Europe/ Travel/ Vienna

11 amazing things to do in Vienna

There are so many wonderful things to do in Vienna that you’d need weeks to see them all.

However, if you’reheading on a short city break to Vienna, then it’s most likely you’re here for advice on which attractions are really worth spending your time on.

So let’s ditch the boring and not-worth-its: I’ve whittled down a shortlist – the absolute crème de la crème – to arm you with the absolute best recommendations of things to do in Vienna.

Kunsthistorisches Museum entrance

1. Choose the Kunsthistorisches Museum or Naturhistorisches Museum

Located opposite each other, these two museums appear to be twins but boast a very different core. While I usually would prefer a natural history museum over an art gallery, we chose to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum with absolutely no regrets!

Vienna is an art lover’s paradise and the Kunsthistorisches Museum is a treasure trove of the greats: think Bruegel, Titian and an entire room dedicated to Caravaggio’s dramatic masterpieces. While I don’t know much about art, it was a spectacular place to spend a few hours regardless.

Kunsthistorisches Museum cafe

All I’ll say is this isn’t just any museum: from the second you step through the door, the building itself will wow you. Plus, the Kunsthistorisches Museum café has an extra touch of grandeur that makes for the perfect location to try out Vienna’s famous Sachertorte.

2. Explore the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens

Schönbrunn Palace, or Schloss Schönbrunn, is the quinessential royal palace with its sunshine-yellow facade and gorgeously uniform gardens.

Schonbrunn Palace from Schlosspark

It’s slightly further outside Vienna’s central hub than the rest of the attractions in this list – which are all within walking distance from each other – but well worth the easy 15 minute ride on the U Bahn. Just hop on the U4 line and jump off at the station handily named Schönbrunn.

There is tons to do while you’re there and in the summer, you could make it a full day out! It’s completely free to enter the Palace Park, a sprawling space that boasts a maze, manicured gardens and even a zoo. We visited too early in the year for the public swimming pool to be open, but I can imagine lounging there to make for the dreamiest summer afternoon.

I’d really recommend touring the inside of Schönbrunn too. The cheapest ticket starts from €20 per adult or access to all the public rooms is €29 per adult, but it’s well worth it to check out the incredibly ornate staterooms. This is just one of them.

Schonbrunn Palace state room

3. Catch a show at the Vienna State Opera

Vienna is the heart of classical music in Europe and where better to see a concert than the Vienna State Opera itself? Even if you’re not an opera buff – I absolutely never thought I’d go to one! – attending a performance at the Staatsoper is an unforgettable experience that I’d recommend over and above many of the other things to do in Vienna.

Ticket prices can range from under €20 to over €100, depending on the seats you choose, but you can make it more affordable by trying to secure last minute tickets (students, take your ID for a discount!) or opting for the limited standing room.

Vienna Staatsoper

Haven’t managed to bag tickets? You can still go inside the Opera House for a tour which I’d highly recommend – the building is absolutely spectacular!

4. See a classical concert

Opera not your thing? No worries! Vienna is also home to classical music – think legendary composers like Mozart, Schubert and Strauss. Many of these concerts take place in the evenings by candlelight, adding a gorgeous air of ambience to the already gorgeous orchestras.

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My top picks for classical concert venues to check out are Schönbrunn Palace and Karlskirche – more on there next – although there are tons of options around Vienna.

5. Visit Karlskirche by day or night

We ummed and ahhed about visiting Karlskirche, or St Charles Church but in the end, it was worth it.

Karlskirche interior

Unlike the main cathedral, there’s an entrance fee of €8 for anyone over 10 to visit but as we were staying super close by, we decided to make it our final stop before heading to the airport.

Luckily, the interiors of the church are completely stunning, with a more baroque twist vs St Stephen’s Cathedral that made it a really worthwhile visit to see inside both of them. Included in your ticket is the small rooftop terrace which makes for a nice stop, although the view isn’t anything particularly special.

They also do classical concerts here, as mentioned above, which I think would be a great way to see the church and experience some wonderful music.

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11 best things to do in Vienna

6. Peek inside Palais Daun-Kinsky – a free hidden gem!

This is a quick stop on your city break to Vienna but one that’s absolutely worth it. Tucked away not too far from Cafe Central is Palais Daun-Kinsky, an elegant Baroque-style palace originally built for garrison commander Count Wirich Philipp von Daun.

