Wiener Rundfahrten (Vienna Sightseeing Tours), Starhemberggasse 25 (tel. 01/7124-6830; www.viennasightseeingtours.com), offers the best tours, including a 1-day motor-coach excursion to Budapest costing 99€ ($158) per person. The historical city tour costs 36€ ($58) for adults and is free for children 12 and under. It's ideal for visitors who are pressed for time and yet want to be shown the major (and most frequently photographed) monuments of Vienna. Tours leave the Staatsoper daily at 9:45 and 10:30am and 2:45pm. The tour lasts 3 1/2 hours (U-Bahn: Karlsplatz).
"Vienna Woods -- Mayerling," another popular excursion, leaves from the Staatsoper and takes you to the towns of Perchtoldsdorf and Modling, and to the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, a center of Christian culture since medieval times. The approximately 4-hour tour also takes you for a short walk through Baden, the spa that was once a favorite summer resort of the aristocracy. Tours cost 43€ ($69) for adults and 15€ ($24) for children ages 10 to 16.
A "Historical City Tour," which includes visits to Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces, leaves the Staatsoper daily at 9:45 and 10:30am and 2:45pm. It lasts about 3 hours and costs 36€ ($58) for adults and 15€ ($24) for children ages 10 to 18.
A variation on the city tour includes an optional visit to the Spanish Riding School. This tour is offered Tuesday through Saturday, leaving from the Staatsoper building at 8:30am. Tickets are 61€ ($98) for adults, 30€ ($48) for children 13 and older, and free for children 3 to 12.
Information and booking for these tours can be obtained either through Vienna Sightseeing Tours or through its affiliate, Elite Tours, Operngasse 4 (tel. 01/5132225; www.elitetours.at).
Cruising the Danube
Its waters aren't as idyllic as the Strauss waltz would lead you to believe, and its color is usually muddy brown rather than blue, but visitors to Austria still view a day cruise along the Danube as a highlight of their trip. Until the advent of railroads and highways, the Danube played a vital role in Austria's history, helping to build the complex mercantile society that eventually became the Habsburg Empire.
The most professional of the cruises are operated by the DDSG Blue Danube Shipping Co., whose main offices are at Handelskai 265, A-1020 Vienna (tel. 01/588800; www.ddsg-blue-danube.at). The most appealing cruise focuses on the Wachau region east of Vienna, between Vienna and Dürnstein. The cruise departs April to October every Sunday at 8:30am from the company's piers at Handelskai 265, 1020 Vienna (U-Bahn: Vorgartenstrasse), arriving in Dürnstein 6 hours later. The cost is 25€ to 38€ ($40-$61) for adults; it's half-price for children 10 to 15.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.