Julie Austria 14 Comments

Dine at a Viennese café, visit the Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn Palace, have a slice of Sacher Torte, stroll along Vienna’s bustling pedestrian streets, and ride the oldest Ferris wheel in the world…these top the list of things to do in Vienna.

So far, we have visited Vienna twice. The first time was during the month of May, on a 10-day trip that included Budapest and Prague. It was one of our first trips to Europe.

More recently, we visited Vienna in December 2023. Christmas is a wonderful time to be in Vienna, with Christmas markets and festive lights located throughout the city. As you will see in some of our photos, we were also lucky enough to be here when Vienna received a few inches of snow, making it even more magical.

This guide starts off with the top 10 things to do in Vienna, perfect for those who are planning a quick visit to the city (1 to 2 days). We then go on to list more things to do in Vienna, for those with more time.

I do my best to keep the hours of operation and pricing up to date for each attraction, however, these can change at any time. I recommend getting updated hours and pricing for your dates of travel. The link to the official website is provided for each site.

Interesting Facts about Vienna

Vienna is the largest city and the capital of Austria. It sits on the Danube River at the foothills of the Alps. The city center is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Vienna has the nickname the “City of Music,” since famous musicians such as Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Schubert, and Haydn have all called this city home. It is also referred to as the “City of Dreams” because Sigmund Freud also lived and worked here.

In 1440, Vienna became the main city of the Habsburg Dynasty and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The Habsburgs built many of the palaces in and around Vienna and you will learn quite a bit about this family as you tour these buildings.

Top 10 Things to Do in Vienna

This list starts with the very best things to do in Vienna. These are the essential experiences to have, particularly if it is your first visit to Vienna.

1. Vienna State Opera (Vienna Staatsoper)

One of the finest opera houses in the world, the Vienna State Opera was built between 1861 and 1869. It was the first major building on the Ringstrasse, the road that loops around the heart of Vienna. Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elizabeth attended the inauguration.

On a visit to Vienna, you can tour the opera house and/or watch a performance here. They don’t schedule the same performance two nights in a row, to allow the singers to rest their voices and recover (our guide stated that an opera singer can lose up to 10 pounds in one performance!). So, if you have a few nights in Vienna, it is possible to see multiple shows at the opera house.

Tours of the Vienna State Opera

To visit the inside of the opera house and learn about its history, take a 40-minute guided tour (you are not allowed to walk through the opera house without a guide, unless you are here for a performance). The tour takes you through the spectacular foyer, to the emperor’s box for a view of the stage, and the main floor of general seating.

Book your tour time in advance because this is one of the most popular things to do in Vienna.

Vienna State Opera | Best Things to Do in Vienna

The foyer of the Opera House

 

Vienna Opera House

The view from the emperor’s box

 Vienna Opera House Corridor

One of the outer corridors of the Opera House

Watching a Performance

If you have tickets to watch a performance, you can walk around the opera house unguided, and then watch a show.

The cheapest way to attend a performance is to purchase standing room only tickets. To do this, purchase an Austrian Federal Theatre Card (free) and then upgrade it for €20, which allows you to purchase a standing ticket in advance. Or, purchase your ticket on the day they become available, which is at 10 am of the day of the performance (just be aware that these quantities are extremely limited and there is a chance they could all be purchased in advance). These tickets start at €13. Learn more here.

On our first visit to Vienna, we purchase standing room only tickets at 10 am. Tim and I returned in the evening, arriving about 30 minutes early, which gave us enough time to walk through the opera house and take photos.

Prices go up for general seating or box seating. You can see the full schedule on the official website.

The season runs from September through June, with a two month break in July and August.

WHAT’S BETTER: A TOUR OR A PERFORMANCE? We have done both: watched a performance and took a tour. Tim and I both preferred watching the performance, since you get the full experience and can still see the same rooms you visit on a standard tour.

2. The Historic Heart of Vienna

The city center of Vienna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This part of the city is bordered by the Ringstrasse and the Danube River. Strolling the pedestrian streets and visiting the historic churches top the list of things to do in Vienna.

There are several famous pedestrian streets in Vienna.

Graben is the most well-known. It runs from Stephensplatz to Kohlmarkt and is lined with shops and restaurants. The Column of Pest (Wiener Pestsäule) is a decorative column that commemorates victims of the plague and it forms the centerpiece of Graben.