I actually found out about Palais Daun-Kinsky on TikTok and was really happy we swung by. The interiors are stunning and it was so much quieter than the other touristy spots we visited, meaning we got to take it all in with a way more serene atmosphere.

Palais Daun Kinsky

While most of it the venue closed off for events and functions, you’ll be able to head upstairs to the ornate, highly painted entrance hall – it’s a great spot for photos and really captures the grandeur of Vienna!

7. Check out St Stephen’s Cathedral

Towering over the city centre’s central square, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece. You can’t miss the outside at Stephansplatz (Vienna’s main square named after the building) especially it’s the world’s 9th tallest church!

St Stephens Cathedral exterior

Inside, you can take in the intricate details of the stonework and marvel at the stained glass windows in the main church for free. If you want to explore further, including climbing the South Tower for panoramic views of Vienna’s rooftops, charges apply for guided tours.

8. Devour sweet treats at Vienna’s famous cafes

One of my favourite things about Vienna was the question “something sweet?” that virtually every restaurant waiter asked us after our main meal. How could I possibly turn that down?

Cafe Central Vienna

But seriously though, Viennese cafe culture is practically a way of life and the most famous of the lot is Cafe Central. You’ll inevitably wait in line for a while, but it’s absolutely worth it to sit in the same sophisticated spot as famous guests like Trotsky and Freud.

I’ll be honest here – without visiting many other cafes, I can’t compare whether Cafe Central is really worth it vs other pretty spots. Personally I’d skip the expensive food and just go for a drink and a cake, although don’t get me wrong, ours were great!

Sacher Torte at Kunsthistorisches Museum

Top tips for ordering – try Sachertorte if you haven’t already, apple strudel with ice cream and the Altenbergtorte for a chocolately treat that’s slightly less dense than Sachertorte.

9. Pound the streets to Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace Vienna

Now, confession time: we were pushed for time so we chose Schönbrunn’s staterooms rather than the art-laden rooms at the Belvedere Palace. However, if you’ve got more time – particularly if you’re an art lover – you don’t want to miss Belvedere Palace too.

You can choose between the upper and lower palace (or both) and skip the line tickets are available if you’re trying to maximise your time sightseeing rather than queueing.

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Instead, we spent a really lovely 30 minutes walking around the Belvedere’s pristine gardens. We were really lucky to get a sunny day for it!

However, during our March visit, you could see how wonderful the gardens would be in full bloom, but the fountains were turned off and the trees were all still bare. Therefore, I’d recommend planning for more time at Belvedere if you’re looking for things to do in Vienna during the summer.

Hofburg Vienna

10. Try the traditional food

We’ve already talked about the desserts, but Vienna does savoury just as well. You can find all kinds of gastronomy in the buzzing city centre – I had Thai, Italian and Vietnamese restaurants pinned on my to-visit list – but it’s a must to try at least a couple of the traditional local dishes while you’re in Austria.

I’m mainly veggie so wouldn’t go near the veal schnitzel, but it’s on offer pretty much everywhere if you want to try it. That side, I’d really recommend Ilona Stuberl for goulash – they even do a really nice veggie version – and of course, Bitzinger Würstelstand for the best on-the-go, late night hot dog.

11. Immerse yourself in Hofburg Palace

Sisi Museum Hofburg

The reason Vienna’s famous Hofburg Palace is so low down on this list is because I didn’t make it there! However, it comes so highly recommended that it wouldn’t have been right not to include it.

Unfortunately during my time in Vienna, vast swathes of Hofburg were closed for filming so we were unable to check out several of the key attractions in the area – including Vienna State Library, which I was super excited to visit. Honestly, Google it if you’re puzzled about why!

Hofburg isn’t just one palace – it’s a labyrinth of buildings, courtyards, and museums that could easily swallow a day (or two!). Even the view from in front is spectacular, with a 360 view of some of the city’s most famous buildings including the museums, parliament and distant churches. The building pictured above is the SiSi museum, then you walk through the central gate to see the main entrance.

Still not sure how to plan your time in Vienna?

Tours are a great way to get a flavour of tons of attractions, before deciding which you’ll delve into further. I’d recommend a walking tour over the hop on/off bus as everywhere is pretty close together!

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Enjoy your trip to Vienna!

Laura x

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