March 3, 2024

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Complete Guide To Austria’s Beautiful Capital City

Complete Guide To Austria’s Beautiful Capital City

Nestled on the River Danube, Vienna is known for its stunning architecture, rich history, classical music, and world-class museums. The contrasting styles of Vienna’s Roman Baroque architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries and the city’s more contemporary steel and glass buildings showcase Vienna’s perfect mix of history with the modern day. And Vienna offers tourists so many fun and unique things to do.


From star attractions like visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Schönbrunn Palace, and MuseumsQuartier, to spending the day at the Vienna Zoo, riding the Ferris Wheel at Prater Amusement Park, or touring the Vienna State Opera House—there is never a dull moment in Vienna. Tourists can also spend the afternoon shopping at luxury stores or flea markets (or both!), slip right into Vienna’s coffee culture, or people-watch with a glass of locally made wine.

Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and with a storied history, gorgeous sights, and urban charm, it is definitely worth visiting.

Top Things to Do

Here is our ultimate guide and list of things to do in Vienna, Austria.

1 St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Exterior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria

Vienna’s star attraction, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is, in a word—spectacular. Located in the middle of Old Town, the impressive Gothic building dominates Vienna’s skyline. Gothic spires, the striking bell tower, and the ornate roof mesmerize viewers, and it’s not just the cathedral’s exterior that’s impressive.

Inside, visitors can climb the 343 stairs to the south tower, take an elevator to the north tower to see the Pummerin Bell (the largest church bell in Austria), get close to the Baroque high alter, visit the many small chapels, and check out the cathedral treasury.

  • Address: Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130, Vienna
  • Hours: Monday through Saturday, 6 AM to 10 PM; Sunday, 7 AM to 10 PM

While entry into the cathedral is free, specific sites of interest in St. Stephen’s Cathedral are only accessible via guided tours.

2 Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace and its green garden in Vienna, Austria
Photo by Arun Chandrasekaran on Unsplash

Schönbrunn Palace and its green garden in Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace is Vienna’s crown jewel. Once a summer home to Habsburg monarchs, today the Schönbrunn Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace and its gardens span over 300 years of Austrian history and have been a main tourist attraction since the 1950s.

With over 1,400 rooms and beautiful palace gardens available to the public, the Schönbrunn Palace is a must-see attraction for any tourist in Vienna. In addition to tours of the palace, visitors have an opportunity to attend classical concerts featuring Mozart and similar musicians.

  • Address: Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130, Vienna

3 MuseumsQuartier

The entrance to MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, Austria

Commonly known as MQ, MuseumsQuartier is one of the largest cultural complexes in Europe and encompasses over 60 cultural institutions. Simply put, MQ offers tourists and locals alike so many unique things to do, right in the center of Vienna.

From fine art to architecture, music, theater, fashion, and dance, there is always something new to learn, unique to see, and fun to do. Witness the world-famous Egon Schiele collection, enjoy a glass of wine at a trendy bar, dine at a cute café or elegant restaurant, or even play mini golf!

And the rooftop terrace on the MQ Libelle recently opened in 2020 and offers fantastic views over the city center to the Vienna mountains.

  • Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070, Vienna
  • Cost: The MQ is free to enter and look around, but each institution inside has its own fees and opening hours.

Related: 10 Best Museums In Vienna For Music And Art

4 Vienna Zoo

Flamingos at the zoo in Vienna, Austria
M. Kreuschitz 2010 licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Flamingos at the zoo in Vienna, Austria

The Vienna Zoo is the world’s oldest. With over 700 species of animals, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fun opportunity to witness wildlife ranging from the tropics to the Arctic and everything in between. Some zoo highlights include an Aquarium-Terrarium House, a Bird House, and cute pandas, penguins, and orangutans.

Kids love the petting zoo and the large adventure playground! The zoo also offers cafés, snack bars, and restaurants so that families can stay the entire day.

  • Address: On the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace, Seckendorff-Gudent-Weg, 1130 Vienna
  • Hours: Daily, 9 AM to 4:30/6:30 PM (depending on the season)
  • Cost: Approximately $28 per person

5 The Prater Amusement Park

Aerial view of the Ferris Wheel at Prate Amusement Park in Vienna, Austria
Photo by Anton on Unsplash

Aerial view of the Ferris Wheel at Prate Amusement Park in Vienna, Austria

This large amusement park offers old-timey rides the entire family will enjoy. The park’s main attraction is located right at the entrance. The Ferris Wheel, constructed in 1897, is a historical landmark, and a ride in one of its stately gondolas is a fantastic opportunity to soak up gorgeous views from 200 feet high!

