There’s a good chance this article contains affiliate links. If you click the link and make a purchase, Austrian Adaptation earns a teeny commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading!
There are a lot of different ways to discover a city, and while I love getting lost in the backstreets with a camera in hand, following my nose to the nearest cutesy coffee shop, sometimes you want a little more depth to your explorations. Finding the best tours to discover Vienna can be tricky though!
While many people might baulk at the idea of taking a walking tour – thinking you’d be following an umbrella wielding guide with a herd of fellow zombie tourists – these days there are so many alternate options for tours that will enrich your time visiting Vienna.
You might even find the beaches of Vienna on a tour!
Whether you’re a foodie, a culture fiend or want to get to know the local lifestyle, there are different tours with smaller groups that can give you a new perspective on the city.
So believe me when I say – I know the difference between a generic, average tour, that just regurgitates guide book info, and a truly engaging, interactive tour that gives you value for your $$$.
In Vienna, there are a lot of basic tour options – its an established tourist city, so you can easily get suckered in by the costumed Mozarts and fluro jacket-wearing hop-on-hop-off bus ticket sellers.
But if you really want to get under the skin of the city, these are some of the more interesting tours to discover Vienna.
#1 – Shades Tour Vienna
This walking tour is designed to give you not just a new perspective on the city, but on the perception of homelessness, refugees and poverty in society. The concept of ‘Shades’ is to show you the city of Vienna, while uncovering some history and demystifying some myths around homelessness.
The company itself is a social enterprise business, where the tour guides themselves are working their way out from being homeless, and working as guides is a part of their rebuilding their lives and reintegrating back into society.
The tours will take you to different locations in Vienna, and explain some of the history and culture of the city, all through the lens of homelessness. But this isn’t poverty-porn tourism, this is designed to shine a light on the multitude of experiences and different ’shades’ of homelessness that people experience specifically in Vienna.
I wrote a full review of my experience on Shades tours here, and since then, the company has only gone from strength to strength, now becoming one of the most popular city tours according to Trip Advisor.
They’ve also expanded to cover a range of critical and socially important themed tours, each focussed on a particular topic and experience that aren’t normally addressed on your average walking tour.
You can select from a tour about poverty & homelessness guided by an affected person, a tour about refuge and integration guided by an affected person, and a tour about drugs & addiction guided by an affected person.
View this post on Instagram
Achtung: eine SHADES TOURS Tour könnte dazu führen, dass du die Stadt, dein Leben und die Menschen um dich, nachher mit anderen Augen siehst. ♥ #education #homelessness #refugee #addiction #staycurious #stayopenminded #travel #learn #discover #obdachlosigkeit #igersvienna #socialbusiness #shadestours #vienna #austria #citytour #tour
I really believe in what the founder, Peri is building with her business, and she cares deeply for the cause of elevating homelessness into a topic that can be discussed, addressed and understood better not only by visiting tourist, but locals too.
I love and reccommend this tour to anyone visiting Vienna – you’ll get to see the major sights of Vienna, while learning about homelessness and contributing to the local communities. You can check their prices here, if you join a group its normally €18 per person which is an unbelievable deal for the value and education you are getting. Or you can go right ahead and book your spot by clicking here.
We even organised our company to take a tour for our Christmas Party one year – a great way to give back. They also offer corporate volunteer experiences so you can do things like serve hot meals in homeless shelters and learn about the infrastructure supporting homelessness in the city. (Info available in German only.)
#2 Vienna Food Tour
A food tour is the best of both worlds – you get to learn about the city, see some sights AND get snacks and meals along the way. Win-win right?
Vienna Food Tours offer a perfectly planned, completely immersive experience of Viennese culture, delivered right to your stomach. I took their city tour recently and absolutely loved the chance to taste a wide variety of traditional dishes alongside some modern twist interpretations of classic cuisine.
Our tour lasted about 3.5 hours and was excellent value for money, as we ate and drank expansively at 5 different locations.
The great thing about this was, not only were we learning about the city through its food, but our guide was able to give us plenty of local tips, stories and advice for the duration of your time in Vienna. So you may book a food tour, but you get so much additional info thrown in from a local who knows the city inside out.
During the tour, not only will you get Austrian dishes, but they are expertly paired with local wines, craft beers or soft drinks depending on your preference. There is naturally, cake and coffee included too, so the amount of food, drink and info you get for the price is unbelievably worthwhile.
