of Vienna during the Ottomann siege of the city. Fortunately, bakers working through the night heard the sounds of the Turks digging and alerted the city’s defenders. King John III of Poland arrived in time to defeat the Turks."

While many believe that the French have perfected the croissant as a version of puff pastry, it is a Viennese pastry. So, ethnic and culinary triumphalism aside, there is a perfectly good reason to eat a croissant in Vienna. You celebrate the victory of Prince Eugene and the Polish knights over the fiendish invading Turks!!

All of this culinary opinion stating merely reiterates the obvious that we have different tastes in pastry.

Posted by
1492 posts

It’s so interesting to me that people go so Gaga for the cakes in Vienna. They are really not great, in my opinion - dry, bad flavor combos. Desserts in the US are so much better. Really.

You are joking, aren't you?

Desserts in the US contain so much sugar that they are really difficult to swallow (for a throat gotten accustomed to European - especially Viennese - cakes and pastries).

I don't know where you eat cakes, but my favorite places are Konditorei Oberlaa and Café Landtmann. I am not so fond of Demel and not at all of Sacher.

Posted by
4690 posts

Not joking. American desserts are moist, flavorful and creative. Austrian cakes are sweet, too. I tend to visit Diglas on Wollzeile the most often, but also visit Oberlaa and the others you mention. They are pretty, but not great, in my opinion. I actually prefer the Turkish bakeries for their amazing sweets or the strudel from Gerstner above all else.

Posted by
351 posts

I'm with Emily on the cakes. They are beautiful, but often dry. Of course, that can happen in the US too. My husband and I are prolific bakers here at home and we prefer our own made-from-scratch cakes for taste. Doesn't stop us from enjoying cake and coffee (or hot chocolate) in Vienna. Half the fun is picking out something beautiful and enjoying the surroundings. The strudels though, we can't match!

We didn't find it particularly hard to work around the shorter days. Just make a list of the places you will want to visit and check the opening and closing times so that you have a bit of a plan.

Posted by
4264 posts

When breakfast is included at no additional cost, like it is at the wonderful Hotel Austria, we tend to eat enough to get us through the day and typically grab a piece of fruit. We very rarely will pay extra for a hotel breakfast because the pricing typically just doesn't make sense. When we don't get hotel breakfast, we'll do as the French or Austrians do and pick up a coffee and pastry. That typically doesn't last me long since I'm used to protein for breakfast, so I'll have a small bag of almonds in my bag to hold me over for a while. I'm a coffee drinker and I enjoyed the coffee in Vienna. When I'm traveling in Europe, I typically get the coffee the locals drink and not an "American" version that they modify in an attempt to please Americans, I guess.

Posted by
10 posts

@Emily: Your omelette breakfast sounds divine. I'll definitely visit Joseph Brot. We ended up not paying for breakfast at Motel One since we have the option to take a look and just purchase there - price remains the same. However, they were kind enough to email me their menu and people are correct about the meats, cheeses, etc. I discovered Vienna as a teenager watching the New Year's Concert and then learning the waltz was born there and then learning about all the divine composers. I found Rick Steves on YouTube and that led me here which then led me to discover the Christmas markets. Hopefully we get to see a few!

@kb1942: I will definitely enjoy a piece of cake - or two. ;-)

@Dave: Good to know! I'm sure we'll do their breakfast at least once.

@JudyB: Thank you! You're a better planner than me. I need to start packing as I leave late next week! Thank you for the museum tips. Enjoy your stay as well. I know it'll be magical!

@Paul-of-the-Frozen-North: Yes, we certainly all do have different tastes in pastry and I'm curious if I'll think one way or another. There's such a variety of desserts at least here in LA - dry desserts and moist. American buttercream is certainly the sweetest. I bake myself and prefer Italian or Swiss buttercream.

Thank you all for the croissant history lesson and fun facts. I'm so excited and I can't wait to report back on my first trip to Vienna! :-)