Tag Archives: tours

Daily Walking Tours in Berlin

The Famous Insider Walk

Daily Walking Tours in Berlin

Tour_Famous

Brandenburg Gate

“Walk by Insider Tour” is a great way to get a feel for the city of Berlin. No reservations required — just show up, rain or shine, at one of the two meeting points (it is the same tour, no matter which point you start from). The fee is 12 Euro (we paid 9 Euro after a discount from the Berlin Welcome Card for Berlin public transportation).

The tour is four hours, with a short 20-minute coffee break. You see many of the sites, including the Brandenburg Gate, the longest remaining stretch of the Wall in Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the site of Hitler’s bunker, and more.

Our guide was Barnaby, and he was excellent. He had moved to Berlin from London 10 years ago. He had intended to stay for only 6 months, yet he is still there. He has studied a great deal of the history of the city and feels it is his calling to share the story of the city with all who want to learn.

The Famous Insider
e-mail: management@insidertour.com

 

DDSG Birthday Party Cruises

I have previously written about the cruises offered by DDSG (see that post here), but at the time I did not know they also offered children’s birthday parties. The parties cost between Euro 245 and 355 (depending which route is chosen for the cruise). This fee includes:

  • Birthday cruise for 11 passengers (the birthday child and parent, plus nine guests)
  • Child care/games
  • Birthday cake and present for the birthday child
  • French fries and sodas for the kids
  • Pre-printed invitations

Additional children and adults can attend for a fee of between Euro 17,50 and 23, 50 (again, depending on the route).

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

 

St. Stephan’s Cathedral

St. Stephan’s Cathedral, aka Stephansdom, is the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Vienna and an important historical landmark. The cathedral is open for visitation throughout the day, but guided tours are only offered between services. The visitor can choose an all-inclusive tour (warning: the only English-language cathedral tour is Monday-Saturday at 10:3o), or can pick and choose which parts of the cathedral they want to see a la carte.

We visited the cathedral today and chose to do the tour of the catacombs (Euro 5 per adult) and climb to the top of the south tower (Euro 5 per adult). The catacomb tour was in both English and German, and handouts in additional languages were available at the beginning of the tour. The tour lasted about 30 minutes and shed some light on the more macabre parts of Vienna’s history: for example, visitors view a room where the walls are made of skeletal remains that were cleaned and stacked by inmates as part of their prison sentence.

Photography was not allowed during this tour, as the catacombs continue to be used primarily as a cemetery. The tour guide was very enthusiastic about the topic and was willing to answer any questions, so if you are shameless about asking questions (as I am) you can learn a lot beyond the canned spiel. The tour was well worth the price.

Next for us was the 343-stair climb to the top of the cathedral’s south tower. The staircase was very narrow (and two-way), made of stone, and spiraled the entire way to the top. I personally would not have attempted to do this climb with either my young children or parents, and it is definitely not handicap-accessible. (There is an elevator to the top of the bell tower, though, so stroller- or wheelchair-bound people can still get to the top of the cathedral.)

View from the top

View from the top

When you get to the top of the tower, you are rewarded with amazing panorama views of the city. There are signs over the windows orienting you to the compass points, and each window has a telescope to enhance viewing (Euro 0,50). There are also German-language signs that give additional history of the tower itself, as well as a somewhat tacky souvenir stand. Again, I thought this experience was well worth the price.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  • Visit the cathedral’s website for complete details of the guided tours.
  • Read the Wikipedia article on the cathedral for additional background on the building and its history.