Graben Christmas Lights | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Graben in December

Kohlmarkt is an upscale shopping street, with Tiffany, Gucci, Dior, and Cartier shops lining the street. This is also where you will find Demel, one of Vienna’s most famous pastry shops.

Kärntner Straße runs from Stephensplatz to the Vienna State Opera and is another great place for shopping in Vienna.

Kartner Strasse Christmas Lights

Kärntner Straße in December

3. St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) is the centerpiece of the historic heart of Vienna. It was consecrated in 1147 and has been enlarged several times.

There is a lot to do here, from viewing the nave to touring the catacombs to climbing its towers for 360° views over Vienna.

St Stephens Cathedral Vienna Christmas

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Views of the Nave

For free, you can enter the church and view the nave. You cannot walk down the nave for free, as there is a fence that divides the nave from the entrance lobby of the cathedral.

Anything beyond this first view of the cathedral requires some sort of ticket, of which there are a few to choose from.

St Stephens Cathedral Interior

Visit the Nave, Altar and Side Chapels

Inside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, purchase a ticket to walk down the nave, to see the altar, and to see the side chapels. It’s worth it for those who want to view St. Stephen’s Cathedral from the main floor. Not many people do this, so you get to walk around the church relatively crowd free. Tickets start at €5.

St Stephens Cathedral Interior

Tour of the Catacombs

The catacombs can only be visited on a guided tour, which are offered multiple times of day (get the tour times here). This tour takes about 40 minutes and photography is not allowed. You learn about the history of the burials and can see containers that hold the Habsburg’s organs. We thought the tour was just OK (it’s skippable if you have limited time).

North Tower (Pummerin)

The North Tower, also called the Eagle Tower, is 68 meters high and the shorter of the two towers you can climb. Pummerin is the largest bell in Vienna and it sits at the top of this tower.

The North Tower is the easiest tower to visit as an elevator whisks you to the very top. You’ll step out onto an open terrace. We really liked the views from here, as you get a close up look at the gorgeous tiled roof of Stephansdom and wonderful views of the city.

The elevator is located inside of the cathedral. Purchase your ticket from the ticket booth in the nave. A North Tower ticket costs €7.

North Tower Vienna View | Best Things to Do in Vienna

View from the North Tower | Things to Do in Vienna

 St Stephens Cathedral Roof | Best Things to Do in Vienna

The amazing roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral

 

Stephansdom Roof

One more view from the North Tower (and you can see what the observation platform looks like)

South Tower

At 136 meters, the South Tower is the tallest tower of the cathedral. To get to the top, you’ll have to do some work. It is 343 steps to the top, most of these on a spiral staircase. These stairs end at an enclosed room where you can view Vienna from the windows.

South Tower View Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

View from the South Tower

 

South Tower Stephansdom Vienna

The observation room on the South Tower

The entrance to the South Tower is outside, on the south side of the cathedral. A South Tower ticket costs €7.

Even though you get a higher vantage point from the South Tower, we liked the views more from the North Tower. The roof of the cathedral is incredible and very unique from other churches we have visited in Europe and you get the best view of it from the north tower.

Planning Your Visit

 
ALL INCLUSIVE TICKET: If you want to see and do everything, purchase an all-inclusive ticket for €25.
 
Hours: Visiting times are Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 11:30 am and 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm; Sundays from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Tickets: Currently, tickets can only be purchase at the cathedral with cash. There is no advance ticket option.
Website: Get updated hours on the official website

4. Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) was the summer residence of the Habsburg family. It is a similar experience to visiting Versailles in Paris, where you can tour the interior of the palace, stroll through the gardens, and visit the Gloriette.

Schonbrunn Palace in May | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Schönbrunn Palace in May

To tour the interior of the palace, you have several options. The shortest option is to purchase a ticket to visit the State Apartments. This takes about 25 minutes (a bit faster if you move quickly) and you see a few grand halls in the palace. The Imperial Tour takes 40 minutes and includes the apartments of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth. With 60 minutes, you can do the Grand Tour, which includes the Imperial Tour plus the rooms occupied by Maria Theresa. You can also tour the palace and gardens with a guide on this skip the line tour.

We did the State Apartments and for us, this was sufficient. We don’t have photos because photography was not allowed during our visit in 2023, but I have recently learned that photography is now allowed inside of the palace.

Our favorite part of visiting Schönbrunn is strolling through the gardens. We’ve been lucky to be here in the spring, when tulips were blooming, and the winter, when the grounds were snow covered. The gardens are free to visit but special attractions, such as the zoo, requires a ticket.

