I was standing in front of a large city map, close to Vienna’s Opera House feeling completely ridiculous.
Squinting my eyes, I unsuccessfully tried to find the missing “You are here” mark. The long German street names squished onto the map were hard to read and the street signs on the corner buildings were too far away to see.
Why is this so hard? I thought to myself.
My husband had run to the corner to see the street sign and was now shouting back a butchered German street name I had absolutely no hope of finding on the map. We both broke into fits of laughter.
Here we were staring at maps and guide books and us two world travelers could not figure out where the heck we were!
We’re city-savvy New Yorkers for Heaven’s sake! Surely, we could figure Vienna out just as we had with every other city we’d visited around the world.
Our first few hours in Vienna turned out to be a sign of the days ahead. We never could quite get ourselves any momentum and instead experienced a series of starts and stops as we tried to get a handle on the city and its sights.
Instead of falling in love with Vienna, we found ourselves working hard to make the most of our time.
In the end, we were glad to visit, but unlike most other places we’ve been, never found that sweet spot in our hearts for Vienna.
4 Reasons Why I Didn’t Like Vienna
I admit. Maybe a do-over is in order. Plenty of readers have thought me crazy upon reading this post. After all, Vienna is a world-class city beloved by many visitors!
We were certainly excited to see the city’s grand architecture and experience Vienna’s musical and artistic culture. Still, when I reflect on our visit, there are 4 reasons why I didn’t like Vienna.
1. It wasn’t overly pedestrian-friendly.
The majority of museums and sights are along the “Ring Strasse.” This road loops around the city center. If you’re within a particular section of this loop, traveling on foot is no problem. Walking from one side of the ring to the other, however, could take 45 minutes to an hour.
Mostly, though, I like to wander through a city and explore its streets to get a feel for the people, culture, and overall vibe. Vienna felt too spread out to do this, especially with just a few days to visit.
Several trams make the route around the loop so this is definitely the way to go… once you figure out which one to take, in which direction to travel, and which stop you need. This brings me to my next point.
2. There weren’t enough signs.
This one is a major pet peeve. I couldn’t believe the number of buildings that weren’t marked with what they are. Am I looking at Parliament or the Opera House? Is this a library for local students or the National Library?
I found myself taking photos of beautifully grand buildings, half knowing and half guessing what I was photographing, and noting what to double-check later online. The one above is the Hofburg Palace.
The hotel had given us a city map to use, which came in handy when our phones refused to load Google Maps. The map marked the street names, but only building shapes were shown on the map, not which building it was.
Near the Albertina Museum, I finally found a large map displayed with many popular sights numbered and a corresponding key to identify each number. I snapped a photo of it with my iPhone and compared it with my city map. We headed off thinking all problems were solved.
Staring at many of the majestic, stately buildings, we had to search for the public entrance. It wasn’t always clearly marked and, once in the huge marble lobby, it wasn’t necessarily visitor-friendly.
3. It felt empty and aloof.
We did visit Vienna in the off-season. Could this be it? Maybe. But, we’d visited plenty of other cities in the off-season and still found some tourist activity.
Not to mention, locals tend to be out and about because their city is quieter and easier to manage without hoards of people and tour buses clogging city streets and sidewalks.
Instead, we found empty streets and few pedestrians. We kept wondering where everyone was. Were they tucked away inside their offices and apartments? Did anyone take a lunch break or a quick stroll for some fresh air? Maybe we were on the wrong streets…
Or maybe it was Prague’s fault!
Prague had welcomed us with a, “Hello! Glad you’re here! Let’s get to know each other over a mug of beer..or 2!” Vienna, on the other hand, was more of, “Good day. Have a pleasant visit.”
We were glad to have Budapest in our sights after Vienna. (And it didn’t disappoint!)
4. It was difficult to find anything open at night.
First let me say, we visited Vienna at the start of the week, not typically when bars and cafes are at their fullest. I’m sure weekends have a bit more life to them. Still, consider this.
