There is a reason that Vienna is referred to as one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe. From its magnificent architecture and impressive museums to its musical history and art scene, it is easy to see why Vienna is so popular. Housing nearly one-third of Austria’s population Vienna you will immediately realize why Ludwig van Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart decided to make this place home.
There are so many cool things to do in Vienna that it can be a little overwhelming, especially for the first-time visitor. You want to make sure you get the most out of your time and not miss anything. This guide will not only highlight the best things to do in Vienna but also give you some tips on how to save money and get around the city.
Things to do in Vienna, Austria
So, if you’re ready to get exploring the famous sites and hidden gems of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe then let’s get started.
Before we get started, a great way to explore all of the top attractions in Vienna is to purchase a Vienna PASS. With purchase, it offers free access to Vienna’s top sights including Schönbrunn Palace and Schönbrunn Zoo, the Giant Ferris Wheel, the Spanish Riding School, the Albertina Museum. You can purchase a Vienna PASS for 1,2,3 or 6 consecutive days starting at $95 USD per person. Passes are a great way to bundle attractions if you plan on seeing top sights in the city with unlimited hop on hop off tours. Check for more details here.
Updated for 2022 – With the help of Wien natives Barbara from Vienna Unwrapped and Anca of Dream, Book, and Travel plus our from our travels to Vienna, we have put together a list of unique things to do in Vienna with insider tips and local advice.
Where to Stay in Vienna
If you are visiting Vienna for the first time The Innere Stadt and MuseumsQuartier are two neighborhoods that you should visit.
Grand Hotel Wien – If you are looking for luxury, this is it with 5 restaurants, 2 bars, a luxury spa and rooftop terrace. It is close to the Vienna State Opera and the famous Kärntner Straße Shopping Street and more. Ritz Carlton – Ritz Carltons are our favourite 5-star hotels, located in four historic 19th-century palaces with rooftop terrace, full service spa, with an excellent central location. Hollmann Beletage Design and Boutiqe Hotel – Walking distance from from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the famous shopping streets Kärntner Strasse and Graben and the State Opera.25hours Hotel at MuseumsQuartier – A popular modern boutique hotel with brightly coloured rooms with a terrace bar overlooking views of Vienna. There’s Mermaids Cave with sauna, steamroll and fitness.
1. Schönbrunn Palace
It’s the number 1 thing to do in Vienna. The Schonbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) is a sprawling Baroque palace and gardens dating back to the 18th century. Schonbrunn Palace can be visited on a guided tour to explore its grounds and learn of the property’s long history all the way back to the middle ages. Highlights include the 40-meter long Great Gallery and the Hall of Ceremonies.
This guided tour gives you quick access to the interior of Schonbrunn Palace plus you will skip the lines to take a guided walk through its interior. The tour takes you through the 22 staterooms as you learn about life of the former royals. After the tour you are free to walk the gardens at your leisure.
Insider tip: Beat the tour buses and get to Schönbrunn Palace first. To balance out the growing influx of tours, Schönbrunn Palace has moved its opening times forward by one hour. Throughout the year you can roam the Habsburgs’ rococo summer residence from 8.00 am before metros and busses unload most of the day’s visitors.
Opening Hours: 8.00 am – 5:30 pm. Park open: 6.30 am – 9.00 pm Summer (closing hours vary depending on the time of year) Check the website for details.
2. Schönbrunn Palace Gardens
If you are looking for free things to do in Vienna, the gardens ofSchönbrunn Palace is one of the tops. The Schönbrunn Park and Gardens is one square km manicured garden that is open to the public. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to 1779 and you can visit Privy Garden, the Orangery Garden or the Maze as well as the Zoo. and you don’t necessarily need to go into the palace to enjoy it if you are looking for free things to do in Vienna. However, if you want to walk through the garden maze there is an extra fee.
3. Gloriette Cafe
Whenever I show friends around, we love to earn our post-tour breakfast by subsequently climbing up to hilltop Gloriette Café. It is one of Austria’s most famous coffee houses, it serves an imperial breakfast and cakes. There is an outdoor terrace and seating in the grand interior. It is here that you can order Sacher Torte. Sache torte is a famous chocolate cake that is layered and separated by apricot jam.
