Free walking tours are a backpacker’s best friend.
That’s why we were disappointed at first to find out that unlike in most European countries, free tours are not allowed in Austria.
In order to provide a tour at all, guides must undergo a certification process. Austria takes their touring seriously! This means two things: that finding the right tours in Vienna is not an easy task, and when the right tour guide is found, the tour will be thorough, professional, and enjoyable.
We were happy to eventually come into contact with Herbert from Vienna Tour. He provides daily tours in German and English and covers everything from a basic introduction of the city to custom-made tours depending on your interests.
Herbert invited us to join his “Introducing Vienna” tour Sunday morning. We met at the Roman ruins in Michaelerplatz, where he began with the ancient excavated history of Vienna. Two stories beneath the streets, a Roman legion building lay beneath us, uncovered and remarkably intact, complete with heated floors – very civilized, Rome.
From this origin, we walked through a history of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg dynasty, all the way through both World Wars and the subsequent division of the city into a neutral territory between the Allies and the Soviets.
Herbert formerly lived in the United States, and being very familiar with our home city Miami, we found him affable and friendly, yet also thoroughly Austrian in his sensibilities. At one point, he loudly corrected, in German, an unlicensed, foreign tour guide for using a loudspeaker, an action which we both found respectable. Austria takes its tours seriously because it takes history seriously, and we found ourselves nodding in agreement.
He proved himself an excellent guide, and fairly made fun of us by showing us old maps of Europe as if we had never known what the political borders of Europe really looked like 300 years ago.
Herbert carried a tablet along for the tour, showing us photo galleries at relevant times of former emperors and nobility, along with detailed images displaying what the city looked like in centuries past. We also couldn’t help but admire the smart jacket he wore, which had a zipper pocket large enough to carry a tablet invisibly within the garment – this was the traveler side of us, looking for more efficient ways to carry our essentials.
Overall, we must say thanks for an amazing tour, Herbert!
You can book a tour during your stay in Vienna for as low as €10 with Vienna Tour. It is also included gratis when you purchase the Vienna Pass.