You’ll Circle The City For The Top Things To Do in Vienna, Austria!
Travelling to Vienna is definitely one of the best things to do in Austria. The capital city is full of incredible things to do that will suit all interests. Given the emphasis on appreciating the arts in the city, you’ll find a great mix of historic and modern things to do in Vienna. That said, there are loads of different things to do and free things to do in Vienna – you just need to know where to look!
Here at Penguin and Pia, Eric has been to Vienna twice while Lisa has been once. We travelled together to Vienna on a day trip during our winter wander when we first met while Eric also visited for a few days while on a classic Europe Trip with a buddy.
So, if you are looking for what to do in Vienna in 2 days, 3 days, or even a whole week, this post should help you build a great Vienna itinerary. Grab a Vienna attractions map (and this blog post) and off we go to explore Vienna!
Things to Consider When Visiting Vienna
If you are planning on visiting Vienna, there are some details you should think about before you go. Since we’ve been a few times now, here are some of the consideration we think are important for you!
Best Time to Visit Vienna
As with most places, determining the best time to visit Vienna is key to shaping your travel experience. Our typical advice is to avoid the dead of summer crowds in July and August by travelling in the cooler shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October.
Eric has visited Vienna in both the summer (early June) and in the winter time (middle of January) and both times were awesome. Obviously, the summertime is warmer but there are definitely larger crowds wandering the city. Lineups can be daunting and if you don’t have the patience, this magical city can quickly become a nightmare.
The middle of winter was very cold but it was nothing that a good jacket, hat, and gloves couldn’t handle. There were actually quite a few people still exploring in the winter time! We loved our winter wander in Vienna. That is why you will find a mix of summer and winter photos in this post!
Getting Around in Vienna
Vienna is a very walkable city with a ton of attractions all jam-packed into the inner city and in the outskirts. Having said that, the transportation system is pretty good for getting to where you want to go in a timely manner. Vienna has a metro system (U-Bahn), a tram system, and a bus system that all intersect around the city. These options make getting from place to place simple – just grab a Vienna transport map and go!
If you plan on taking public transport to get around the city, you should definitely consider a Vienna card. Good for 1 to 3 days, this card gets you unlimited rides on the metro (subway), tram, and bus lines. If that wasn’t enough, it also gets you discounts through coupons on popular attractions, museums, shops, etc. So, if you are sticking around Vienna for a few days and plan on using public transport quite a bit, a Vienna Card might be the way to get the most out of your experience.
Where to Stay in Vienna
When looking for a place to stay in Vienna, you definitely have lots of options as a traveller. This is because Vienna is home to a ton of bookable accommodations – notably great hotels or private apartments if you want your own space. Many accommodations are conveniently concentrated in the city centre. This means that where you end up staying will likely be close to all the best attractions in the city.
That said, if you do end up staying a little further out, the metro system is great for bringing you back in. You can also walk – the areas surrounding the city are full of interesting shops and things to see. If you are looking for a hotel in Vienna, you can get started looking for hotel deals in Vienna here.
As for where we have stayed: Since we went on a day trip to Vienna, we didn’t say over. However, when Eric was there he stayed in a great hostel called Wombat’s Naschmarkt which was close to, unsurprisingly, the Naschmarkt. Wombat’s is a trusted hostel chain so he knew what he and his buddy could expect. It even made our huge list of our favourite hostels all across Europe.
Top Things To Do In Vienna, Austria
Okay, so here we go with the actual things to do in Vienna. As we’ve mentioned in the transport section, if you plan on being a super explorer and want to visit lots of attractions, you might consider a Vienna Pass. In our opinion, the Vienna Pass is great value if you are going to Vienna for 1,2,3 or even 6 days. You get free admission to top attractions, like skip tickets and quite a bit more. Click the link if you want to read more about it.
We didn’t get a Vienna Pass because we only had a few hours in the city (it was a day trip) and just didn’t know about it when we visited. If we visit again on a longer trip, we’d consider getting one since we’ve already done quite a few of the free things and need to visit more of the actual museums and galleries in Vienna. So, ultimately you have to decide for yourself if the Vienna Pass suits you!
Wander the Old Town (Altstadt)
If you are pressed for time in Vienna, one of the top things to do is to wander through the city centre. This area is concentrated with shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. and always buzzing with activity. The pedestrian malls sprawl in all directions and we recommend you to check out the attractions down different side streets. The nice thing about Vienna is that the city centre has many attractions in it – like St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Understandably, as the historic centre of the city, there is a ton of history to learn about as you walk about. If you want to learn more, you might want to do a historical sightseeing tour to tie together many of the attractions we mention. Eric did one back when he first visited and it definitely helped to understand the city and his surroundings!