Or we hang out at charming hideaway Landtmann’s Jausenstation. It is a quiet pavilion and snack bar that offers freshly baked bread, fresh seasonal herbs from the garden, and its claim to possibly be the best Kaiserschmarrn (a fluffy shredded pancake) in the city. It is open from 10.00 am weekdays, and 9.00 am on weekends.
4. Vienna Zoo
Also located on the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace, the Vienna Zoo can be visited as well. It is the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world and focuses on preserving endangered species. The most popular attraction in the zoo is the giant pandas. The Vienna Zoo dates back to 1752 when Emperor Franz Stephan I built it to house his menagerie of exotic animals. Today the zoo focuses more on species preservation and housing animals as close to their natural environment as possible. Many of the original buildings of the Vienna Zoo are still intact.
5. The Spanish Riding School
One of the most popular attractions in Vienna is a visit to the Spanish Riding School. It is here that they train the famous Lippizaner horses in the art of dressage. Originally built during the Habsburg Monarchy back in the late 16th Century the Spanish Riding School used to only do performances for the Court. It wasn’t until 1918 that they opened to the public.
If you are lucky enough with your timing you could take in a Gala performance, but if not, then it is still impressive to watch morning training sessions or jump on one of the guided tours that include the stables, to get a behind-the-scenes look at these incredible horses.
Get your tickets here to see a performance of The Lipizzans. We have done this and it is truly magnificent to watch the precision and skill of these horses and riders in the most beautiful riding hall in the world.
6. Hofburg Palace
Hofburg Palace was once the home to the Hapsburgs but is now the official residence and office of Austria’s President. It is also home to a lot of Vienna’s best Museums and galleries as well as the home of the Spanish Riding School. Hofburg Palace is one of the largest palace complexes in the world and is located in the heart of Vienna.
Walking through the palace grounds gives you a real appreciation for the size and beauty of this complex. Make sure to check out the incredible semi-circular Neue Burg and take a tour through the imperial apartments. There is no doubt you will be impressed by this stunning example of baroque architecture.
You can book this tour of Hofburg Palace to learn of Austrian heritage. This guided tour takes you through the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and the silver collection. You’ll avoid long lines at entry and there is easy cancellation within 24 hours of activity.
A real highlight of the Hofburg complex is an Art Nouveau greenhouse – the Palmenhouse. Once used by the emperor as a place of relaxation, it contains the Schmetterlinghouse (Butterfly house). It is a beautiful display of hundreds of butterfly species living in a large tropical rainforest setting and is the perfect place to enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine while touring the complex itself. Hofburg Palace.
In the summer, the terrace of the coffee house opens to views of the Burggarten. This was the former Emperor’s garden and is now a popular city park. The Schmetterlinghouse is the perfect place for people watching for tourists and locals alike.
7. Vienna State Opera House
If there is one thing that you do not want to miss when you visit Vienna it is the Vienna State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper). Trust me, we missed it and we have always regretted it. Home to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera House, (Wiener Staatsoper) was built-in 1860 in the early Neo-Rennaisance style, the opera house is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful. It truly is a work of art.
Insider Tip: The Vienna State Opera House hosts over 300 performances a year. If you want to save yourself some money but still enjoy a show as well as the architecture, buy yourself some standing-room-only tickets. It is much cheaper and you can tour the entire building before the show starts. A perfect way to get a little culture without spending a lot of money. Vienna state opera.
If you don’t plan to see the opera, you can take guided tours of the Opera house that happen daily and let you see the interior of the building. You are also free to tour the opera building on your own. Skip the line Entry is always a good idea to avoid the crowd, book this ticket in advance for a guided tour including a streamlined entry process and guided journey through the building. (easy cancellation and last minute bookings)
8. St. Annes Church
No trip to Vienna would be complete without seeing classical music live. Classical music fans will love This Classical Concert in St. Annes Church. Enjoy a string quartet performing the great masterpieces of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert. Step back in time with its Baroque ambiance as you listen to professional musicians play in the splendid acoustics of St. Anne’s Church.