For a great view, walk up to the Gloriette, where you can view Schönbrunn Palace with Vienna as a backdrop.

Get pricing and hours on the official website. If you plan to tour the interior, book your ticket and time slot in advance.

Schonbrunn Palace Gardens

Schönbrunn Palace Gardens

 Schonbrunn Palace Gloriette

The Gloriette

 

Schonbrunn Palace Snow

Schönbrunn Palace in December (view from near the Trianon)

GETTING HERE: From Vienna, take the U4 line, getting off at Schonbrunn. It is a 8 to 10-minute walk from the metro station to the entrance of Schönbrunn Palace.

5. Dine at a Viennese Café

Starting your day with pastries and coffee is a must-have experience in Vienna. This is such an important part of the city’s culture that the Viennese coffee house culture is listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

So, it should come as no surprise that Vienna is host to a long list of coffee shops (I read from one source that there are 600 coffee houses in Vienna). Many serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We have a guide to the best cafes in Vienna, but here are a few of the top coffee houses:

Café Central. This coffee house was visited by many famous people, including Sigmund Freud. Café Central is a very popular coffee house so expect long lines here throughout the day. Make your reservation in advance on the official website.

Cafe Central Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Cafe Central

Demel. Opening in 1786, this is one of the oldest cafes in Vienna. Step inside its elegant interior and dine on Sachertorte, apfelstrudels, and savory treats. It is located on Kohlmarkt.

Demel Vienna Austria

Pastries and sachertorte at Demel

Café im Kunsthistorischen Museum. Located inside the dome hall of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, this gorgeous café is the perfect place to take a break and have cup of coffee, pastry, or lunch. This is another popular spot so be sure to make a reservation in advance.

Kunsthistorisches Museum Cafe | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Kunsthistorisches Museum cafe

Café Schwarzenberg. Café Schwarzenberg gets a nice mix of locals and tourists. It is located on the Ringstrasse amongst several 5-star hotels. We ate breakfast here, opting for omelets and espressos and ending with a Klimt torte, but they also serve Viennese breakfast and have a case of decadent pastries to choose from.

Cafe Schwarzenberg Vienna

Café Schwarzenberg

6. Tour the Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace, also called the Imperial Palace, has been the seat of government since the 13th century and the Habsburg’s winter residence. It is a massive complex of buildings and to see and do everything, it takes a half to a full day of your time.

Hofburg Palace Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Hofburg Palace | Things to Do in Vienna

Here is a list of the main sights in the Hofburg Palace.

The Spanish Riding School

This is one of the most prestigious riding academies in the world. The Spanish Riding School preserves classical dressage and the training of Lipizzaner horses.

There are two ways to visit the Spanish Riding School. In the morning, 1-hour exercises are held, which are training sessions of the Lipizzaners. This is typically held at 10 am and costs €17. Purchase your ticket in advance because this is a popular activity and call sell out.

You can also attend a performance, the Ballet of the White Stallions, where you see fully trained Lipizzans. This is a more expensive option, with tickets starting at €26 and is held about once a week. Get hours, pricing, and make your reservation in advance on the official website.

Note: Photography and video are not allowed in the Spanish Riding School.

We chose to watch the training session, because it worked into our schedule better and had a lower price tag. You don’t get the full experience, seeing the Lipizzans putting on the full show, but you do get to see some stallions practicing the movements. Plus, an announcer during the training provides lots of interesting facts about the Lipizzaner horses.

There are multiple entrances into the Spanish Riding School, so arrive 15 minutes early, to give yourself enough time to get to your seat.

The Sisi Museum & Imperial Apartments

The Sisi Museum was founded in 2004. On display are over 300 personal objects of Empress Elizabeth (Sisi), the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. In this museum, learn about her life and tragic death by assassination in 1898.

On a visit to the Sisi Museum, you will also tour the Imperial Apartments, where Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth lived. Tour the 24 opulent rooms of one of Austria’s most famous imperial couples.

To visit the Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments, purchase a timed entry ticket in advance on the official website. The entrance fee includes an audio guide and it takes about 75 minutes to tour the museum and apartments. If those tickets are sold out, you can also purchase them on GetYourGuide. 

The Imperial Treasury

The Imperial Treasury, also called the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien, has on display the Imperial Crown (which served as the crown for the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire), one of the largest emeralds in the world, an agate bowl which is considered to be the Holy Grail, and a giant narwhal tooth thought to be the horn of a unicorn.