Farther inside the Prater Amusement Park, visitors will find roller coasters, spooky ghost trains, video games, bouncy castles, eateries, cafés, and so many more fun things to do. The amusement park is the oldest in the world, and a step inside will make visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time.

  • Address: Riesenradplatz 2, A-1020 Vienna

Cello player in front of Cartier in Vienna, Austria
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Cello player in front of Cartier in Vienna, Austria

Vienna offers ample opportunities to shop. To name a few—try the Ringstrassen-Galerien for a unique shopping experience. The 16-floor mall is in two buildings connected by a glass bridge. The gorgeous setting offers everything from clothing to toys!

The Danau Zentrum is a mall with over 250 stores, a movie theater, and a few dozen restaurants. It’s the second-largest shopping center in Austria. Kohlmarket is one of the oldest streets in Vienna. While strolling past stunning historic architecture, tourists will find luxury brands, like Chanel and Gucci, as well as fine jewelry.

7 A Walk Around The Ringtrasse

A sculpture in front of the Parliament building in Vienna, Austria
dziewul via Adobe Stock

A sculpture in front of the Parliament building in Vienna, Austria

A stroll in Vienna’s city center, specifically—The Ringtrasse—is a great way to really see the historic city. The walk is only just over three miles between Karlsplatz and Schottentor and loops around the historic Old Town. The first buildings on the Ringtrasse loop were built in 1857 and are definitely worth admiring.

Tourists will get up close and personal with many famous buildings, including the State Opera House, the Town Hall, the University, the Burggarten, the Hofburg, the National Library, many of Vienna’s great museums, Parliament, the Volksgarten, and the Burgtheater.

8 Vienna State Opera House Tour

Exterior of the Vienna State Opera House at night
Image by Michael Kleinsasser from Pixabay 

Exterior of the Vienna State Opera House at night

The world-famous opera house dates back to 1869 and has welcomed some of the world’s most famous singers. Every night, visitors can witness the magic of world-class singers and ensemble members alongside a unique orchestra and master conductor. A night at the Vienna State Opera House is a night to remember!

Opera enthusiasts may also appreciate a tour of the Vienna State Opera House. They usually last about 40 minutes and include insight into the building’s history and architecture, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the running of a famous opera house.

  • Address: Opernring 2, 1010, Vienna
  • Cost for a Tour: Approximately $14 per person

9 Spanish Riding School

Empty Building at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria
Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

Empty Building at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria

One of the most popular attractions in Vienna, the Spanish Riding School, has Lipizzan horses that regularly perform shows. An Austrian institution for over 450 years, the shows cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the Haute Ecole.

Tourists can also visit the Spanish Riding School in the mornings to watch the horses train for one-hour sessions in the winter riding room. Not as fancy as the shows, the trainings offer an alternative way to see the magnificent creatures.

Tours of the Spanish Riding School are also available. Located in Stallburg (a prominent Renaissance building), the tour costs approximately $23 per person but is worth it, especially for equestrian lovers.

  • Address: Michaelerplatz 1, 1010, Vienna

10 Naschmarkt

Fresh fruit at the Naschmarkt in Vienna, Austria
Photo by Jorge Franganillo on Unsplash

Fresh fruit at the Naschmarkt in Vienna, Austria

One of Vienna’s most famous markets, the Naschmarkt, runs almost a mile long and has about 120 market stands and restaurants. Dating back to the 16th century, expect to find fruits, vegetables, spices, cheeses—and even lots of international cuisine, ranging from traditional Viennese to Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, and more!

DJs blast music on the weekends, and in the warmer months, it’s a great spot to spend time outdoors eating, drinking, and people-watching.

The flea market on Saturday is a must-visit for tourists who love finding unique souvenirs and special treasures!

  • Address: Naschmarkt Stand 412 1060, Vienna

11 Best Time To Visit

Aerial view of Vienna, Austria
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Aerial view of Vienna, Austria 

  • Best month to go to Vienna:
    April to May or Spring to October. These months offer mild weather and fewer crowds.

