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Three day Vienna itinerary | Your guide to a city break

I didn’t expect to fall in love with Vienna, but that’s exactly what happened.

This three day Vienna itinerary will share everything we got up to so you can make your city break to Vienna your best yet. Get ready for utterly majestic architecture, palacial gardens and many a pastry along the way.

Hofburg Vienna

Where to stay in Vienna

Choosing your location is really important to make your three day Vienna city break as simple as possible. While it’s more expensive for sure, staying centrally means you’re in walking distance of pretty much all of the best things to do in Vienna so you can make the most of your time there. I usually use to take advantage of the Genuis discounts!


The BEST three day Vienna itinerary

Day one

So, you’ve arrived in Austria‘s capital city! Your flight time will determine what you get up to – we landed in the evening and headed straight out in search of food – but let’s assume you’ve got your full first day ahead of you.

Kick off your day at Naschmarkt, Vienna’s most famous food and drink destination. Located in the centre of a boulevard, it’s an absolute pardise of fresh fruit & veg, balkava and spices – what I’d give to swerve my local Sainsburys for a market like this!

Along with the food stalls, there are also actual restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating. We headed Neni for a Middle Eastern style breakfast (not very Viennese I’ll admit, but the warm, homemade bread was to die for) before setting off for the Museum Quarter, conveniently located just ten minutes walk away.

Kunsthistorisches Museum staircase

This is where the decisions get real: Vienna has tons of fantastic museums and while you can tick off a few in three days, you’ll want to be selective on what you prioritise.

Two of the most spectacular are the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum, which mirror each other across squares with jaw-droppingly beautiful interiors that even surpass the collections of art and natural wonders that they respectively house.

We chose the Kunsthistorisches Museum, partially for the absolutely spectacular museum cafe: should I be ashamed to admit that? Just trust me, you’ll walk into the entrance hall and instantly know that this is the right place to kick off your Vienna city break.

Seriously though, the museum itself houses an impressive collection of artwork and pastries that are nearly as impressive – we chose here to try Vienna’s most famous dessert, Sachertorte.

Kunsthistorisches Museum cafe
Sacher Torte at Kunsthistorisches Museum

Fuelled by cake, it’s time to start pounding the city streets. Head over to the road to Hofburg – the former imperial palace – for a glimpse into Vienna’s royal past.

Hofburg was closed for filming when we visited so we weren’t able to go inside (although it does come recommended) but even just striding by the outside is a treat for the eye. I was really sad that they were also filming inside the Vienna State Library as it looks unbelievably beautiful – please check it out on my behalf if you visit!

Tip: stand outside Hofburg and take a 360 look around you. You’ll find yourself surrounded by Vienna’s most regal buildings, from parliament to distant churches – it’s a seriously impressive sight.

Sisi Museum Hofburg

By this point, you’re heading into early afternoon so we took this time to enjoy a whistle-stop walking tour of the aforementioned sites.

If you want to learn more about the history, a guided walking tour comes highly recommended and I definitely think it would add an extra element to just walking around in sheer admiration of the city’s beauty. Get Your Guide has some fantastic options:

One of the best parts of Vienna is that all the main attractions are really conveniently located close together in easy walking distance so you can check off sights like the Austrian parliament, city hall, Rathauspltaz and the impressive Votivkirche in no time at all. Don’t worry: if you’re less mobile, there’s also a great public transport system of trams and the U-Bahn and it’s super easy to use. I downloaded Citymapper, a fantastic free public transport app, which served us well.

Tip: We were too short on time to book a tour of parliament but be more organised than us and secure your slot – the pillar-adorned classical building is well worth a trip inside.

Austrian parliament Vienna

As you stroll back towards Stephansplatz, Vienna’s most central square, there’s a hidden gem en route that you won’t want to miss – and it’s free!

From the outside, Palais Daun-Kinsky‘s Baroque architecture is beautiful but doesn’t massively stand out, to my untrained eye anyway. That’s not saying much though – literally every building in central Vienna is a masterpiece of classical architecture – but inside is where it gets unexpectedly special.

Most of Palais Daun-Kinsky is used for opulent events, weddings and banquets, but the public can head upstairs to check out this beautiful entrance hall. It’s not a destination you need much time for – just 15 minutes will do – but it’s well worth a stop. There’s also a beautiful church opposite that you should absolutely peek inside.

Palais Daun Kinsky

After a busy day of exploring, it’s time for dinner! If you’re visiting Vienna for a long weekend like we were, make sure you book on a Saturday night if there’s a specific place you’d like to eat – we tried to visit Puerstner for some traditional Austrian fayre but it was completely booked out.

Some hotspots we tried were Ilona Stuberl where we found our traditional food (they even do a lovely veggie goulash!) and Viva La Mamma for Italian goodness to soak up the many Aperol Spritzes, but there were so many more places that looked great too. You won’t be short of options, that’s for sure!

Day two

Your second day – and potentially your last full day if you’re following this three day Vienna itinerary – is a busy one as I’d highly recommend getting tickets to an evening show.

Vienna is famous for its classical music and, of course, the opera so leaving the city without at least one of these cultural experiences under your belt is a missed opportunity. We booked tickets for the opera which I was initially hesitant about but it was well worth it. Keep reading for more on that though, as we’ve got palaces to see first!