I enjoyed the Vienna Food Tour, even as a local resident, because Melinda is so clearly enthusiastic about Viennese cuisine, and so generous and friendly with her guests, that it is the perfect introduction to Vienna.
You get a full rundown and overview of the best places to eat, and if you do the tour early in your visit, you will have your culinary bearings for the rest of your time in the city.
What’s even better, the group sizes are kept small and intimate, so it doesn’t feel like a cattle call, more like a group of friends going out for (multiple) dinners!
Vienna Food Tours have multiple itinerary options, and I’ve heard their winery tour is particularly popular for Fall, while the Christmas Markets tours are already booking out! Schnell schnell schnell! You can check their prices here, or book your spot immediately by clicking here.
#3 – Polaroid Photo Walk
Now, this tour will appeal to all of us who are glued to our phones while travelling and are looking to be a little bit more ‘in the moment’.
Instant Tours Polaroid photo tours are a really fun, creative way to see the city. You get given a vintage polaroid camera and film with just eight shots on it. Your guide will then take you to interesting, picturesque places around the city and let you play with the camera as you see the city.
While not a traditional ‘tour’ filled with geographic or historic info, these photo walks are more like exploring unique city corners with a bunch of photography friends who happen to know a bit about Vienna.
When I took the tour, I really appreciated how having only eight photos made me much more careful about what photos I took, where and which moments I wanted to capture.
Having that limitation was not only a creative challenge, but one that yanked me back to awareness of every moment, detail and what I was actually experiencing.
Along with the photo walk experience and chance to see some more local corners of Vienna, you also obviously get to keep the tangible souvenirs of your photos at the end of the tour.
An actual printed, analogue photo that you can stick up on the fridge when you get back to remember your time in Vienna.
I’m a big fan of these walking tours as I’m fascinated with analogue photography, and how our disposable culture of digital photos has changed our relationship with memory, so these tours are a fun option for locals and visitors to Vienna.
#4 – Vienna & Wachau Wine Tours
Vienna is a city inextricably rooted with its wine culture.
Surrounded by vineyards on the rolling hills, and with the UNESCO World Heritage Wachau wine region just a short hop away from the city by train, its absolutely delightful to learn more about the local wine culture and of course, taste it for yourself.
View this post on Instagram
Hunting down my next glass of wine 🍷 It’s sturm and heuriger time in Austria!! The first harvest of young wine is in and ready for the tasting- ‘sturm’ is very young, sweet wine and is deceptively delicious. More like juice than wine BUT BEWARE ‘sturm’ literally translates to ‘storm’ and if you drink more than 2 glasses that is exactly what your bowels will swiftly deliver 😆🙈So taste a glass but then switch out to regular wine or juice 😉 I’ve managed to spend the last two sunny weekends skipping through Vienna’s vineyards and don’t intend on stopping that streak – swipe to see our girl band album cover from last weekend in the vineyards of the 23rd district 😆😊 Even if you don’t drink it’s worth taking a stroll to perch at these picturesque wine taverns and soak up a quintessential Austrian experience. Put this one on your list!
If you have more than a day in the city, I would definitely reccommend organising a wine tour out to the stunning surrounding wine areas to experience it for yourself.
Even if you’re not a drinker, the way the vineyards work, and their place within the cities history, culture and economy is key to understanding the Viennese way of life.
And if you do like a tipple, then a wine tour is definitely the best way to try the different varieties, locations and origins of Austrian wine, with an experienced guide who will get you home safe!
There are two wine tours I’d reccommend – one is if you are feeling ambitious and want to combine cycling with wine tasting, which to me sounds like a recipe for disaster, but some people enjoy burning calories between their drinks!
The grape grazing tour will take you out to the Wachau region, lend you a bike, and guide you to the popular wine spots with views like Dürnstein fortress. One for the energetic travellers who want to cover a lot of ground in a group of fellow wine enthusiasts.
Alternatively, this Vienna to Wachau wine tour will get you between the most picturesque wine locations, in the comfort of a small vehicle and provide plenty of cultural info along the way.
Especially if you are visiting in shoulder season where the weather can be a bit dicey, this is a good option to cover a lot of ground in comfort. The tour will take you to the doorstep of the Wachau region and spend the whole day exploring the local wineries, with some stops including historic tours and introductions from the local vintners.
If you want to uncover more about the history and origin of Vienna’s wine culture, this is the best introduction, that will set you up for the rest of your time in Vienna.
