There are many ways to visit Vienna. You could walk on the beautiful streets full of history, following in the footsteps of important personalities who lived here across centuries or you could embark on a silent and comfortable tram that is always on schedule (though a ticket is quite pricey – €2.40 for one journey within one zone). You could even ride in a horse-drawn carriage, designed to be a reminder of the imperial times, if you wish to feel ”aristocratic” for a day.
We chose to try, one more time, the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off buses, dedicated to those tourists who aim at exploring the most of a city in a relatively short time. We had a really positive experience with Big Bus Tours in Budapest, so were expecting it to be at least as nice here in Vienna.
We hopped on a tour of the city right on the first day of our trip to Vienna. A full tour on the two main lines (the blue and the red lines) lasts between an hour and a half and two hours if you choose to take an uninterrupted tour in order enjoy the whole route and mark the sights you want to visit later. The green line is shorter, lasting less than an hour. There is also a night line along the important spots in the city center, starting at 7:30 PM, which offers an amazing experience mostly during winter months we’d say, when it’s already dark outside at that time and you can enjoy the lights of the city. There are also tickets with included boat rides and walking tours through the central historical area.
The Big Bus couches are spacious and comfortable, there are audio guides in many languages with free headphones provided by the company and if it happens to rain during the tour, you’ll also receive free rain coats on board. The buses arrive at the stations every 15 to 30 minutes, making this tour a very good way to visit various sights on the way, as you can hop off anywhere and explore the surroundings, and then catch the next bus towards the next objective.
Besides the basic package that only includes the bus rides and the free walking tour, you can also purchase combo packages, that offer the bus rides plus tickets to famous objectives or even classical music concerts, and for those who are visiting Hungary next, the company also offers twin city tickets, for Vienna and Budapest.
Here are some of our thoughts about the interest spots on the red and blue lines of the Big Bus Tours in Vienna:
- Opera – an emblematic building of the city, that’s worth visiting inside and outside, with beautiful concerts – just don’t expect them to be cheap. Pay attention when purchasing concert tickets – there are street vendors in front of the venue who sell tickets at higher prices than at the official cashier’s office. Don’t be fooled by them even they can be quite charismatic and persuasive and wearing specific medieval costumes.
- House of Music – an experiential museum dedicated to music and sound, with multimedia presentations and interactive exhibits. We heard good things about this place, although didn’t have enough time to visit it. Nearby, there is the central pedestrian area, ideal for walking and exploring.
- Museums Quartier – an ensemble of museums, created in the place of the former imperial stables, which houses an impressive collection of modern exhibits, dedicated to classical culture and contemporary subcultures, like art, architecture, music, fashion, theatre, dance, literature, gaming, design, photography and many more.
- Hofburg Palace – the main residence of the imperial family for over 600 years, also called the winter palace, houses several museums and the architecture and the interiors are superb. Our advice is to also have a walk around the palace and the surrounding area.
- City Hall – an imposing and beautiful building, in front of witch takes place the famous Vienna Christmas Market, and during warmer seasons there are various events (there was the Gay Pride when we went), and you will also find the Austrian Parliament building nearby.
- Votive Church – a 19th century building with a remarkable design, dedicated to the last king of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Josef. Nearby you can also visit the medical museums and Sigmund Freud’s Museum.
- Augarten Park – a baroque-style park containing a royal palace, with a ceramic collection and a crime museum nearby.
- Prater Park – one of the largest urban green areas in Europe (over 600 hectares), also encompassing a famous amusement park functioning since the 19th century and tens of attractions for all ages, as well as a was figure museum (Madame Tussauds).
- Touristic Harbour – where the cruise ships from the Danube dock after entering the city through the channel, and the tourists debark to visit the beautiful imperial capital.
- The Pier – from where you can hop on board of a boat that takes you on a cruise through Vienna.
- Danube Tower – a construction almost 200m high, built in 1960s, with an observation platform on top, from where you can enjoy an amazing view over the city, and a rotating restaurant with traditional Austrian dishes.
- Old Danube – an artificial lake, formed as a result of Danube banking and the creation of a channel to prevent flooding, which is now a green area for entertainment, fishing, picnics and other leisure activities.
- The UN Building – Vienna is one of the major cities that host several United Nations institutions, based in an impressive building erected in the ’70s – the building is open for visitation.
- The Danube Island – a strip of artificial, floodable land created along the Danube, between the two shores, where there are now green areas, ideal for walking or cycling.
- Schweden Square – in the vicinity of the small port for the ships that run on the canal, as well as terraces, promenade areas and cafés.
- Stadtpark – The City Park displays numerous statues of Austrian personalities, the most popular for tourists being the golden statue of Johann Strauss II.
- Aqua Terra Zoo – or the Haus des Meeres is a huge Aquarium built in a former Nazy military building erected during the war, that houses many fascinating species from our planet’s oceans.
- Mariahilferstrasse – the main and most popular shopping area in the city, an almost 2km long street with shops on both sides, representing famous brands as well as small stores and venues with delicious food and ice-cream.
- Schönbrunn Palace – one of the most important sights in Vienna, this former summer residence of the imperial family is enormous (over 1400 rooms), also having a zoo, an extensive park with many other interesting sights, impressing gardens and much more – that are humanly impossible to visit in just one day.
- Main Train Station – the area was thoroughly modernized and now the old buildings from the beginnings of the industrial era are blending with modern terminals where high speed trains from all over Europe are arriving.
- Arsenal – a military museum displaying the history of Austrian armed conflicts, from the almost 7 centuries of Habsburg dynasty and even from before, in the early periods of Germanic tribes;
- Belvedere Palace – includes two 18th century baroque-style buildings, an amazing garden with many elements specific to imperial times, as well as art collections. Nearby you can also have a relaxing walk in the botanical garden.
Our conclusion? We enjoyed a lot the Big Bus Tours experience and are looking forward to repeat it in other cities where they are present (we counted 20 at the date of this article). We hope to visit them all and tell you all about those amazing places too!
Visit the Big Bus Tours website for any information you might need about tickets, routes, schedules and much more!
In the end, we want to thank the Big Bus Tours staff for giving us the opportunity to explore this great city and to share this extraordinary experience with our readers.
All the opinions expressed in this article are ours and were not influenced in any way by the collaborations that contributed to these experiences.