Vienna, Austria’s capital offers a unique blend of imperial traditions and stunning architecture. Vienna has something for everyone… For music lovers, it’s the home of Mozart. For foodies, it’s home to the Wiener Schnitzel. For outdoor lovers, you can hike in every corner of this picturesque city. It is famous for its cultural events, majestic sights, coffee houses, cozy wine taverns, and a very special Viennese charm. Vienna is among Europe’s most walkable cities, and each district has its own distinct vibe. Baroque streetscapes, regal palaces, beautiful churches, museums were all reasons to add Vienna to our bucket list. So when the opportunity came up to make a short trip from Romania to Austria, we made this trip happen.
“Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true. When will you realize… Vienna waits for you.” — Billy Joel
Vienna can be glorious in any weather, but it’s best in the spring and fall. There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with Vienna: the royal architecture, the gorgeous streets of the Innere Stadt or the First District, the music, literature, and art. Best of all, the city has a longstanding tradition of allowing music, opera, and philharmonic orchestra to be accessible to everyone from students to royalty. We were lucky to stumble upon ensemble 1756 play Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” as we were strolling down the streets in Vienna, and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip.
We are excited to share the details of our trip and our recommendations with you. Here are suggestions on what to see, where to stay, what to eat and explore within Vienna in just a few days!
What to see?
- Schönbrunn Palace, the most famous Palace in Vienna — No visit to Vienna is complete without a visit to the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace. The 1,441 room palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the country. Schönbrunn Palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers in Vienna. This majestic palace, which was once home to the Empress Elisabeth, is now one of the top attractions in all of Vienna. The interior of the castle is like a museum, showcasing how the aristocrats used to live. The rooms have been beautifully restored to their former glory and it feels like you have been transported back in time. Make sure that you reserve enough time to visit the palace, the magnificent Palace Gardens, and also the Gloriette, which was the former imperial viewing terrace, situated up on the hill. This stunning open view with Schönbrunn Palace in the foreground and Vienna City in the background, is one you absolutely cannot miss.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna — St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the main Roman catholic church in Vienna and the seat of the city’s Archbishop. This gothic church is an iconic building in Vienna. Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is located in Stephansplatz, which is the city’s geographical center. This area is packed with people at all times during the day or night, and it’s filled with lots of cafes and high end stores for some shopping. On the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, colorful tiles were laid to create the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle. The construction for this church originally commenced in the 12th century. It was completely destroyed during WWII and rebuilt by the people of Austria until the mid 1960’s. The tallest tower of the church is 446 feet high and it’s visible from almost anywhere in Vienna.
- Prunksaal der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek — The Prunksaal State Hall at the Austrian National Library, is one of the most beautiful historic library halls in the world. It is the biggest Baroque library in Europe that was built between 1723 and 1726, and contains an amazing collection of literature, maps and globes of the world. Today, the State Hall houses 200,000 valuable books published between 1501 and 1850. This library was beyond all our expectations. Just spectacular!
- Danube River Cruise — This river cruise is a wonderful way to discover the wonders of Vienna along the Danube Canal. The trip begins at Schwedenplatz and sets sail onto the Viennese Donaukanal. As you glide along the water, soak up the sights that surround you such as the city’s most iconic buildings, including the Uniqa Tower, Uranie Observatory, Jean Nouvel hotel and commercial building, the Schützenhaus by Otto Wagner, Ringturm, Roßauer Kaserne, Zaha Hadid House and the Spittelau waste incineration plant designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
- Spanish Riding School at Hofburg Palace in Vienna — Definitely visit the Spanish Hofreitschule or the Spanish Riding school to watch the “Tribute to Vienna” performance by the Lipizzaner Stallions at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. The architecture of the venue was beautiful and the exhibition of horsemanship was amazing to watch.
- Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church), and Wiener Karlskirche (Charles Church) in Vienna — St. Peter’s Church or Peterskirche is a baroque Roman catholic church and it’s one of the oldest churches in Vienna! We went to Petersplatz square to check out St. Stephen’s cathedral. On the way we found an interesting green dome, so we made a quick detour and I’m so glad we did. The inside of the church was stunning! St. Charles Church or Karlskirche is a baroque church that’s built to impress. It was built in 1739 to give thanks for the passing of the black plague epidemic. We were very lucky to watch the ensemble 1756 play Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” inside the magnificent St. Charles church!
- Hundertwasserhaus — Hundertwasserhaus is a colorful and whimsical apartment building in Vienna, based on the idea of Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The idea behind this building is to bring architecture and nature together. This is definitely a quirky one to visit.
- Deli Naschmarkt — Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most colorful, vibrant and popular outdoor market and this is a must-see destination in the Austrian capital. This market is about a mile long, and dates back to the late 16th century when the area was mostly reserved for farmers selling milk and other dairy products. Today, this market has more than 100 stalls and you can find fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, spices, wine, cheese and countless restaurants serving Austrian, Turkish, Polish, Chinese, Mediterranean and lots of other options.
Where to stay?