  • Rainiest months in Vienna:
    April and November tend to be the wettest.

April to May

Spring offers tourists a fantastic opportunity to avoid long lines at main attractions and save a little bit of money on inflated hotel and airfare prices. Temperatures range from the 40s to the high-60s, but despite the cooler weather, this is one of the best times of the year to visit Vienna.

June to August

The most popular time to visit, summer offers warm weather and so many fun things to do. Temperatures in the 70s are perfect for perusing the city and checking out the sights. Summer is the busiest time of year to visit Vienna, though, so be prepared for crowds. And this is also the time of year to expect higher prices for hotels and airfares.

  • Summer Festivals in Vienna
    : The Vienna Festival is in May/June. And the Danube Island Festival is in June.

September to October

Like spring, temperatures in Vienna vary between the mid-40s and the high-60s. Prices start to drop after the summer surge. Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Vienna.

  • Fall Events in Vienna
    : Vienna Fashion Week is in September, and the Vienna International Film Festival is in October.

November to March

Chilly temperatures (the mid-30s to 40s) don’t stop the winter crowds. Wintertime festivities draw many visitors to Vienna, and Vienna is a gorgeous place to visit around Christmastime!

12 Best Ways To Get Around

A tram on the road in Vienna, Austria
Photo by Ahmad Tolba on Unsplash

A tram on the road in Vienna, Austria

  • Best way to get around Vienna
    : On foot or by taking a bus or a streetcar.

Walk

Vienna is a walking city. Many of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance, and it’s a lovely place to explore on foot.

Bus, Streetcar & Subway

Alternatively, Vienna’s public transportation (The Wiener Linien) offers buses and streetcars that wind their way through the city and are very easy to use. Tourists can transfer between buses and streetcars using the same ticket—they’re interchangeable.

The U-Bahn is a subway system that also services the city. Tickets for buses and streetcars can also be used on the subway.

  • Cost: $1.30 per person for a single-trip ticket or $6.30 per person for an all-day ticket.

Taxis

Taxis are available in Vienna, but they’re expensive. Consult the hotel concierge for going rates and confirm fares before getting into a cab. Uber is also available in Vienna.

Bike

Vienna is a very bike-friendly city. A healthy and fun way to travel, tourists can rent bikes for the day (approximately $40) along the Danube Canal.

Car

Renting a car is not recommended in Vienna. The streets are narrow, crowded, and difficult to navigate by car, and parking in the city can also be challenging.

Related: Exploring Vienna: How To Plan A Weekend Trip To Austria’s Classic Capital

13 Where To Eat

Historic buildingz in the evening in Vienna, Austria
Image by tookapic from Pixabay 

Historic buildings in the evening in Vienna, Austria 

Vienna has an impressive dining scene; check out the best places to eat in the capital.

Breakfast

Café Central

While Café Central serves popular Viennese dishes and has live piano performances daily (except Tuesdays) starting at 3:30 PM, it’s also a fabulous place for breakfast! And over the years, Café Central has attracted many famous people, like Freud and Trotsky, writers, and poets.

  • Address: Corner Herrengasse / Strauchgasse, 1010, Vienna
  • Hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 AM to 9 PM; Sunday, 10 AM to 9 PM
  • Recommended: Kaiserliches Frühstück (Imperial breakfast with one glass of sparkling wine, one hot drink, fresh orange juice, smoked salmon with orange-mustard sauce, toast, homemade croissant, handmade roll, organic butter, jam, soft-boiled organic egg, organic muesli with organic plain yogurt)

Lunch

Figlmüller

Johann Figlmüller opened Figlmüller in 1905, just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Cathedral. For over 100 years, tourists and locals alike have enjoyed the famous Wiener Schnitzel and homegrown wine.

  • Address: Figlmüller Wollzeile: Wollzeile 5, 1010 Vienna
  • Hours: Daily, 11 AM to 10:30 PM
  • Recommended: The Wiener Schnitzel, of course!

Dinner

Mraz and Sohn

With two Michelin Stars, Mraz and Sohn offers multi-course tasting menus in a contemporary setting and is a must-visit in Vienna. It’s a family-run restaurant serving Austrian cuisine with an international influence.