A visit here lasts about 30 minutes. It’s only worthwhile for those with an interest in seeing the crown jewels. Get hours and pricing on the official website.

Vienna Imperial Treasury

Imperial Treasury

The Swiss Gate

The Swiss Gate (Schweizertor) is the original entrance into the Hofburg Palace. It was built between 1552 and 1553 and bears the insignia of Emperor Ferdinand I and the Order of the Golden Fleece. The gate gets its name from the Swiss Guard, who guarded the palace in the 18th century. The Swiss Gate is located near the Imperial Treasury.

Swiss Gate Vienna

Swiss Gate

The House of Habsburgs Tour

We did this and loved it. With just a few other visitors, several interesting exhibits, and great views of the interior of the Hofburg Palace, this was our favorite experience at the Hofburg Palace. This “tour” is done self-guided at your own pace, so you can spend as little or as long as you like, visiting the various exhibits.

On one ticket, visit the Armory Chamber (3,800 artifacts, including armor and weapons), the Collection of Historical Musical Instruments (Renaissance and Baroque instruments, some of which were used by famous composers), and the Weltmuseum (an ethnographic museum). For us, one of the highlights was seeing the Hall of Columns, a gorgeous hallway in the Hofburg Palace.

These exhibits are located inside the Neue Hofburg. Get hours and pricing on the official website.

Hofburg Palace Atrium

Atrium of the Neue Hofburg Palace

 

Armory Chamber Hofburg Palace

Armory Chamber

 Musical Instruments Collection Hofburg Palace

Musical Instruments Collection

 

Hall of Columns Hofburg Palace | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Hall of Columns

The Hofburg Chapel & Vienna Boys’ Choir

At the Hofburg Chapel (Hofburgkapelle), you can attend a performance by the Vienna Boys’ Choir or a concert performance. Get the schedule here.

7. Have a Slice of Sacher Torte

The Sacher Torte is a famous chocolate cake: two layers of cake separated by apricot jam and covered in chocolate icing. The cake was “invented” by Franz Sacher at the request of Prince Wenzel von Metternich for some of his special guests.

Sacher Torte Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

At Café Sacher Vienna, inside of Hotel Sacher, dine on the original Sacher Torte. Lines to get in can be huge, so get here early or make a reservation in advance.

You can also have a Sacher Torte at Demel (the Eduard-Sacher-Torte) which only has one layer of apricot jam, rather than two.

Or, try them both and have fun picking your favorite!

8. Visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum

This is an amazing museum. The interior, with its grand staircases, marble floors and walls, and intricately painted ceilings, is a sight to see.

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

Kunsthistorisches Museum | Things to Do in Vienna

 

Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel by Pieter Brugel

 

Café im Kunsthistorisches Museum

Café im Kunsthistorischen Museum

On display is an enormous amount of art which was collected by the Habsburg family. Paintings by Gustav Klimt, Titian, Michelangelo, Vermeer, Rubens, and Rembrandt grace the walls. Don’t miss the Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel, one of the most famous paintings in the museum. Also on the display are Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities.

One of the most elegant cafes in Vienna is located in the dome hall. It has a beautiful setting and windows from the café look out over Maria Theresien Platz. If you take the stairs to the top floor, there are small balconies that overlook the café.

Get hours and pricing on the official website. And if you want to dine in the café, make your reservation in advance.

9. Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere is a complex of historic buildings. The Upper Belvedere Palace is a Baroque palace that is now an art museum. Inside sits over 800 years of art history, with Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss being its most famous work of art. There is also art by Monet, Jacques Louis David (Napoleon at the Great St. Bernard), and Van Gogh.

Belvedere Palace Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Belvedere Palace

 

The Kiss

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Before leaving the area, step out into the gardens that surround the palace for a very nice view of Vienna.

Belvedere Palace is located outside of the city center. To get here, take Tram D. If you use the Underground, get off at Sudtiroler Platz/Hauptbahnhof and it is a 15-minute walk to the palace.

Get pricing and hours on the official website. You will make a reservation for a time slot.

10. The Austrian National Library

I’m including this in our top 10 because this is one of my favorite places to visit in Vienna. It’s quick, it’s one of the cheaper attractions, and it is one of the prettiest interiors in Vienna.

The Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) is the largest library in Austria and one of the largest in Europe. It is located inside of the Neue Berg Wing of the Hofburg Palace.

