During my Viking River Cruise from Bavaria to Budapest, we stopped in the capital of Austria, Vienna for 2 full days. This metropolitan city hosts the United Nations organization and is a major center for Austria’s culture, economy, and Politics.
It has been given different names like the City of Music and the City of dreams. Vienna is renowned throughout the world and has a plethora of stunning historic buildings, gardens, and establishments. It is repeatedly ranked as the city with the highest quality of life.
I had the opportunity to explore the city, try some of the delicious cuisines and learn why they call it the city of the waltz! Here are our top 10 things to do in Vienna!
Attend a Mozart and Straus Concert
Every day the streets in Vienna resound with the famous tunes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss from the many classical concerts in the city. At exclusive concert halls, you can listen to the best orchestras of Vienna playing the masterpieces of the Viennese classic.
You will get the chance to be enchanted with a musical firework of the leading representatives of the Viennese classical music. These concerts are performed by virtuosic musicians, excellent opera singers and charming ballet solos who present you with an evening full of Viennese charm.
With a Concert & Dinner package, you can combine the musical delights of the show with a delicious gala dinner in the Restaurant. These gala dinners, served either before or after the concert, as you wish, promise unalloyed delight from the starter right through the dessert. An excellent dinner combined with a concert visit is for sure an highlight of every Vienna visit! Book your Vienna Mozart Concert at the Golden Hall here.
Climb St. Stephan’s Cathedral
The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a magnificent structure that for 700 years, has stood watching over the city. It is the most famous church in Vienna and Austrians see it as one of the most beloved landmarks in the country. It is also the place where Joseph Haydn sang as a choir boy, and where Mozart was married in 1782.
Embarking on a discovery tour of the cathedral will let you uncover its hidden secrets, descend into its catacombs, climb its lofty towers, and you’ll also learn about the history of the city itself. The most prominent feature of the Cathedral is the Gothic South Tower, which was completed in 1433.
With a guided tour, you will be able to see the wealth of art treasures that this place holds such as a red-marble sepulcher sculpted from 1467 to 1513, the pulpit from 1514-15, a Gothic winged altar from 1447 and the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy, dating from 1754.
In the North Tower, you will find the Boomer Bell, Australia’s largest bell. You can take an express elevator that will take you to the observation deck. You can also take a walk past the building at night as it feels more impressive because of the lighting. This is one for the Vienna bucket list for sure. Book your St. Stephan’s Cathedral: Tower, Catacombs and Tour Ticket here.
Visit the Schönbrunn Palace
The Schönbrunn palace is a place you have to visit on your trip to Vienna. The Palace has stood since the 1600’s, and it holds a significant role of cultural importance in Austria. The building is built in a Baroque style and its complex with a 1441-room structure, and it actually is the main tourist attraction in Vienna.
It used to be a summer residence of the imperial family, and many Austria emperors have in fact been born here. The palace is an amazing insight into the opulence and power house that existed during their reign.
The place also has vast gardens that span over 300 years, and they reflect the changing tastes, interests, and inspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. While here, take a guided tour of the palace. You will surely love the history, glamor, and stories associated with the royal palace. They have free audio guides full of details not only about the palace but also about the Hapsburg family and their period of ruling.
The Schönbrunn Palace is also a great place for children and has some exciting spots for them. There’s a funny green maze, a playground, a zoo and a children museum. After visiting the palace and learning the history of the Austrian aristocracy let, the kids enjoy the rest of visit. Book a half-day history tour of Schönbrunn Palace here.
Eat Vienna Schnitzel at Figlmuller
Figmuller was established in 1905 and is widely known as the home of Vienna schnitzel. The restaurant has a couple of locations near to one another. There’s a cuter, smaller restaurant up a small alley and a larger one. Both are a 5-minute walk away from the cathedral.
It was opened by Johann Figlmüller and right from the start, it has stood for the unparalleled Viennese way of life. It has for years been a restaurant that offers an excellent place to chat and celebrate with a great menu and select local wines.
However, what identifies this restaurant is offering the original rendition of schnitzel. While here, you can expect to get simply the perfect Schnitzel after 100 years of making. It is like Schnitzel made in heaven and coupled with the juicy beautifully made potato salad and balsamic vinegar salad, it’s absolutely perfect.
The staff is friendly, and the ambiance is very rustic and charming. You surely don’t want to leave Vienna without a taste of Vienna Schnitzel at Figlmuller.
See the Roman Wall at Michaelerplatz
Michaelerplatz is a large square in front of Hofburg Palace where ruins from Roman period were found. Also known as the Michael’s Square, Michaelplatz is dominated by the Baroque façade of the Hofburg Palace’s St. Michael Wing and has been important to Vienna long before the city was officially founded.
After the WWII, ruins of the outpost at Michael’s Square were excavated in 1990, unearthing an entire neighborhood of Roman building foundations as well as some medieval foundations and remains of the former Burgtheater.
The ruins here are now exposed and can be seen from street level. You can just lift your head up and look around the whole square. Have a look at the Roman ruins intermingled with some walls from the middle ages. Seeing an open excavation of Roman walls when this was Vindobona to the great sculptural pieces of the Imperial Apartments is a great trip through history.
Take a Carriage Ride
Horse-driven carriages have been a part of Vienna for years, and are closely associated to Vienna just as much as the St. Stephen’s cathedral. In earlier days, the Fiaker carriages served as a daily means of transportation in Vienna.
