21 Exciting Things To Do In Vienna

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Vienna, the capital of Austria, is a place that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re into history, music, food, or art, there are plenty of things to do in Vienna to keep any traveler busy.

Vienna city center

The city is known for its stunning architecture, elegant coffee houses, and rich cultural heritage. It’s also a great destination for anyone interested in classical music, with famous composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss having lived and worked here.

In this guide, Doris Neubauerwho who grew up in the countryside about 40 minutes away from Vienna, has shared with us her insider travel tips and knowledge on what to do in Vienna. We also visited Vienna on our 8-day Europe river cruise.

Is Vienna, Austria Worth Visiting?

Vienna Skyline

There are many reasons why to visit Vienna. For some it’s one of the historically important old cities in Europe, for others the core of the classical music scene, for others a place famous for its architecture such as Jugendstil, for others a must-go in terms of theatre and culture.

And all of them are right.

But Vienna is more.

The clean, functioning, a little bit slow and old city has a unique charm.

Within and behind the old walls, there is a young heart pulsating, vibrating and showing its creativity. And if you listen and watch carefully, you can experience it yourself.

Things to Do in Vienna

Whether you’re looking to uncover Vienna’s exciting history or you want to mingle with the local culture, below are some of the top attractions in Vienna you cannot miss.

The Vienna Pass gives you free entry to 60+ top Vienna attractions, Hop on and Off sightseeing tours, and fast track passes at popular Vienna attractions. Get yours and save money on travel to Vienna here.

1. Check Out Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace with grass lawns in front

Anyone visiting Vienna must visit the iconic Schönbrunn Palace as it is one of the most historical and important buildings in the country.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 18th century and was used as the summer residence for the Habsburg monarchy.

Visitors can explore its many rooms, which are filled with beautiful artwork, intricate furnishings, and ornate decorations.

The palace also boasts expansive gardens which are breathtakingly beautiful and are perfect for a leisurely stroll or picnic.

You’ll want to book your skip the line tickets in advance to avoid the long queue. Click here for tickets. Here is a private tour of the palace and gardens you may also like.

2. Check Out Hofburg Palace

Another must-see attraction is the Hofburg Palace, where you can learn about the history of the Habsburg dynasty.

The Hofburg Palace is a grand palace complex that was once the imperial residence of the Habsburg dynasty and is now home to several museums, including the Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum.

Visitors to the Hofburg Palace can explore the many rooms and halls, which are filled with opulent furnishings, priceless artwork, and historical artifacts. Be sure to check out the Imperial Silver Collection.

The palace also boasts beautiful gardens and courtyards that offer stunning views of Vienna.

You can do a guided tour and learn about the residents of the palace, including Emperor Franz Joseph and Archduke Franz Karl.

3. Explore The Neighborhoods

bikes in front of colorful buildings

You cannot and should not avoid the 1st district with all the historical buildings along the Ring or around the St. Stephens Square.

But you should also go further.

To the Naschmarkt area, not only looking at the market stands but also a bit up to all the beautiful Jugendstil buildings of the right and left.

On both sides of the Naschmarkt, both in the 6th and in the 4th and 5th district, you can find nice restaurants to eat and sometimes tiny, interesting boutiques.

I also like the 2nd district, the former Jewish district with its reminders of this very important group in Vienna.

If you love the countryside or greener areas, don’t miss going up on one of the hills such as Kahlenberg or Cobenzl and to explore a bit of the Wienerwald (Viennese forest) – passing by you can go the Heurigendorf Grinzing, which is more a touristy spot now but still quite lovely. Just don’t eat or drink anything there as it is more expensive than in other places.

If you really want to go to a Heuriger, the typical wine tavern with home made food and home made wine, you should definitely try to go to the countryside (Lower Austria) or in the outer districts such as the 23rd or 21st district of Vienna.

