Last Updated: 11/12/20 | November 12th, 2020
Vienna. Home to schnitzel, Freud, Mozart, the Hapsburgs, opera, art, coffee shops, and so much more. Over the decade I have been coming in and out of this city, I’ve watched it change from a stiff capital city to a cool, hip, foodie, and arty paradise.
Ok, it’s always been an arty paradise and maybe the “stiff capital” was just my incorrect first impression.
See, when I first visited Vienna, I wasn’t a fan. It felt too stiff. Too proper. It had the air of a city too long steeped in imperial history. Despite being taken around by a local friend, I kept comparing it to Prague and Budapest and went “mehhh.”
But, over time, I’ve come to appreciate the city and all it has to offer. In short, I was wrong about Vienna
The city has countless museums, palaces, markets, restaurants, quirky art exhibits, delicious food halls, neighbors a wonderful wine region, and is a quick train trip to Bratislava.
With so much to offer, here’s how I’d organize a week-long visit to Vienna:
Take a Free Walking Tour
Start your trip off with a free walking tour. It’s a fun way to get a sense of the capital, give you a taste of its history and culture, and let you explore and orientate yourself on foot. Plus, you can ask your guide any and all questions you may have!
Three excellent free walking tours are:
Whenever I visit a new city I kick thing off with a free walking tour. Just make sure to tip your guide!
See the Imperial Palace
Built in the 13th century, this is a giant complex with multiple attractions. You can easily spend half a day here. First, there are the Imperial Apartments, which is really three activities in one: the silver collection featuring thousands of royal dinnerware, the Sisi exhibit highlighting the life of the beloved Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and the royal apartments themselves.
My favorite section is the Imperial Treasury. Here you’ll find tons of royal artifacts, crowns, scepters, and a really detailed history of the Hapsburg family and empire. And, though not free, you should definitely get the audio tour. It adds a ton of context to the exhibits. Honestly, if you just see this attraction, you’d learn enough!
Additionally, you can listen to the Vienna Boys Choir during mass on Sundays at the Royal Chapel (which is located at the Imperial Palace). They are one of the most famous choirs in the world. There are around 100 boys in the choir. Seated tickets start at 11 EUR, though you can get free standing-room tickets if you line up early (get there by 7am to ensure you get a seat).
Michaelerkuppel, +43 15337570, hofburg-wien.at. Open daily from 10am-5pm. Admission is 15 EUR.
Wander the Naschmarkt
This is Vienna’s largest open-air food market. It’s been operating for hundreds of years (as far back as the 16th century) and has a variety of restaurants, street stalls, and grocers. It’s a little touristy (don’t go food shopping here) but it has a cool vibe and, on a warm sunny day, it’s nice to sit out with a meal and a glass of wine. Despite its fame, you’ll still find a lot of locals here. Be sure to hit up Umarfisch for seafood and wine.
1060 Vienna, +43 1400005430, naschmarkt-vienna.com. Open Monday-Saturday from 6am-9pm (6pm on Saturdays). Admission is free.
Explore the Museumsquartier
Once the imperial stables, the Museumsquartier is now home to several different museums, including the Leopold Museum for Art Noveau and Experessionism; Kunsthalle Wien, an exhibition center with rotating exhibitions; and the Museum of Modern Art, which has the largest collection of modern art in central Europe.
The Museumsquartier is also home to a number of festivals throughout the year. Basically, if you love modern art, you need to come here!
Museumsplatz 1, +43 15235881, mqw.at. Hours vary. Admission for each museum/gallery varies from 8-14 EUR.
Visit the Museum of Fine Arts
Opened in 1891 by Emperor Franz Joseph I, this is the largest art museum in the country, with artifacts from ancient Egypt and Greece as well as paintings from Raphael, Rembrandt, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and more. Most of the items are from the Hapsburg’s old collection. This museum is more “classic art” and there’s enough to keep you busy for a few hours (at the very least).
Maria-Theresien-Platz, +43 1525240, khm.at. Open daily from 10am-6pm (9pm on Thursdays). Admission is 16 EUR.
See St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Built in Romanesque and Gothic styles, this cathedral has been standing since the 12th century. Inside, you’ll find an ornately decorated church with high archways, vaulted ceilings, and a plethora of statues and religious paintings. Additionally, there are two beautiful altars: the High Altar, built in the 1640s and the Wiener Neustadt Altar, commissioned in 1447.
The cathedral also has two towers, though one was never finished because they ran out of money. You can pay 6 EUR to climb the several hundred steps of the south tower and/or pay 6 EUR for a tour of the catacombs below the cathedral.
Stephansplatz 3, +43 1 515523530, stephanskirche.at. Open for worship Monday-Saturday 6am-10pm and Sundays from 7am-10pm. Open for visitors Monday-Saturday from 9am-11:30am and 1pm-4:30pm. Open for visitors on Sunday from 1pm-4:30pm.
