Why You Should Visit Vienna
Vienna is the most livable city in the world for the seventh time in a row and is full of historical buildings, monuments, cultural diversity, tons of museums and is considered the music capital of the world. For some more reasons to visit Vienna, please read our article Top 10 Reasons to Visit Vienna.
How To Get To Vienna
Vienna's airport Wien Schwechat (VIE) is located in the south-east of Vienna and serves as an important hub for Eastern Europe. Flights from within Europe are fairly inexpensive and Austrian Airlines covers a majority of larger cities in Europe. Alternatively, Vienna can be reached by train or bus via Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna Central Station) or the Vienna International Bus Terminal. If you decide on travelling to Vienna by car, be aware that parking in the city is costly, so double-check with your hotel if they offer some sort of parking deals at nearby parking garages.
Where to Stay in Vienna
Accommodation options in Vienna range from imperial hotels, top international hotel chains, city hotels to bed and breakfasts, private rooms, hostels to AirBnBs. Without budget constraints you can stay in Vienna and feel like the emperor of the Habsburgs in one of the city's imperial hotels, such as the Hotel Imperial Vienna, the Vienna Bristol Hotel, the Sacher Hotel Vienna and more.
Staying in the city center of Vienna is in high demand and obviously not the cheapest option. If your budget allows for it, we highly recommend staying in the city center. Not only will you be able to reach most attractions, museums, restaurants and bars within a few minutes, but you can also feel the vibe of the city's downtown. You can always find the best deals on Top10 Vienna through the deal finder of booking.com.
Since Vienna is also very popular among young travelers with limited budgets, the city offers some great hostels for backpackers as well as a lot of private rooms listed on AirBnB.
How To Get Around In Vienna
In fact you don't even need a subway ticket to explore the city center of Vienna as it is best explored on foot. A lot of the city's top attractions are accumulated along the about 5km long (~ 3 miles) Wiener Ringstrasse. So if you are okay with walking, we suggest exploring Vienna's downtown on foot. Along the Ringstrasse you will pass various museums, through Heldenplatz (Hero's Square) you will see Vienna Hofburg, the former residence of the Habsburgs, Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) and many more impressive buildings and monuments of the city. We will cover more of the top attractions in Vienna in a later section.
You might need a subway ticket to visit Schoenbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburgs and most certainly one of the top attractions in Vienna. Schoenbrunn along with several other top attractions in Vienna is also awarded with a 2018 Traveller's Choice Award by Tripadvisor. A 24-hour ticket including subways, trams and buses within Vienna is currently available for € 8,-. You can purchase tickets on every subway station.
Another great way to explore Vienna is on a Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus. You can order your tickets here.
If you plan on going out at night, Uber is available in Vienna (as of May 2018) and so are taxis.
When To Go To Vienna
We often get asked what the best time to visit Vienna is. It really depends on your preferences. Christmas Season in Vienna is absolutely stunning. The entire city is being decorated and people hang out at Christmas Markets to warm up with some hot punch and baked potatoes, breads and other tasty treats. If you are more of a summer person however, April – September might be best for you. Just be aware that the summer months July and August and sometimes even June can get pretty hot and busy in Vienna. However, there are a lot of different outdoor events in Vienna during summer, for instance the annual Donauinselfest, the Film Festivals, etc.
What to See in Vienna
We really could write an entire book about what to see in Vienna and we might as well do so, but let's point out the Must-Sees in Vienna first. Within the city center you will find most sights of the city, including St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna State Opera House, Vienna Hofburg, the two museums – the Kunsthistorische Museum (Museum of Art History) and the Naturhistorische Museum (Museum of Natural Sciences) and much more.
St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen's Cathedral forms the heart of the city center and is considered Vienna's symbol. Its tallest tower with 136 meters sticks out from pretty much anywhere in the city center. That tower can be reached via 343 steps and gives you a breathtaking view over Vienna. A visit to St. Stephen's Cathedral is a must for everyone visiting Vienna and most certainly among the Top10 Landmarks in Austria according to Tripadvisor.
Vienna State Opera
The Vienna State Opera is one of the most famous opera houses in the world and home of the annual Vienna Opera Ball, which broadcasts globally. Furthermore the Vienna State Opera offers concerts on almost 300 days per year, so there is a good chance you will be able to see one.
The Vienna Hofburg, former residence of the Habsburg Empire until 1918, serves as the official seat of the Austrian President today. The Imperial Palace hosts various attractions for visitors, such as the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments, the Imperial Silver Collection, the Imperial Treasury Vienna, the Austrian National Library and the Spanish Horse Riding School. Trust me, you can spend an entire day at Hofburg.