Our classical concert finished at 9:45 p.m. It was our last night and we wanted to enjoy one last piece of Viennese cake before tucking in for the night. (Yes, as you can see, we’re quite the partiers.)
But everything was closed. We walked past one dark cafe after another. The same would have been true if we had wanted a drink.
I suggested we walk toward the Radisson Blu, where we were staying. There were several cafes in the area. Surely, one of them would be open.
Nope. Not only were they closed. The place was cleaned, chairs were flipped onto tables, and the staff seemed long gone.
In fact, we had to walk past our hotel, back to the pedestrian shopping area near St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to a cafe we’d been to earlier in the day before finding a place that was actually open. This ended up being nearly a 30-minute walk.
Maybe I should be thankful to have walked off the calories of the cake I was about to eat…??
Should you visit Vienna?
Yes. It is, after all, one of Europe’s grand capital cities. Besides, travel is about experiences and yours will hopefully be different than mine.
In the end, we made the most of our visit and enjoyed sights like Schonbrunn Palace and the Freud Museum. The cakes were delicious and the ambiance of the cafes we visited was charming and chic.
Vienna just wasn’t a city we fell in love with. It was ok. It was pretty to look at. I would like to return someday and have another crack at Vienna and utilize the Vienna Pass!
Maybe, next time my expectations will be different. Or maybe the city will be more forthcoming and reveal a bit more of itself. Either way, I’m glad to have visited.
Travel memories aren’t supposed to be that every place is amazing. We might even remember Vienna more! Confusion, obstacles, and laughter are lasting common bonding experiences, too!
Have you visited Vienna? What did you think?
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61 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why I Didn’t Like Vienna”
I only got to visit for 1/2 a day as part of a cruise, and while I thought the buildings were gorgeous we definitely didn’t get much time to see any of them. And, the weather was terrible! That being said, I can see how Vienna would be amazing to visit- hoping to go back one day, preferably in the summer!
Thanks for commenting, Tamara. 🙂 Sounds like another visit to Vienna is in order for both us!
I think the city lacks energy. It’s very passive and somewhat dark. It doesn’t have heartbeat like london amsterdam barcelona. In one word I would sum up Vienna with “dour”. Notoriously grumpy, nothing to do with kids, not welcoming.
That’s too bad, I visited twice and I love this city. Yes it is quiet in some spots but other areas are lively and quite busy. The museums, art and cultural venues around the ring are outstanding so there is plenty to see and enjoy in the city. Maybe you should give it a 2nd try and stay a little longer?
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Noel. I definitely want to give it another try. Actually, I was quite surprised by how I felt during my visit. Besides, the cake alone is worth returning for! 😉
I would love to spend the rest of my days in vie. It is truly the center of the earth to me.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Freddy! I’m so glad you love Vienna. Maybe someday I’ll be back to give it another chance!
That’s a shame you didn’t like Vienna. I’ve been there three times, once over summer and twice during off season, and I never felt Vienna was quiet 🙂 I love Vienna, but I might be a bit biased since my dad absolutely adores the city. He has been there around 15 times now (he really loves it…) and his excitement and love for the city has transferred onto me and my sisters. Try visiting the city over summer. The weather will be gorgeous and there will be more people around!
Thanks for your comments, Lies. 🙂 I really wanted to love Vienna and I’ll definitely give it another go. It’s so glad to hear you have such happy memories tied with Vienna. Thanks for the suggestions!
Yeah the cake looks very yummy, but Jackie even I don’t feel Vienna is that bad, as Noel stated some places may not be worth, but in all its quite a good city to be.I guess you should visit again. 🙂
Thanks for commenting, Vidya. 🙂 I think it was more that the city didn’t WOW me. It was just ok, like I could take it or leave it. I was expecting something else, which is totally for me to adjust. I definitely hope to give Vienna another try.
I visited Vienna during the summer and totally fell in love with it because of the nightly outdoor musical festival that was going on at the time. I completely can see how you would not have fallen head over heels over the city…
Thanks so much for commenting, Christina! Nightly music festivals sound so fun! I could totally see how that atmosphere would create a terrific impression of Vienna. 🙂
It has been at least 25 years since I was in Vienna. I didn’t love it and really have no great desire to go back. Like you, I found it sprawling. I didn’t care for the ring road. It never really touched my heart. Now Paris…that is ALWAYS a good idea!
