With all the grandiose architecture lining Vienna’s sweeping boulevards, the perfect trip to the Austrian capital can be spent simply wandering the streets in sheer admiration. But the cosmopolitan paradise has an allure that reaches beyond just Hapsburg palaces and Gothic cathedrals. Vienna’s musical and intellectual history has helped shape the city as we know and love it today. Here are the best things to do when visiting Vienna.
- Top Things To Do in Vienna (also known as Wien)
- Visit Vienna's Majestic Palaces
- Sample Vienna's Most Famous Sweets
- Museum Musings
- Go Up Above
- Eat Wienerschnitzel
- Go to the Opera
- Go Back Above
- Sip Wine
- Meander The Markets
- See St. Stephens Cathedral
- Enjoy Coffee and Cake
- Take a Day Trip to Take Nearby Cities Like Bratislava, Budapest, Hallstatt or Salzburg
- Getting to Vienna
- Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Vienna
Top Things To Do in Vienna (also known as Wien)
Visit Vienna’s Majestic Palaces
This former imperial summer residence is one of the most visited attractions in Vienna, known for its beautiful gardens and Baroque architecture. The Schönbrunn Palace also has a zoo, also known as Tiergarten Schönbrunn, and it’s one of the oldest zoos in the world, dating back to the 18th century. It’s located on the grounds of the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re an animal lover or just looking for a fun family activity.
This impressive palace was the primary residence of the Habsburgs for over six centuries and is now home to several museums and the Austrian President’s offices.
This UNESCO World Heritage site consists of two Baroque palaces and is famous for its collection of Austrian art, including Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.”
This grand palace is home to one of the world’s most significant private art collections, including works by Rubens, Rembrandt, and Raphael.
This magnificent palace is now a luxury hotel, but visitors can still admire its grand architecture and stunning interiors on a guided tour.
This palace houses the Vienna Boys’ Choir and is surrounded by a beautiful park.
This grand palace features stunning Baroque architecture and houses the Museum of Military History.
This elegant palace houses the Austrian Baroque Museum, which showcases art and culture from the Baroque era.
Sample Vienna’s Most Famous Sweets
Vienna is famous for its chocolate — the city is truly a sugar-induced heaven. Tasting the world-famous Sacher torte, first made by Franz Sacher in 1832 is a must. It’s best sampled at the Sacher Hotel in central Vienna. Make sure to take home some chocolatey souvenirs like the famous Salzburger Mozarttaler. Although this is produced in Salzburg (former home of Mozart), the delicious treat made of marzipan, milk chocolate and praline remains enormously popular in Vienna.
Vienna has a museum for everyone. For those interested in psychology, there’s the Sigmund Freud Museum. For art lovers, the Applied Arts Museum and the Leopold Gallery. And timepieces fans, the Clock Museum. Music aficionados, the Beethoven Museum. And of course, if you’re reading Winetraveler, you’ll probably want to check out the Schnapps Museum — it even includes tastings! Plus, hanging out the cool Museumsplatz Square in the Museumquartier is a relaxing way to unwind after a long day on your feet.
Go Up Above
The Donauturm, or the Danube Tower is Vienna’s tallest buildings. Visitors can take an elevator almost 500 feet up in the tower to enjoy both indoor and outdoor viewing options. Expect to see Vienna’s beautiful skyline and the flowing Danube River. The tower also has a coffee house, pub and a restaurant that slowly turns, offering 360° views of the city. You can get an entrance ticket with skip the line access to the tower right here.
Wienerschnitzel is one of Vienna’s most delectable dishes. It’s made veal, which is pounded thin, breaded and pan-fried. It’s best enjoyed at a traditional Viennese restaurant, especially one where the waiters wear freshly ironed, black-and-white attire. Winetraveler favorites include the Café Dommayer, which is usually overflowing with locals, or the outdoor garden of Pfarrwirt.
Go to the Opera
The Vienna Opera House, or the Wiener Staatsoper, is one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. You can see a show in the famous 19th-century building, or do a tour, which gives you insider access to the staterooms, the grand staircase and the auditorium. Or, plan to wander around the building’s exterior to see the bronze statues and the Renaissance arches.
Go Back Above
Go up again to see Vienna’s skyline on the Riesenrad — Vienna’s giant Ferris wheel! The highest point of the wheel reaches 200 feet up. The structure dates back to 1897 and was once the tallest of its kind. If it looks familiar, you may have already seen it in a movie, like the James Bond film The Living Daylights.
Vienna is an incredible city for wine lovers. In fact, the Viennese have been cultivating grapes since 1182 AD! The nearby wine country has over 630 producers — and white grapes, especially the Grüner Veltliner are regional favorites.