Stroll Along the Danube
If you haven’t done so already, take a walk along the Danube. It’s Europe’s second-longest river, stretching almost 2,900km. There are plenty of bars, stores, and cafes along the water so you can grab a drink and chill or just window shop if you don’t feel like stopping. In the summer, there are also a few small “beaches” where you can relax and soak up some sun and relax on a nice day.
House of Music
This is small-but-fascinating museum features exhibits on some of the world’s most well-known Austrian composers such as Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, and Schoenberg. Opened in 2000, they also have exhibits on world music, including versions of some of human’s first instruments. You can also view original manuscripts and artifacts and there’s also a virtual stage where you can conduct your own symphony.
Seilerstätte 30, +43 15134850, hausdermusik.com. Open daily from 10am-10pm. Admission is 14 EUR.
Admire the Schonbrunn Palace
This palace started off as a hunting lodge in 1696 before becoming the summer residence of the Hapsburgs (at the time, this location was far outside the city center). There are over 1,400 rooms in the palace but only a handful are open to the public (you’ll see 22 rooms with the imperial tour and 40 rooms with the grand tour).
However, there’s enough to spend a few hours here wandering the exquisitely restored rooms. The gardens are free (you’ll see a lot of locals running here) and there’s also a neat maze as well as the “Schonbrunn Tiergarten” (the Vienna Zoo), which is a great place to visit with kids.
I love coming to the gardens, climbing up the hill, and enjoying a bottle of wine with friends while looking out over the city off in the distance.
Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, +43 1 81113239,schoenbrunn.at. Palace open daily from 9:30am-5pm (longer hours in the summer). The Park is open daily from 6:30am-5:30pm (8pm in the summer). The Imperial Tour is 18 EUR and takes around 40 minutes while the Grand Tour is 22 EUR and takes over an hour. Both tours include an audio guide.
Enjoy the Vienna State Opera
Vienna is pretty much synonymous with opera. This opera house is one of the largest and most famous in the world and opera is a major focal point of Viennese life. Completed in 1869, it has over 1,700 seats. For 9 EUR, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the building and learn about its history and importance.
To see a show, I recommend buying last-minute standing room tickets for around 10 EUR (often less) the day of a show, usually around 60-80 minutes before it starts (you can line up earlier than that, but they don’t start selling until right before the show). It’s first-come, first-serve and you can only buy one ticket per person.
Opernring 2, +43 151444/2250, wiener-staatsoper.at. Check the website for the most up-to-date performance schedule.
Visit Belvedere Palace
This is one of my favorite places in the city. The Belvedere, which dates back to the early 18th century, is actually composed of two palaces. The northern palace is home to an incredible art collection with works by Renoir, Monet, and Van Gogh and a large portrait collection (which is my favorite). The southern palace is a rotating exhibit hall.
The free grounds feature beautiful fountains, gravel walkways, ponds, statues, plants, and flowers and are perfect for a stroll on a nice day.
Prinz-Eugen-Strasse 27, +43 1 795570, belvedere.at. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Admission is 16 EUR.
See the Jewish Square (Judenplatz)
For centuries, Vienna was home to a sizable Jewish population. Then the Nazis came. This area of town features two important museums: the Vienna Jewish Museum that details the role Viennese Jews played in the development of city life; and the Medieval Synagogue, which gives a more authentic look at the history of Jewish life in Vienna. There is also the nearby Holocaust Memorial designed by British artist Rachel Whiteread which commemorates the 65,000 Jewish Austrians who were killed by the Nazis.
Dorotheergasse 11, +43 1 5350431, jmw.at. Open Sunday-Thursday from 10am-6pm and Fridays from 10am-2pm. Admission is 12 EUR.
Visit the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum features a huge collection of minerals, precious stones, meteorites, fossils, and even some taxidermy because stuffed animals and all! With over 30 million objects, the museum’s collection is one of the biggest in Europe. The museum is also home to a digital planetarium where you can watch movies about the earth and its development. I highly recommend visiting — it’s super fun and educational!
Burgring 7, +43 1 521770, nhm-wien.ac.at. Open Thursday-Monday from 9am-6:30pm and Wednesdays from 9am-9pm. Admission is 12 EUR.
Visit the Mozart Museum
Though Mozart lived at a handful of different addresses in Vienna, this is the only apartment that has survived. He lived here from 1784-1787, and you’ll learn about his life, family, music, friends, and are able to listen to his work. The museum was opened in 1941 for the 150th anniversary of Mozart’s death. There’s a variety of paintings, artifacts, letters, and memorabilia from his life here as well. It’s a neat little museum to check out.
Domgasse 5, +43 1 5121791, mozarthausvienna.at. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Admission is 11 EUR (free for anyone under 19 and free on the first Sunday of the month).
