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The best things to see and do when visiting Vienna.

Vienna, the capital city of Austria and a city famous for its arts, classical music, beautiful architecture, diversity, and a cafe culture renowned throughout the world.
The city was once home to famous composers Mozart and Beethoven, and Vienna is known by many as the city of music.

But is it worth a visit? Absolutely yes! So if you are planning a trip here, I would recommend 3 full days, there is simply so much to see and do here. Make an itinerary and plan your days so you can get the most out of your time here.

I would suggest sticking to a few attractions to get a proper feel of both the historical Vienna and the fun/relaxing aspects of the City.  The Vienna Pass allows you entry into over 60 of Vienna’s popular sites – it’s great value for money if you intend to visit lots of attractions.  To begin with, I usually take a Hop on Hop off bus ride around the city to get an idea of where everything is in relation to everything else – it’s a great way to orientate yourself in a new city. 

Here is my guide to some of the must do things in Vienna.

The Vienna Prater

The Vienna Prater is this City’s playground and it’s not just for little ones!  Whatever your situation the Prater will amuse you one way or another.  There are acres of fun rides (including a miniature railway), scary shows, action simulators, green spaces, and eating venues to enjoy.  My favorite, the  Giant Ferris Wheel, stands at a height of 65 meters and is not only a great place to view this wonderful city but if you want to propose, or celebrate some other occasion, the little cabins offer the perfect setting!  If you are interested in history, the Giant Ferris Wheel has a lot to say for itself, which I would advise you to check out for yourself.  My recommendation for the Prater would be to visit when you need to chill, even make a day of it – you might not have a choice if the children spot the Aqua Gaudi or the wife suddenly decides she’s a sky falling, speed demon!  Awsome …

The Schonbrunn Palace

The Schonbrunn Palace is situated on the outskirts of the city but don’t be put off – it’s so easy to reach by train. Board the U4 at Karlsplatz, Stadtpark, Schwedenplatz, or Schottenring in the direction of Hutteldorf, and the first station is Schonbrunn, then just follow the signs. The overall size of the Palace will surprise you even before you go inside.   There are a great many sumptuous rooms open to the public and it takes some time to look at them all.  The private rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth tell the stories of their lives – the Emperor’s rooms are quite modest and hint at the long and maybe lonely hours he spent at work there.  Empress Elizabeth’s rooms reveal her obsession with her appearance – the gym equipment, still in situ in her Dressing/Exercise Room, gave me a strong sensation of her presence.  However, for me, the gem in this imperial crown lay outside the Palace in the Carriage Museum.  The carriage museum has the biggest and most splendid collection of horse-drawn coaches I’ve ever seen. 

Hofburg Palace

This enormous building in the heart of Vienna is now the center of the Democratic Republic of Austria, however, nothing can disguise its former life as the Imperial Palace of the Habsburg Empire.  There is a crazy amount of stuff to see so it may take you several hours to get around all the exhibitions, it is also fairly exhausting shuffling through the rooms, especially if it is very busy, so I would say this is probably best seen first thing in the morning when you are at your freshest.  Early is always my strategy!  Be sure to obtain a map and, if you have time, an audio guide is a very good idea.  A single ticket will allow you into three locations in the main building: 

  • The Silberkammer  – A mind-blowing range of porcelain, linen, silver, gold, and glassware in the Silver Collection!  You have to see this to believe it ….
  • The Kaiserappartements – There are 24 rooms to visit, all decorated and furnished as they would have been during the lifetime of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth.  
  • The Sisi Museum – Contains 300 objects belonging to Empress Elizabeth – prepare to be amazed and shocked by some of the exhibits.  

The oldest part of the Imperial Palace houses the Imperial Treasury for which you will need another ticket.  I saw things here I didn’t ever expect to see, such as the cradle used to rock Napoleon’s baby to sleep, the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Imperial Crown,  and many other amazing treasures.   

If you are a lover of horses you will definitely wish to see the Lipizzan stallions.  Since 1565 the Spanish Riding School has been part of the culture and history of Vienna.  Watch the Lipizzaner horses perform their exquisite dressage skills to audiences from around the world.  The Vienna Pass allows you free entry to Morning Exercises in the Winter Riding Hall, however, Gala Performances are charged separately and you will need to book.  Guided tours are also available which offer visits to the Winter and Summer riding schools and stables.

Burggarten and Palm House

After the Hofburg Palace, I can guarantee you will need a rest, and luckily enough, right next door is the beautiful Burggarten which was laid out in 1818 as a private garden of the emperor.  It is now a public park and a very welcome breathing space for when you have finished chasing around the hotspots.  I sat awhile and admired the splendid monument to Mozart, along with those of Emperors Franz I and Franz Joseph.  The Palm House rises high over the garden, a stunning Art Nouveau structure and tropical home to hundreds of free-flying butterflies.  After the glittering man-made artifacts in the museums, the natural splendor of the butterflies is a delightful contrast.  If you are hungry The Palm House serves coffee and delicacies, both inside and outside on the terrace, in the sun.  Ah, Vienna! 

