Vienna is Austria’s capital and most populated city, located in the country’s east on the Danube River. Its artistic and intellectual legacy was shaped by residents including Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. The city is also known for its Imperial palaces and recollection of artifacts from the time period, including Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ summer residence. Vienna’s cafe culture is truly one of the city’s most coveted traditions, and they have crafted the practice of drinking coffee (and cakes) into an art in these upscale “public living rooms”. Vienna’s tourism website has an extremely informative page that gives accessibility information for popular accommodations, attractions and services around Vienna. While not all information is there and may not be up to date, it is a great starting place for trip planning.
I traveled to Vienna via airplane to VIE airport. Once at the airport, I took the OBB S7 train to my destination where my hotel was. OBB trains allow for roll on unassisted but there is a small gap between the train and the platform. You can request assistance online and train information assistance will help you to board the train. The train has accessible bathrooms in the wheelchair car. The train station at Vienna airport has elevators and lifts to and from the platforms.
While in Vienna, I used the subway system to get around. Vienna’s subway system is pretty well-equipped for guests with disabilities and special needs. All subway stations and trains are almost entirely wheelchair-accessible. Almost all stations have “guiding strips” for the visually impaired, showing the way to stairs, escalators and elevators. All of the stations can be accessed by wheelchair (elevator or ramp). However, since elevators need to be serviced or are out of order sometimes (in my case and I had to use another station since it was the only accessible entrance), you can check with the subway operator.
You can purchase tickets for Vienna’s public transport system at the stations or online. I purchased a 72 hour pass for my trip, which made things a lot easier. Vienna works on an honesty or honor system with no ticket barriers at stations and no formal, permanent ticket checks on the subway, local trains, trams and buses. You just hop on and off. This doesn’t mean public transport is free, though. You do need to buy a ticket and individual tickets and passes need to be validated at the station validation kiosk.
I stayed at the Motel One Wien Prater hotel, which had a central location and about one block away from the Messe-Prater subway stop (also a walkable/rollable distance from the Praterstern train/subway stop). Although the website states that there are accessible rooms, they aren’t available to book on the website. You can call or email the hotel and they are more than willing to help you book an accessible room. The room itself is very large, which offered so ample room to turn around in my power wheelchair and multiple outlets to plug it in. The bathroom was large with a roll in shower and moveable glass doors that can allow for adjustment to get into the shower safely. The only issue with the bathroom is that the sink is a bit high for wheelchair bound folks, but great height for those with other mobility issues or ambulatory wheelchair users. The accessible room that I stayed in was on the 5th floor, with an awesome view of the Prater amusement park. I would highly recommend this hotel.
As I had mentioned before, Vienna’s cafe culture is truly one of the city’s most coveted traditions, and they have crafted the practice of drinking coffee (and cakes) into an art in these upscale “public living rooms”. Each cafe has its own unique style, with traditional Viennese bits, delicious cakes, and coffee all ways. One of the things that I loved about Europe in general, but more specifically Vienna cafes, is that they list all of the common allergy information as well as vegan/vegetarian information on the menus for each item. Most of the popular and touristy cafes have lines and queues that tend to be 10-30 minutes long at minimum, so be prepared to wait or make a reservation in advance.
- Cafe Landtmann: I sat in the glass covered outside area instead of the main area of the cafe. However, this ended up being one of my favorites in terms of desserts. The main entrance has no steps, and the door is 120cm (but is a double swinging door which can be difficult to navigate), some tables are close together which may be difficult for wheelchair users, wheelchair-accessible restrooms which you have to ask to visit otherwise restrooms are down steep stairs.
- Der Mann: This deserves a mention! Although I didn’t visit a cafe location, I stopped by a Der Mann kiosk/shop in the subway station and had a traditional Viennese apple strudel and a delicious vegan sandwich.
- Cafe Central: Definitely the fanciest and most popular of the cafes that I visited while in Vienna. There are steps at the entrance of this cafe. The website states that there is accessible and barrier free access by ringing the bell at the entrance to Arkadenhof and a bathroom on the second floor which is only accessible via asking staff. I did not use the restroom, and ended up entering through the shop on the side of the cafe where they placed a moveable ramp.
- Cafe Demel: Main entrance has no steps and a double swinging door, and wheelchair-accessible restroom which I did not visit.
- Cafe Mozart: This cafe has the same menu (I believe the same company) as Landtmann BUT the cafe is smaller and more quaint. This ended up being my favorite. There are no steps to enter this cafe, but a double swinging door. The tables are VERY close together which can be difficult to navigate. Staff is very accommodating. There is a second floor. I did not check out the bathroom in this cafe, so I am unsure of the accessibility.
Prater is a popular public park and green space in the city, and is home to one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Its ferris wheel is a well known nod to nostalgic childhood fun. Although Prater is open all year round, individual attractions are subject to the season and weather. Not all attractions are open in the winter season, however Prater does host a small Christmas market and is worth the visit in the winter months. Parking space for visitors with disabilities are at the lot near the giant ferris wheel. I was told there are wheelchair accessible restrooms as well, but I didn’t check them out as it was snowing and freezing cold, and my hotel was just steps away.
From mid-November until Christmas, Christmas markets light up Europe and Vienna is no different. The largest and most popular is the Viennese Dream Christmas Market in front of the City Hall. The backdrop in and of itself is worth the visit, but then add in the unique Viennese goods and crafts, delicious foods and of course Gluhwein, you can’t go wrong.
The Imperial Treasury at Hofburg Palace contains a valuable and historic collection of secular and ecclesiastical treasures covering over a thousand years of European history. There are no photos allowed in this museum, but the robes, jewels and history make it worth a visit! There are no steps to enter, but again another double swinging door, followed by ramp to box office and museum shop. The museum shop area is small and hard to navigate if you have a larger wheelchair or electric scooter. In order to get to the exhibition rooms, there are about 20 steps, but you can ask the ticket attendant to access the elevator if needed. Be aware, the elevator is SMALL (door width: 80 cm, cabin depth: 140 cm, cabin width: 110 cm according to the museum). Apparently there is an accessible toilet, but I did not use it.
I had a ticket to the Imperial Carriage Museum, but realized after purchase that this museum is not accessible and was not able to get a refund (since I booked online).
Since I was unable to access the Imperial Carriage Museum, I booked (last minute) a ticket to the Sisi Museum without knowing about the accessibility. I am not sure what I expected here, but it was definitely unique as you are visiting three museums in one. You first access the Imperial Silver Collection that comprises of and showcases hundreds of objects and items that were required for the court household, dining and its organization. Basically, tons of silverware, glassware, and table settings. Then there is the Sisi Museum, which according to the tourism website takes an “authentic look at the life of the famous Austro-Hungarian monarch away from the usual clichés, in the original living environment of Empress Elisabeth, known as “Sisi”. The museum focuses on Elisabeth’s private life, her rebellion against the court ceremonial, her flight into beauty, sporting excellence, travel and rapturous poetry”. Lastly, you get taken through the Imperial Apartments, which was the residence of the Habsburgs for over 600 years and thus the center of the Holy Roman Empire. There are about 72 steps to the Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments, but there is an elevator. There is also access to all of the exhibition rooms. As with most of the places in these older buildings, the elevators are small. It is also difficult to turn around many parts of the museum, especially the Silver Collection museum.
The last thing that I did was a photoshoot to help commemorate my time in Vienna and showcase the gorgeous architecture in the city. I booked through AirBnB experiences. The host, Andreas has never had a client in a wheelchair but was very patient, willing to assist, and I would HIGHLY recommend him if this is something you’d like to take part of while you are in Vienna!