9. Belvedere Palace
One thing you will notice in Vienna is that there is no shortage of Palaces and the Belvedere Palace is simply beautiful. This incredible baroque castle was built in the early 1700s and was used as a summer palace (Hofburg Palace was the Winter Residence). Consisting of two Baroque palaces, the Upper Belvedere and the Lower Belvedere this is one palace you do not want to miss if you love art and architecture.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the Belvedere Palace also hosts the Austrian National Gallery and the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection as well as other Austrian art. The Belvedere Palace is open an hour earlier (9.00 am) than most local museums. We suggest starting your visit at the Upper Belvedere and National Gallery before strolling down the manicured baroque gardens to the Lower Belvedere Palace that opens from 10.00 am.
Get entry tickets to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site housing the most important collection of Austrian art in one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Europe.
10. Kunsthistorisches Museum
Overlooking Maria-Theresien-Platz, Kunsthistorisches Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien) houses works from ancient Egypt to the late 18th century. The museum was built for Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1891 to house his imperial collection. The Natural History Museum was opened at the same time and is located across Maria-Theresien-Platz.
This combo ticket gives access to the imperial painting by Rubens, Rembrandt, and Raphael, but also allows access to the treasures of the House of Habsburg in the Imperial Treasury where you’ll see the Austrian imperial crown, the German imperial crown, and the insignia of the Holy Roman Empire.
11. Vienna Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) is usually overlooked due to its twin sibling. Most tourists visit the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorischesmuseum). It is located on the opposite side of the Maria Theresa monument and square across the street from the Hofburg complex.
Built to accommodate the emperor’s acquisitions, it offers visitors the pleasure to browse through its dusty collections and discover curiosities of nature collected by the Habsburgs from all over the world. Not only does it display the world’s finest collection of meteorites, but the aficionados can see here the world’s largest fossilized spider and tortoise. You’ll also witness the best-preserved remains of the now extinct Dodo bird.
Its two most famous residents are the 25,000-year-old statuette of Venus of Willendorf and the world’s oldest figurative sculpture, the 32,000 years old Fanny of Galgenberg. The impressive digital planetarium screens a wide range of informative shows in several languages.
To beat the crowds at the Vienna Natural History Museum use your Vienna Pass. It allows you to skip the line and choose your entrance time.
12. Vienna Town Hall (Rathaus)
Continuing on with the remarkable architecture of Vienna, the Town Hall, which is located in Rathausplatz, is a perfect example of the Neo-Gothic style that is spread throughout the city. Built in the 1800s this 5 tower structure is something that is not to be missed. Vienna City Hall was originally built for the office of the mayor and now serves as the city’s administrative center and is a massive building.
Whether you take guided tours to enjoy the extravagant styles that are on display in each room or you enjoy ice skating in front of Town Hall in Winter, you will see why this part of Vienna is one of our favorites.
13. Austrian National Library
You don’t have to be a bookworm to enjoy the Austrian National Library. Located in the Neue Burg Wing of the Hofburg this library contains over 12 million items and it’s the biggest library in Austria.
The State Hall is by far the most impressive part of the library. Originally part of the original Court Library it is massive at 80 meters long and 20m high! The walls are covered in ornate decorations and of course a lot of books. It is a perfect place to escape the business of the rest of the Hofburg Palace.
Visiting the State Hall itself costs 8 € per adult and6 € per student and is well worth the price of admission.
14. St Stephen’s Cathedral
Dominating the Vienna skyline St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephandom), which sits in the historic center of Vienna, is by far the most important church in the city and Austria since it was constructed in the 12th century. Both the inside and the outside are impressive and we do suggest climbing the 343 steps of the South Tower that lead you up to Steffl’s Watch Room and spectacular views over the city. Entry to the South Tower is an extra fee and is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
While you are at St. Stephen’s Cathedral make sure to take the lift up to the viewing platform at the North Tower, which houses the massive Pummerin Bell. You can also check out the 14th-century catacombs and jump on a tour to get more information about this historic building. Entry to the South Tower is an extra fee and is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.