See the Freud Museum
Sigmund Freud, the famous founder of psychoanalysis, lived in this apartment-turned-museum from 1891 to 1938. The museum was opened in 1971 with the help of Anna Freud (his youngest daughter) and is home to the original furniture and Freud’s private collection of antiques as well as first editions of his works. There are also films from his private life. It’s small and only takes about an hour to visit.
Berggasse 19, +43 1 3191596, freud-museum.at. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Admission is 14 EUR.
Visit the Albertina
The Albertina is one of the best museums in the city (which says a lot because this is a city of museums)! It’s housed in one of the old private residence wings of the Imperial Palace. It’s most famous for its print collection, which is comprised of over one million prints and 60,000 drawings. However, they have a lot of temporary exhibits that rotate through here too, which I found to be the highlight (I saw one on Raphael).
Albertinaplatz 1, +43 1 53483, albertina.at. Open daily from 10am-6pm (9pm on Wednesdays and Fridays). Admission is 13 EUR (free if you’re under 19).
Do a Wine Tour
Once you’ve had your fill of museums and palaces, take a bike tour of the nearby Wachau Valley. You’ll get to taste some of the best local wine while burning off a few extra calories (to make room for more wine, of course!). It’s a full day excursion (plan to spend 8-10 hours on this) that includes some sightseeing and lunch too.
If you’re looking for a tour operator, I suggest Discover Vienna Tours. They are who I use when I ran tours to Vienna and people loved it. Honestly, it’s the number thing people remember!
Expect to pay around 85 EUR for a full-day wine tour.
On day seven, you have two choices: take a day trip into neighboring Slovakia or go explore some of the forests and hiking trails near Vienna.
Take a Day Trip to Bratislava
Bratislava makes for a great day trip from Vienna. Located only an hour away, you can easily head there for a day to explore its charming medieval center, several castles, a cathedral, beer halls, restaurants, and paths along the Danube. Bratislava is a relatively small capital so it’s easy to get around on foot. Trains depart regularly from Vienna for as little as 10 EUR, while Flixbus runs a regular bus service with tickets starting around 4 EUR.
If you stay in the night, Hostel Blues is my favorite hostel in the city.
Explore Vienna Woods
This beautiful woodland (known as Wienerwald) is located on the outskirts of the city and is filled with a lot of hiking paths. Spanning over 1,100 square kilometers, the woods are just 30km from the city and extremely popular with locals (few tourists get out there). If you don’t have a vehicle, you can take public transportation or try the ride-sharing service BlaBlaCar.
Where to Eat
Here’s a list of all my favorite restaurants in Vienna:
- Figmueller (Wollzeile 5, +43 15126177) – Founded over 110 years ago, the Figlmüller is famous for its schnitzel. Yes, it’s super touristy but the schnitzel is very good and it’s about the size of your face so you’ll have leftovers. Be sure to make reservations!
- Der Wiener Deewan (Liechtensteinstraße 10, +43 1 9251185) – This pay-what-you-want restaurant cooks Pakistani cuisine with excellent daal, naan bread, and salad. It’s popular among students (the university is nearby). Don’t go in a huge group or you’ll never get a seat.
- Café Jelinek (Otto-Bauer-Gasse 5, +43 15974113) – This is one of many coffee houses in Vienna. It’s cool, stylish, serves great drinks, and has comfy tables.
- Japanisches Restaurant NihonBashi (Kärntner 44, +43 18907856) – This is the best sushi restaurant in Vienna. Not only is the food mouth watering but it has an extensive sake menu.
- Plutzer Bräu (Schrankgasse 2, +43 15261215) – A Westernized bar, this place has delicious Viennese food, along with steaks, burgers, and lots of beer.
- Café Phil (Gumpendorfer 10, +43 15810489) – This cafe is also a bookstore. It’s very laid back and a great place to people watch. They also have fast wifi, friendly staff, and serve food!
- L’Osteria Bräunerstraße (Bräunerstraße 11, +43 1512253610) – To die for Italian and pizza joint right downtown with outdoor seatings, friendly staff, and a huge wine list.
- Restaurant Hidori (Burggasse 89, +43 15233900) – Another solid sushi place that also services some pretty amazing yakitori (grilled skewers).
- Café Sperl (Gumpendorfer 11, +43 15864158) – This traditional coffeehouse dates back to the 19th century and is home to some delicious pastries. It was featured in Before Sunrise and A Dangerous Method.
Vienna has a lot of things to do in see. Sure, there’s a lot of museums (and by the time you leave here you’ll have museum overload) but there’s also a lot of great walking tours, excursions outside the city, food markets, places to eat, and cafes to sit around with a good book in! Vienna will never steer you wrong!
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Book Your Trip to Vienna: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
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