I can say without a doubt that Vienna is one of the loveliest – and coincidentally one of the most wheelchair friendly – cities I’ve ever visited. It’s extremely easy to get around, the people are extremely friendly and helpful, and almost every major site is completely open to wheelchair users. Here are some of my top recommendations for places to add to your Vienna “must see” list.
1. The Stephansplatz. This is the beating heart of Vienna – a huge pedestrian-only area filled with stores, restaurants, musicians, performers, and plenty of people watching! You will roll past centuries-old cathedrals, monuments, souvenir stands, and designer couture shops within a span of ten minutes while music wafts on the evening breeze. The Stephansplatz gets very busy around evening rush hour and well into the night, so be prepared to navigate some crowds of tourists and locals alike, especially on weekends. About half of the stores and restaurants have a large step to enter, but there are several flat-entry choices to pick from.
2. The Staatsopera (Vienna State Opera). No visit to Vienna would be complete without seeing the famous opera house. Rebuilt in 1948 after much of it was destroyed during WWII, the restoration fully brings to life its former Baroque glory. Tours are 7.50 euros and tickets must be purchased on the main lower level roughly half an hour prior to the start of the tour at 3pm on select days. After getting your ticket, they should arrange to have someone meet you at the wheelchair entrance, which is right next to the Café Oper at the end of the arcades. There will be a plaque on the wall with a wheelchair symbol next to the door. From here, someone will escort you to a lift and back to the tour start area. For tour dates, click HERE, and for access information for performances, click HERE.
3. The Spanish Riding School. There are few experiences as unique as watching a live performance of the world-renowned Lipizzaner stallions at their home base in Vienna. This is the only place in the world that still trains horses in the same manner as their predecessors during the Renaissance, and their precision will blow you away, all while listening to music by Johann Strauss. For performance dates/times and ticket prices, click HERE. You can purchase wheelchair seats over the phone or via email. To enter the school, there is a wheelchair access button under the brochures next to the steps of the main entrance. An employee will come greet you and take you to a separate entrance, where they will place a (rather steep) manual ramp for you. My seat was on the lower level (even with the arena floor) in the back row, only about five or six rows back from the arena wall. You will have to look over or between heads, but you’ll have a wonderful view of the horses entering the arena across from you, and close-up views as well.
4. The Albertina. This incredible art museum houses one of the largest and most important print rooms in the world with approximately 65,000 drawings and approximately 1 million old master prints, as well as more modern graphic works, photographs and architectural drawings. Apart from the graphics collection the museum has recently acquired on permanent loan two significant collections of Impressionist and early 20th-century art, some of which will be on permanent display. If the names Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, Kandinsky, Ernst, Klee, Rembrandt, and Chagall mean anything to you, then add this to your list. The staff will kindly guide you to the elevators at all levels. HINT: Make sure you linger in the final dead-end room of the state apartments and closely examine the seemingly plain/unremarkable sketches for a grand surprise!
5. The Belvedere Palace and Museum. One of Europe’s most stunning Baroque landmarks, this museum ensemble – comprising the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palace and an extensive garden – is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today the Belvedere houses the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, complemented by the work of international artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Max Beckmann. Highlights from the holdings Vienna 1880–1914 are the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings. You can reach the Belvedere by tram on the D-line, but if you have good battery life on your power chair or scooter, it’s roughly a 3-mile round trip from city center. For more accessibility information, click HERE.
6. Schönbrunn Palace. Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is one of Europe’s most impressive Baroque palace complexes. The land had been in the possession of the Habsburgs since 1569, when the wife of Emperor Ferdinand II. had a summer residence built there in 1642, which she called “Schönbrunn”. The palace and garden complex built here from 1696, after the Turkish occupation, was redesigned from the ground up by Maria Theresia after 1743. For most of the year, the Habsburgs resided in the countless chambers that a large imperial family needed in addition to the formal state rooms. The rooms, shown to the public on guided tours, are mostly decorated in Rococo style. The gardens behind the palace are enormous, but quite manageable since the gravel is hard-packed. The easiest way to reach the Palace is via the U4 line on the U-bahn (subway). For more accessibility information, click HERE.
7. Kunsthistoriches Museum. The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) was built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the imperial family. With its vast array of eminent works and the largest Bruegel collection in the world, it is considered one of the most eminent museums in the world. Numerous major art works of European art history, among them Raphael’s “Madonna in the Meadow,” Vermeer’s “The Allegory of Painting,” the Infanta paintings by Velazquez, masterworks by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Titian and Tintoretto are housed in the paintings gallery. The Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection contains fascinating treasures from mysterious cultures long past. For more accessibility information, click HERE.
8. Café Sacher. It was 1832 when Prince von Metternich instructed the 16-year-old apprentice Franz Sacher to create a cake for his discerning guests. The sweet masterpiece was to be made with chocolate, apricot jam, and whipped cream. Today, the Original Sacher-Torte stands as one of Vienna’s best-known symbols. You can read more about its history HERE. The cafe where this delicacy can be found is across from the Vienna opera house, and while you may have to wait in line to get a table, it’s worth it. There is flat entry to get inside, and while space is tight, they will kindly make space for you.