Do you love history and imperial sights and want to travel to a new cultural destination, while also having fun at the same time? Then Vienna, the capital of Austria, is a great option for you! The city has something to offer to any type of traveler, and to help out I will share with you some of the best things to do in Vienna below!
If you are not sure about the destination and are asking yourself what is Vienna known for – there are many different ways of answering this! You may start with their cozy coffee houses or their impressive imperial sights but don’t forget about their well-kept historical garden, their nice wine taverns and more!
Now, without further ado, let me share with you the greatest tips on where to go in Vienna and which attractions to include for an unforgettable itinerary:
- 1. Start your trip by visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral
- 2. Take a walking tour to learn about Vienna’s past and present
- 3. Take a ride on the Vienna Sightseeing Bus
- 4. Visit Hofburg Palace
- 5. Watch a live concert at the State Opera
- 6. Visit the Rathaus City Hall
- 7. Go (a bit) crazy at the Sigmund Freud Museum
- 8. Go to the outskirts and admire Schönbrunn Palace
- 9. Admire the nature at Belvedere Garden and Belvedere Palace
- 10. Feel like a local at the Fruit and Flower Market (Naschmarkt)
- 11. See some art at Albertina Museum Vienna
- 12. Learn some history facts at MuseumsQuartier
- 13. Discover the history in Kaisergruft (Imperial Crypt)
- BONUS 1: Unique things to do in Vienna, Austria
- BONUS 2: 3 Day trips from Vienna, Austria
- Practical information about Vienna
- Where to stay in Vienna, Austria
1. Start your trip by visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a great representation of Vienna architecture and a real landmark – you can find its silhouette on most souvenirs or as part of the most emblematic images of Austria!
The building is such an icon it HAS to be among your best things to do in Vienna, no question about that! It would be almost like going to Barcelona and not seeing Sagrada Familia!
I recommend taking the Old Town tour which also includes a cathedral visit. After this underground adventure, I recommend climbing up to the magnificent South Tower.
PRICE: €6.50 entrance to the Cathedral and €6 to climb the South Tower. Check the updated price here.
2. Take a walking tour to learn about Vienna’s past and present
Are you wondering about one of the first best things to do in Vienna, Austria after you arrive so you can learn as much as you can about Vienna’s history? Joining a free 2-hour walking tour is the #1 and most popular activity because you get to walk around the streets like any local and see the most popular sights!
NOTE: A tip is recommended at the end of the activity if you enjoyed it!
Sometimes complimentary tours can be a bit overcrowded so you might prefer a paid organized walk – I can recommend this one. If you would rather go for a private option, here is an exclusive private one for you.
PRICE: from 0 to €44 per person
3. Take a ride on the Vienna Sightseeing Bus
A quick and easy method to see Vienna and its most important landmarks! You can choose between different routes and the bus tickets are valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours, and you can change routes as you please.
There are many different companies, but I can recommend Big Bus Vienna, as they share their bus routes on the web so it is easier to know all the stops you’d go by.
PRICE: €27 online, €30 at the place
4. Visit Hofburg Palace
In case you are wondering what to visit in Vienna as part of your itinerary, Hofburg Palace has to be one of your top 5 places for sure!
Hofburg Palace used to be the official Imperial Palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers and it served as their winter residence.
PRICE: €15 per adult. Check the updated prices here.
5. Watch a live concert at the State Opera
If you are interested in adding this to your list of activities on your trip, I do recommend searching online for tickets based on your dates of travel.
You can find many concert choices in Vienna, but here are some great options I handpicked for you:
PRO TIP: Don’t worry if you did not book a spot beforehand, you can still see what shows are available by walking past the Vienna Opera building. There are a couple of ticket promoters that will explain all the choices to you.
PRICE: starting at €40
6. Visit the Rathaus City Hall
The Rathaus, also known as City Hall and located very close to Hofburg Palace, is one of the biggest and most monumental buildings among the Ringstraße, so you should definitely see it!
Another great attraction for visitors is the Rathausplatz, an important plaza in Vienna for its size and the singular designs of nearby buildings.
If you want to visit Rathaus, you can do that if you join the free guided tours (no need to reserve your spot, just show up a bit in advance at the spot). The guided tours are in German, but you can take a complimentary audio guide in English, French, Spanish or Italian (make sure to have your photo ID/passport with you as a deposit).
NOTE: If you want a guided visit, you must go to the Tourist Info Point which is accessible from the back of the building.