As an extension of that thought, you can also do the classic hop-on/hop-off bus tour around Vienna if you don’t want to walk but want to be guided around the city. That bus tour is also covered by that Vienna Pass we mentioned up above.
Dive into the Belvedere Palace Museum
One of the famous old elegant building complexes in Vienna (there are many!) is Belvedere Palace. Completed by the famous Baroque architect Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt in the early 1700s, this massive complex is split into Upper and Lower Belvedere with extensive gardens in between.
The original intention was as a summer residence for Austrian royals, these days, the buildings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside you find a museum filled with lots of Austrian artwork dating back to the Middle Ages. You will also find works by other famous artists if you are interested! To explore Belvedere Palace Museum, get the official museum ticket in advance! We were there during winter time so we didn’t get to see a lot of the flowers in the Gardens, but it was still great to see and made for great photos.
Address: Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Wien, Austria
Visit and Climb St. Stephen’s Cathedral
If you are heading to Vienna, there is a good chance you will stumble across St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In fact, you can’t really miss it since the South Tower is so large on the Vienna skyline. Opened in 1137, this gorgeous church is one of the most important churches in Vienna (and in all of Austria).
The church is a great example of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Inside, you’ll find 18 altars and smaller chapels that are beautifully decorated and detailed. We went in and admired the inside of the church. We had to pay – and you can find the prices on the official website.
We also climbed the South Tower because we wanted to check out the view. You’ll have to head up the 343 steps to the top for that. Admittedly, the stairs can be quite tight and you’ll have to pass people (carefully) going up and down.
Once at the top, what surprised and shocked us the most was that there was a gift shop and that it was fully indoors with a few windows to peer through. We still got some nice photos, but certainly not what we expected and a little underwhelming. Many reviews say that the view through tiny windows is underwhelming and not worth the cost. That said, for the overall experience and the views, we would say it’s a neat thing to do.
One of the things we didn’t do at St. Stephen’s is going down instead of up to check out the Crypt of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Still an active burial ground to this day, the catacombs below the church floor is filled with the bone of over 11,000 people. If you are super keen to see everything to do with this magnificent church, you can buy an admission ticket for the Catacombs and South Tower, North Tower, and an audio tour of the main church that comes in many languages.
Address: Stephansplatz 3, 1010 Wien, Austria
Enjoy the Vienna Opera House
If attending the opera is your thing, then a visit to the Vienna Opera House is for you. Attending the opera is definitely something that Vienna is known for. In the city centre, you’ll find people dressed in costumes trying to sell you opera tickets – and you should take some of them up on it! Just be sure they are real tickets and you aren’t being scammed.
The Vienna State Opera House is actually located in the city centre so it’s really easy to get to. In fact, it is often considered one of the finest opera houses worldwide with a very fancy/elegant interior. The exterior of the building is also gorgeous. You can do a tour if you want to see the inside or can decide to go to a concert or opera and see it this way. Check out the main website for tickets and schedules.
Address: Opernring 2, 1010 Wien, Austria
Eat Viennese Schnitzel At Figlmüller
Opened back in 1905, Figlmüller has been serving classic Viennese dishes for well over a century. It is here that you can try classic like Figlmüller (pork) Schnitzel, Wiener (veal) Schnitzel, potato salads, and the incredible dessert called Kaiserschmarrn – to name a few. In fact, some consider Figlmüller to be “the home of schnitzel”.
There are two locations quite close to one another. The original flagship restaurant is located in a side alley off of Wollzeile. it’s quite small and hard to get a table so definitely make a reservation if you want to eat at this one and you know the night you are going to be in Vienna.
Due to popular demand, the second larger location was opened in 2001. This one is around the corner on Bäckerstraße. Here, you’ll usually find a small line up but there are many tables up and downstairs. Eric has been to this location twice, once with Lisa and once on his classic Europe trip with a buddy. Both times the staff were friendly and the food was beyond amazing.
Address: Bäckerstraße 6, 1010 Wien, Austria (the other is down the side alley, watch for the signs!)
Visit the Karlskirche
Looking to explore a Baroque style church located at the Karlsplatz? Oh, well then the Karlskirche is for you! Built in the 18th century, the church is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo. We were wandering around the outskirts of the city centre when we came across it.