Kunsthistorische and Naturhistorische Museum
The two identical buildings, the Kunsthistorische Museum (Museum of Art History) and the Naturhistorische Museum (Museum of Natural Sciences) are the two largest museums in Vienna. The Kunsthistorische Museum houses extensive collections of the Habsburgs and is considered one of the most prominent museums in the world.
Vienna City Hall & Burgtheater
The Vienna City Hall is one of the most magnificent buildings in Vienna. Built between 1872 and 1883 the Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus) is the seat of Vienna's mayor and municipal administration. Contact the City of Vienna for FREE guided group tours. Right opposite of Vienna City Hall is Vienna Burgtheater, one of Austria's most important theaters and also one of the biggest theater stages in the world. Standing in the center of Rathausplatz (City Hall Square) you can catch the perfect Instagram photo of both buildings or a great panorama photo. The Wiener Rathausplatz also hosts numerous events throughout the year, such as a large Christmas market (November – December), a giant Ice Skating Rink (January – March), the Life Ball (June), the Film Festival (July – September) as well as several Farmer's Markets throughout the year.
University of Vienna
Right next to Vienna City Hall, you will encounter another imperial building, the University of Vienna. Founded in 1365 it is the oldest and one of the oldest universities in the German-speaking countries.
Burggarten & Volksgarten
The Vienna Burggarten was laid out in the year 1818 in an English style as the private garden of the emperor. It is located directly on the Vienna Ringstrasse between Hofburg and the Albertina. The Burggarten also houses the Palm House, one of the most beautiful glass houses which serves as a café and restaurant today. You will also find a statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart inside the Burggarten. The Heldenplatz (Heroe's Square) borders with the Burggarten and the Volksgarten on its other side. The Volksgarten is laid out in a French Baroque style in the form of an English garden with a rose garden of over 3,000 roses of 200 different species.
The Albertina is home of the largest and most valuable graphical collections in the world with approximately 65,00 drawings such as Gustav Klimt's studies of women as well as works from Monet and Picasso.
As an advocate of classical home, Vienna is the place to be. The city of music offers numerous concerts in different locations. The Musikverein is Vienna's most traditional concert house. You can find a schedule of plays here.
St. Charle's Church
One of the most beautiful churches in Vienna is St. Charle's Church with a large green cupola on top of the baroque building. If you like classical music, Mozart's Requiem, Vivaldi's Four Seasons and other great acts are performed regularly. Check out the next dates here.
One sight that cannot be missed when visiting Vienna is Schoenbrunn Palace. The former summer residence of the Habsburgs since 1569 is one of the most cultural and historical monuments in Austria and also a UNESCO World Heritage. The Schoenbrunn Palace is open to the public free of charge and is home to a huge garden, statues, fountains, monuments and the Schoenbrunn Zoo (not free of charge). The Palace has 1,441 rooms, of which 45 can be visited. Find various ticketed imperial and grand tours here. The Gloriette on top of a little hill overlooks the Palace and the Vienna skyline from it's café. Once a year, usually in May, the Vienna Philharmonics perform a free concert to the public at Schoenbrunn, attracting more than 100,000 visitors.
When visiting Schoenbrunn Palace for instance, you can combine your visit of the imperial palace with Schoenbrunn Zoo, the world's oldest zoo founded in 1752.
The Belvedere consists of two baroque palaces, which were built as the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy in the 17th century. Today the Belvedere houses one of Austria's most valuable art collections, including Gustav Klimt's "Kiss" as well as magnificent works by Egon Schiele.
The Vienna Kahlenberg, where the Battle of Vienna took place in 1683, offers the most scenic views of Vienna. You can reach Kahlenberg by bus or throuh a hiking trail and enjoy the views from a restaurant and a café.
The Vienna Naschmarkt is a market with 120 different stands offering culinary variety from Indian, Oriental to Italian specialties. The Vienna Naschmarkt has developed into a popular meeting point for Viennese. Besides market stands where you can purchase meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, teas, spices, wines, cheese and much more, several restaurants and cafes offer indoor and outdoor seating.
Biking on the Danube Island
Head out to the Vienna Danube Island, which divides the Old and the New Danube and rent a bike. The scenic route along the Danube takes you up north to Vienna's wine region towards Krems, Dürnstein and Melk, all regions in the Wacha Valley. Prepare for a 4-5 hour bike ride though, before you reach Krems. Alternatively you can just ride along explore the Donauinsel.