15. Albertina Museum
Museum-lovers will enjoy perusing the art at Albertina Museum. In this museum, you’ll find everything from French impressionists to Russian Avante Garde. See the greats on display from Picasso to Cezanne and Munch to Chagall. What makes this museum unique is that it houses one of the most important print rooms in the world with 65,000 drawings and one million master prints. Here’s a fun fact, in 2018 The Albertina Museum was named one of the Seven Urban Wonders of the World. You can book tickets in advance here.
16. Learn how to waltz
You don’t have to be Viennese to attend interminable weekly dance classes to master the Viennese waltz. The basics of the famous dance are as commonly practiced as the habit of taking a glass of water with your coffee. (In Vienna, we always drink water with coffee). Most dance schools in the city offer afternoon blitz courses. If you are passing by be sure to join in, you may be ready for the next Viennese Ball.
17. Vienna’s Museum Quarter
When visiting Vienna you’ll notice there are plenty of museums and if you like visiting them you are going to love Vienna’s Museum Quartier. It was once the royal stables and today it houses a mix of popular museums in Vienna. The most notable museum is the Leopold Museum showing such Austrian artists, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Get your skip-the-line ticket to also see the world’s largest collection of Egon Schiele and the special temporary displays that change throughout the year.
You will also find the Museum of Modern Art – MUMOK in Vienna’s Museum Quarter. The contemporary art museum houses work from modern artists such as Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso
18. Sankt Marx Cemetery
My personal favorite thing to do in Vienna is to visit the Sankt Marx cemetery, home to Mozart’s symbolic grave. Mozart was actually thrown into a mass grave somewhere in this cemetery but Vienna now honors him with a symbolic tomb. Sankt Marx cemetery also has what I think is the most beautiful wild lilac garden in the world.
The St Marx cemetery was in use from 1784 to 1874. It contains emblematic gravestones covered in wild lilac, as well as the tomb of WA Mozart.
How to get to St. Marx Cemetery: The Vienna Undertakers’ Museum (Zentralfriedhof) and the Sankt Marx cemetery are accessible from the city center via tram line 71.
19. Get a Feeling for the Macabre
The taste of the Viennese for spectacle, ceremony, and formality transcends their daily lives to encompass funeral processions as well. According to a tradition that started in the 18th century, the burial is regarded as the last opportunity to impress and take the spotlight, and people would devote the time and resources to prepare an elaborate send-off for themselves. To this end, you can actually visit the Vienna Undertakers Museum which exhibits more than 600 curiosities associated with the process. Moreover, the Imperial Burial Vault of the Habsburg dynasty (Kaisergruft) beneath the Capuchin Church in the city center just off Korntner Strasse is open to visitors, as is Europe’s second-largest cemetery (Zentralfriedhof)
20. Visit the Naschmarkt
Vienna’s largest open-air market is the Naschmarkt and has been in existence since the 16th century. Its current form dates back to the 1920s. A traditional mingling pot for visitors, ex-pats, and locals, the Naschmarkt displays stalls selling fresh produce, regional Austrian specialties, and a wide selection of ethnic foods from all over the world.
From Regional Specialties to Food from around the world, the Naschmarkt offers local cheese, oil, wine, and honey shops, to Turkish home-cooked meals, you can find whatever you need. It has Indian spices and ingredients and Vietnamese specialties, it really is a culinary tour around the world.
The market has a wide array of cafés and restaurants, brunch spots, and wine bars, make sure to keep your eyes and palate enchanted for hours. One can also browse through several clothing boutiques, or look for bargains at the traditional Saturday flea market. How to get there: The Naschmarkt is within walking distance from the historic center.
21. Visit Wieden and Margarethen Neighborhoods
Even before the local tourist office decided to ‘equalize tourist streams’ off the center, many people shared my love for Vienna’s outskirts, where I lived for many years.
Among my favorite neighborhoods in Vienna to visit are the trendy neighborhoods of Wieden and Margarethen, where independent local design shops coexist with vintage stores.
You must visit the Café ‘Vollpension’ run by the baking grandmas. It’s the only place in the city where you can find an authentic experience just like grandma’s house! And don’t miss the quirky Third Man Museum dedicated to the international hit film The Third Man that was set in Post WWII Vienna. For some unique Vienna nightlife, be sure to browse the neighborhood cult bars such as Motto. Even history buffs will find inspiring ground to cover outside the ‘Innenstadt’ (center).