  • Address: Wallensteinstraße 59, 1200 Vienna
  • Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 PM to Midnight
  • Recommended: The Chef’s Tasting Menu

Related: A Guide To Vienna’s Decadent Cafés (& Their Best Treats)

14 Where To Stay In Vienna

Aerial view of Vienna, Austria
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay 

Aerial view of Vienna, Austria

From hostels and budget-friendly hotels to luxury accommodations and all-inclusive resorts perfect for a Vienna getaway, Austria’s capital city offers the perfect place for any traveler to lay their head.

Luxury

Hotel Bristol

A truly luxurious accommodation, Hotel Bristol is in the heart of the city near the Vienna State Opera and within walking distance of many of Vienna’s top attractions. This Art Deco delight has been a prime address in Vienna since 1892 and offers historic charm with modern amenities. Also, the Bristol Bar (on-site) is the first American Bar in Vienna.

  • Address: Kaerntner Ring 1, 1010 Vienna
  • Amenities: Fitness center, bar/lounge, free Wi-Fi, coffee machine, restaurant, room service, flat-screen TV.
  • Cost: $$$

Related: 10 Most Lavish And Expensive Austria Hotels For The Ultimate Getaway

Mid-Range

Austria Classic Hotel Wien

Centrally located, the Austria Classic Hotel Wien has over 200 years of history and is located in one of the oldest houses in Vienna. Combining comfort and contemporary flair, this mid-range hotel is an excellent option for those traveling to Vienna.

  • Address: Praterstrasse 72, 1020 Vienna
  • Amenities: fitness center, free Wi-Fi, coffee machine, flat-screen TV, bar/lounge
  • Cost: $$

Budget

Hotel Donauwalzer

TheHotel Donauwalzer is a boutique hotel within a 15-minute walk (8-minute tram) to the city center. Their breakfast buffet, with sparkling wine and live classical music, is a great way to start Sunday mornings! A great option for budget-conscious travelers, the Hotel Donauwalzer offers fantastic service in a good location.

  • Address: Hernalser Gürtel 27, 1170 Vienna
  • Amenities: Spa and wellness center, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, bar/lounge.
  • Cost: $

15 How To Spend The Perfect Day In Vienna

Aerial view of Vienna at night
Image by Julius Silver from Pixabay 

Aerial view of Vienna at night

Start the day at Café Central. Sip a hot cup of coffee and dine on delicious pastries while people-watching in one of the most popular eateries in the city. Next up, it’s time for some sightseeing. St. Peter’s Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in Vienna, and no wonder why! With stunning architecture, both inside and out, the cathedral is definitely worth a trip. Spend a little extra money on a guided tour to learn more about this fascinating space and witness special sites of interest.

In the afternoon, stop by Schönbrunn Palace. Explore the palace and the gardens before heading to MuseumsQuarter, one of the largest cultural complexes in Europe. Because the space encompasses over 60 cultural institutions, there’s no time to visit them all. Just make sure to stop by the rooftop terrace on the MQ Libelle before leaving to catch breathtaking views over the city center to the Vienna mountains.

If there’s time, wander through the Naschmarkt before heading to dinner. A tasting menu at Mraz and Sohn, along with a pint or a glass of local wine, is the perfect ending to the perfect day in Vienna, Austria.

FAQ

Q: What is Vienna famous for?

Vienna is famous for its wonderful museums focusing on art and music. Known as the “City of Music,” Vienna has been home to some of the best musicians in the world, such as Beethoven and Mozart.

Vienna is also famous for its delicious food (like Wiener Schnitzel!), great beer and wine, and its many attractions, such as St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Schönbrunn Palace, the Vienna Zoo (the oldest in the world!), and the Vienna State Opera House.

Q: Is Vienna very expensive?

With the right planning, Vienna can be as expensive or budget-friendly as any tourist plans it to be. Regarding accommodations, while there are a ton of gorgeous luxury hotels in Vienna, there are also quite a few less expensive hostels worth checking out.

And many of the attractions are free to look at and wander around, but can be more expensive if booking a guided tour or purchasing tickets to see areas inaccessible to the general public. On average, Vienna is more expensive than Germany and cheaper than Switzerland.

Q: Is Vienna worth visiting?

Yes! Vienna is definitely worth visiting. With its stunning architecture, rich history, museums, music, excellent eateries, and fabulous shopping options, Vienna is a fun and cosmopolitan city that should be on everyone’s bucket list.