 

Walks in Vienna

Do you want to learn more about Vienna’s history than what is offered in a typical, tourist-y group tour? Then you should definitely look into Wiener Spraziergänge, guided walking tours of Vienna centered on various historical themes. A quick overview of the logistics of the tours:

— Tours take place in any weather
— Duration is normally 1 1/2 – 2 hours
— The minimum number of participants is three
— No advance booking required, unless you’re part of a group
— The cost is 15 Euro (13 Euro with the VIENNA card)
— You are given a City Explorer card on your first tour and after five tours through the group, you get a free tour

The group’s website lists all of the tour themes, meeting places, and extra fees (for example, the Sigmund Freud tour includes a visit to the Sigmund Freud museum and you must pay the entry fee). The tours are conducted in German, though some but not all are conducted in both German and English. These are the bilingual tours:

Vienna at First Glance
The Old City of Vienna
Jewish Vienna Past & Present
Jewish Vienna in Leopoldstadt
1000 Years of Jewish Tradition in Vienna
Unknown Underground Vienna
Vienna in the Footsteps of “The Third Man”
The Turkish Siege of Vienna 1683
The Hare With Amber Eyes: The Story of the Ephrussi Family
Turn of the Century Vienna around Sigmund Freud
Vienna’s Nashmarkt

The group’s website also lists contact information for each of the tour guides. It’s worth it to contact the tour guide and/or visit their individual website because they might offer additional tours to those which they do through the group. For example, I took the Turkish Siege tour and the tour guide handed me a sheet listing 12 additional tours that he conducts. You can also arrange private tours and bus tours directly with the tour guides.

So, what of the tours themselves? I was very impressed with the tour. I was the only English-speaker in the group and while the tour guide knew that I understood some German, he repeated all the crucial points in English to ensure they were clear to me.  He had all manner of historical maps, diagrams of bastions and fortifications, and pictures to illustrate the history of the Turkish siege that he was discussing. He patiently answered all questions and encouraged group participation and discussion.

What struck me the most about the tour is that we walked around parts of the 1st district that I’ve seen many times, but the guide pointed out placards in relation to the city’s fortifications that I’d never noticed. He explained the history behind several of the statues that I’ve seen in passing, and he also shed new light on familiar subjects such as the Hofburg.  It is amazing that 330 years after the fact, there are still so many reminders around the city of the Turkish siege.

Monument to the civilians who defended the city during the siege

Monument (located behind the Burg Theater) to the civilians who defended the city during the siege

This tour was very informative and enjoyable, and I intend to full up my City Explorer card. I highly recommend this group to anyone else with an interest in the history of the city.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
— Visit the group’s website
— Visit the Tourist Information Center on Albertinaplatz

Cityrama Tours

We recently hosted my in-laws, and I decided we would try a guided tour one of the days they were here. I am sure that anyone who has hosted family or friends for an extended period of time would understand the allure of sitting back and letting someone else handle the planning, transportation, and guiding for a day. We chose to do the Wachau Valley tour offered by the tour group Cityrama, and it was a fantastic experience.

A little about Cityrama: they offer guided tours around Vienna, the Austrian countryside, and capital cities of neighboring countries. Some of the tours are multilingual (as in, the tour guide speaks multiple languages fluently), and some are English only. Booking is simple: I sent an e-mail to the contact address listed on their website, and within a few hours we had reservations. Children under 3 years are free, and the way the tours are structured makes them easy to do with children. The staff are very friendly and helpful.

Our tour consisted of a bus ride to Spitz an der Donau, where we caught a boat for an hour-plus cruise down the Danube. The boat docked at Melk, where we had free time to either explore the abbey’s grounds or have lunch at the abbey’s restaurant. We then had a guided tour through the abbey (in English), a bit more free time to check out the church and gift shop, and then a bus ride back to the city. During the bus and boat rides, there were multilingual announcements providing information about the tour itself and what sites we were seeing along the way.

The tour was organized so we were not herded from one thing to the next. We had about forty minutes between our arrival in Spitz and catching the boat, and an hour between our arrival in Melk and the tour of the abbey. This made it easy to use the facilities and eat and, in our case, change diapers and let the kids run off some energy. The tour guide ensured we knew exactly when and where to meet, so I never worried that we’d get separated from the group and left behind.

I plan to do other tours through this company, and I highly recommend them.

for more information: