The Top 15 Things To Do In Vienna: A Local Guide
When it comes to the city of Vienna, there really is no other place like it. A friend recently said to me, “it just doesn’t get better than this, you can travel the entire world and you will never find a place as unique and as beautiful as here.” I must say, as a foreigner who has been to more than 40 countries around the world, only to finally plant my feet in Vienna – I would have to agree, 100%. It really doesn’t get better!
There is so much to do here! From the fascinating architecture which is scattered throughout the city, to the countless museums and art galleries, and the endless splendour of the city parks and surrounding forests; Vienna truly has something for everyone. Funnily enough though, as amazing as it is, it still remains quiet. It just doesn’t have that over-crowded feeling that other tourist cities tend to have. Maybe that will change over time, but for now, Vienna is calm and relaxed and gives you a pure feeling of absolute bliss when you walk the city streets on a perfect summer’s day.
In this blog I will give you my ultimate guide to the BEST THINGS TO DO IN VIENNA, so make sure to try them all!!!
EXPLORE VIENNA’S HISTORIC FIRST DISTRICT
A great way to introduce yourself to the history and beauty of Vienna, is to stroll around its Historic Centre. Known as the First District – or Inner City – the “Ringstrasse” marks its boundary. As you enjoy the magnificence of the architecture – from medieval, to that of the golden ages of the Habsburg Empire – you will find many of the city’s historical attractions here. Map out an itinerary for your stay – you’ll be busy all day long!
SPEND THE DAY AT THE SCHÖNBRUNN AND FINISH WITH DINNER & DRINKS AT THE NASCHMARKT
SCHÖNBRUNN PALACE & GARDENS
In such an historical city as Vienna, the use of the description “magnificent” becomes common. But when visiting the Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn), this description severely understates its beauty and significance. The architecture of this enormous, long, and symmetrical palace, will astound you, and as you tour the 40 rooms, each with their own story, you will be drawn into the power and opulence of more than three historic centuries.
Once you have finished exploring the majestic interior of the palace, it will be time to turn your attention to the magnificent gardens in which it resides. The gardens were originally opened to the public around 1779, later being named a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1996, so it is no wonder they attract so many visitors from all corners of the earth, year after year. The grounds are a wonderful mix of manicured flowerbeds and pristine gardens, as well as wild and sprawling forests which are home to many native species; there is no doubt in my mind that you will be left awe-struck by its beauty!
Foodies of Vienna – and anyone hungry – flock to the Naschmarkt, located along the Wienzeile, just south of the city’s Historic Centre. The market has served the locals since the sixteenth century, so join them and stroll past the 170 stalls spread over a kilometre, and see and smell a myriad of foods from around the world. By the time you finish you must be hungry – and of course, good food needs good wine!
The Naschmarkt is the perfect destination for dinner after a long day of exploring Schönbrunn Palace. Not only is the Naschmarkt one of Vienna’s most popular tourist spots – which at some point you will want to see anyway – but it is also only a short train ride back from Schönbrunn to the centre of Vienna, on the U4 Green Line. Basically, in most cases, you have to go past the Naschmarkt to get home anyway, so why not stop in on the way and finish the day with an amazing meal!
The Naschmarkt is located above the U4 Station (Green Line) of Kettenbrückengasse, and is home to some of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars, serving a full range of international cuisines as well as fantastic cold beverages!
VISIT A TRADITIONAL VIENNESE CAFÉ FOR COFFEE AND CAKE
When it comes to the culture of this magical city, the cafes and coffee houses of Vienna have played an undoubtedly large role in shaping it. Many of the city’s cafes have been known throughout history to be the special meeting places for many of the famous artists, musicians, writers and philosophers of the past, and with many of these buildings and businesses remaining largely unchanged over the decades, it can really take you back to a the fascinating days of times past. Come and experience it for yourself with some of Viennas finest coffees and cakes – it’s the perfect way to relax and take a break between tours!
There really are so many great cafes to choose from; they are literally scattered all over the city, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one that is close by. However, for a truly authentic traditional Viennese experience, I recommend the Café Landtmann or the Café Hawelka!