Belvedere Palace Vienna

First up, grab breakfast on the go and channel your inner royal at Belvedere Palace, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. Snap some photos in the beautiful gardens – they were impressive when we visited in March but I can tell just a month or so later would be when they really started to flourish – before having a look inside if you’ve got time.

We chose to skip Belvedere’s interior as we’d heard great things about the grandeur of Schönbrunn Palace. This was the only attraction during our trip where we had to hop on the U-Bahn but you can’t miss the stop where you need to get off – it’s literally called Schönbrunn.

You can enjoy the gardens at Schönbrunn Palace for free – which you should definitely take advantage of – but I’d highly recommend at least one of the three interior tour options. The State Apartments ticket is €20 per adult, the Grand Tour is 29 (but covers the entire main floor of the palace) or there’s the Imperial Tour as a middle ground at 24.

Schonbrunn Palace state room Vienna
Schonbrunn Palace state room

None of the tours are particularly long – the Grand Tour time is estimated at around 60 minutes, vs the State Apartments at just 25 minutes – but all include an audio guide. Even the state rooms on the basic tour were absolutely incredible, so it’s definitely worth the trip inside.

Outside, the palace’s gentle yellow exterior is sprawling and spectacular with vast manicured gardens that just go on and on. I mean, there’s even a zoo on the grounds!

While we sadly didn’t stop off to see the animals, we did stroll down to Gloriette, a stunning archway structure directly opposite the palace at the top of the hill. With joggers and sunbathers enjoying the unexpected early-spring warmth, it would be the ideal way to wile way a summer’s day in Vienna if you were there on a longer stay.

Tip: if you’re visiting in the summer months, there’s a public swimming pool tucked away in the grounds that looks like absolute paradise.

Schonbrunn Palace from Schlosspark
Schlosspark Vienna

Now, it’s time for your evening performance. Schönbrunn Palace hosts classical music concerts each evening, as do a number of other venues, but we chose the Vienna State Opera for a performance of Tchaikovsky‘s Eugene Onegin. The State Opera House is iconic, both inside and out, and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to go inside and feel like a member of royalty for the night.

Vienna Staatsoper
Staatsoper Vienna

I’ll be writing a whole guide to the opera in Vienna soon (keep your eyes peeled!) but a few quick tips before that’s published are:

  • Book in advance if you’d like specific seats: there are tons of different price ranges on offer, from around €13 to over €100, so this will give you the best chance of securing the view you’d like.
  • On the other hand, if you simply want the experience without being too fussy about how, the box office opens on the day with last minute or standing tickets.
  • You can dress how you’d like – barring a few exceptions like flipflops and extremely casual attire. We saw people in jeans and t-shirts and others in full length gowns and suits.
  • Each seat has a screen where you can choose between 6 – 8 subtitle languages, meaning even if you don’t speak the language of opera, you’ll be in the know of what’s happening on stage.
Box at Vienna State Opera
Wander with Laura Vienna

In all honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was an incredibly special experience to see the opera in Vienna – particularly from inside the little boxes!

Tip: for late night food after your performance, the best Würstelstand (Bitzinger) is located just beind the State Opera House. From sophisticated to street food, I loved my Käsekrainer (check it out, seriously) as much as the champagne inside.

Day three

On your final day, this is a chance to mop up any last attractions on your three day Vienna itinerary before heading to the airport. For us, this was basically a tour of the city’s churches!

Begin your day at the awe-inspiring St. Stephen’s Cathedral. For a small fee, you can climb to the top for panoramic views of Vienna – the perfect way to kickstart your final day in style – or simply admire the gothic interiors for free.

St Stephens Cathedral exterior
St Stephens Cathedral interior

For your final brunch, you’ve got to visit Cafe Central, a historic coffeehouse that has hosted intellectuals and creatives for centuries. Swing in to check out Peterskirche on your way, a small church with – you’ve guessed it – a gorgeous interior. Where doesn’t have one in this city?!

Well I can’t say expertly if it’s overrated vs the many other stunning coffeehouses in the city, I will say that Cafe Central didn’t let us down with delectable pastries and strudel in wonderful surroundings.

Cafe Central Vienna

We rounded off our three day Vienna itinerary with a trip to Karlskirche, an absolutely gorgeous Catholic church. You’ll need to pay €8 cash to get in and while we were on the fence (all the other churches we saw were free), it was really worth it.

As well as seeing inside the church, you’ll also get access to the terrace that overlooks the city with your ticket. What better way to make the most of your final moments in Vienna than with a panoramic view?

Karlskirche church interior
Karlskirche altar
Karlskirche terrace

That’s it for the a whirlwind three days in Vienna! You could easily spend an extra day or two here for a trip at a more leisurely place, but three days is enough to take in the main sights and attractions.

It was amazing to visit Austria again – it was much less booze-blurred and involved less Hammerschlagen than my Austria day trip with Contiki – and I’d love to go back already. Vienna is truly a city you could explore in all seasons, from spring blossoms to Christmas markets, and I’d highly recommend a city break to Vienna to anyone.

Laura x

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