Vienna is the capital of Austria and it’s such a great destination! I had a blast there!
This year, when they finally lifted the traveling restrictions in Europe, we chose the first affordable flight on the list, bought tickets, and ran away. We chose Vienna because we found a very very cheap flight, but also because we’ve been meaning to visit it for years, but never got the chance.
Tourists usually go to Vienna during the winter due to their famous Christmas market, but there are plenty of things to do the rest of the year, too. Vienna is a beautiful, clean, historical capital, with interesting attractions, delicious food, and good beer.
We loved our city break in Vienna so much, that we went back for more just a couple of months later! Here are some of the things you can do if you travel to the capital of Austria:
1. Visit the Schönbrunn Palace.
Everyone told us to visit the Schonbrunn palace, and they were right. It is not just a Viennese symbol but also a spectacular construction with a great history.
You can see it inside, and you can choose one of the two available tours: The Imperial Tour, which includes 22 rooms for 22 euros, and the Grand Tour, which takes you through 44 rooms for 26 euros. We chose the short one, because our time was limited.
The tour was interesting, and it gave us a pretty clear image of how the Imperial Family worked and lived. For both tours, there is a free audio guide available, in several languages. The palace is open from 9.30 AM to 5 PM, and in my opinion, it’s a must-see in Vienna.
2. Take a walk in the Schönbrunn Palace Park.
The palace is spectacular, but when you get out and take a walk behind it… it takes your breath away. Behind the palace, there is a huge park that measures 400 acres, with rose gardens, alleys, statues, fountains, hidden gardens, a maze, a lake, and even a Zoo.
You probably need a few days to see the whole park, but if you don’t have the time, at least see the Gloriette, the Zoo, and the maze. Access to the park is free, but Gloriette, the zoo, and the maze cost extra.
3. Visit the Schönbrunn zoo.
If you arrive at the Schönbrunn palace, you can’t walk by the Zoo and not go inside. Kids love this place, so if you’re traveling with your children or grandchildren, this is one of the places they have to see.
The Schönbrunn Zoo is the oldest in the world. Yes, in the world! You’ll need about three or four hours to see all of it, and while it may sound a lot, you won’t get bored at all. They have giraffes, rhinos, penguins, monkeys, pandas, polar bears, elephants, and many more. It’s an amazing zoo! They also have several restaurants and bars inside, in case you get thirsty or hungry.
The zoo is open every day from 9 to 6.30 pm, from April to September, but it closes earlier in the other months. A ticket costs 24 euros, and kids younger than 6 enter for free
4. Go shopping in the City Center.
Kärntner street is Vienna’s most famous shopping street. However, the entire historical center is full of stores, hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You can buy clothes, jewelry, luxury items, and shoes. I enjoyed it a lot, even though I only did the window kind of shopping. The buildings are so beautiful, the architecture is impressive, and there are so many terraces to choose from.
5. Visit the Stephansdom - St. Stephen's Cathedral.
The Kärntner street ends in the Stephan Platz, where you will see the beautiful Saint Stephan Cathedral. It is a catholic church, and you can go inside to visit it. You can even go up in the towers, for 6 euros – which, good news, is an elevator fee. From up there you will have a nice view of the entire city, and you can see some of the Viennese landmarks from above.
6. Use the public transportation.
The public transportation system in Vienna is so well designed, precise, and efficient, that it’s a pity to spend money on a taxi or drive yourself around the city. You can take the metro anywhere you want (there’s even a station in front of the cathedral!), and they also have trains, buses, and trams. They all work according to the schedule, it’s cheap and easy to use.
You will need to install the WienMobil app on your smartphone, choose the type of ticket that’s more suitable for you (We bought Time cards, valid for 72 hours, for about 17 euros), and set the time you want your ticket to start. You keep your ticket on your phone, and there’s no need to validate it anywhere. We used Google Maps as a guide, and the directions were precise because the public transportation in Vienna is never late.
Please note that if your trip starts at the airport, you’ll need to buy an extra ticket costing 1.9 euros. You can get it at the red OBB machine, or the OBB sales office, both located in the airport, at the train station entrance.
7. Visit Karlskirche - Charles Church.
The beautiful church is located in a stunning, quiet plaza called Karlsplatz. In the middle of this beautiful plaza, there is a nice fountain, where people relax, read, or socialize. You can visit the inside of the church for 8 euros, or you can just enjoy its beauty from the outside.
8. Eat a schnitzel.
The Viennese schnitzel is so delicious! They make it from pork or veal, and they serve it with a tasty potato salad and cranberry sauce. And it is huge, so don’t order any appetizers before! My personal favorite is the veal schnitzel, and the best I ate was at the restaurant Bier&Bierli, where they also offer a great variety of local beers. However, I don’t think there is such thing as a bad schnitzel in Vienna.
9. Have fun at Prater.
Another Viennese landmark, Prater is a huge fun park, with all kinds of carousels, roller coasters, and Ferris wheels. The best time to go is in the evening, to enjoy all the lights, the music, and the energy.
There are different carousels and rides for everyone, from the tiniest kids to the boldest adults. It’s worth getting a ride on the large Ferris wheel to see the city from above. Inside the park, there are several restaurants, terraces, bars, and steak houses, where you can eat something yummy and drink a beer, of course.