You may like this two hour walking tour of Romantic Vienna

Experience a journey of discovery through the romantic old town of Vienna with picturesque squares, hidden courtyards, legends, and personalities from the Hoher Market to the Greek Quarter and the old university district. See rates and availability here.

4. Try Some Viennese Pastries

vienesse pastries in bakery

For me, one of the best things to do in Vienna is sit in one of the typical Viennese coffee shops such as Hawelka, Sperl or Rüdigerhof, order a coffee like Melange or Cappuccino – no, not the Italian one – and watch the people and eat local desserts.

I am sure you get a feeling of the city and its inhabitants by spending an afternoon like this imagining that philosophers, students, musicians, politicians have been sitting exactly where you are sitting now centuries ago and that the most important movements and decisions were given birth to in coffee shops.

Some sweet desserts to try are Apfelstrudel, Topfenstrudel or some of the cakes in a Viennese café.

But please, don’t take the highly overrated Sacher Torte, almost every desert is better than this dry chocolate cake which is only pricey because of the name.

For people who are not vegetarians like me, there is another typical Viennese dish – especially after a long night: The “Eitrige”, a hot sausage with cheese you get on the many stands everywhere in the city.

5. Watch A Concert At The Vienna State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper)

vienna state opera house

The Vienna State Opera House is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, and attending a performance here is an unforgettable experience.

The building itself is a masterpiece of architecture, with beautiful interiors and breathtaking acoustics that make it the perfect setting for a night at the opera.

The venue hosts performances by some of the world’s most talented singers and musicians, as well as regular ballet and classical music performances throughout the year.

Attending a concert at the Vienna State Opera House is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Austria and experience the very best of the performing arts.

6. Take a Vienna City Highlights Walking Tour

Horse and cart in a city square
Scenes in Vienna

One of the best things to do in Vienna for an overview of the city and its history is to take a guided walking tour. My walking tour with my Avalon Waterways river cruise group began with a drive around Vienna’s Ringstrasse – or Ring boulevard, the 3.5-mile circle road was once the old Roman fortification walls.

Emperor Franz Joseph ordered the dismantling of it to build an impressive boulevard. He also had to create more space and jobs in the city but also to show off Vienna’s wealth and power. All Vienna’s important buildings are inside or along the Ringstrasse, including its many museums and impressive Parliament buildings.

I loved learning all about the Royal Habsburg family, one of the most prominent and important dynasties in European history, as we wandered through the Hofburg palace, which is now an area that hosts many museums and beautiful public gardens.

red rose garden in front of Hofburg palace

I especially loved hearing about Princess Sissy, someone I never heard about until our Danube River cruise stop in Passau. Her life was very similar to Princess Diana, beautiful and adored, but a little rebellious and thrown into a life and spotlight she didn’t want. But unlike Sissy, Dianna was an exceptional Mother.

We also learned about the arranged marriage by-proxy of Napoleon to Marie Louse, daughter of Emperor Francis II who was Napoleon’s arch enemy (that’s what they did back then, strategy marriages).

And about Queen Maria Therese who was one of the best leaders (and only female) of the Austrian empire. And I learned that her daughter was Marie Antoinette, who we learned a lot about on our trip to Paris and the Palace of Versailles.

A Vienna walking tour is a great way to get to know the history and culture of Vienna and find some insider tips from your guide about other fun things to do in Vienna and great places to eat and drink. It was my guide that told me about climbing St Stephen’s tower, my favorite Vienna attraction.

Here are a few Vienna guided tours to consider:

7. Visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)

exeterior of St. Stephen's Cathedral Vienna

Another iconic landmark in Vienna is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This stunning Gothic-style cathedral was built in the 14th century and has since become a symbol of Vienna’s rich cultural heritage.

Visitors can explore its many halls and chapels, which are adorned with beautiful stained glass windows, sculptures, and other works of art.

Overlooking the downtown city area of Vienna, Austria
Views from the cathedral tower

The cathedral also boasts stunning architecture, including its famous multicolored roof tiles and towering spires.