The Innere Stadt and Museumsquartier are two of the best overall neighborhoods to stay in Vienna, and also the best areas to stay for first time visitors. Innere Stadt is the 1st District, the heart of historic Vienna, where you’ll find some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. When deciding where to stay in Vienna as a tourist, we recommend staying near a metro station. Vienna has one of the most efficient public transport systems in Europe. If you stay within walking distance of a stop, you can connect through to most of the city within 10 or 20 minutes.
We decided to stay at the MyPlace Premium Apartments Wien in the City Centre. This apartment is ideally set in the heart of Vienna, only a 5-minute walk from St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Kärntner Straße shopping street, and it comes with a rooftop terrace and an on-site fitness lounge. This is a 4-star accommodation that was very spacious, well laid-out, luxuriously and elegantly furnished. The modern interiors are combined with exquisite designs and a warm color scheme.
What to eat?
Austria was once in the center of the Habsburg Empire, that covered everything from Russia to France. Which is why Austria has embraced many ethnic dishes when it comes to cuisines. The range of food from all across Europe showcases Vienna’s multicultural influence. If you are in Vienna, you should try the top three Viennese Foods to truly experience Vienna — Wiener Schnitzel, Sachertorte, and Apfelstrudel.
Sachertorte at Cafe Sacher — Vienna is known for its coffee houses, and we were on a quest for some good Viennese coffee every day. Cafe Central for breakfast, Cafe Sperl for lunch and Cafe Sacher for dinner. Finally, got the best Sacher torte and Viennese coffee at Cafe Sacher! The Sachertorte is an iconic cake that was invented in 1832, by Franz Sacher. Working as an apprentice cook at the tender age of 16, and after the head chef got ill, Sacher had to take over baking special desserts for Prince Klemens von Metternich, and his guests. The famous desert consists of a dense chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and coated in dark chocolate icing. The cake is served with a twirl of whipped cream.
- Wiener Schnitzel at Schnitzelwirt — We had Wiener Schnitzel almost every day and sometimes twice in a day. When in Vienna, eat like the Viennese. We had the best Viennese Scnitzel at a hole in the wall restaurant called Schnitzelwirt! We had to wait outside for a bit but it was totally worth it, and they only accept cash. The Wiener Schnitzel is one of the most famous dishes in Vienna, and was traditionally made using veal. The Wiener Schnitzel can be found on the menu in pretty much all restaurants in Vienna.
- Apfelstrudel at Schönbrunn Palace — When you visit Schönbrunn Palace, one of the must-do activities is to catch the Viennese Apple Strudel Show at the Café Residenz, where a master pastry chef shows how a hand-pulled original Viennese apple strudel is made. You’ll get to learn how this divine Viennese dessert is crafted, and the original Viennese Apple Strudel recipe to try out at home. You can taste the freshly baked apple strudel with coffee at one of the small tables in the imperial bakery. The Apfelstrudel features a super thin and crisp pastry, which is much like filo with a filling made of sugar, cooking apples, raisins, cinnamon, and bread crumbs. The final result is a perfect mixture of a flaky, crumbly topping, and a delicious filling. With each bite, you can taste the sweetness of the fresh apples, and the flaky pastry.
How to save money?
- Vienna Pass — Vienna Pass sightseeing ticket gives you one-time free entry to pretty much every main attraction, plus other bonuses like unlimited free sightseeing bus tours. With the Vienna Pass you get entry to over 60 attractions, museums, and monuments throughout the city. If you’re planning to visit several of Vienna’s most popular museums/galleries then getting the pass could save you a fair amount of money.
- Breakfast from a grocery store — Breakfast and brunch isn’t really a thing in Vienna. This is a great way to save money, and a general rule that we apply to any travels. There are plenty of bakeries and grocery shops all over Vienna, so pick up a croissant and some fruit and eat at your hotel or on the go. You’ll save both time and money.
- Use Public Transport — Walking around is the cheapest option, but public transport in Vienna is well organized and efficient too. Plan ahead and think about how often you will use public transport. If you plan on using lots of transport every day of your trip then consider purchasing a pass which is valid for a specific time period. These can be valid for 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, or a week.
- Take a free walking tour — Vienna offers a handful of free walking tours which are great ways to get familiar with the city and the culture. Good Tours and The Original Free Vienna Walking Tour are great options. You need to make sure to tip your guide!
“De todos los libros en el mundo, las mejores historias se encuentran entre las paginas de un pasaporte, i.e., Out of all of the books in the world, the best stories are in the pages of a passport” — Unknown
So let your next adventure take you to this amazing city… Museums, palaces, shopping, food, architecture, music, opera, food, it’s all here. Vienna is one of the most romantic European cities and it is so much fun. This is a laid back city full of culture and a sense of style. Whether you’re just wandering the streets or enjoying the museums, you’re sure to find something you love about Vienna. You can easily spend weeks trying to see it all. Vienna is easy on the eye, and the architecture makes it a photographer’s dream! Vienna is magnificent and it definitely belongs on your travel bucket list. What are you waiting for?
And remember… Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!