EXPLORE THE PICTURESQUE CITY PARKS & GARDENS
When it comes to the magic of Vienna – in my humble opinion – this picture-perfect city has two main drawcards which bring tourists here from around the world. First is the most obvious, which has to be the magnificent architecture and culture that can be found in every direction you look, from the countless churches, museums and galleries, to the historic cafes, and the fascinating beauty of the government buildings which are scattered throughout the city’s 1st District.
The second – and often overlooked by many visitors to the city – is the pristine gardens and parks which can be found throughout the inner districts, and of course on the outskirts of Vienna, where the residential sprawl dissipates, and blends into the world-famous Viennese Woods, or the “Wienerwald” as the locals call it.
For me personally, I just can’t get enough of the green parklands that are on offer here, as it is a very rare occurrence that you will find a city the size of Vienna, with so many opportunities to experience untouched nature and perfectly manicured gardens, at the level and quality which can be seen so often here. In this blog I will list the many places that I find to be the best in Vienna, when it comes to relaxing in nature, often away from the hustle-and-bustle of the mainstream tourist attractions.
EXPLORE THE MAJESTIC VIENNESE WOODS (WIENERWALD)
North of the city lies the Vienna Woods (Wienerwald) – 1350 square kilometres of protected forest. It sweeps along the banks of the River Danube and heads towards the Austrian Alps and it’s a great place to walk and hike! Just choose your trail and set off for a day of spectacular views, good exercise and terrific fun. Stop and look back over the city, and keep an eye out for the birds, lizards, and deer that call the forest home.
EXPERIENCE THE WORLD-FAMOUS ART GALLERIES & MUSEUMS
Well, it’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to Art Galleries and Museums in Vienna – they are literally everywhere! I’m not talking about sub-par, run-of-the-mill quality museums either, I’m talking about some of the best galleries in the world – Literally. Everywhere!
You could start with the Museums Quarter (MuseumsQuartier), which is an amazing complex of more than 20 museums and galleries alone. Or, you could check out the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) and its sister building, the Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum), both located in the beautiful Maria Theresa Square. If that’s not enough, you can take a short stroll to the Albertina, which is located in the heart of the First District, and then move on to magnificent beauty of the Belvedere Palace (Schloss Belvedere), which is home to several works by Vienna’s iconic and world-famous, Gustav Klimt! And with all that, you have barely even scraped the surface of what is on offer here!
PARTY LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW AND GET LOST IN VIENNA’S FAMOUS BERMUDA TRIANGLE
The Bermuda Triangle of Vienna, or the “Bermudadreieck” to the locals, is a special place in the city where you will find both stunning beauty throughout the day, and debauchery through the night! Located in the 1st District of Vienna, the Bermuda Triangle is home to, or is within within walking distance of, some of the city’s most beautiful and historic attractions. However, as the sun goes down, the face of this cultured corner of the city changes completely, and the people of Vienna come out to party! The streets are lined with crowded restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and the atmosphere is electric – you really should come and take a look for yourself!
EAT TRADITIONAL AUSTRIAN CUISINE & DRINK LOCALLY MADE WINES AT A HEURIGER
When it comes to a wholesome and hearty home-cooked meal, and an amazing bottle of wine to wash it down, nobody does it quite like the Austrians! It’s no wonder they are so good at it; the city is surrounded by local vineyards and wine cellars – traditionally called “Heurigen” – and these beautiful and quaint restaurants are known to prepare some of the best Austrian cuisine you will ever try.
While there are many places throughout the city where you can find these heavenly delights – mostly on the outskirts of the city in Nussdorf (Nußdorf) or Grinzing – but my absolute favourite is one by the name of Zum Martin Sepp. In my opinion, it just doesn’t get better than this restaurant, and you should definitely make a reservation for the peak times of the day and night!
TAKE IN THE SPECTACULAR VIEWS OF THE CITY FROM ABOVE
The city of Vienna is nothing short of amazing, and with such a rich history and some of the most stunning architectural structures is Europe, it’s no wonder that millions of people flock here each year from around the world. The thing is though, most people only see the city from the ground – which is of course a fantastic way to see it – however, if you’re travelling all this way, shouldn’t you take the time to experience the city from all available angles?
