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 10 most authentic and essential activities to do on a trip to Vienna.
Top Things To Do in Vienna Austria (Wien)
It’s not a visit to Vienna without seeing the country’s most impressive and majestic palaces. The UNESCO World Heritage site of the Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most famous. It was once the summer retreat of the Hapsburg royalty and also features the oldest zoo in the world. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belvedere Palace is hosts the largest collection in the world of Gustav Klimt paintings. And the Hofburg palace dates back to the 13th century and is the current home President of Austria.
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.
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.
Hear An 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 — the 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. Make sure to visit the 500-year-old Villon Wine Cellar and participate in their guided wine tastings. 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.
Catch The 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.