Time Travel Museum
The Vienna Time Travel Museum is a top attraction for families to learn about the history of Vienna. The journey takes you back 2,000 years in history and includes shows, a 5D cinema, music and many special effects.
Riding Dinner Vienna
Enjoy Vienna on the one & only horse-carriage restaurant. In our horse-carriage restaurant Riding Dinner combines the must-dos of your Vienna visit like sightseeing, Viennese cuisine & a traditional horse-carriage ride.
c) Raphael Berthold / Hype Grafik
If time allows, make sure to also visit the following attractions in Vienna:
- Kunsthaus Wien
- Mumok & Leopoldmuseum at Museumsquartier (MQ)
- Wiener Prater & the Riesenrad (Vienna Giant Wheel)
- Haus der Musik (Sound Museum)
- St. Francis of Assisi Church
- Donauturm (Danube Tower)
If you still don't get enough of places to visit in Vienna, here is a list of 365 Things To Do in Vienna.
Most instagrammable spots in Vienna
You like photography and posting pretty pictures on Instagram? Check out the most Instagram-worthy spots in Vienna.
St. Stephen's Cathedral tower
You can purchase a ticket to walk up to the tower and take a perfect picture of the Vienna skyline. Best time for your Instagram pics: sunset
St. Charle's Church
During sunset the church reflects in the pond in front of it and you can get a stunning picture.
You can get the best picture of the Hofburg's Michaelerkuppel from Graben and Kohlmarkt.
The beautiful passage in the city center of Vienna combines Herrengasse and Freyung. The beautiful interior especially invites photographers.
Vienna State Opera
You can get the perfect picture of the State Opera House from the opposite side of the Ringstrasse. If you have solid photography skills, you can try to capture a moving tram in fornt of it to add some special effects.
Here are some additional ideas for your Instagram feed:
- Vienna City Hall
- Anker Uhr
- Café Central
- Danube Canal
- Le Loft at Sofitel Hotel
- Wiener Riesenrad
- Fiaker ride
- Musikverein main building
- Schoenbrunn & Gloriette
Best Day Trips from Vienna
Even though you can spend years in Vienna without seeing every side of it, Vienna is also surrounded by various other interesting destinations worth visiting. For instance the Wachau Valley, an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site was recently also named one of the best wine regions in the world.
The second largest city in Austria, Graz, also an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, can be reached in about 2 hours from Vienna.
Vienna Sightseeing Tours offers regular day trips to Salzburg, the second most renown Austrian cities. The city of Mozart and the "Sound of Music" is a a truly magnificent place.
Gruener See (Green Lake) is another top attraction in Austria due to its emerald-green water coming from the snow-melt. The water level ranges from 1-2m depth in winter months to a maximum of 12m depth during summer. Green Lake is most beautiful in May and June.
You can reach Bratislava by boat from the city center of Vienna in about 1 hour. The capital of Slowakia has a charming city center which is worth seeing. Fares and dates for the boat transfer from the city center of Vienna with Twin City Liner can be found here.
Skiing at Semmering
The ski resort Semmering usually runs from November – March depending on snow conditions. The resort isn't to big, but the proximity of about an 1.5h from Vienna makes it a perfect day trip.
Austria's shallowest lake, Neusiedersee is very popular among windsurfers and sailors is located about 1h south of Vienna. Several great waterfront restaurants and bars in the larger towns around the lake, make Neusiedlersee a great day trip during summer months.
Shopping in Vienna
The two famous shopping streets in Vienna are called Kaerntner Strasse and Mariahilferstrasse. Kaerntner Strasse and Graben in the city center of Vienna linking the State Opera House and St. Stephen's Cathedral count various jewelry stores and luxurious chains such as Gucci, Versace, Tiffany and many more. However, you will also find more affordable shops on Kaerntner Strasse. At Graben you can do grocery and gourmet shopping at Julius Meinl. It includes a restaurant and a café overlooking Hofburg as well. Mariahliferstrasse stretches from Wien Westbahnhof downwards toward the first district of Vienna and offers plenty of stores including restaurants and bars.
Additional shopping opportunities include:
- Shopping Center Nord
- Shopping City Süd
- Wien Mitte - The Mall
- Stadion Center
We also encourage you to shop local and enter boutiques and gourmet shops which can be found in the city center.
What to Eat in Vienna
The Austrian cuisine are influenced by the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and dominated by meat. Typical dishes that you must try include Wiener Schnitzel, Tafelspitz, Goulash, Bratwurst and Käsekrainer, Apple Strudel, Kaiserschmarren and Sachertorte.