7. Go (a bit) crazy at the Sigmund Freud Museum
IMPORTANT: The museum is currently closed but will reopen in May 2020. Meanwhile, you can check out an exhibition about the life and work of Sigmund Freud, at the Moving Freud Museum Vienna.
If you’re a culture lover, this place is for you! Museum of Sigmund Freud used to be Freud’s house in Vienna before he left for England back in 1938 to escape from the National Socialists. The house was converted into a museum in 1971 with the help of Anna Freud, his daughter.
PRICE: €9. Check the updated prices here.
8. Go to the outskirts and admire Schönbrunn Palace
Leaving the city center and heading off to the Schönbrunn Palace, which is one of my favorite things to see in Vienna, is entirely worth the train ride!
You have probably heard of Sissi the Empress – well, this used to be her summer residence! If you have not, I do recommend seeing part of the trilogy of movies made based on her life before and once she became the Empress.
There are many options for the purchase of tickets, but I recommend the Classic Pass that includes an audio guide through the Schönbrunn Palace, a walk around the Privy Garden and the Orangery Garden, a view of the Gloriette, and some fun at the Maze as well! By the way, Schönbrunn has a zoo as well!
If you would rather have one of the guided skip-the-line tours instead, I recommend this one.
PRICE: €28.50 for the Classic Pass.
9. Admire the nature at Belvedere Garden and Belvedere Palace
If you are into the idea of walking among lush nature and blooming flowers, you will definitely want to see Belvedere Palace and Belvedere Gardens!
Belvedere Gardens are divided into 5 parts around the property. The main feature is the Belvedere Palace Gardens, followed by the Privy Garden, the Sculpture Garden, the Alpine Garden, and finally the Botanical Garden.
And right next to the gardens is the Belvedere Palace, which can be visited inside as well.
PRICE: There is no entrance fee for the Gardens, the prices for the Palace buildings are up to €14.
10. Feel like a local at the Fruit and Flower Market (Naschmarkt)
Naschmarkt is a local market ideal for top-chefs, culinary aficionados, students, antique hunters, and anyone else who just wants to see where locals go and enjoy some food and flowers!
PRO TIP: There is also a Flea Market held there every Saturday.
11. See some art at Albertina Museum Vienna
Albertina is a popular art museum located inside a palace with an impressive collection of artwork! There are permanent exhibitions of French Impressionists like Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Henri Lebasque, as well as temporary art exhibits from the Albertina collection.
The museum itself has over 1,000,000 items that range from graphic arts and photography to even architecture!
PRICE: €17. Check the updated prices here.
12. Learn some history facts at MuseumsQuartier
How come the Museums Quartier is such a recommended location? Because at this complex you will only find the best museums in Vienna, such as:
13. Discover the history in Kaisergruft (Imperial Crypt)
The imperial crypt, called “Kaisergruft” in German, is also known as the Capuchin Crypt and you will find the remains of the Habsburg Empire rulers there, going back about 400 years that represent about 150 dynasty personalities!
PRICE: €7.50. Check the updated prices here.
BONUS 1: Unique things to do in Vienna, Austria
Here are some unique, different activities you can do if you are spending a weekend in Vienna or just a few hours there:
1. Admire the décor of Hundertwasser House and Museum
Hundertwasser House is an entirely different attraction compared to the classic Imperial-styled buildings in Vienna!
This is a house made of different apartments, all with various designs and colors. Nobody can go inside, unless you are a building tenant, so its main beauty is in viewing it from the exterior.
Because you cannot enter the building, you might still want to see some more architectural concepts – and Hundertwasser Village is perfect for this! For more information on the artist and his other creations, you can go to the Hundertwasser Museum.
PRICE: Admission to the museum is €11/person.
2. Stop for a bite of Sacher Torte
I was told to try the Sacher Torte in Vienna so many times, I put it as a priority on my list!
This is a chocolate sponge cake filled with one or two layers of apricot or cherry jam, covered in dark chocolate.
Now, the truth is I was told to go to Café Central, but the line was too long for the cold and windy weather I had that day. So I ended up at Café Coffee Day which had this dessert as well. The café had more products than just desserts, but sweets are a definite part of their success.
PRO TIP: If you want to go eat at Café Central (it’s very close to Hofburg Palace, by the way!), it might be better to make a reservation!
3. Go for an evening cruise along the Danube
Explore Vienna in a different way with this 3-hour tour in Vienna and go on a popular evening cruise on the Danube canal to enjoy the sunset!