10. Drink a Viennese beer.
You know, not all countries have good beer. But Austria does. They have a tradition in beer making, and some varieties are a must-try while you’re there. So, wherever you decide to have a beer, make sure you ask for a local brand.
11. See the Rathaus.
This imposing building is Vienna’s city hall. Impressive, right? In front of it is the Rathausplatz which during the winters, hosts a huge outdoor ice-skating rink. During the summer, you can chill in the park near the Rathaus, at the shadow of this gorgeous historical building.
12. Visit the Hofburg palace.
The Hofburg palace is another gorgeous Imperial residence you must see. It has an impressive size, and it hosts several museums, the Austrian national library, the Spanish riding school, and the butterfly house. I think you need a whole day to see everything this palace has to offer.
13. Have a dessert at Cafe Central.
For something sweet in Vienna, make a quick stop at Café Central. This is a stunning, historical building, where even Freud himself used to have coffee with other famous writers, poets, and architects. It’s a popular place, and people usually stand in line to get in, so make sure you get there early.
They open at 8.30 every day, except Sundays and national holidays when they open later, at 10 am. If you arrive around 9, you’ll get a table right away.
14. Go to the Vienna State Opera.
The Vienna State Opera is famous all around the world. It has spectacular architecture, and it is the opera house with the largest repertoire in the world.
You can attend a guided tour of the opera for 12 euros, and if you’re lucky, you can also buy a ticket for a performance. However, considering the high demand, you’ll probably need to get tickets in advance.
15. See the Hundertwasser House.
This is a very weird apartment house designed by an artist named Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He did in Vienna what Gaudi did in Barcelona. We saw this building and I was impressed by all the details on this odd construction. It’s a strange piece of art, where people actually live. If you have the time, the Hundertwasser House is worth seeing.
16. Drink local wine at Nussberg.
If you like wine, you must visit the vineyards and taverns on Nussberg, where you can have a glass (or more) of the local wine and a delicious meal while enjoying a nice view of the city.
17. Visit the Belvedere palace.
Another palace you should visit if you get the chance is the Belvedere Palace and its gorgeous gardens. There are two Baroque palaces: the Upper and the Lower Belvedere, and in each of them, you will see art exhibitions. Please note that you will need two separate tickets if you want to visit both.
18. See the butterflies at Schmetterlinghaus - the Imperial Butterfly Park.
The Imperial Butterfly House is part of the Hofburg Royal Palace, and it’s a beautiful, quiet place where you can see some wonderful butterflies flying through exotic plants. They open at 10 AM, and a ticket costs 7 euros.
19. Drink water straight from the tap.
The tap water in Vienna is of the best I’ve ever drank. It’s like drinking it straight from a mountain spring, which you kinda are, because it comes from the Alps. So, don’t waste money on bottled water. Refill your bottle straight from the tap at the hotel, or at one of these public fountains, for free.
20. Admire the beautiful architecture.
There’s so much to do in Vienna, so many museums, attractions, and landmarks, that you find yourself running from one place to another. You’ll want to see as much as possible, but please, slow down.
Put your phone in your pocket and look up. Admire the stunning buildings. Look at the incredible details on each of them. You’ll be amazed by their beauty, I promise you that.
21. See the stallions perform at the Spanish Riding School.
The Spanish riding school is also located at the Hofburg palace and it’s famous for the performances by Lipizzans – the Ballet of the White Stallions. The white horses are trained to “dance” to classical Viennese music and you can both watch them practice, and attend the show.
Every day from 10 AM you can watch the young stallions train for 45 minutes. You have to be there 30 minutes earlier, at 9.30 am, and tickets start at 14 euros. You can also attend the Lipizzaner Classic performance, but you will have to check the events schedule and buy tickets in advance.
22. Have a Viennese coffee.
Between visiting attractions, eating delicious food, and drinking beer, you will have to try Viennese coffee. Savor it in of the many cafes downtown, accompanied by one of the traditional pastries and sweets. Once again, I’ll ask you to put down your phone and enjoy your surroundings. The historical buildings, the people, and the energy of Vienna will put you in a special mood.
23. Eat a pork knuckle.
I told you before that the schnitzel was huge, but wait until you see the pork knuckle they serve at Schweizer Haus. You have to choose the size of the pork knuckle, and you will pay by the kilogram. One kilo costs about 22 euros, and it’s absolutely delicious. Schweizer Haus is located in the Prater fun park, and I recommend you book a table in advance because it’s a popular place.
24. Check out the Anker Clock.
The more than a century-old clock has 12 historical figures that move in front of the display, one for each hour, on music from its era. However, at noon, they all parade for about 15 minutes. I loved seeing the clock parade, and I think you will, too. And when the parade ends, there’s a huge Bila supermarket next to it, with a floor entirely dedicated to wine. Go to the top floor and have a glass of wine there. It’s awesome!
25. Take a walk in the evening.
I loved walking in the city center during the night. The lights are so romantic and the energy is amazing, especially during the weekend when everyone’s going out. I loved Vienna and I can’t wait to go back.
If the weekend catches you in Vienna, remember that the supermarkets are closed on Sundays. If you need food, coffee, or diapers for your baby, buy in advance, because everything’s closed.