# 5 – Secret Vienna Tours
Many, many locals swear by these Secret Vienna Tours as they are normally a little bit different from your basic city walking tour. Uncovering the hidden history and quirky stories of some of Vienna’s most famous sights, or sharing stories lesser known by the general public.
The most popular walking tour is one for fans of ‘dark tourism’ – ‘The Dark Side of Vienna’ walking tour. Here the guide Tatiana will take you to famous sights in the city centre, but share more of the unknown, or gruesome history behind the monuments and Hapsburg Empire.
If you want to combine the double whammy of 10 famous sights plus secret stories – this is the tour for you. You’ll still see the popular places like St Stephens and Hofburg Palace, but you will learn things beyond the guidebook info, directly from a local expert.
Secret Vienna Tours are a great option for locals too – you learn more than you ever expected about Vienna and the history right beneath your feet!
This is a tour that has been on my wish list for a long, long time!
Every time we see them zipping around the city, Stefan and I swear we are going to book it next time our family is visiting.
Inevitably, when family do visit, the weather is either freezing or pissing rain so we can’t get ourselves on one of these excellent hotrod cars to explore, but suffice to say, the dream is very much still alive that we will try it out one day.
Essentially, they offer a handful of different itineraries, and you can self drive around the roomy boulevard of Vienna’s Ringstrasse with a tour guide filling you in on city info en route. They head out to the wine district in the 19th, and hit all the main sights of Vienna – in summer this includes the Alte Donau.
You’ll need a valid licence in order to drive, and you can book in groups of up to 10 people. While we are still yet to try this exact tour, it definitely fits into the category of unique ways to see the city, so I had to share it with you guys.
#7 Vienna Food, Coffee and Market Tour
This is a tour with one of my favourite travel brands – Urban Adventures.
They are part of the Intrepid Travel brand and are renown for their high quality experiences and excellent ethical standards as a B-Corp company, so I trust them to run tours that will show you the local side of Vienna, without negatively impacting local environments, economies or culture.
The Vienna Food, Coffee and Market tour will appeal to anyone who wants to see how a living in Vienna actually *works*.
Which markets do old Oma’s go to to get their fresh produce, how to navigate around on public transport, and what to order in a real coffee house (not one overloaded with tourists).
They hit the highlights like Graben and Naschmarket, but also take you to some neighbourhoods off the tourist trail to taste a wide array of local food & drink from the multicultural influences of the city – so more than just schnitzel and beer.
View this post on Instagram
Nothing better than a „Brettljausn“ . . Eat like a local and enjoy delicious Austrian Snacks 🤤🥓🧀 . . #localsknow #viennaurbanadventures #urbanadventures #bestdayever #liveintrepid #trip #travel #traveler #traveling #travelgram #mytravelgram #travelphoto #world #instatravel #doyoutravel #wanderlust #instapic #instagram #instamood #instagood #instalike #instadaily #austria #vienna #wien
They also have a ‘Good Evening Vienna’ tour, which will hop you around areas where locals actually hangout at night, like the über hipster 7th district Neubau, or buzzing Naschmarket bars by night, all ending up at a rooftop bar.
For something a little deeper, they’ve just launched a new ‘New York Times Journeys’ tour, a bit of an exclusive inspired by the New York Times’ 36 Hours Series. On this one you get to learn how to make a Viennese coffee from a Barista, trace some of the Jewish heritage of the city with a synagogue visit and dive into the multicultural aspects of living in Vienna today.
The tour price for each option includes street food, tasters and drinks throughout the tour and an English-speaking guide. They cap their group size at a maximum of 12 people so you really get a great, intimate experience and don’t have to worry about that ‘zombies following a flag’ stigma of tours – this is really a local experience.
Get yourself to Donaukanal where the locals go
No matter which tour you choose, each will give you a unique perspective on the city.
So while I can’t stop the costumed Mozart ticket sellers from trying to flog you Opera tickets daily, I can gently suggest you try something a little bit different from the standard Palace-Museum-Stefansdom city walks, by taking one of the above mentioned tours.
As a city resident since 2012, I’ve found there is so much more to constantly learn and discover about Vienna, and these tours are a great way to access those stories, often from locals themselves.
Of course, if you’re looking for something super specific, or very niche, just ask me any questions in the comments below and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction to a tour or experience to suit you needs – and who knows, maybe one day we’ll have Austrian Adaptation tours, complete with brunch recommendations and good coffee for all!
Want to keep up with our adventures in Slow travel & living in Vienna? Join 5,000+ travel fans and subscribe to Austrian Adaptation for all the latest articles, good reads and recommendations below.