• Cortney Dowdle

Favorite Things To Do in Vienna, Austria

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Hi everyone,

Back at it with another travel blog this week! One of my favorite cities in the world is Vienna and with good reason. Vienna is a city that combines gorgeous architecture, tons of history, and super eclectic European vibes. To be fair, I have an old backpacking friend who is born and raised in Vienna, so she’s been able to show me around the few times I’ve visited, but the awesome thing is I can now share this wisdom and some awesome Vienna stops for anyone who might get a chance to see this city.

I love so many things about Vienna, but one of my favorite things is how easy it is to get around. Most of the main attractions in Vienna are right smack in the city center. You can stroll through city parks, around giant historic buildings and cut through between some of the most famous buildings in Vienna to get around the city. If you make it during summer or early fall, people are surely sitting around the river at pop up bars enjoying a Spritzer (unfortunately I’ve never been during the summer, but my friend assures me it’s one of the best times to visit…that and during the Christmas markets in December!)

I’ve had several great stops in Vienna, and I’m usually maximizing time in the middle of a work trip, so I always opt for taking the metro, walking lots, and eating outside as much as possible! Most recently, I had the most amazing breakfast of my life (details below), and some amazing mulled wine right by the Burgestrabe. Check out some must visit places for a first visit and then some of my personal favorites that I’ve been able to take in during my visits to Vienna. Enjoy!

Vienna and Hofburg Palace
Visit Vienna

You’ve got the usual suspects if you’re heading to Vienna for the first time:

  • The Vienna Staatsoper – The Opera House is stunning at any time of day, but it’s really worth a walk by at night. *Photo tip – take the stairs to the top of the Albertina at night for amazing views of the building next door.

  • Schonnbrunn Palace – This estate is stunning and massive, with a huge network of gardens, kilometers of trails, and the Vienna Botanical Gardens and Zoo are also connected to the palace property.

Schonbrunn Palace
Visit Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria
  • Museum Quartier – perfect example of how easy it is to get around is the convenient way they’ve put the history museum, science museum, and art museum all in the same plaza. To be fair, I haven’t had the chance to check these out, but I’ve heard the art museum is amazing and it’s on my list to hit the next time I’m in town. It's worth a stroll by even if you don't have time to enter these gorgeous old buildings!

  • Naschmarkt – One of my favorite places to hit for breakfast and even take my laptop and do a bit of work, Naschmarkt is full of little eateries and also is a long open market in the middle of two main streets. You can find spices, fresh and dried fruits, souvenirs, and more in this street.

  • Spanish Riding Stables – horse lovers, get ready to be awed. This riding school is over 400 years old, the oldest in the world, and the place where these horses perform and practice is in the city center in a gorgeous old building. You can walk through on your way between sites and you might catch a glimpse of the beautiful white Lipizzaners in their stables. *you must have tickets to enter stables or performance ring

  • Hofburg Palace – see the government buildings where the Hofburg Empire ruled until 1918. It’s also the location where Hitler made his famous announcement in 1938 in the Heldenplatz that Austria would join Nazi Germany. There is a ton you can do inside so plan accordingly with the time you have!

  • Gothic Cathedral of Stephansdom – one of my favorite churches, beautiful on the inside and out, but the roof is especially gorgeous, and if you’re strolling through Vienna’s most famous shopping street, you can’t miss it.

So those are my favorites of the most famous sites in Vienna. You’ve also got to eat, so I’m putting some of my favorite food and drink stops and a few additional sites here below! These are some of my favorite places I’ve gotten to explore in Vienna with a little extra time:

  • Try Spritzers or Vienna’s Storm (Sturm) drink - Spritzers are a must try in the summer, while the Sturm drink is served around the city during the wine harvest period (fall time)

  • Tour the Spanish Riding Stables or go to a show - to add on to the above, you can certainly see the Spanish Riding School from the outside, but if you’ve got the time, schedule a tour or buy tickets to see a performance. I’m planning to go see their morning exercise or a show the next time it fits into my schedule. Even doing the tour was awesome though to see where the horses live and learn so much about how they are chosen and trained to be the stellar performers they are.

  • Rooftop bars - Vienna doesn’t have a ton of rooftop bars, and they don’t have the skyscrapers that you’ll find in cities like Shanghai or Bangkok. Nevertheless, if you’re in town for a cool summer night or a crisp fall evening, check out a rooftop bar. I recommend Sky Bar, located above the Steffl Department Store, right in the heart of Vienna. They’ve got a great list of cocktails and views of the city.

  • Go for a run around the Schonnbrunn Gardens - again, this one is listed above, but if you’ve got the time, after you see the palace, this place is worth a walk/run around the extensive gardens. I did about 7.5 km the last time I was there, and I’m sure I only saw a third of the gardens. They are beautiful and colorful in the fall, and you can go up to the lookout point as well where they have a cafe and stunning views of the city as well as the palace.

  • Happy hour at Museum Quarter - Though known for its world class museums, I never realized how many cool restaurants are located. Keep walking through the arches around Museum Quarter and you’ll find a bunch of places with outdoor seating to relax in between visiting the sites.

  • Get a sausage and beer at the Bitzinger Wurstelstand right next to the Albertina Museum. I’ve been to a few stands, and to be honest, I haven’t found a huge difference. This one is often recommended though, always has a line, and the food is excellent! A must try in Vienna.

  • Check out Monet or other exhibit at the Albertina Museum.

  • National Library - the biggest Baroque library in Europe, this building is stunning even from the outside. It’s a fairly quick stop and you can grab a ticket and wander around the books, historic information, and of course, just stand and stare at the ceiling.

National Library in Vienna Austria
National Library in Vienna, Austria
  • Globe Museum - for the traveling souls, you can do another quick stop at the world’s largest collection of globes. There are about 240 globes of the moon, stars, and lands in these rooms. Worth a checkout if you’ve got extra time to kill!

  • Find a winery in the middle of the city - one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in Vienna, this one is tough to beat! A perfect fall day, walking through vineyards that feel like they should be out in the country, but are in fact, surrounded by city views. Check out some of your wine options in Vienna in another blog here.

  • Brunch - Vienna does many things well; gelato, metros, spritzers, and definitely brunch. I had the most amazing smoked salmon and avocado toast of my life at a place called Ulrich. I honestly still dream about this brunch, and I'm even posting a picture here. I’m sure there are tons of great places to discover though!

So long story short - I could go on and on about VIenna. I honestly love this city and have even pictured myself living here one day. Shout out to my amazing friend Clara for always showing me the best the city has to offer!

Until next time savvy internationals,

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