There are so many place where you can experience the most amazing views of the city, and the best part is, there is literally a place to suit every type of traveller! From the stock-standard popular tourist attractions that are easy to get to, right through to invigorating hiking trails and breathtaking outdoor experiences, there are even a few places listed that even many of the locals don’t really know about! So do yourself a favour and make sure you get to one of the magnificent vantage points throughout the city – you won’t regret it!
JOIN THE LOCALS FOR A DRINK ON THE DONAU CANAL (DONAUKANAL)
If you’re into summer walks, street art, or just relaxing in a deck chair with a beer or a cold glass of wine, then the Donaukanal is where you want to be! In the summer, 100’s of Viennese locals will flock to the banks of the Donaukanal each day to spend their afternoon relaxing in the sun. An old arm of the Danube River, this stretch of water is now regulated, and the walkways and bikeways that line its shores are filled with trendy restaurants and bars, as well as vibrant music and street art! This is the perfect way to let a busy afternoon fade off into the night!
ENJOY THE BRILLIANT VIENNA WINE WALK ON NUSSBERG
The Vienna Wine Walk is one of the city’s most famous walking trails, located on the mountain of Nussberg, on the outskirts of town. Take the short tram ride to the village of Nussdorf, and begin the walk up the hill towards the local vineyards. The trail is a wonderfully tranquil experience, as you trek through the countless rows of the vineyards and gaze over the beautiful city of Vienna, with unobstructed views as far as the eye can see. There are several small wine taverns along the way, so you can take your time, and sit back and relax with a glass of the local produce as you take in the picturesque scenery which surrounds you.
EAT AT A WURSTLE STAND
There is indeed nothing fancy about the Wurstle Stands of Vienna. In fact, they are incredibly basic and they do nothing but churn out delicious hotdogs and sausages by the thousand, day after day… but oh, how delightful they are! These traditional and iconic stalls are scattered all over the city and have been serving the locals their daily requirements of sausage since the early days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when the stands were originally on wheels! Such is the importance of the Wurstle Stand that you can’t honestly claim you have visited Vienna until you have eaten from at least one of them… It goes without saying, that the Austrian love for the Wurstle Stand is right up there with the love of its coffee houses and cafes, and the ever so popular “Käsekrainer Sausage,” is indeed, serious business!
VISIT THE VIENNA STATE OPERA
Since the early 18th century, the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) has entertained the city. With over 300 performances per year, check the guides to catch a performance! Experience the enchantment of the performers, take in the beauty of the architecture, and marvel at the opulence of the interior. A guided tour is around 40 minutes and will take you behind the scenes to discover the history, view the state rooms, and learn how the Opera is managed today.
TAKE A CRUISE ON THE MIGHY DANUBE RIVER
When it comes to Vienna, there is just so much to see and do that it can really become difficult to fit everything in. Most people only visit the city for a short period, so it’s totally understandable that many of the visitors to Vienna sometime overlook one of the best experiences in town; a tranquil cruise along the mighty Danube River. You might think, how can you not notice such a large river running right through the city? Well, for those who have experienced Vienna, it’s really quite easy when you consider everything else that you might have on your list of things to do.
However, with amazing cruises for all schedules and budgets, a cruise along the Danube is something that should definitely be enjoyed. You will be surprised of what is on offer, with cruises within the city limits, right through to Dürnstein and the Wachau Valley, and even day-trips to Bratislava, in neighbouring Slovakia! Get on-board and enjoy the amazing views as you cruise this majestic river for the day.
RIDE THE GIANT FERRIS WHEEL IN THE PRATER PARK
The Giant Ferris Wheel of Vienna, or the Wiener Riesenrad to the locals, is one of the most iconic images of the city. Located in the Prater Amusement Park in Vienna’s 2nd District, tourists flock here from around the city to take a ride and experience the stunning views of the surrounding area, right through to the Danube River. Standing 65-metres tall, the Giant Ferris Wheel of Vienna has been one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions since it was erected in 1897, and it will continue to be so, long into the future.
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