Seeing Vienna's classic city sites at night - by bike - was an unforgettable experience.
Seeing Vienna's classic sights by bike was a wonderful introduction to the city. While you might not know it as a cycling city (I know I didn't - I thought that crown was claimed by Amsterdam alone), locals have embraced this healthy, economical, and environmentally friendly mode of transport for decades. Vienna is ready to see its visitors on bikes and I'm glad I was one of them!
At the beginning, I was worried that 15 km would be too much but it went so smoothly, with nary a hill to suffer through. The bikes were easy to adjust and ride, though not all had rear baskets -an important consideration if you're coming from another location and you have a large bag with you. (I travel with a PacSafe Metrosafe LS200 shoulder bag and it was perfect to wear while biking - small enough that it didn't put me off balance, yet big enough to carry water, sunscreen, and camera.)
Pedal Power has a more scholarly vibe than other bike tours we've been on - which isn't to say that it wasn't relaxed and fun, just a contrast to other experiences, some which were intentionally on the silly side. But I felt relieved that we were participating in the night tour and had visited the Palace earlier in the day. It was a good primer for Austrian history 101!
As our bikes swirled around the Parliament Buildings, government offices, and university buildings, coasted down exclusive shopping streets lined with expensive shops, and whirled bySt Stephen's Cathedral, famous hotels, and cafes, we kept saying how wonderfully perfect and beautiful the city was. Central Vienna really IS as clean, and charming, and pretty as everyone claims!
Being on the evening tour was perfect for us. Not only did we have free time in the day to brush up on Austrian history, the timing was perfect way to enjoy the (slightly) cooler temperatures of a summer's evening and the sunset was amazing. The cooler temperatures also encouraged us to take our time, to ask our guide plenty of questions (did I mention she was multilingual? Fantastic!) and to interact with Vienna's residents. I loved it when one group of older men ask our guide if we were the local "bike gang" (as in a motorcycle gang?) Yep, that was us - totally tough and ready to claim Vienna as our own.
My only regret is that the tour didn't stop for a snack or drink (or cake!) Happily there were public fountains on the route to refill our water bottles but there wasn't a formal stop (or bathroom break). A 20 minute break for coffee or lemonade at the midway point would have been welcomed. But, on the plus side, we covered more of the city than I'd ever experienced in any other bike tour.
Vienna was a whirlwind trip for us - just one night in a month long trip. And I've struggled with that decision. Was it worthwhile to include it in an already busy itinerary? Is it the kind of city where you should spend a week or more, soaking in the museums, the music, the culture?
In the end, I've concluded that it's both. One day, one busy, bustling, busy day, was the perfect amount of time for a first visit, to learn more about the city, and get a taste for things. And our bike tour did a perfect job of making the introduction for us! But it's also the kind of city where you could settle in for a longer visit, planning a special excursion for every day of the week. Regardless of which schedule you chose, I think you'll enjoy it.
- Do your homework in advance! A short history lesson will go a long way in Vienna.
- Vienna's famous coffee house scene doesn't always translate into fantastic coffee. If freshly ground beans are important to you, here's a great list of where to find them.
- In Vienna, we stayed in a lovely private room at the Wombat's Hostel. You can read reviews and search for bargains on Trip Advisor and Hotels Combined.
Heading to Europe soon? These blog posts will help you plan your trip.
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We were provided with complimentary media tickets to participate in the tour. All research, writing, and opinions are my own.