If you will Google search for what to see in Vienna you will get thousands of travel guides. From where to eat to where to go for the best Vienna pictures, you will get a blog on everything.
From the outside, Vienna may appear as one of those fastest-growing towns in Europe that hold no charm to an intrepid, but if you try to see and absorb the city in a more real and conscious form, it will appear as one of the most historic places in the world.
As you walk on the Grand Ringstrasse (a one-way street that encircles Vienna’s 1st district, or the city centre) you literally go back to the 19th century — the time when Vienna was still developing itself as the capital of the Austrian empire, and into a city, we often see in those what to see in Vienna travel guides today.
Walking along its many elegant pedestrian thoroughfares, particularly in and around the first district, there was not a single moment when I did not find myself awestruck by its ever-impressive architecture. Whether in the historic city centre, in the traditional wine taverns or on the other side of the Danube — its many contemporary and historic buildings coexist in a strikingly innovative manner.
But that doesn’t mean that Vienna is only about fascinating architecture. In fact, there are more things to see in Vienna and tourist experiences to try than one can imagine.
What To See In Vienna
From food to shopping to Christmas/Easter markets (I was here during the time of Easter) the capital city of Vienna has only the best travel experiences one can think of.
And speaking of my experiences, and discoveries, during a short 3-day stay, here are a few things to see in Vienna I highly recommend. I got here after spending one day in Prague. And thank god I didn’t spend one day but three days here.
The suggestions that you are going to read in this travel blog will complete your Vienna visit. If, however, you are on a budget trip. Read how to travel to Vienna on a budget guide too.
Now, let’s start with me…
Vienna Travel Blog
Hog Dog At Würstelstand
Thanks to the many sausage stands, known as Würstelstand, dining on the fly is so easier and more accessible here. These sausage stands are now a part of the cityscape and have moreover always been a true Viennese culinary trademark.
So whether you like fast food or not, or you’re one of those people who is bitten by the idea of eating sumptuous sit-down meals, the next time you are here, standing elbow to elbow and gulp on a hot dog, or something more filling — a Käsekrainer (sausage with cheese).
Eating a hot dog at Würstelstand is certainly one of the top things to do in Vienna, a must-have tourist experience.
Vienna 1st District Walking Tour
With all the historical buildings along a few-kilometre-long ring road (Ringstrasse), the 1st district in Vienna is an architectural highlight. The 1st district (or the city center) is moreover blissfully walkable and punctuated by swathes of urban greenery.
For me, the 1st district walking tour in Vienna felt more interesting than my segway tour in Rome – a place always known for having the best historic buildings in Europe.
Beyond The 1st District
And if time permits, you should also go further to a few more places. For one, visit Naschmarkt, not only for its open (Asian style) market stalls, but also for the many beautiful Jugendstil buildings located on either side. I also liked the 2nd district, the former Jewish district, or a reminder of a very important ethnic group in Vienna.
However, if you love the countryside and greener areas, don’t miss visiting the surrounding hills of Mount Leopoldsberg and Mount Kahlenberg (only accessible by bus from the city centre). They offer some of the best free views over Vienna city.
Such day trips moreover make for beautiful memories. I remember how during my only 2 days in Zurich, I spent 24 hours in Zurich and the other 24 hours doing a Mount Titlis day trip. And it turned out that the Mount Titlis day trip made for better memories than exploring the town of Zurich.
So yeah, if you have more time in hand, do a day trip to Mount Leopoldsberg and Mount Kahlenberg.
Spanish School Of Horse Riding
If there’s one thing that differentiates Vienna from any other place in the world, it is its Spanish School of Riding — the only institution in the world where the classic equestrian skills (Haute école) have been preserved and are still practised in their original form. The school has been training horses and riders since it was established by the Habsburgs back in the 1500s.
But as the name otherwise suggests, it’s not the school or its riders that are Spanish. Rather, the name comes from the horses. They are all Lipizzaners, a very particular (and a very smart) breed that mixes Spanish, Arabian and Berber ancestry, and who can trace their bloodline back to 1750 and the first Habsburg stables.
I happened to see the 2-hour Morning Exercises sessions, which the public can buy tickets for at the box office — at the school or on Josefsplatz, in-person – and totally loved different stunt performances.
I loved it so much that I later ended up doing a 2 weeks volunteer at someplace in Germany to learn some of the basic horse riding in Germany.
Coffee Culture In Vienna
Viennese coffeehouses — a slice of Viennese tradition — have always been the perfect places to sit and watch the world go by, for hours on end. In addition to the traditional Kaffehaus, there are a number of contemporary cafes around the city to celebrate the fine art of coffee making.
I have spent a fair share of my life exploring coffee estates in India and other countries (eg the popular Kabbinakad in Coorg in India that is said to have the best coffee in entire Asia) but the coffee culture in Vienna was unbeatable.
As recommended, and personally explored, the best coffee in Vienna can be found in the 1st district at Caffecouture, in Palais Ferstel.
An award-winning barista, they even roast their own beans, of course! Kaffeebar Balthasar, Kaffeefabrik, Kaffemilk, are few other names high on the chart. But as the truth goes, there is virtually no end to the variety of coffee you can drink in Vienna, and with more than 1,000 cafes and espresso bars to choose from it could take a lifetime, and a lot of money, to sample all the options!
Kaffehaus, there are a number of contemporary cafes around the city to celebrate the fine art of coffee making (visit Coffeeness to learn the secrets behind the best coffee experiences)
More Things To See In Vienna
St Stephan’s Cathedral: Situated at Stephansplatz 3, St Stephan’s Cathedral is a soul-stirring place and a must-not-miss in Vienna, after all, it is the city’s most prominent landmark, one of the top-visited tourist attractions and a place of worship. Part Romanesque, part Gothic, it dates to the 14th century and stands on the ruins of two previous churches. Inside, you can climb the 137-meter South Tower for views of the city (though I skipped it as it cost €4.40).
The Parliament: The parliament of Vienna has one of the finest and quite astonishing bindings (in my personal view). The details of the architecture are quite well thought out. Here you get to see a lot of Roman and Greek influences in the building style, something that reminds you of Roman architecture, and Rome.
Belvedere Palace: A former summer palace, and another masterpiece of Viennese architecture. Two Baroque palaces stand in a row on a sloping hill, and between them lies a wonderful French garden, statues, and cascades. “Belvedere” translates (in Italian) to “beautiful view”.
Donau City: The great river of the Danube, sliced half by an island, almost dramatically, flows through an area that has a more modern and corporate look than the entire city of Vienna. The area takes on the hi-tech and business center that also includes some of the tallest buildings in Austria.
Where To Stay In Vienna
Accommodation in Vienna is easy to find. But since it is one of the top tourist destinations in the world do not expect to find very cheap accommodation. Even the cheapest hostel may seem a bit overwhelming.
I can recommend Wombats City Hostel located in Naschmarkt for its convenient location and lively atmosphere. The best thing about the hostel was the common area which makes it easier for solo travellers to find a friend in the city. A lively bar adds further to the experience.
If you plan to be in Vienna for a bit longer than the average holiday, you should consider renting an apartment. Websites such as Homelike make it super easy for you to rent move-in-ready apartments in Vienna online within minutes.
That’s all in this what to see in Vienna travel guide. If you have more questions or suggestions to add to this travel blog, please leave a comment below.
I wrote this blog while on a media trip with tourism. Though my tour in the city was partly hosted, all recommendations and ideas are solely personal. And I only recommend what I personally experience and find worth appreciating.
I also recommend you to check the Vienna tourism website for more tips on what to see and do there.