Seeing Vienna's classic city sites at night - by bike - was an unforgettable experience.
When you imagine a memorable evening in Vienna, you probably think of a night at the opera and maybe some fine dining too. And you should, for Vienna is a classy town. From the elegant horse drawn carriages meandering down the cobblestones to open air concerts in public parks, this is a city that shines with bright lights and hums with fine music. But for all of Vienna's refinement and sophistication, there's still plenty of laid back, affordable, accessible fun to be had.
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!
Pedal Power is Vienna's top rated tour company and we were fortunate to join them for an evening bike tour of classic Vienna sites. We completed the three hour, 15 km tour with considerable ease. Vienna is the perfect place to go biking! The tour route is almost entirely flat and the city is covered in bike lanes.
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.)
Our tour began at a leisurely pace, with our first stop at the famedState Opera House before carrying on to the nearby Imperial (Hofburg) Palace complex, pausing to look at some exposed Roman ruins and learn about the nearby riding school. I learned so much about Austrian and Viennese history on this tour and I felt like I was gaining some serious history chops by the end of the night.
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!
So what is the real Vienna like? What do you discover when you have a chance to explore the side streets and paths? We covered a considerable part of the historic city center and nearly all of theRingstrasse and we concluded that Vienna is just as romantic as advertised!
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!
With everyone doing so well on their bikes, our guide asked if we wanted to go just a little bit further, crossing through a fairground and over the Danube to catch a glimpse of the city's more modern side as the sun was going down. Apparently, just down the river, there are fantastic vineyards you can cycle to (putting that one on the list for next time!)
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.
One of the things I enjoy best about bike tours is that you inevitably pass a few of the guide's personal favourite spots of the city and this trip was no exception. Our guide didn't hesitate to share some personal recommendations with us when it came to the topic of cake (a subject we were all too eager to discuss) and gave us an invaluable piece of advice: Vienna's famous Sacher Torte is naturally more dry than other cakes so never, ever ask for it without the customary dollop of whipped cream on the side.
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.
With a final quick stop at the Strauss Monument, we cycled back with daylight rapidly fading into darkness. Needless to say we worked up quite an appetite by the end of our tour and we stopped at the first place that was open around the corner from Pedal Power's headquarters. Our spontaneous choice worked out great! I Tricolori does standard Italian fare, with plenty of pasta and pizza. Their bruschetta got particularly high marks from us and we thought their prices were very reasonable. It was a tasty end to a great evening
Heading to Europe soon? These blog posts will help you plan your trip.
The Lute, The Lovers, and The Lasagna: Visiting Rome For The First Time.
The Recipe For A Great Time In Prague? Cooking Classes.
Local Eats From Berlin's Foodie Streets.
We were provided with complimentary media tickets to participate in the tour. All research, writing, and opinions are my own.