The Palm House Vienna

Cafe Central

There are cafes, and then there’s Cafe Central! No one does coffee like Vienna! Probably the most famous and popular coffee house or Kaffee Hause in Vienna. While there are plenty of coffee shops in the city, this one is by far the best around! Vienna’s cafe culture feels slightly different from other city’s like Paris and London.

Located as the name suggests, right in the center of Vienna and housed in Palais Ferstel, originally an old bank and stock exchange. Come in and relax with a Melange, (Vienna’s coffee specialty) and a sweet treat, choose from a menu of Viennese classics such as schnitzel, while taking in the magnificent cathedral-like architecture.
Each coffee is served with a glass of water, apparently, this is to cleanse the palate, and also symbolize just how much the customer is valued.

Be sure to book or arrive early in the morning, as this is a very popular place to come and you will need to queue if you have not booked.

St Stephens cathedral

St Stephens Cathedral is one of Vienna’s main attractions and the most important building in the city’s history. Located in the center of Vienna and easy to reach via public transport. The cathedral has 4 towers, with the tallest standing at just over 133 meters.
The cathedral is also where the great composer Mozart got married.
Take a tour of catacombs, where you can see the tombs of the bishops and the royals, and visit the North tower, where you can see the biggest bell in Austria!
Entrance to the cathedral is free but if you want to visit the catacombs or the tower there is a fee as these are guided tours.
Although If you have the Vienna card, you can enter the tower for free.

Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace gardens

For art lovers, I would highly recommend the Belvedere Palace. There are actually two palaces, the Upper and Lower Belvedere, with beautiful parterre gardens and fountains in between. The art exhibitions in the Upper Belvedere are incredibly impressive – works from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. The highlight Here Is the famous kiss, painted by Gustav Klimt, an artist who particularly liked to paint females, in erotic form. This is just one of Klimt’s masterpieces on display here.
Art here is not confined to the paintings and freestanding pieces but is also in the very walls, floors, and ceilings of the buildings themselves, so don’t forget to look up and down. The palace is also surrendered by beautiful gardens so save yourself enough time to have a good wander around here too.

Belvedere Palace Vienna

After Dark in Vienna

City life is such a different experience once the sun goes down and I love it, so come and explore the city once the suns set, check out these things to do.

Wander around the city

Most cities look spectacular at night, offering something different you don’t see in the day with all the buildings and streets lit up, and Vienna is no different. With Vienna being an extremely safe city, You will feel at ease having a stroll around at night. The streets are always busy with tourists doing the same thing, just be vigilant.

Put on your dancing shoes

Vienna has a very vibrant and lively nightlife and you can find clubs and music to suit all tastes, from Salsa to Electro to jazz. Whether you are a party animal or you’re looking for a quieter more laid-back night, this city won’t disappoint.

U4 nightclub – famous artists such as Prince and Nirvana have visited here. The club is laid out over 2 floors and offers a different theme every night, from classic disco one night to 80s techno the next. A great party atmosphere with a relaxed vibe. And the cocktails aren’t bad either.

Hard rock cafe – whenever I visit a city I always lookout for a Hard Rock Cafe, not just because I love the huge portion of nachos but the whole atmosphere with the music and welcoming and enthusiastic waiting staff. Not the biggest Hard Rock Cafe but the food and cocktails don’t disappoint.

Das LOFT lounge and bar and restaurant

If you’re looking for somewhere to come and have a drink while watching the sun go down in a 360 m degree panoramic view, this is where to go. If you are here on a weekend, stick around until after 22.30 when das LOFT becomes the highest dance floor in Vienna.
One thing to remember though is to dress to impress (smart and clean).

Vienna state opera

A visit to the opera is a fantastic experience, even if it’s not your type of music, it’s not my choice of music but it’s so powerful, you don’t even have to speak the language to understand the story! And if you have never been, why not make your first time here in the Vienna state opera, one of the best opera venues in the world. The opera house is known as Staatsoper in Vienna and is one of the city’s main tourist attractions. And if you’re a beginner to opera and you want to open your mind and experience it, there’s no better place.

Strandbar Herrmann

One for the summer this, The Strandbar Herrmann is Vienna’s finest beach bar. The closest thing you will get to a beach is a land-locked country. Located at the end of the Danube Canal, you will find everything you want from a beach bar here, from deckchairs, hammocks and delicious cocktails, if it’s a chilled-out summers evening you are looking for, you will find it here.

Loos American bar

The smallest bar in Vienna, at 27 square meters. Designed by Adolf Loos, the bar has been here for over 100 years, and has a very cozy atmosphere, mainly due to the dark mahogany and the low lighting. It’s worth a visit just for the architecture. The famous designer Gucci once shot an advert in here, as well as movie director Quentin Tarantino, named a character after a barmaid here. The bar doesn’t serve food, but the drinks and cocktails more than make up for this.

Search top rated hotels in Vienna here

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2 thoughts on “The best things to see and do when visiting Vienna.”

  1. Hilary Mitchell

    Hi Matt. We’ve been to Vienna twice but we haven’t seen some of the things you have suggested. Thank you for the tips, when we go again we will definitely check out your suggestions!

    1. Hi Hilary, thank you for taking the time to read my post and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I love Vienna, it’s a beautiful city.

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