One of the highlights of a visit to St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the chance to climb up 343 steps to the top of its South Tower, (or take an elevator up North Tower) which offers breathtaking views of the city. See our Reel of the views.

8. Join a Vienna Food Tour

Time for tasting the delights of Viennese cuisine. One of our favorite ways to understand the culture of the destination is on a food tour! We joined the optional food highlights tour on our cruise.

Our local guide Tom met us on the ship and took us on the train to our first stop right near St Stephen’s Cathedral – a wine bar. WE had no idea Vienna made their own wine, there are several wineries about 30 kms outside of the city.

Next stop: Vienna fast food – a sausage stand where we sampled different varieties: pork and beef; and cheese paired with sweet and spicy mustards.

It’s not just all eating on a food tour, we also learned a little history as we walked through the city, passing by the building Mozart first performed when he was six years old, and Marie Theresa heard him and invited him to the palace; and the Jewish Square with an interesting monument to the 65,000 Jews killed in the Second World War. It’s designed to look like a library to represent the knowledge that was lost.

White stone monument in a city surrounded by buildings
Monument to Jews killed in the Second World War

On our food tour, it’s highly likely you’ll try the famous Viennese Sacher cake, a chocolate cake invented by Austrian Franz Sacher for the Prince. You can visit the famous hotel where the original was made for a hefty price. But it’s commonly made everywhere now, and we were trying a version from a small bakery.

We also tried a cake that was a little moister as it had been drenched in rum – but fake rum as the bright pink icing attracts the attention of kids.

More chocolate was needed, so we headed to a chocolatier that transforms different Austrian desserts into chocolates. One was a red currant flavor representing the Linzer cake, and the other was apricot dumplings – a Viennese comfort food.

We finished our food tour in one of Tom’s favorite tapas style restaurants with authentic Austrian food for some delicious spinach dumplings. They tasted like my Maltese aunties’ spinach triangles that I would devour as a child.

Spinach ball covered in shaved cheese
Spinach dumplings

While I didn’t find the food as exciting as our food tours in Rome and Paris, I certainly loved gaining an insight into the culinary tastes of Viennese people. And I really enjoyed learning about and tasting their wines!

9. Bike Danube Island

Family biking beside a river
Great river views

With over 1600 kilometers of bike trails, Vienna is one of the most bike friendly cities in the world and perfect for families like ours who love to explore on two wheels.

A beautiful bike path runs parallel to the Danube River. It’s flat with plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view and take photos.

people corssing river bridge in vienna on bikes
Crossing the river

Cross a bike bridge over to the 21 kilometer long Danube island, a favorite recreational region of the local Viennese. There are an expansive network of trails invites the adventurous to hike, jog, cycle and skate.

We biked past bathing areas with flat beaches, as well as natural bathing sites, a water slide park, water ski area and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and drink with river views – this side of the river looked like a place you could spend an entire day with more time!

Girl biking through a city
Biking through the city center

From here, we headed back into the city and followed a short section of the designated city path trail, taking a look at the HUGE amusement park, the Prater, before our legs called it quits and we headed back to the ship.

This 3 hour bike or e-scooter tour of Vienna takes you to Danube Island and more local Vienna places and this one takes you to the major sights, from the famed Ringstrasse to the noble buildings of the Hapsburg Empire, and the banks of the River Danube.

10. Visit the Markets at Shopping

peopel shopping at Naschmarkt

You should never visit Vienna without going to the Naschmarkt, the oldest market area.

You can find everything from organic bread to Asian food supplies to Turkish delights. If you want to go for vegetable-fruit-or spices-shopping, that is the right place.

Smaller versions of these traditional Viennese markets are Rochus Markt, Freyung or Karmelitermarkt.

And on Saturdays, there is a huge flea market on the Naschmarkt area as well.

The big shopping street is Mariahilfer Straße, and, of course, you can also go high-end shopping for Gucci & Co. in Kärntner Straße and around St. Stephens Church.