From the outside, the church is beautiful. In fact, it’s often considered the most stunning Baroque church in Vienna. Now, we haven’t been inside (and to be honest it’s a little bit expensive so we don’t know if it is worth it). That said, it makes for great photo opportunities from the outside though so we recommend that you go see it. The church reminds Lisa of the Marble Church in Copenhagen because of the roof!
If you did want to go and see the inside, you might want to go big on the experience and attend a concert! If this unique experience is more your style, you can book ahead to check out a concert at the Karlskirche!
Address: Kreuzherrengasse 1, 1040 Wien
Discover Schönbrunn Palace And Schönbrunn Gardens
Of all the top attractions in Vienna, none might be as famous or popular as Schönbrunn Palace. Built in the 17th century, the Palace and the ground played a big role in shaping the culture of Austria. Officially, the Palace has 1441 rooms. Lucky for you, you can see some of the fully furnished rooms during a tour!
The building itself is designed in Baroque style (like many others from the time) and the main building is actually symmetrical. Today, the Palace is a main tourist attraction that draws in MANY visitors year after year. You can actually do a few different kinds of tours to see the rooms/learn about the things that interest you the most. Another thing you can do is attend the famous Viennese apple strudel making presentation and tasting!
If you are interested in royals – especially “Sissi” – you might have heard of Schloss Schönbrunn. As a small side note, Lisa watched the cartoon version of Sissi as a kid – it was one of her favourite TV series! Outside, Schönbrunn Gardens are very beautiful as well. Measuring over a kilometre long, the gardens allow you to spend quite a bit of time walking in between them. Notable garden features include a labyrinth and Neptune’s fountain. You can learn more about visiting the palace and gardens on the official website.
Address: Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Vienna
Get Lost in Hofburg Palace
If you are visiting Vienna, there is a high likelihood that you will accidentally check out a part of the Hofburg Palace. This is because it’s absolutely massive and covers a great deal of the historic city centre! First built in the 13th century, the Palace buildings have undergone many additions/changes since then. Of course, the Palace was originally built during the famous Habsburg dynasty era.
In later years, the Palace served as a winter palace for rulers of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many of the buildings are done in a Baroque architecture – which makes sense given the time they were built.
These days, the Palace is the home of the President of Austria. You can also take a tour and visit the museum that is housed in the palace if you are interested. If you came to Vienna for the music, they actually have concerts which you can attend to see the Hofburg Orchestra!
If you want to see something else special, make sure to visit the “Schmetterlinghaus” (butterfly house) which is part of the Hofburg Palace. It is essentially a giant greenhouse in a Jugendstil architecture with tropical plants and lots and lots of butterflies. We saw it from the outside when we were there but didn’t go inside since we were all bundled in our thick winter jackets.
Address: Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Wien, Austria
Admire the Austrian National Library
If you are feeling like you’ve fallen behind on your daily reading during your travels, consider a trip to the Austrian National Library! Also known as “Die Österreichische Nationalbibliothek”, this Baroque library was completed in 1726 and remains from the Habsburg times. In fact, it was originally the Habsburg court library.
As the largest library in Austria – and one of the world’s bigger libraries – this library is packed. Visitors will find approx. 12.2 million books, maps, manuscripts, globes, you name it! Some of the books are as old as the 14th century. There are different ticket prices for different galleries where you can view different things so check out the official website for the most up-to-date information.
Address: Josefsplatz 1, 1015 Wien, Austria
Walk Through The Volksgarten
If you want to stay outside and check out something free, you can simply walk through the beautiful Volksgarten. In the park, you will find many fountains, small temples, and flower gardens. We were there in the winter so many of these were out for the season but the park was still lovely to wander through.
As you walk about, you’ll come to realize that many of the top attractions are very well connected and can be accessed from the park! This green space is semi-connected to the Rathaus (Town Hall), the Austrian Parliament Building, and is also a short walk from Hofburg Palace. You can get a ton of sightseeing done in a single day given the concentration of attractions, museums, and palaces in this area of Vienna.
Shop At The Naschmarkt
As probably the best-known markets in the entire city, Naschmarkt is certainly worth checking out. Established in the 16th century, the market is definitely a must-see. Put it this way – have you ever seen 1.5 km full of non-stop stalls that sell everything from fruit and vegetables to meats, cheeses, seafood, street food, sweet treats – and even have restaurants? Didn’t think so!