Thanks for sharing your experience, Lorri. I think that’s a great way to put it. The city just didn’t touch my heart. It was just ok. I’m with you on Paris, too! Amour! 🙂
My favorite part of visiting Vienna are a couple things, first of all the Hundertwasser House is an interesting sight. What we love to do is take day trips from Vienna to Melk Abbey (it never gets old visiting there), and Schonbrunn Palace. Vienna is a good hub city to get out and see the sights on the Danube.
Thanks for sharing, Nancy. 🙂 Day trips to see sights along the river sounds quite nice.
Sorry to hear you didn’t like Vienna. I did love the city, though I ahve places I didn’t take too which everyone else loves, so it’s largely based on personal preferences, and I think too the experience at the time does come into play.
I had a great experience in Vienna, I was there on contiki when I was 18, so perhaps the reason I liked it so much was because it was a pretty big drunken blur lol … but we loved the chance to sit in on a Motzart concert, to take a horse and carriage ride around and to marvel at the buildings and architecture.
Maybe you’ll randomly have a chance to return and have a different experience next time. Personally your Vienna is Paris for me. I’ve given the city 3 chances but it never seems to WOW me.
Thanks, Meg. I agree with what you said about personal preferences. I’m in tune to the vibe of a city and Vienna just felt standoffish. Sounds like your trip to Vienna was a blast, though! 🙂 Sorry to hear about Paris for you! Paris was my first international city so it holds a special place in my heart.
We’ve had a few similar experiences and totally agree that you can’t fall in love with every place you visit. Brussels was one of the cities that we felt that way about–I’d love to give it another chance someday, but we didn’t quite click with it on our first visit. Glad you ended up with a good outlook at least, and that Viennese cake looks amazing! We might be heading to Vienna this summer, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we think about it!
Agreed, Jenna. Some places are just ok. Even though I’m ok with that, it’s still disappointing. Hope your Vienna trip goes well for you! 🙂
Thanks for the honest post! It does look quite empty in the pictures I can imagine walking around searching for a place to have cake (at a pretty reasonable hour;-) isn’t so much fun. Hope you still had an okay visit and perhaps will have an opportunity for a do-over!
I hope so, Lotte! My husband and I still laughed and ate delicious cake so all was not lost. 😉
That’s why when people ask me what’s your favourite city, I never answer. I just talk about my favourite experiences. Vienna to me was very “proper”. No crazy wild things going on. Maybe it’s all the opera houses or places like the Belvedere that create a certain high class and low tolerance atmosphere of well behaved, educated locals. Maybe there is no “you are here” arrows cause they assume you should know where you are? It’s.different. A gorgeous city but very proper. I interviewed a musician that I am now friends with which is great but unfortunately a friend of mine passes away while I was in Vienna so it was a but of a challenge exploring the city for different reasons. All in all, I really enjoyed Vienna.
Thanks for sharing, Christopher, and sorry to hear about your friend. I like your approach of looking at experiences rather than places.
I think depending on where you’re at in the city and what your expectations are, you can find a really authentic and amazing experience in Vienna. It sounds like you had expectations that Vienna couldn’t fulfill and that’s totally fair, but if you can embrace it for its uniqueness as a city, maybe you’d like it more.
Thanks for your suggestions, Laura. I do hope to visit Vienna again and, you’re right, I’d approach it differently. That being said, I do think that some places are just ok and that’s fine, too. If I was WOWed by every place I traveled, it could come across as inauthentic.
I used to think every place would be amazing while travelling, but sadly that isn’t the case! I would give some a second chance though, maybe differently like in a tour, or with a different bunch of friends with a different focus. I hope you have a better experience if you ever go back but if not, there are many other places to see and love!
