Julie Austria 6 Comments

Vienna, Austria is a fabulous city that is home to world class museums, the Opera, cafes, pastries, and the famous Sacher Torte.  Tim and I loved Vienna, although we were here for only two full days.  We raced through the city and saw as much as possible.  Of everything we saw and did, here are our ten favorite things to see and do in Vienna.

Top Ten Things to Do in Vienna

Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper)

The Vienna State Opera is very impressive and it is ten times grander than its competition in Budapest. For just a few euros, Tim and I bought standing room only tickets for the Opera Nabucco. We were able to tour the entire opera building before the performance and then watch the show from the standing room only section. Being able to get these cheap tickets makes the opera accessible for everyone.

Vienna Opera
Vienna Opera House

PRO TRAVEL TIP: You can purchase standing room only tickets for as little as €10. What makes this even better is that with your ticket, you can now tour the opera building on your own before the show. Tim and I spent about a half an hour before the performance, wandering through the opera house and taking photos from the balconies.
To get standing room only tickets, you can either sign up online for the Austrian Federal Theatre Card (this allows you to purchase standing room only tickets in advance) or wait in line the day of the performance for any remaining seats.
You can also take a guided tour of the opera house (learn more here). So, by purchasing standing room only tickets, you get to see a show, tour the opera house on your own, and save some euros.
Learn more about how to get your standing room opera tickets here.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

This cathedral, consecrated in 1147, is one of Vienna’s most recognizable symbols. Tim and I briefly went into the church but the highlight for us was climbing the 343 stairs of the south tower for excellent views over Vienna. In my opinion, the views of Vienna and the views of the roof are what makes St. Stephen’s Cathedral worthwhile. The tiled roof is very unique and from the tower you can see the highlights of Vienna.

St Stephens Cathedral

St Stephens Tiles

Climbing the Towers of St. Stephen’s Cathedral: Access to the South Tower is on the outside on the right side of the cathedral (if you are looking at the front of the cathedral). You can also climb the North Tower (Pummerin). Click here for updated hours and pricing. 

Have Breakfast in a Viennese Cafe

This is not to be missed!  If you love great food, great coffee, or taking part in a great Viennese culture, have breakfast or brunch in a cafe in Vienna.

Vienna is known as the “coffee house capital of the world,” and there are numerous cafes to choose from. We chose Cafe Central and had our best meal in Vienna. We drank coffee and juice and ate pastries that were so good we visited the pastry counter twice. It was absolutely wonderful and one of my favorite memories of Vienna. When we return to Vienna someday, this will be number one on my list to do again!

Cafe Central Vienna

Cafe Food

Visit Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs, who were the rulers of the Austrian empire. Schönbrunn was Vienna’s answer to Versailles in Paris. Tour the palace, walk the manicured grounds, and take in the view from the Trianon.

Schonbrunn Palace

Vienna best things to do

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Purchase your tickets online in advance to save time. This is one of the most popular places to visit in Vienna so lines to get in can be long. Here is the link to Schönbrunn’s official website to learn more.

Take a Stroll Down Graben

Graben is one of Vienna’s most famous streets. This is an upscale area with stores like Cartier and Versace. Tim and I bought lunch at a gourmet supermarket and ate it while sitting on a bench, people watching. Later, we made a stop at Demel, an extremely famous chocolate shop.  Delicious!


Have a Slice of the World’s Most Famous Chocolate Cake, the 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. The cake was first served at Demel and then later at Hotel Sacher.

Tim and I sat in the cafe at Hotel Sacher and shared a slice. The cake was good but I wouldn’t say it was the best chocolate cake I ever had.

Sacher Torte

Visit Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace was the official residence of the Hapsburgs. It was home to Franz Joseph and his wife, Sisi, from the late 1800’s to the very early 1900’s. Here the Hapsburgs lived, entertained, and ruled over their people.

Tim and I toured the Royal Apartments, the Treasury, and the Austrian National Library. The Austrian National Library was our favorite exhibit. We loved the grand room, decorations, and shelves and shelves of books. Plus, it was cool, quiet, and away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the palace.

Hofburg Palace

Have Dinner at a Heuriger

A heuriger is a unique Viennese experience. A heuriger is a wine garden serving homemade wine and small meals. They maintain an old village atmosphere and serve traditional Viennese food. Tim and I went to Schubel-Auer Heuriger, located on the outskirts of Vienna. The place was charming but a bit intimidating since they only spoke a little bit of English.

A grumpy waiter showed us to our seat and we placed our order for a half liter of white wine. Then we walked up to the counter to pick out our food. All of the food was displayed in glass cases. We pointed to what looked good, the waitress and her son dished it out, warmed it up, and then we took our tray back to our seats. We tried sauerkraut, pork, roast beef, pickled green beans, and shmalz (which is lard).

The food was decent but the experience was wonderful. If you like the idea of having a less touristic experience and trying new foods, then dinner at a heuriger is definitely a must-do.

Heuriger Food


Visit the Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere Palace is a baroque palace surrounded by a gorgeous garden. For us, the highlight was the visit to the art gallery to see the world’s largest collection of art by Gustav Klimt.

Belvedere Palace

You can purchase tickets online to tour just the Upper Belvedere (to see the Klimt art collection), the Lower Belvedere, or the entire Belvedere Palace.

Walk Around the Kunsthistorisches Museum

I was amazed at the number of museums there are in the city of Vienna. Tim and I went to several of them, and one of our favorites was the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Say that three times fast!!

This museum displays the collected artwork of the Hapsburgs. Are you getting the sense that Vienna would have been nothing if not for the Hapsburg family? We viewed artwork by Vermeer, Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael. The interior of the museum was just as impressive as the artwork.


For people who enjoy visiting a place with lots of history, culture, and an appreciation for the arts, Vienna is a top choice. Just don’t forget to start your day off at one of Vienna’s amazing cafes.

If you have any questions about what 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 get a list of the top 10 things to do in Vienna. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Innsbruck.

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.

SLOVAKIA: Learn about the best things to do in Bratislava and how to plan your visit to the High Tatras of Slovakia.

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


Best things to do Vienna Austria


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Comments 6

  1. Avatar for 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

  2. Avatar for 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

      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

        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.

  3. 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

      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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