This is not a room simply filled with books. The ceiling and upper walls are decorated with colorful frescos. Marble statues carved by Peter Strudel and Paul Strudel are located along the long hall, as well as four globes created by Vincenzo Coronelli. It is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

Austrian National Library Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Austrian National Library

 

Austrian National Library

Austrian National Library Exhibit

A visit here lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, a little longer if you want to take it all in.

On the official website, purchase your tickets in advance and get pricing and hours of operation. There are several branches of the library so make sure you are purchasing a ticket for the State Hall.

Go Deeper: More Things to Do in Vienna

1. The Albertina

The Albertina is an art museum that has on display an amazing collection of Impressionist art. On the first floor are works of art by Da Vinci, Michelangelo (this exhibit is focused on his study of anatomy), and Raphael. On the second floor are pieces by Degas, Cezanne, Gaugin, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, and Miro, all within three rooms.

Albertina | Best Things to Do in Vienna

The Albertina | Things to Do in Vienna

 

Albertina Picasso

You can easily spend an hour or more here but for those who want to see works of art by famous artists by visiting just a few rooms, this museum is well worth the visit.

The Albertina is located on Albertinaplatz, across the street from the Opera House. Get hours and pricing on the official website.

2. The Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft)

The Imperial Crypt, also called the Capuchin Crypt, is where the members of the House of Habsburg are entombed. This relatively small space contains the bodies of 145 members of the family, some of them resting in metal sarcophagi and remains of others in urns.

A visit here lasts about 30 minutes. Get pricing and hours on the official website.

Imperial Crypt

Imperial Crypt

 

Imperial Crypt Wien

Imperial Crypt Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

3. Museum of Natural History

The Naturhistorisches Museum Wien has on display over 300 million objects, making it one of the most important nature museums in the world. It sits across Maria Theresa Platz from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, so these can be visited together.

This is a massive museum and it would be easy to spend half of a day here. If you just want to see the top sights, see the life-sized woolly mammoth, the Dinosaur Hall, and the Venus of Willendorf (a stone carving that is approximately 29,500 years old). And, like the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the grand staircase and cafe are worth a photo or two.

Get hours and pricing on the official website.

Naturhistorisches Museum Wien

Naturhistorisches Museum Wien | Things to Do in Vienna

 

Natural History Museum Vienna

Natural History Museum Vienna Dome Hall

Natural History Museum Dome Hall

4. MuseumsQuartier

By now, you are learning that Vienna is packed with museums. In the MuseumsQuartier, or simply MQ, there are a few more to visit.

Sitting on one square is a collection of Baroque and Modern buildings.

Leopold Museum Vienna

Leopold Museum

The Leopold Museum contains one of the largest collections of Austrian art, including works of art by Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and Oskar Kokoschka. From the Libelle viewing platform, on top of the museum, you get a nice view of Vienna.

The MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art, Ludwig Foundation, Vienna) is a modern and contemporary art museum, with works of art by Picasso, Andy Warhol, and many more artists.

MuseumsQuartier is also home to the Tanzquartier, a center for dance, and Kunsthalle Wien, an exhibition space. This is also the location for the Viennale film festival and other festivals throughout the year.

Learn more about the MuseumsQuartier on the official website, including upcoming events and tour options.

5. Palace of Justice

This hidden gem is one of the best free things to do in Vienna.

The Palace of Justice (Justizplatz) is the Supreme Court of Vienna. It also has a very photogenic interior, so for those with an interest in photography and architecture, this is worth putting on your list.

Palace of Justice Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Palace of Justice

 

Palace of Justice

The palace is open to the public and no ticket or entrance fee is necessary. To enter, you will have to go through security and backpacks and large bags are not allowed. A visit here lasts about 15 minutes, to photograph the atrium. There is also a rooftop café with views of Vienna.

It is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 3:30 pm.

6. Prater and Wiener Riesenrad

Prater is a park that sits just outside of the city center. Its centerpiece is the Wiener Riesenrad (the Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel), which was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985.

From the highest point of the ride, you get a fantastic view of the Vienna city skyline. You can purchase a ticket online in advance or onsite. For an even more memorable experience, book a ticket for Platform 9, a compartment with a glass floor, or lunch or dinner in a Gourmet Wagon.

In Prater, you can also visit Madame Tussaud’s, ride a variety of other rides (Kara and I rode on the indoor roller coaster which is a lot of fun), and dine at the ROLLERCOASTERRESTAURANT (all food and drinks are served on conveyor belts, making this a great pick for families).