Thanks, Mar! I agree there are so many places to see and love. Absolutely no worries! 😉
This is a great article. I personally didnt like Austria because it was too unfreindly, I was almost scolded by one of thewaiters there and people on the railway station were enormously rude an unhelpfull when it came to directions, I did however like the Architecture. But it was too austere for my liking, cold like you have mentioned too.
Although I did not much mind the public transportation.Particularly their train transit sstem was easy to understand.
Thanks for sharing , Sushma. You’re right about the train system… Very easy to get to Schonbrunn. Austere is a good word. Vienna just felt aloof, but very pretty. Hope to be able to try again sometime, though. Maybe my timing was off.
I do agree that they didn’t have enough signs for tourists in Vienna! I did enjoy my stay there though just cause I love being alone and getting lost and it doesn’t hurt that I was surrounded by beautiful architecture. I absolutely loved the Schoenbrunn palace! I hope not everyone will feel this way about Vienna! I’m pretty sure it has so much more to offer!
Good luck with more of your travels, Jackie! Wishing you all the best!
Trisha, you made me feel so much better about the signs! Why would there be so few? It just doesn’t make sense in such a heavily-trafficked tourist area. Glad your visit to Vienna worked out better than mine! All the best to you, too. 🙂 Happy travels!
I am in Vienna RIGHT NOW!! I fully understand what you are saying. Took us 3 different doors to find the right one to watch the dancing horses. Long (boring) walk atound the ring strasse. Nearly run over by a tram! BUT the Ritz Carlton is lovely, the cake is to die for and last nights Mozart concert was fab. 2 more nights and really enjoying this city.
Amanda, I’m so glad you’re enjoying Vienna! The cakes and the Mozart concert brings back good memories, for sure. I would certainly give Vienna another try, but, this time, I’d be ready for all the landmark and street confusion!
Wow! I thought I was the only one who felt this way about Vienna!! You nailed our days exactly! Prague and Budapest were so amazing and I kept trying to figure out why I didn’t enjoy Vienna as much! Yes it’s beautiful, and we did have fun, but we just loved Prague and Budapest so much more! Your post is spot on!
I’m so glad you shared your Vienna experience, Erica. Vienna is so popular and such a beautiful city that it definitely can feel like you’re the only one just not loving it. Here’s to giving it another try (hopefully..) in the future! 🙂
I am in Vienna now, I am originally from CZ, so it is not so far and also it has a lot of common with Prague BUT after living abroad, and visiting Vienna after years, I have realized, for the first time, that Prague is much more beautiful /even If I didnt think so/ and that in Europe are so much more better cities. I do not like Vienna now. I loved my hotel but the rest…of course, historical centre is one thing but the rest…for me it has no atmosphere, gray street, there is a lot of homeless, beggers…I was really shocked. I feel here like in Belgium, I was there in similar mood.
I think Wien should be just one day stop in traveling , see the city centre and then travel to other cities…
Thanks for your comments, Ad. I haven’t visited Belgium yet, but I do love Prague. It is far prettier and livelier than Vienna in my opinion. 🙂
Hi, I live in Vienna. Definitely come back in the summer. Yes some of the things Austrians do, drove me mad for a long time. Like closing the shops at 6:00 pm. But on the other hand they make sure that people aren’t working to much and have a day off once a week. With some of the things they are really progressive and with other they seem to be left 20 years behind the rest of the world: smoking, paying with the card, more English knowledge (although is speak fluent German) and making stuff less complicated and modern (like maps for tourists etc.).
Well the streets are empty because:
– of the bad weather (you won’t catch me walking around much when the wind is blowing 😀 – it can get quite cold)
– and at the end of the day – we are working :D! The unemployment rate is quite low.
– Also not everyone is keen on going to the center of the city all the time (especially in the summer – it is packed with tourists). Vienna has a lot of green areas (like Donauinsel, Alte Donau, Wienerwald, Schönbrunn etc. where people like to go to grill, swim, rent a boat, hike, run, do other sports…).