22. Prater Amusement Park
Go up the Riesenrad Ferris wheel at the Prater Amusement Park for a birds-eye view of the entire city. It’s Vienna’s answer to the London eye. Dating back to 1897 The Wiener Prater Park was once the royal hunting grounds. (like so many green spaces in Europe) and is a popular tourist attraction for the whole family. There is so much more to the Prater Amusement Park than the Ferris wheel, at 3,200 acres, the park houses amusement park rides, the planetarium, and the Prater Museum.
23. Vienna’s Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum of Vienna was founded in 1895 and is the world’s oldest museum depicting Jewish life dating back to Medieval Vienna. During World War II the Nazis plundered and closed the museum. In 1988 a new museum was established in two locations to tell the history of the city’s Jewish population from Medieval times to the present day.
24. Festivals in Vienna
Even festivals in Vienna can get cozy, depending on where related events take place. Some of the Voice Mania performances, of the Musical Advent Calendar, are hosted at small theatres. And even some Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen) events can be seen in smaller venues, suburban cinemas, and neighborhood cafés.
For local folklife, seasonal festivals such as Neustifter Kirtag or Spitzer Marillenkirtag in nearby Wachau Valley offer pretty authentic dirndl-and-lederhosen atmosphere.
And what about ditching tourist wine taverns for Schrammel-Mondays at the Viennese Folk Song Association in Ottakring’s Liebhartstaler Bockkeller?
Getting Around Vienna, Austria
Vienna is blessed with one of Europe’s best public transport systems. Hopping on and off a tramway, metro, train or city bike is pleasant and easy.
Bicycle Rentals and Tramway
Either rent a city bike from one of the many stations along Ringstrasse using a Citybike Tourist Card.Or get on tramways such as the D, 1, 2, or 71. The free Wien Mobil app will help you get on the next tram, and off in time before it heads for the outskirts.
With the Vienna Pass you have unlimited rides on the hop-on-hop-off buses:• 6 Hop-on hop-off routes• 50 stops (short intervals)
Things to see on Ringstrasse Boulevard
The tree-lined Ringstrasse boulevard lends itself to easy exploration by bike or tramway. The Ringstrasse Boulevard is like a compact open-air museum surrounding the historic city center. Innere Stadt (inner city) is known as the historic center of Vienna and most of the top Vienna attractions are located within its city streets. And best of all: you can’t get lost since it is circular.
The Vienna State Opera HouseThe Austrian ParliamentThe BurggartenThe National LibraryThe Natural History MuseuVolksgartenRathausThe Museums of Fine Art and Natural History Ringstrasse
You can book a private walking tour of Vienna with Get Your Guide. Choose the time to meet and create your own itinerary choosing what you want to see. Easy cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund
Best Time to Go to Vienna, Austria
Vienna can be visited year-round and is popular in the winter months because of its famous Christmas Markets.
The best time to travel to Vienna is on shoulder season during April – May or September – October. During these months you’ll see fewer crowds and cheaper Vienna accommodations.The summer months from June to August are the busiest times in Vienna and accommodation is at a premium.November and December are excellent times to be Vienna as the Christmas Markets are in full swing. But expect huge crowds.
Hot Money Saving Tip for Vienna Attractions
Get your Vienna Pass in advance and enjoy free admission and skip the line tickets to Vienna’s top attractions. First-time visitors to Vienna will want to see the top Vienna Attractions and the Vienna Pass gives easy access to popular tourist destinations. You will skip the line to avoid the crowds and the pass is valid for options of 1,2,3 or 6 day passes. The Vienna Pass can be canceled for a full refund with 24 hours’ notice.
Included attractions are:Spanish Riding SchoolSchönbrunn PalaceGiant Ferris WheelHop on Hop of Bus RoutesCheck out the Vienna Pass for more details.
So start planning your trip to Vienna today. There is really no bad time to got to Vienna and even if you do go during the summer months, this guide should help you avoid the crowds and make the most of your stay.