Wiener Riesenrad Snow | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Prater and Wiener Riesenrad in December

7. Hundertwasserhaus

The Hundertwasserhaus is a unique architectural building in Vienna. Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this apartment house has a colorfully decorated façade, with trees and shrubs adorning the roof and terraces.

People live here, so you can only view the Hundertwasserhaus from the outside. It’s not worth going out of your way to see it, but if you are in the area, then it is worth a quick visit.

Hundertwasserhaus

Hundertwasserhaus | mistervlad/shutterstock.com

8. Vienna City Hall

Vienna’s Rathaus (City Hall), is a Neo-Gothic building, one of the most beautiful buildings in Vienna. It sits on Rathausplatz and is the seat of the local government. In December, Rathausplatz is home to one of Vienna’s biggest and best Christmas markets.

Rathaus Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

The Rathaus and a Christmas market

9. Ringstrasse

The Ringstrasse (Vienna Ring Road) is a wide boulevard the loops around the outside of the Innere Stadt (Inner Town or historic city center) of Vienna. This road sits where the medieval fortifications once stood. Now, instead of walls and ramparts, cars and trams cruise through Vienna.

Famous buildings that sit on Ringstrasse include the Vienna State Opera, Rathaus, Votivkirche, the Palace of Justice, Burgtheater, and the Austrian Parliament Building.

Taking an evening tram ride on the Ringstrasse is a cheap and easy way to see these buildings illuminated.

Vienna Opera House | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Vienna Opera House | TTstudio/shutterstock.com

10. Attend a Concert

With Vienna’s long, rich musical history, attending a concert, opera, or musical performance is one of the best things to do in Vienna. You can attend an opera at the Vienna State Opera, a theater performance at the Burgtheater, or a classical musical concert at one of many venues throughout Vienna.

At St. Peter’s Church, attend a classic ensemble, featuring music by Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Schubert.

In Karlskirche (St. Charles Church), listen to the Four Seasons by Vivaldi.

At the Orangerie in Schönbrunn Palace, attend a Mozart and Strauss Concert.

Listen to the Viennese String Ensemble perform music by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, or Schubert in St. Anne’s Church.

Powered by GetYourGuide

 

11. Votivkirche

This breathtaking Neo-Gothic church was constructed to thank God for saving Emperor Franz Joseph from a failed assassination attempt. It was completed in 1879 and sits on the Ringstrasse and is sometimes mistaken for St. Stephen’s Church, since they have a similar appearance.

Votivkirche

Votivkirche | mRGB/shutterstock.com

12. Jesuit Church

This church is getting a mention because the interior is magnificent. The ceiling is painted with a fresco that gives it the appearance that is has a massive dome. It is very well done and creates quite the illusion.

Vienna Jesuit Church | Best Things to Do in Vienna

It is free and quick to visit. It’s worthwhile for those with several days in Vienna, but I don’t think it is worth going out of your way to see it. The Jesuit Church is located in the city center, a 5 to 10-minute walk from the heart of the city.

13. St. Charles Church

St. Charles Church (Karlskirche) is a beautiful Baroque church just outside of the Ringstrasse. It was built to give thanks for the end of the plague epidemic. It is dedicated to Saint Borromeo, who cared for plague victims.

One of the highlights of a visit here is climbing the 120 steps to the roof where you can look across the Vienna skyline. You can also attend a classical music concert in the church.

Karlsplatz Christmas Market | Best Things to Do in Vienna

St. Charles Church (in December with a Vienna Christmas market)

 

St Charles Church Interior

Overlooking Karlsplatz Christmas Market

The view from roof of St. Charles Church

14. Ferstel Passage

This is another hidden gem in Vienna. Located inside of Palais Ferstel, this long covered hallway (also called the Freyung Passage) is lined with boutique shops and cafes, making it the perfect place to go shopping if the weather is bad. It is located just around the corner from Café Central.

Ferstel Passage | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Ferstel Passage Vienna | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Ferstel Passage

15. Dine at a Wurstelstand

Würstelstands are street food stands that sell hot dogs and sausages. They date back to the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when they were initially movable stands selling sausages in the city.

These make a great snack when exploring the sites in the historic area. Sausages are served sliced or on bread. You can top them with cabbage, peppers, pickles, horseradish, mustard, and ketchup.

Wurstelstand Vienna

Wurstelstand | Best Things to Do in Vienna

Best Things to Do in Vienna: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Best Free Things to Do in Vienna

Here are 8 great things to do in Vienna without spending a dime.