Whereas Figlmüller claims to be the home of the Wiener Schnitzel, and yes, it is really good, there are a lot of other Traditional Austrian Restaurants offering Schnitzel and other Austrian specialties. Try for instance a traditional "Stelze" (pork knuckle) at Melker Stiftskeller in the city center, or an original home-made Tafelspitz (one of the best in Vienna) at Rudi's Beisl in the 5th district of Vienna.
During your sightseeing trip through the city which may include a lot of walking, make sure to stop at one of Vienna's Würstelstand for a hot dog or a sausage. The most popular Würstelstand in Vienna is Bitzinger, between the State Opera House and the Albertina. If you want to try something new, we recommend a "Käsekrainer", a cheese-filled sausage which is simply amazing!
When it comes to dessert, there are probably few countries in the world that can compete with our traditional home-made cakes and pastries. I am sure you have heard of Sachertorte, Apple Strudel and Gugelhupf? Here are the places where you should have the best Austrian desserts.
Austria's most famous dessert, the Sachertorte dates back to the year 1832. Located next to the State Opera House, Café Sacher is a must for every Vienna visitor and home of the original Sacher Torte recipe. In fact up to this day it is unclear weather the original recipe stems from Café Sacher or Café Demel. Either way, you will get fantastic Sacher cakes in both locations. We recommend a "Melange" (Espresso shot with milk foam), which goes perfectly with your Sacher cake.
The Vienna Apple Strudel stems from the Austro-Hungarian Empire but became a popular pastry in numerous countries around the world. One of the best Apple Strudel in Vienna are served at Café Landtmann and Café Central, both in the city center.
The original Grand Gugelhupf, beloved by Emperor Franz Joseph back in the days, is available exclusively at Grand Hotel Wien – baked according to the original secret recipe. However, you will find tons of cafés who sell Gugelhupf who taste just as good as the "original" one. If you want to take some Austrian culture home with you, check out this great Gugelhupf recipe.
Vienna is also the only capital city in the world that produces enough wine within its city limits to supply the Viennese public. Make sure to include a visit to a so-called Heurigen while in Vienna. Heurigen are charming wine taverns serving traditional Austrian specialties and local wines. Check out our favorite Heurige in Vienna.
What You Shouldn't Do in Vienna
Forget to tip in a restaurant
It is customary to tip about 10% in restaurants and bars in Austria, as it is part of a waiter's income.
Mistake Austria for Germany
Even though the language is the same and we have no problem with each other, the cultures between Austria and Germany are different. Furthermore our national dish the Wiener Schnitzel is often mistaken of being German around the world. Austrian's are very proud of their national dish.
Assume Austrians all wear Lederhosen
Stereotypical information from movies like the Sound of Music make people believe Austrians all wear Lederhosen. Even though Austrians do like to dress up in Lederhosen and Dirndl (the female version of the attire) for certain events, they do not wear them all the time.
Besides the main tourist attractions, we would like to give you some insider tips on things to do and see in Vienna. Secret Vienna spots away from tourists. Here is a list of insider tips from our Vienna City Scouts who are constantly checking out new places for you.
Get a drink at Lamée rooftop bar
Lamée rooftop bar on top of Lamée hotel in the heart of Vienna offers one of the best views of St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Vienna skyline.
Brunch at Hermes Villa
The romantic 19th century palace is less noticed by tourists than Schoenbrunn Palace, does however, showcase signs of the Habsburg regime as well. A nice walk through the woods leads to right to Hermesvilla, a truly charming café-restaurant.
Eat Käsekrainer at a Würstelstand
You don't want to leave Vienna without having had a sausage at a typical Wiener Würstelstand (sausage stand). Ask for a "Käsekrainer" instead of a regular sausage, you won't regret it.
Experience Vienna behind the scenes with some very cool tours by Secret Vienna like "Vienna's Bloody Secrets", "The Secrets of a Dictator" and more.
(c) Secret Vienna Tours
Visit Karmeliter Market
Less crowded than Vienna's largest markets, the Naschmarkt, Karmeliter Market offers similar charm and regional food products.
Visit a Heurigen
The wine taverns in Vienna are part of the Austrian culture and a must for every visitor of Vienna. You will find the most scenic ones in the 19th district of Vienna.
Hang Out at Donaukanal like locals
The Donaukanal (Danube canal) is an upcoming location with various restaurants, bars and clubs. This summer location is especially popular among young adults.
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Written by Tom
Photocredits (c): 123rf.com