Vienna By Day and Night with Emerald Waterways
After breakfast, I began my day like I have every other morning: with a trip up to the Horizon Lounge for a Café Latte. The automated coffee machine onboard Emerald Star is nothing short of space-age; it makes six different kinds of drinks in three different cup sizes, caffeinated or decaffeinated, and it prepares them as well as any barista. This is no coin-operated syrup dispenser; this thing is the real deal, and more than one person I’ve met has admitted to having a bit of a love affair with the machine’s rejuvenating beverages.
Today, Emerald Waterways included a Panoramic City Tour of Vienna, utilising four busses. Running from 0830 until 1230, it is part bus tour of Vienna’s historic Ringstrasse (ring road) that encircles the city, part walking tour, and part free time.
Because the Danube doesn’t flow through the core of Vienna, ships must dock approximately 20-30 minutes outside of town, and guests must be bussed to and from the city. Because most guests opted to take the tour this morning, there were no shuttle busses available to take independent guests into town, though the afternoon had no less than four departure times from the ship into Vienna.
Since I’ve been to Vienna previously, I was eager to do my own thing today – and our docking location made that remarkably easy to do by taking the metro, or U-Bahn. I talked to our Cruise Director, Daniela, to get the information on the exact location of the station and what line I should take, and she assured me it was super-easy – and it was indeed!
If you’re curious on how you can accomplish this, allow me to walk you through it:
From our docking location near St. Francis of Assisi Church, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Vorgartenstrasse U-Bahn station (which will be listed as Vorgartenstraße on maps due to the special character in place of the double ‘s’). All U-Bahn stations are marked with a blue square with a ‘U’ character, making them easy to find on maps and in person.
To get to Stephansplatz in the heart of Vienna, take the U1 line bound for Reumannplatz and get off after the fourth stop, not counting Vorgartenstrasse where you boarded. Announcements can be hard to hear, but most trains have digital displays announcing the next station. Alternately, you can get off one stop earlier at Schwedenplatz and be right on the Ringstrasse next to the Altes Rathaus, one of the oldest buildings in Vienna.
Total time from boarding the U-Bahn to getting off: perhaps 10 minutes, at most. Total cost: just €2.20 for a single trip. Ticket machines are marked in red, and their text can be changed to English using a button located on the lower left corner of the screen. Purchase the number of tickets you require and, if you plan to use them immediately, have the machine validate them. Otherwise, validate your ticket using the small red boxes just prior to entering the track area.
Vienna’s traffic is legendary, and the U-Bahn subway is far faster than the bus. If you want to get in and get going – and feel like a local doing it – I highly recommend the subway as your mode of transportation for increased flexibility.
From Stephansplatz – in the shadow of the imposing (and still under extensive restoration work) St. Stephan’s Cathedral, I made a beeline for Café Central, one of my favorite Viennese hangouts. Apparently it was a favorite hangout for many noteworthy characters from history, including Sigmund Freud, Leo Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and – eerily – Adolf Hitler, all of whom actually were patrons of the Café a century ago. The Café on Herrengasse 14 just a few blocks from the Hofburg Palacewas so badly damaged after the Second World War that it did not re-open until 1982.
Our Live Voyage Report onboard Emerald Waterways Emerald Star continues tomorrow as we explore the Austrian towns of Durnstein and Melk! Be sure to follow along on twitter using the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.