  • See the inside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral
  • Stroll along the pedestrian streets in the city center
  • Visit the Palace of Justice
  • Stroll through the gardens at Schönbrunn Palace
  • Ferstel Passage
  • Visit the Jesuit Church
  • See the Hundertwasserhaus
  • Photograph the exterior of the Votivkirche

Best Things to Do in Vienna with Kids

If you are visiting Vienna as a family, here are 8 great things to do with kids.

  • Visit Prater, ride the Ferris Wheel, and dine at the ROLLERCOASTERRESTAURANT
  • Visit the Spanish Riding School
  • Get a snack at a Wurstelstand
  • Visit the Natural History Museum
  • Have a slice of Sacher Torte
  • Visit Schönbrunn Palace
  • Climb one or both towers of St. Stephen’s Cathedral
  • Have breakfast at a Viennese Café

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you not miss in Vienna?

The top places to visit in Vienna include St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Hofburg Palace, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Vienna State Opera, a stroll along Graben. Also not to be missed is breakfast or brunch at a Viennese café and a slice of Sacher Torte.

How many days do you need in Vienna?

With two very busy days, you can see the top sights in Vienna. Three days gives more time to visit hidden gems or day trip from Vienna to nearby places such as Salzburg, Hallstatt, and Bratislava.

When is the best time to visit Vienna?

Vienna makes a great destination all year. Spring and summer are the shoulder seasons, when the weather is pleasant and crowds are manageable. Summer is the warmest and busiest time to visit Vienna, so make your hotel and attrction reservations in advance. In winter, Vienna gets quite cold and snow is possible. This is the cheapest, least crowded time to visit Vienna. In December, Vienna is home to some of the best Christmas markets in Europe.

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien | Best Things to Do in Vienna

One more view of the grand staircase in the Kunsthistorisches Museum


If you have any questions about the best things to do in Vienna, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Austria

AUSTRIA: Learn how to spend one day in Hallstatt, one day in Salzburg, and we also have a guide to the best things to do in Innsbruck.

VIENNA: Plan your time with our One Day Vienna Itinerary and 2 Day Vienna Itinerary. And don’t miss our guide to 10 must-visit cafes and coffee houses in Vienna.

CHRISTMAS IN VIENNA: Vienna has some of the best Christmas markets in Europe. We also have a short but scenic walking tour of the Vienna Christmas lights and top landmarks in the city center.

CENTRAL EUROPE ITINERARY: Learn how to put together Budapest, Vienna, and Prague together in our 10 day Central Europe Itinerary.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Learn how to day trip to Cesky Krumlov and get a list of the best things to do in Prague.

BAVARIA, GERMANY: Take an amazing 10 day road trip in Bavaria, visiting Munich, Neuschwanstein, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and drive the Romantic Road in Germany.

Read all of our articles about Austria in our Austria Travel Guide.

 

Vienna Bucket List Best of Vienna Austria

Best things to do Vienna Austria

 

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Comments 14

  1. Avatar for Kerry Cowley
    Kerry Cowley

    I enjoyed your article. You need to make just a few corrections. The structure you walk up to at the Schonbrunn Palace is called the Gloriette, not the Trianon. Since February 1st photos/video is now allowed inside the Schonbrunn Palace and at the Hofburg Palace inside the Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments. The Silver Collection has been closed since April 1, 2023. We have less than 48 hours in Vienna on a Viking cruise. There are so many things I want to do that I don’t see how we can possibly fit in a visit to one of the famous cafes, especially if there are long lines to get in and slow service. Which of the cafes did you actually visit and is it worth skipping other attractions like the Imperial Crypt, St. Peter’s and the Jesuit Church to do so?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Kerry. Thank you for the corrections. It’s great that you can now take photos, we couldn’t just 2 months ago, which is a bummer for us. We visited all the cafes listed, plus many more in Vienna. If you can make a reservation in advance, visiting at least one cafe is worth it (it’s one of our favorite experiences in Vienna). I think it is more important than the Imperial Crypt or Jesuit Church. And I don’t see a need to visit everything in the Hofburg Palace. Choose a few experiences (such as the Spanish Riding School and the Library, for example) choosing the experiences that look the most interesting to you. That way you can get to more places in Vienna. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Maureen
    Maureen

