When I started to plan the Vienna leg of our December trip to Austria – with visions of Christmas markets and gluhwein and long afternoons in coffee houses dancing in my head – I initially turned to the appropriate sections of the two guide books my husband had bought – Eyewitness Austria and Rick Steves’ Vienna, Salzburg and Tirol.
Both were disappointing. Although the Eyewitness book had some great photos, it was voiceless: I had no idea who wrote the words or what sights they’d recommend over others and why. Rick Steves had those aspects covered and gave an ok overview of some of the sights, but his is an American lens. Neither guide discussed Vienna in December, which is when we planned to be there. Not only that, but they didn’t provide any local insight about visiting Vienna- descriptions and recommendations of neighborhood gems and up-to-date events that only a Viennese resident would know.
I knew there was an easy remedy to discovering this insider information: find the Viennese bloggers who were proud of their city and tap into their recommendations. Turns out there are lots of them, each happy to share through words and photos the hidden corners of their city with those of us looking for a unique winter experience in Wiens. Each of them writes in a different style, and their blogs reflect their individual interests in their city. Together, they were indispensable in helping me to plan a Viennese experience with an abundance of local flavor.
1. The Vienna Blog – Written by Greg Sideris, a Viennese marketing expert, this site is billed as a “luxury travel and lifestyle blog.” Greg blogs about all things Viennese and includes sumptuous photos of his home city. Although most of the blogs 8 consulted had posts about the city’s Christmas markets, his top 10 recommendations was the first to help me understand the differences between them. He also includes a helpful guide to their locations and opening hours.
2. Vienna Unwrapped – Although she doesn’t live there anymore, Barbara Cacao was a native of Vienna for 30 years and still visits regularly. The goal of her blog is to inspire and help independent travellers, and she’s got lots of posts that do both. One of my faves was where to eat on Christmas Eve because I had no idea where to start looking. The other recommended quality Viennese snack bars for those days when we’re not into spending a lot of time or money on eating.
Barbara is also the founder of a unique event called Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, which matches international visitors with locals for interesting chats. Too bad we’ll be on our way to Linz when the next one happens, but I’ll try to go to the host coffee house as a way of showing support for this innovative idea.
3. Austrian Adaptation – Carly Hulls is an ex-pat Australian whose plans to travel and blog around the world were cut short when she stopped in Vienna, fell in love, and got married 8 months later. She started the blog as a way of helping herself adapt to her new country so hers is a unique perspective on what to see and do in Vienna. She too has an article on Christmas Eve dinners and her recommendation of the Greichenbeisl, Vienna’s oldest restaurant where she’s spent Christmas Eve with her family, led me to make a reservation there for us.
4.Visiting Vienna – Described as an “independent tourist and visitor info guide written by a local resident,” I can only assume that Mark Brownlow is the writer because he claims ownership of all the words and photos in fine print at the bottom of the site’s first page. (Note to Mark if he’s reading this: part of the fun of reading a blog is getting to know it’s writer, so maybe add an “About Me” to your site.) Anyway, Mark’s strong point is giving insider tips, which he does well on his page about Christmas in Vienna. I’ll be following his recommendations for where to see the lights, where to hear seasonal music, and how to say “Mein Bauch wird gleich platzen wenn ich noch ein Weihnachtskeks esse” (if I eat another Christmas biscuit, my stomach will explode).
5. Viennawurstelstand – Without a doubt my favorite of the sites, this whimsical, down-to-earth and often irreverent site is “the English-speaking magazine – Making the most out of Vienna and life.” Named for the iconic stands found all over the city where the Viennese chow down on sausages and local gossip, the blog was originally founded by three Viennese creatives, and now boasts a team of twelve international contributors. Their “Team” page features hilarious photos of each of them in creative poses with wurstel and their “About” page is a passionately written Manifesto that in itself makes the site worth visiting. The Wurstelstanders shine in keeping their posts crisp and quick paced, and have weekly recommendations for what to see and do during the particular days you’re in Vienna. I’ll for sure visit some of their recommended ten coffeehouses that have inspired Vienna’s greatest artists and writers, and try to remember their bite-sized pieces of etiquette for eating at a wurstel stand.