PRICE: €29 per person
BONUS 2: 3 Day trips from Vienna, Austria
Here are some Vienna day trips that are definitely worth doing:
1. Vienna Woods and Mayerling
During this half-day trip you will leave the classic tourist route of the city center and go to the outskirts to find the Vienna Woods.
2. Mauthausen Concentration Camp
Visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp might be shocking for some people, but it is filled with respect and admiration for all the people who lived at that moment. This organized tour will take you back to World War II and the horrors people went through under the rule of Hitler.
3. Wachau and Danube Valley
This 8-hour Wachau tour departs from Vienna and takes you to discover the valleys along the Danube River, such as the UNESCO-listed Wachau Valley located in Lower Austria. A boat ride down the Danube will take you to Wachau, the heart of the wine-growing region in the city of Krems!
Practical information about Vienna
Now that you know some of the best things to do in the city, I could not let you go without adding some useful and practical information:
How to get from the airport to Vienna
Here are all the options you can choose from:
By City Airport Train (CAT)
The CAT takes you from the airport to the city central main station of Wien Mitte in 16 minutes. The price is €12 for a single ride or €21 roundtrip.
By ÖBB Railjet
The Railjets run non-stop and make the route from the airport over to Vienna Main Station in 15 minutes for €4.20.
You can find some taxi companies right in the arrivals hall. The ride will take about 20 minutes and costs €36 fixed price for up to 4 people. You can also request an Uber for between €29-€37 depending on traffic.
There are three Vienna Airport bus lines:
VAL1: Airport -> Vienna Main Station (40 minutes).
VAL 2: Airport -> Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz (20 minutes).
VAL3: Airport -> Donauzentrum (40 minutes).
NOTE: You can buy the tickets online, at airport ticket machines, or from the driver. The price is €8 single ride / €13 round trip.
Where to stay in Vienna, Austria
UPDATE: If these options are not enough, check out my post on the 7 neighbourhoods in the city.
Luxury (€140 and up):
- Schlosshotel Römischer Kaiser – This is a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Vienna that will offer you a great time! Its charm starts with its façade and its elegant red carpet awaiting guests.
- Small Luxury Hotel Altstadt Vienna – This 4-star boutique hotel in the Spittelberg quarter is found in a renovated historic building.
Middle-priced (from €50 to €140):
- Hotel Domizil – This hotel is in an old-style historical building along one of the main streets in the heart of Vienna. The rooms are spacious enough for two people and they even have a tea and coffee maker in every room. Plus, you’ll also have access to cable TV, a minibar and 24/7 free Wi-Fi!
- Hotel Austria – Wien – This hotel’s infrastructure is modern while having a very classic and elegant decor that completes its personality. The public areas and terrace are very quiet and great places to relax. Plus, you can even request an airport shuttle for an additional charge!
Budget (up to €50):
- Do Step Inn Central – This is one of the best cheap hostels in Vienna I can recommend to anyone traveling alone and thinking of backpacking. It has a shared lobby-kitchen area where you can have a quick snack or catch up on some emails. Most rooms are shared by at least six people, but each bed closes up like a safe so your belongings are completely safe!
- Hotel Marc Aurel – This hotel is decorated in a Mediterranean style and their rooms offer air-conditioning, a minibar, and a TV. You can ask to use the airport shuttle for an additional charge. The property is surrounded by beautiful canals and quaint bridges, and some rooms have amazing views!
Transportation inside Vienna, Austria
On my first visit to Vienna, I had a lot to learn. I went for a 48-hour transportation ticket that could be used on all public transportation services and added my single-ride on the CAT to arrive straight from the airport to the city center.
Each ticket is valid within one zone, so if you stay in the city center, that is all part of the same zone. You can change to different lines and transportation vehicles with the same single ticket and as long as you don’t go in circles or go back to the initial stop. You can even go for my recommendation to buy at least a 24-hour ticket for €8, so you don’t have to worry about validating your ticket every time!
PRICE: €2.40 per single ticket
They run from 5AM until midnight; on weekends they even run for 24-hours.
The night bus lines run from 12:30AM until 5 AM, when the rest of the transportation services start to run again.
Your most convenient option, probably, is with Citybike Vienna. Once you link your credit or bank card during the online registration, you can start using it at a fee of €1 for a one-time registration. Your first hour of biking doesn’t cost anything, and the 2nd hour means a charge of €1, then €2 for 3 hours and so on.
If the above sounded like a foreign language, go for RadStation, a tourist-friendly option – it is about €30 for the entire day and you only need to leave your credit card details as insurance.
PRO TIP: If you don’t want to cycle all day, you might want to see Vienna during a short, popular 3-hour bike tour.