Next time check out the events (especially in the summer) and places like Museumsquartier, Naschmarkt… I had a friend visiting from Mexico City in the summer and she loved the city (I showed her around). It is definitely not a city where you can blindly walk around and see the best of it – it is not that big, but all of the things aren’t packed into the city center. I suggest next time you plan a bit upfront or maybe take a local guide. I do travel and have seen nicer and more beautiful cities, but few can match the quality of life Vienna can offer you at this point – based on criteria like safety, education, hygiene, health care, culture, environment, recreation, political-economic stability, public transport and access to goods and services. I lived in one of the prettiest cities in Europe for a long time, but I could not afford my own apartment or the lifestyle I have now. So if you cannot get a cake at 10:00 pm in less then 30 min of walking, that means a person that would otherwise be serving that to you, is at home taking care of their family and enjoying his/her life. And obviously there is still enough money pouring in that this is made possible. I can see how that can be annoying to a tourist.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Amy. It’s great to hear all the things you love about Vienna. I do hope to give the city another try if the circumstances work out. However, I absolutely did plan before my visit but still could not make sense of the public transportation system nor where many of the sights were. As someone who lives in NYC now for 20+ years, I have great city smarts and have never had a problem applying these skills to cities around the world. This wasn’t the case in Vienna. But I certainly saw the beauty of the architecture and actually loved the winter. It makes walking around easier and plus I do it all the time here in NYC. Thanks again for your thoughts. I do appreciate them and hopefully will have the opportunity to put your suggestions to use in the future.
I’m just leaving Vienna now after a 5-day, 4-night stay over the weekend in the middle of tourist season, and I had a very similar experience! Went into the city with no expectations and a list of places to hit, and my impressions mirror yours closely. I appreciate your review, and it’s very true that not all cities are for everyone. Maybe we’ll give the city another try some day!
Thanks for reading, Nicole. Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy Vienna! I totally agree with you that not all cities are for everyone. Here’s to giving Vienna another chance someday! 🙂
Nice blog. I hated Vienna the most out of nearly all cities in Europe. I have visited twice. It was impressive architectually in size but lacked charm and warmth – too ostentatious and cold.. I simply felt that all the buildings were too polished and starchy and the main boulevards too wide. I agree with the lack of late night cafes and bars. However Budapest on the other hand….now that’s a city worth visiting! PS. St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna is splendid though.
Thanks for reading, Mikey. I felt the exact same. It lacked charm and warmth compared to other cities not too far away. St. Stephens and the cake are for sure positive highlights. And yes, Budapest is amazing! Visited after Vienna and again on a different trip. Love Budapest. Happy travels!
Vienna is too gold-covered. Lacks charm, warmth, and soul. In some grandiose way, it’s trying to be Paris. But it’s just all for show with no soul underneath.
Thanks for reading, June. It’s very grand but I agree, there’s a warmth missing. Just goes to show, every place is not for every person.
We went last year for Thanksgiving. While the city is beautiful we enjoyed the Christmas markets more than the town. Our favorite part was the day trip to Bratislava, which by the way had a wonderful and lively Christmas market. It wasn’t as fun as Munich, it was too serious and not as pretty as Prague.
Thanks for reading, Silene. I would like to see the Christmas markets in Vienna but I agree with you about enjoying Munich and Prague more.
Same on Vienna. Here now for a second time, 10 PM and nothing was open to eat. Streets are a ghost town – not even a convenience store to buy water. Most closed at 8 PM… and this ain’t a Sunday. Not a vibe I expect in any big city.
Thanks for reading and your comment. Totally agree.
It’s like the city all goes to sleep at 6p.
I won’t rule out a return but not high on the list at all.
Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip!
So sorry you were disappointed in Vienna. My husband and I love that city, have been there a few times. As a couple in our 70’s we are drawn to the class and elegance of the city and appreciate the areas where it is quieter. The music and food are certainly a draw as well. You should certainly give it another try. For a little more activity you might spend an evening gasthaus hopping in the Vienna Woods area!
Thanks for reading, Lee. So glad you had a great time in Vienna. The city is certainly elegant and I appreciate the tip on where to visit when I give the city another try.