But if you are interested in unique clothes, you should go a little further within the 7th district.

Just behind the big commercial shopping street Mariahilfer Straße, you can find small boutiques as well as Austrian and international designers in Lindengasse, Siebensterngasse, Kirchengasse and this neighbourhood.

A good source for shops is Die Stadtspionin, only in German though.

11. Have A Night on the Town

nightlife in vienna

A great area to spend a night on the town is the 7th and 8th district, as lots of bars but also nightclubs are located here.

Or to say it with the words of a friend: from the pre-drinking to dancing the night away, here you can find everything. And everything is within walking distance.

For the pre party, I can recommend either the “Dachboden” at the 25hrs Hotel or the more traditional Café Europa, also the quite interesting Donau or Café Leopold are good for pre-glow as well as the later part of the night.

For clubbing and partying, go to Grelle Forelle, Pratersauna or – for a little unique experience – to Tanzcafé Jenseits.

Spottedbylocals is a good source for bars and clubs in Vienna.

12. Attend a Festival in Vienna

Vienna has some incredible festivals and events all year round, so if you happen to be in the city when there is something on, be sure to check it out.

A good source for festivals and events in Vienna is the official website of the city http://www.wien.gv.at/english/.

Some of the major events or festivals are the Vienna City Marathon, the party against HIV/ AIDS Life Ball, the famous Opernball, the biggest European open-air festival Donauinselfest, the theatre festival Wiener Festwochen and Viennale, the movie festival – but there is something going on all the time.

13. Spend A Day At The Museums

interior of dome in museum
Natural History Museum

Vienna is famous for its many world-class museums, and a visit to this beautiful city wouldn’t be complete without exploring some of its cultural treasures.

Some museums that are not to be missed are the Albertina Museum, Natural History Museum, Sigmund Freud Museum and Kunsthistorisches Museum.

The Albertina Museum is home to an impressive collection of artwork, including works by famous artists such as Monet, Picasso, and Dürer.

The museum also boasts stunning architecture and beautiful gardens.

The Natural History Museum offers visitors the chance to learn about the natural history of Austria and the world through exhibits on geology, botany, zoology, and more.

Highlights include a vast collection of dinosaur skeletons and a display on the evolution of humans.

The Sigmund Freud Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the famous Austrian psychoanalyst.

Visitors can explore Freud’s former office and living quarters, as well as exhibits on his theories and impact on psychology.

The Kunsthistoriches is the Historic Art Museum in Vienna and is home to some of the world’s most impressive masterpieces.

See works by Raphael, Rembrandt and Rubens as well as many other European artists.

Plan ahead and book tickets for the Sigmund Freud Museum and Albertina Museum in advance.

14. Check Out The Austrian National Library

elaborate interior Austrian National Library with painted dome and shelves ful lof books

If you’re interested in history, art, and literature, then be sure to check out the Austrian National Library.

This beautiful Baroque-style library was founded in the 18th century and is one of the largest and most impressive libraries in the world.

Visitors can explore its many collections, which includes over 10.9 million books, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts.

The library also boasts stunning architecture, with its grand hallways and ornate decorations.

15. Take A Cruise on the River Danube

aerial River Danube, Vienna

If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Vienna, consider a cruise on the Danube.

This majestic river is one of the most famous waterways in Europe, and a cruise along its banks offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

One of the highlights of a Danube River cruise is the chance to see the city of Vienna from a different perspective.

16. Check Out Vienna City Hall (Rathaus)

Vienna City Hall (Rathaus)

Vienna City Hall, also known as Rathaus, is one of the most iconic and impressive buildings in Vienna.

This grand Gothic-style building was built in the late 19th century and has been the center of local government for over a hundred years.

You can take a guided tour of the building and explore its many rooms and halls, which are decorated with beautiful frescoes, sculptures, and paintings that celebrate the history of Vienna and Austria.