If you are following along, this is actually very close to where Eric stayed the first time he visited Vienna. In fact, he had to basically walk the length of the market each time to enter and exit the city centre to get back to the hostel! We always think it’s great when big cities have markets like this. Usually, these markets are a great place where you can find some local foods/treats to try!
Address: Naschmarkt 1060 Wien
Tour The Town Hall (Rathaus)
If you have had enough of Baroque buildings, perhaps another Gothic one will do? The Vienna Rathaus (City Hall) is a stunning building that sits along the edge of Rathaus Park. Built in the late 1800s, the beautiful building it reminds Lisa a little bit of the town hall in Hamburg even though they don’t really look that similar.
Today, over 2000 people work in the massive building as the actual headquarters for the city’s affairs. As a visitor, on certain days you can do a tour and see some of the elegant rooms throughout. You can learn more about tours of the Rathaus here.
Address: Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
Be Amused at Prater Amusement Park
Another attraction that Vienna is internationally known for is the Prater Amusement Park. Originally a place used for hunting, over time it has developed into a public space and amusement park. You don’t have to pay to enter the grounds – instead, you pay for the individual rides.
Once inside, they have lots of classic rides such as a Viennese Giant Wheel (Ferris wheel), bumper cars, but also some roller coasters. If you’re not a fan of rides, you can also go there to enjoy some food and drinks in one of the restaurants and cafes close by. Here is the official Prater website for more information.
Address: 1020 Vienna, Austria
Check Out The View From The Donauturm
Not afraid of heights and looking to take in great views of the city? Perhaps a trip to the Donauturm (Danube Tower) will do the trick! This free-standing observation tower has a height of 252 m. However, since Vienna doesn’t have a high skyline it is easily visible – depending on where you are in the city.
There are a cafe and a restaurant (on two different levels) as well as the observation platform. If you opt for dinner, be sure to book in advance. The restaurant rotates 360 degrees meaning you get views of the entire area from your dinner chair! So book the official entrance ticket for the Danube Tower here. The Tower is accessible on the metro U1 which makes it easy to get to.
Address: Donauturmstraße 8, 1220 Wien, Austria
See the Hundertwasser Haus
If you want to see something that is more modern and not rooted in history, then a colourful, contemporary apartment building might be for you! The Hundertwasser Haus was completed in 1986 by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and architect Joseph Krawina. Together, these guys created an apartment block like none other.
The modern design and wild colours are accented by many trees on the rooftops and patios. There is even a museum dedicated to learning more about the building, the artists, ecology, and the history of Vienna. As such a sight, the apartment block draws quite the crowd. You can book Hundertwasser Haus Museum tickets in advance since the building is a popular Vienna attraction!
Address: Kegelgasse 36-38, 1030 Wien, Austria
Explore the Museums – Natural History + Fine Art
The Naturhistorisches Museum (or the Museum of Natural History) is located just a short walk from Hofburg Palace. Housing over 30 million objects, the collection has been growing for over 250 years! While you are there, you can explore Maria-Theresien-Platz. That is the square with the monument of Maria Theresa (which Eric is photographing in the very first photo of this post). To learn more information about visiting, visit the official website.
Address Naturhistorisches Museum: Burgring 7, 1010 Wien, Austria
If you turn around 180 degrees from the Museum of Natural History, you will find a very similar building standing behind you. This is the Kunsthistorisches Museum – or the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna. In fact, this art museum is the largest in the country. Opened around 1891 (same as the Museum of Natural History) the museum was originally meant to house the Habsburgs’ massive art collection and make it viewable to the public. If you want to visit, you can check out the official website.
Address: Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Wien, Austria
Relax at the Donauinsel
Need to get away from the city for a few hours? Then Donauinsel is for you! Also known as Danube Island in English, this 21 kilometre long island is very thin by width – making it great for jogging, rollerblading, swimming, and sunbathing. Aside from the green space, the island is covered with beaches, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. This makes the island a great place to go out in the summer season. In fact, the largest outdoor open-air festival in Europe happens on the island every June – Donauinselfest!
And there you have it – 17 of the top things to do in Vienna! In the end, this list is just a small sample to get you started exploring Vienna. There are plenty more museums, performances, restaurants, and attractions that might suit your needs. These are just a few of our favourites and we think they are a diverse place to start!
Vienna is a great, safe city to visit and we’re sure that you’ll have a nice time whatever season you go in! If you go, let us know what you think of the city and enjoyed visiting the most! We’d love to hear it and we’re always up for sharing great travel knowledge.
As always, Happy Vienna Waddlin’,