    Hello,
    Just working out our itinerary for Austria and Switzerland for 3 weeks. How many days do you think is sufficient as we are flying into Vienna?
    thanks,
    Maureen

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Three full days in Vienna is a nice amount of time to see the main sights in Vienna and have half of a day to visit Schonbrunn Palace. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Maureen
      2. Avatar for Maureen
        Maureen

        Hi Julie,
        The hardest part of trip planning is the itinerary. Here’s my rough 21 day itinerary that welcomes some guidance. We want to visit Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The flights are confirmed and Vienna for four nights is confirmed and paid for but everything else is open at this point.We’d like the majority of the 21 days to be spent in Switzerland.We are open to car rental and train travel. how many nights should we sleep in each place and what are good bases for day trips. We want to avoid one night stays, if possible.

        – Vienna (4)
        • Salzburg
        • Bavaria
        • Eagle’s Nest
        • Neuschwanstein Castle
        • Hallstatt
        • Fussen
        – Bernese Oberland
        -(open to everywhere in Switzerland

        Thanks in advance.

        Maureen

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
          Author
          Julie

          Hello Maureen. Here is a basic itinerary. (1, 2, 3, 4) Vienna (5) train to Salzburg, afternoon in Salzburg (6) day trip to Hallstatt from Salzburg (7) morning in Salzburg, rent a car, visit the Eagle’s Nest on the drive to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, sleep here (8) Neuschwanstein, sleep Garmisch (9) Zugsptize (10) Drive to Lucerne, visiting Fussen on the drive, drop car (11) Lucerne (12) travel to Jungfrau region (13, 14, 15, 16) Jungfrau region (17) travel to Zermatt (18, 19) Zermatt (20) travel to Zurich or Geneva by train (21) fly home. Alternatively, you could rent the car in Vienna (there are probably more rental car options in Vienna as it is a larger city but it might add extra cost to your trip). You can take out Zugspitze and add that day to Switzerland, spending more time in the Jungfrau region or Zermatt, or adding a day in Zurich (can be done as a day trip from Lucerne). If you have any questions let me know. Cheers, Julie

          1. Avatar for Maureen
  3. Avatar for Steve
    Steve

    I love the butterfly house ” Schmetterlinghaus ” in the Palace gardens of the Hofburg. There is a Jugendstil palmhouse which is filled with beautiful plants and butterflies right in the middle of town

  4. Avatar for Karen
    Karen

    I always check your website before a trip; I like your combination of attractions, soaking up the culture and food. I like your Vienna itinerary – my husband and I will be in Vienna for a full day and two half days (2 nights) in January. How much of what you did on your trip do you think we can accommodate in this time? We like to walk. What area is the best to stay to be close to sightseeing? Thanks in advance!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Karen. We had two full, busy days in Vienna and we were able to do everything on this list. We stayed at the Boutique Hotel am Stephensplatz, right next to the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There is also a metro station right there. It is a very central location so you can walk to most of the sites and use the metro to get to Schonbrunn Palace. On one of your half days, visit Schonbrunn Palace. If you like museums, you could visit the museums around the museum quarter on your other half day. If I skipped one thing on this list, it would be Belvedere Palace, unless you are a fan of Gustav Klimt. On your full day, visit the historic center of Vienna (most of what is on the list) and possibly dinner at a Heuriger in the evening. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Karen
        Karen

        Julie, thank-you so much for your reply so quickly, especially at this time of year. Here’s to happy adventures in the new year.

  5. Avatar for Shirley Pretorius
    Shirley Pretorius

    Hope you can help .We are visiting from South-Africa on a small budget and booked a day trip to Salzburg via train for tomorrow29/8.we will be arriving at 9 o clock in the morning……any tips of making the most of our day and maybe the best place to shop for cheap souveniers ?
    We have Friday 30/8 free and wanted to visit Prague but people say it will take too long to get there for a day trip and is not worth the money and time.What would you suggest ? I would really appreciate any help as we want to make the most of our last 3 days in Austria and are not sure which day trips to take and how to get there to make the most of our time and in the most cost effective way
    Thank you so much in advance
    Shirley Pretorius South-Africa

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Shirley. We have an article One Day in Salzburg that is perfect for what you need. There are souvenir shops in the city center. I agree with what you have been hearing, that Prague is too far away for a day trip. But if you haven’t been there yet, Hallstatt is very close to Salzburg and Innsbruck makes a nice option too. Or, you can head over into Berchtesgaden, Germany or even Munich from Salzburg. Cheers, Julie

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