The building also houses a range of offices, meeting rooms, and other facilities used by the city’s government.

If you’re looking for things to do in Vienna in the winter, be sure to head here to check out the annual Christmas Market or the Vienna Ice Dream skating rink outside.

17. Marvel at Belvedere Palace

exterior of Belvedere Palace with gardens out front

Belvedere Palace is one of Vienna’s most beautiful and historic landmarks.

This magnificent Baroque-style palace was built in the 18th century and is famous for being home to an impressive collection of artwork and historical artifacts that go back for more than 800 years.

The complex is home to two main palaces, Upper Belvedere and Lower Belvedere, as well as an orangery and garden.

One of the highlights of a visit to Belvedere Palace is the chance to see its famous art collection, which includes works by some of the most famous artists in history, such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka.

Get your entrance ticket to Upper Belvedere here. You may also like this exclusive two-hour private tour with timed entrance tickets to the magnificent Palace Museum.

18. Play at Prater Amusement Park

ferris wheel in Prater Amusement Park

Prater Amusement Park is a historic amusement park that dates back to the 18th century and is home to a variety of rides and attractions that are sure to thrill visitors of all ages.

One of the highlights of a visit to Prater Amusement Park is the famous Wiener Riesenrad, or Giant Ferris wheel.

This iconic attraction offers stunning views of the city and has been featured in numerous films and TV shows.

There are also plenty of other rides, including roller coasters, bumper cars, and water slides.

19. Visit the Oldest Zoo in the World (Tiergarten Schönbrunn)

Tiergarten Schönbrunn

Tiergarten Schönbrunn, or Schönbrunn Zoo as it’s commonly known, is a popular attraction in Vienna and also the oldest zoo in the world.

This historic baroque-stule zoo was founded in the 18th century and is home to over 700 species of animals from around the world.

In addition to its impressive collection of animals, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn also offers a range of educational programs and activities such as animal feedings and wildlife talks.

20. Take A Day Trip to Am Himmel

a woman reading a sign in a park
Treehoroscope at Am Himmel

I would recommend nothing less than Am Himmel – which means “in paradise” or “in heaven” in English.

I actually don’t know if this place is part of the guidebooks, but even if it is, I recommend going there – especially if the weather is nice.

I hosted a lot of couchsurfers and got plenty of visitors from foreign countries, and usually, as a tourist you hardly go there as it is not as easily accessible as other places.

Am Himmel is an outdoor area where you not only have a great view at Vienna, you feel like on the countryside even though its in the city.

I said it’s not as accessible as other places, but it still is accessible without car: Just take the bus 38A from the U4 stop in Heiligenstadt to Cobenzl.

Then you have to walk a bit up the hill and at the crossing of Himmelstraße / Höhenstraße there´s the entrance to the restaurant Oktogon Am Himmel.

I usually get lost there, but in the end, I always find my way.

A little bit passed the restaurant Oktogon, you can find a celtic tree horoscope or Lebensbaumkreis as it is called in German.

While resting and preparing a picnic, you can search for YOUR tree which symbolizes your life, tells you more about your personality … and by the way, I am a fig.

21. Day Trip to Melk Abbey and Wachau Valley

Mom and daughter standing in front of an Abby in Austria
Melk Abbey

One of my favorite places on our trip was sailing between Melk Abbey and Vienna through the stunning Wachau Valley. You can experience the same on a day trip from Vienna.

The magnificent Benedictine Abbey of Melk, founded in 1089, sits  above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube and adjoining the Wachau Valley. Boasting exquisite Baroque architecture, this spiritual and cultural hub is one of Austria’s most renowned landmarks. The abbey contains the tomb of Saint Coloman of Stockerau and the remains of several members of the House of Babenberg, Austria’s first ruling dynasty.