I have not been to Vienna. We are flying in to Vienna in less than a week. We are taking my son to a health clinic in Bratislava, Slovakia. We will be in Bratislava for two weeks and will have two free weekends to do whatever we want. At first I thought of course we will go to Vienna for both weekends. However after diligently reading through guide books we have decided instead to take the train to Prague and spend one weekend there. The second weekend we are going to wine country in the Czech country side. We are flying out of Vienna. I know it is not fair for me to judge the city because I have not been, but honestly Prague seems way more interesting to me. The Czech wine country seems like it would be relaxing, and Vienna just seemed to be museum after museum. I also don’t like sugary things so I have no interest in eating any of the pastries. I watched some videos on Vienna in YouTube. Vienna just looked boring. I mean to disrespect to people that love Vienna or live there. It is just not me.
Thanks for reading, Tracy. Wise choice in spending a weekend in Prague. The Czech wine country is also amazing. Vienna is a beautiful city but there are a lot of museums so good that you’ve done your research. I don’t think you’ll regret your choice. 🙂
I just came back from a Euro trip across Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague.
Of all the cities, we decided to spend the most of our time in Vienna because of the raving reviews.
It’s a beautiful city with gorgeous architecture and like a gazillion museums and tourist attractions.
(Tip: Get the Vienna pass for better savings)
However, it was not for me and I felt hugely disappointed.
After staring at pretty buildings for about 2 hours, I kept asking myself, “What’s Next?”
I did most of the ‘Must Dos’ like Schönbrunn, St Peters Cathedral, Museumsquartier and etc.
While it looks absolutely stunning, I can understand how it’s not for everyone.
They are mostly dry and follows the same formula.
Pretty building – Pretty Interior – Pretty Art – Storytelling throughout.
Not everyone can appreciate looking at similar looking paintings and be mentally stimulated by it.
Shops are closed for the most part and the fame of Viennese was a let down.
I hunted down the famous desserts spots (Sacher Cafe, Landtmann, Demel and etc) but it just wasn’t good to me.
The famed Sacher Torte was just okay. A little dry inside with a hard chocolate layer outside.
(Disclaimer: I’m from South East Asia so I understand our taste profile might be different)
My summary of Vienna?
Pros: Beautiful, Clean and tons of museums
Cons: Mediocre food at best, expensive, lacks charm and service everywhere was cold or just okay at best,
Conversely, I had an AMAZING time in Prague.
Shops were open till late and the food was immensely better.
The city had more charm, character and friendly service.
The tours we did also brought a different context to how we viewed the city and the history behind it.
Not sure if I would visit Vienna again but I hope this helps gives an insight to others making a consideration.
Thanks for reading, Aaron. I’m sorry Vienna didn’t live up to what you thought it would be. I confess I felt similar to you, especially having just come from Prague before Vienna. It is a beautiful city but it wasn’t my favorite either.
I know this post is quite old by now, but I was so happy to find it. I lived in NYC before moving to Prague. I visited Vienna this weekend, and it was just a terrible experience from start to finish. It was a dull and empty city even in the middle of July. Everything was closed, and the whole city seemed deserted except for lots of unhoused people. I had a terrible time even finding a restaurant that was open during lunch time in the center of the city near the museums. Maybe it was just bad luck because I know many people who love the city. Either way, I was glad to find a post in which many of my sentiments were echoed. I hope you can come back to our beautiful Praha soon!
Thanks for reading, Angie. Sorry to hear your trip to Vienna wasn’t what you hoped. I hope I can get back to Prague, too! Such a beautiful city. 🙂
I grew up in NYC, went to college in SF, been to every major city in Europe. I live now in Vienna, the best public transportation in Europe.
Did you attend the Opera, a concert?
Several musical events per day , did you attend any?
Vienna: the city of classical music.
Google maps works great in Vienna
Street signs are very good in Vienna, an extremely walkable city.
Perhaps return for a concert.
Thanks for reading, Mike. Glad you love Vienna. I did attend a concert on one of the nights I was there. It was lovely.