Taxi / Uber:
You can get a ride at a Taxistandplaats – these taxi ranks or stands are where the vehicles wait for passengers. The rides cost approximately €7 to €12 while you are in the city perimeter.
Vienna Tourist Passes
1. Vienna City Pass
Vienna City Pass main features are:
- Free entry to over 60 Vienna attractions, including Belvedere Palace, Schönbrunn Palace Grand Tour, Danube Tower, Prater Museum, Hofburg Palace, and the Hop On Hop Off bus.
- A guide book of Vienna
- You can purchase it to use for up to 6 days
- You can save about €40 on a single day in museums and activities just by using the card. For the 3 day pass you are able to save more than €70!
PRICE: €79 for 1 day, €89 for 2 days, €116 for 3 days, and €143 for 6 days.
2. Vienna City Card
Vienna City Card includes:
- 24, 48, or 72 hours of continuous use of public transportation systems
- You can add your transfer to and from the airport
- You can add tickets for the Hop-on Hop-off bus
- You can save up to €45 per day because of the discounts at top attractions such as Albertina, Haus der Musik, Haus des Meeres, and more.
PRICE: €17 for 24 hours, €25 for 48 hours, and €29 for 72 hours.
So, which one is better?
The answer is that Vienna City Pass has an exclusive sightseeing benefit, so you will have complimentary entrance to more than 60 of the top attractions, museums, and monuments in the city.
On the other hand, Vienna City Card is perfect for all transportation systems for a limited number of days, so you can forget about buying a ticket each time you enter the bus, for example!
Must try food in Vienna, Austria
Here are just a few must-try foods in Vienna and even in Austria in general:
- A classic Austrian breakfast – includes a Semmel or Brötchen (their local bread roll), butter and jam, speck (smoked bacon), and coffee;
- Sacher torte – a delicious chocolate sponge cake filled with one or two layers of apricot jam and covered with dark chocolate icing;
- Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) – a traditional layered pastry filled with grated apples, sugar, cinnamon, and bread crumbs;
- Wiener Schnitzel – a slice of veal covered in breadcrumbs (fried);
- Austrian goulash – a rich meat stew served with dark bread;
Where to eat in Vienna
There are many cafes and food places that will offer you local and international cuisine. These are the local options I recommend you try:
- Café Frauenhuber – a place full of history where you can find a very good local breakfast in Vienna;
- Café Landtmann – a unique, classic Austrian café with history where you can have a good time;
- Wiener Wiaz Haus – for the most famous wiener schnitzel;
- Gulaschmuseum – a good middle-priced place to go for a local Wiener Saftgulasch;
- Vollpension – a fun coffee house that focuses on yummy breakfast/brunch;
- Brau Bar – a cozy place to find traditional and tasty food at an affordable price.
Getting a SIM card in Vienna
if you purchase your SIM card in any European city/country you won’t need to pay for any roaming fee (except for Switzerland)!
In case you are arriving in Vienna and want to buy a SIM card for the time you’ll spend there, you can get one at a store called “Hallo Hallo”. You can get 1GB of data for €15, but my most convenient recommendation is to use the airport Wi-Fi and, once you arrive to the city, then buy a card. The available operators are: T-Mobile, A1, or 3.
Is Vienna expensive?
Vienna has quite a history of being expensive, but I really think that this really just depends on how you plan on spending your time and money. My main recommendation is to take the benefit of using the Vienna City Card and/or even the Vienna City Pass (you can find more details about each of them above) to save money on transportation and on attraction tickets.
Here are some sample prices, so you can get a better idea of the costs:
- A regular single-ride public transport system ticket – €2.40; if you are going to move a lot by metro or bus I suggest going for the short-term passes (24-hour).
- Accommodation for two – about €50 per night
- Museum entrance – approximately €12
- A well-served breakfast – €5
- Traditional meal (the famous schnitzel with fries) – €3 and up
So, all in all, is Vienna worth a visit? Definitely yes!
This was my list of 13 awesome things to do in Vienna, as well as some unique bonus ideas for the entire family and even some useful information that will always come in handy.
During your Viennese holidays you will see ancient ruins, enjoy local food, get to travel along the Danube, and more! The list of amazing activities above might be more than you can fit into a weekend (and maybe not even 3 days), but you can handpick the ones that match your traveling style and budget!
I honestly hope this information has been useful for your future travels. If you have any more questions about Vienna, I will be more than happy to help! Just leave me a note below in the comments! Thanks for reading!
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