Lady taking photos of a castle
Wachau Valley

The Wachau Valley in Austria lies between the towns of Melk and Krems and stretches for 36 kilometers. It’s popular for scenic cruises and cyclists and is renowned for its wine production, particularly the Grüner Veltliner and Riesling varieties. We saw beautiful villages along the way and several castle ruins.

This Wachau, Melk Abbey, and Danube Valleys Tour by bus and boat will take you to through the Wachau and Danube Valleys to Melk Abbey. On summer tours, you’ll stop in the charming town of Krems, nestled in the heart of the Wachau wine-growing region and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its impressive architecture and rich agricultural heritage.

Or you may wish to do this Wachau Valley wine tour by bike!

Best Time to Visit Vienna

People walking down street with a cathedral in the background.

There is hardly a best time of year to visit Vienna. Personally, I am enchanted by the winter time right before Christmas as there are lots of traditional (and touristy) Christmas markets everywhere in the city, everything illuminated and has a special old charm.

But then, I also adore spring and autumn when the first sun rays are out and – as if everyone was hiding during the sometimes harsh winters – now, there are people everywhere.

It feels like an awakening of the city, especially here in Vienna.

Getting To and Around Vienna

Dad and two daughters biking on a bridge over a river
Cruising around Vienna on abike

Vienna is often mistaken for being one of the Cities of Eastern Europe, but it’s exactly in the heart of Europe and easily, directly accessible via train by other “old” cities such as Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Munich.

As a traveler, I would never rent a car going to or from Vienna to any of these cities – even though it might be easy, it definitely is expensive and not worth the trouble.

If you want to get there by air plane, the airport for the cheap airline Ryanair actually is not in Vienna but in Bratislava (even if you book “Vienna” for example, the airport is Bratislava).

That´s not a problem, as there are buses waiting for you at the airport in Bratislava to take you to my city.

Getting there by the way, you can either take the – expensive – CAT (city airport train) or the – cheaper – bus from the city centre or train from Landstraße-Hauptstraße (U4/ U3 station).

When visiting a city, I LOVE to walk – it is a big part of the experience of the adventure for me: getting lost in the city.

In Vienna, everything (touristy) is within walking distance. And if you are tired of walking around, you can take the underground or the buses or trams.

You can find your way either by asking around or by planing in advance via http://www.wien.gv.at/englis.

Unfortunately, the better version is the German one where you can also find out your exact route and which public transport you should take to getting there: http://www.wien.gv.at/

Where to Stay in Vienna

If you’re in need of somewhere to stay in Vienna, then I recommend the following hotels.

  • For the high-end range, a great hotel is Das Triest Hotel in the 4th district, which is close to Karlsplatz.
  • Or there is the hip Hotel Daniel, which is modern and comfortable.
  • If you want to save money AND meet locals, I can recommend CouchSurfing – you stay with locals on their couch, in their homes, and most of the time, the experience is less touristy than in a hostel or hotel.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Vienna

Mom and daughter taking a photo in front of a city cathedral

Many people ask me why do I love Vienna, and I have to quote a friend answering this question: “Vienna, you can love or hate it. It depends if the sun is shining or not.“

Today, the sun was shining, reflecting images in the golden ornaments of the old buildings, and I loved Vienna sitting in the Stadtpark, watching students having a picnic in the grass, busy suit-wearers talking on the phone and old ladies walking their dogs chatting about the latest disaster with their neighbours.

And all this took place in the green heart of this city of old buildings and piles of history, which sometimes seems to never change but in the end really does.

More Austria Travel Inspiration

Need more inspiration for a trip to Austria? Here are some other resources that may be helpful..

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BIO: Coming from a small Austrian village, Doris feels most at home on the road. Her list of things to be seen and experienced is endless. And when her feet get too itchy again, she packs her backpack and moves on to the next adventure. Doris is interested in movement, development, news, different things, connecting on- and offline – but also in sustainability, environment, new energies, social things, fascinating people, who are doing something. You can read about both at Tripwolf and at Little Miss Itchy Feet or via twitter.

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