Nowadays, they are a popular tourist attraction as they permit you to discover the city from an unusual perspective. They allow you to sit back and relax, while you pass through the most important sights in the center of Vienna enjoying the carriage rides.
You can take either a Fiaker carriage sightseeing tour or a romantic Fiaker carriage tour. Through the sightseeing tour, you’ll ride through the old town streets and discover the most important sights of Vienna from an oh so different viewpoint.
There’s a host of places that you can enjoy a carriage ride, and this can take you about an hour. If you are in love, you can take the special Fiaker romantic rides which mostly occur in the evenings or early hours of the night. Apart from passing you through the most famous sights in Vienna, you will also be driven through some lonely dark alleys of the Wiener Prater. While in Vienna, make sure you enjoy one of them and let yourself to be captured by the splendor and ambiance of this beautiful city.
Go See Hundertwasserhaus
The Hunderwassahaus is an explosion of color in Vienna, and one of Vienna’s most visited buildings. Not only is the building interesting, but also the designer. It was designed by the controversial Austrian artist/ architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
This guy is also responsible for other similarly imaginative buildings in Vienna, including the Hundertwasser village. He was known for his reactions against the common boring architecture of his contemporaries and wanted architecture that was closer to nature, without any unnatural straight lines but with bright colors and whimsical shapes.
The building features undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms. Actually, the guy even wanted to design it with uneven floors, but this was not implemented for practical reasons. The facade is painted in bright, colorful patches; in some areas the painting seems shredded, revealing the original facade.
While here, you will surely admire the fantastic use of colors and materials to create unique pieces of Gaudi-esk buildings. Also, have a pop at the Hundertwasserhaus Village and take a hand crafted gift home. You can then enjoy a nice walk back to the city center, and it should only take you about 20 minutes.
Eat Tafelspitz at Plachuttas
Plachuttas is a very impressive and stylish restaurant in Vienna. Highly recommended by locals, the restaurant is famous for its Tafelspitz boiled beef & other classics of Viennese cuisine. It is actually claimed to be the best restaurant if you want to have Tafelspitz in Vienna.
Their menu also has many interesting dishes as well and is a great spot for a more excellent meal. There is definitely something for everyone that is always tasty and well prepared.
They also give a very good selection of wines, beers and drinks. The staff as well is very friendly and helpful, and a visit here for dinner is bound to be one of the highlights of the evening. There is also an outdoor seating that you can use during the warm weather. If you’re going on a weekend night, remember to call ahead for reservations.
Visit Vienna Coffee Houses
In Vienna, coffee is a way of life and a distinct and essential part of the local culture. Vienna’s coffee houses have graced the city for centuries, and the drink is most definitely an excuse to linger over one of Austria’s many sweet inventions.
In fact, UNESCO added Viennese coffee house culture to their list of intangible cultural heritage, saying that the coffee houses have a “very specific atmosphere” and are places “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
In Vienna, every coffee is unique in some way, but they all are very similar in terms of what they provide their customers. Pastries, coffee, newspaper and a cozy setting makes coffee houses in Vienna something you should experience when visiting the city of Waltzes.
Our top 5 included Café Sacher, Café Demel, Café Hawelka, Café Landtmann and Café Julius Meinl, with our favorite being Café Sacher. You can have a look at our detailed review of these coffee houses here.
Have a Heuriger Dinner
The Heuriger Wolf is a really pleasant traditional old-Viennese Heuriger. Their rooms are rustically furnished with wood and cockle stoves plus candle lights.
There is also a wind protected Heurigen court with a terraced garden that offers many comfortable places in a romantic atmosphere. Here, the tradition is uniquely sweetened and celebrated, in contrast to many other gastronomic establishments in the Wienerwald.
Having a Heuringer dinner here is something you really should experience. You will find a full selection at their rich buffet with typical Viennese delicacies and homemade sweets and desserts. The food and the ambiance in itself are great, and you really feel comfortable. You can also enjoy great wines at this place.
Wolf’s wines arise exclusively out of their own winegrowing from their own wine plants at Neustift am Walde, Sievering, Grinzing and Nussdorf. In the warm months, the garden is a beautiful place to drink this sparkling wine. You are also able to purchase wine bottles that you can bring home.
Bonus: Visit the Naschmarkt
The Naschmarkt is by far the most famous and the most luxurious food and produce market on this side of the world. It is held on the Wienzeile street and stretches for around 1.5km.
It is Vienna’s most known market and has around 120 market stands and restaurants for a colorful culinary offering ranging from Viennese to Indian, from Vietnamese to Italian. There is always a vibrant crowd that buys fruit, vegetables and various delicacies from every country from dawn till dusk.
One great restaurant here is the ON Market, which actually never sleeps. It has colorful textile artworks on its walls, and it offers fine cuisine from the coasts of Asia, from breakfast to the late-night snack. There is always a lot going on at the Naschmarkt, especially on Saturdays, also because of the weekly flea market.
The colorful throng is worth seeing, even if you don’t want to buy anything. In the summer, sitting outdoors on the Naschmarkt is pretty pleasing. There you can eat, drink and watch people go about their business. Book a three-hour walking tour of Naschmarkt here.
In Vienna, Modern buildings mix in with tons of Medieval and Renaissance elements, making the city center quite magical. From cathedrals to beer gardens, and shopping to museums, there is diversity that can keep you entertained throughout your trip. You can follow this guide and make your visit to Vienna memorable!
Have you been to Vienna? What are your recommendations for must visit places? Leave us a comment below!