For a cosy, intimate tasting, head to Eulennest, which features over 500 different wine varieties, many of them Austrian. The Kahlenbergerdorf wine district is also not far from the city, if you’re in the mood for vineyard exploration.
Meander The Markets
Obviously, Christmas Markets are the ideal spot to visit for winter travels, but you should plan to visit the Naschmarkt year-round. There, you can sample different foods like Austrian cheese and sausages, as well as watch the locals do their shopping. The market is open every day of the week but Sunday and on Saturdays, there’s a small flea market attached to the end.
See St. Stephens Cathedral
You can’t leave Vienna without seeing St. Stephen’s Cathedral. With both Romanesque and Gothic elements, the church dates back to 1339 and (mostly) survived World War II, though parts of it were destroyed by fire as the Soviet Troops entered Vienna in 1945.
If you’re in a musical mood, you can even book a concert within the cathedral itself, which is quite an incredible experience.
Enjoy Coffee and Cake
Vienna is famous for its coffee culture, and no visit to the city is complete without experiencing one of its famous coffee houses. These elegant establishments have been a part of Vienna’s cultural heritage for centuries, and are much more than just places to grab a quick coffee or snack.
Café Central, located in the heart of the city, is one of Vienna’s most famous coffee houses. It has been serving coffee and pastries since 1876, and it was a popular meeting place for intellectuals, artists, and writers in the early 20th century. Today, visitors can still enjoy its grandeur and elegance, with high ceilings, chandeliers, and marble columns, while sipping on a cup of Viennese coffee and enjoying a slice of the famous Sacher Torte.
Demel, another historic coffee house in Vienna, has been serving delicious pastries and coffee since 1786. Its elegant interiors, decorated with mirrors, marble, and crystal chandeliers, offer a glimpse into the grandeur of Vienna’s imperial past. Visitors can try a variety of sweet treats, such as the Demel Sachertorte, Esterházy cake, or the famous apple strudel, along with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
Other famous coffee houses in Vienna include Café Sperl, which has been serving coffee since 1880, and Café Hawelka, a favorite hangout of artists and writers in the mid-20th century.
Take a Day Trip to Take Nearby Cities Like Bratislava, Budapest, Hallstatt or Salzburg
Vienna is a perfect base to explore the neighboring cities and countries. There are many charming cities within easy reach, making day trips from Vienna a popular option.
Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is only an hour’s drive or a boat ride down the Danube River from Vienna. Visitors can enjoy exploring the charming Old Town with its historic streets, colorful buildings, and impressive Bratislava Castle, which offers stunning views of the city and the Danube River.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a bit further away from Vienna, but still easily accessible by train. Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, stunning architecture, and rich history, including its role in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Visitors can explore the Buda Castle, Parliament building, and the famous Fisherman’s Bastion, which offers panoramic views of the city.
Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, is another popular day trip destination from Vienna. The city is known for its stunning baroque architecture, including Salzburg Cathedral and Mirabell Palace. Visitors can also explore the historic Old Town, walk along the Salzach River, or take a funicular up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress for incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains.
Hallstatt is a picturesque village located in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. It’s known for its stunning alpine scenery, charming old-world architecture, and rich history dating back to prehistoric times. Visitors can explore the village’s narrow streets lined with colorful houses, visit the historic Catholic Church of Hallstatt, and take a guided tour of the salt mine, which has been in operation for over 7,000 years. Hallstatt is also home to the Hallstatt Ossuary, a unique and eerie bone chapel adorned with the skulls and bones of thousands of people. Visitors can enjoy scenic boat rides on Lake Hallstatt, hike in the surrounding mountains, or simply relax and take in the stunning natural beauty of the area. Hallstatt can be easily reached from Vienna by car, train or bus, and it makes for a memorable day trip or an overnight stay for those looking for a peaceful and serene retreat in the Austrian Alps.
Getting to Vienna
To get to Vienna, the most convenient way is to book a flight to Vienna International Airport (VIE), which is the primary airport serving the city. Major airlines from around the world operate flights to VIE, making it easily accessible from various locations. Compare prices and book your flight through Kayak.
Upon arrival at Vienna International Airport, you can reach the city center using various transportation options. The City Airport Train (CAT) offers a fast, non-stop connection to central Vienna in just 16 minutes. Alternatively, you can take the S-Bahn (S7) train, buses, or taxis. Consider purchasing a Vienna City Card or Vienna Travelcard for unlimited access to public transportation and discounts on attractions during your stay. There are also hop-on-hop-off busses and sight-seeing tours, one of the more popular and efficient ways to explore the city.