So you're coming to Vienna?! Good for you! This is a decision that I'm confident you won't regret. You've probably already bought a guidebook (or are getting one, right?), so my first advice is to do some reading. Browse through your book(s) and consider the highlights that appeal to you most. You shouldn't feel compelled to do everything that the guide suggests, however. In fact, when my husband and I travel, we like to leave plenty of things to do, sights to see, and delicacies to eat for when we return for our second, third, or tenth visit. I wholeheartedly recommend this strategy. On the one hand, you'll feel less stressed and panicky about seeing everything during your first go-around, and on the other, you'll actually feel inspired, motivated, and excited about returning someday soon.
Another tiny caveat about guidebooks: they are only guides. Only recommendations from other people. Some suggestions you may groove with. Others you probably won't. Our own list below is simply a compilation of the things we like to see and do in the area. Certainly, this is a changeable and growing list. There's far more to see and do here in Vienna than is printed below. Nevertheless, we hope that this page can be a starting point for you and that through a combination of your own research, suggestions from guides like this, flexibility to try new things, and your willingness to go-with-the-flow while you're here, you'll be prepared to have a blast in the beautiful capital of Austria! And... if all else fails, just pull a Before Sunrise. Wander aimlessly through our oh-so-romantic streets and parks. Actually, wait, that's probably the best advice of all. Even if you've planned a detailed travel itinerary, be sure to pencil in some time each day to stroll at random. You'll discover so much more than you could ever plan for. I hope you have the time of your life!
What are Vienna's highlights, you ask?
The Belvedere - a baroque palace / museum complex housing the largest Gustav Klimt collection in the world, including the famous Der Kuss.
Hundertwasserhaus - "A house in harmony with nature." A residential building of the city of Vienna designed by the famous Austrian architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Kunst Haus Wien - a museum of Hundertwasser's artwork with temporary exhibitions showcasing other artists or works of art. One of our favorite cafes is here in the museum.
Karlskirche - the iconic baroque church of Vienna. Emperor Charles VI commissioned this church once the Black Plague left Vienna as a dedication to St. Charles Borromeo, the patron saint revered for as a healer for plague victims.
Schloß Schönbrunn - the former Imperial family's summer residence. Be sure stroll around the gardens and hike up to the Gloriette for a short Kaffee und Kuchen break.
Staatsoper - Vienna's famous opera house. If you plan ahead, you may be able to purchase tickets to an opera!
Stephansdom - an Romanesque, Gothic church situated in the heart of Vienna's first district. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. One can take a tour of the underground catacombs here. One may also climb the 343 steps to the top of the tower for a spectacular view of the city.
Prater - the largest public park in Vienna. The amusement park here is home to one of Vienna's most famous symbols, the Riesenrad (giant Ferris wheel).
Do you like museums?
The Chimney Sweeper Museum - a small museum showcasing the history of Vienna's Chimney Sweepers.
The Globe Museum - if you're a map and globe geek like us, then you'll find this museum with century old globes, maps, and related objects quite impressive.
The Jewish Museum - the history of Judaism in Vienna is both very interesting and important. It will be well worth your time and money to visit these two museums during your stay in here. We especially recommend the Judenplatz location as one can learn about medieval Jewish life and witness the excavated 15th century synagogue ruins under Judenplatz itself.
Kunsthistorisches Museum - one of the worlds foremost museums with artwork dating back 7,000 years! Renaissance and Baroque art are of particular importance here. See our post about enjoying a gourmet dinner in the museum here.
Mozart's Apartment - one of the many apartments in Vienna where Mozart lived, but the only one that still exists today.
MuseumsQuartier Wien - one of the world's largest complexes for modern art and culture. It's pretty nice of the City to put nine permanent museums all together in one space for us, oder?
Sigmund Freud Museum - this is actually one of my favorite museums in Vienna. The small space was both Freud's private practice and where his family lived for 47 years before escaping to London from the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938. By visiting the museum, you'll experience the space where psychoanalysis was founded and the inspiration for other forms of psychotherapy was developed. However, it is important to note that most of Freud's original furnishings are not here, including this famous couch, which are in the London museum as he was able to take his furniture with him when he emigrated.
Want a good Wiener Schnitzel? Try Cafe Anzengruber.
Want Sacher Torte? We prefer slices at Demel.
The Naschmarkt - the 400 year old open air market with a dozen great small restaurants
Pierre - a french treat in Vienna! It's our current favorite cafe, bistro, pâtisserie in town. They have an amazing buffet from 10am to 3pm during the weekend.
Pizza Mari' - Best. Italian pizza. In. Vienna. Make reservations!
The Point of Sale (a.k.a. POS) - one of favorite neighborhood cafes/restaurants. They serve all types of foods from Mexican nachos, to American burgers, to Greek tzatziki, to French croissants. They're options are all over the map, and their menu caters nicely to the vegetarians and vegans alike. And their large Melange will only run you €2.70. Not bad at all! See our brunch post here.
Strandbar Herrman - a hip beach bar situated on the banks of the Danube Canal. They also have a lovely Saturday brunch here! Attention: they're not open during the winter months.
Taste of India - get the Luckhnow Chaat to start. It gets even better from there.
Wieden Bräu - a cozy neighborhood brewery
Yamm! - a hip new vegetarian restaurant that offers a buffet with dishes from around the world. But be careful, it can get pretty pricey. Here, one pays by the weight of their dish!
For some more ideas, check out one of our favorite go-to blogs, SushiandStrudel, for a local perspective and spot-on recommendations for unique restaurants and cafes in the area.
Wiener Melange, anyone?
Um, check your guidebook for recommendations here. I guarantee that you'll find a list of traditional Vienna coffeehouses serving the famous Wiener Melange. Aside from the these spots, here are a few that we recommend that you may not find in your guide (and may also be a bit cheaper, too!):
Cafe Phil - if you like the cafe and bookstore combo in a living-room atmosphere, then this is your place.
Himmelblau - a cozy, yet fresh and airy cafe with a little shop to the side. If you're a tea lover, you should most definitely check this place out. See our blog post about it here.
Want to stretch your legs?
Danube Bike Trail - a bicycle trail along the Danube river from Melk to Krems through the Wachau wine valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site. See our blog post about this ride here.
- a mountain on the northeastern end of the city. It provides for a
great half-day hike up to an amazing view of Vienna and the Danube
river. See our post about hiking up to Kahlenberg here.
- the former hunting grounds of the royal family. Now the land is a
6,000 acre wildlife preserve on the outskirts of the city. The Wien
Museum Hermesvilla is located here. See our blog post about it here.
- Vienna's forested hills which form the northeastern end of the
Austrian Alps. Here one can spend a day with hundreds of trails to hike
and/or mountain bike. See our Wienerwald posts here, here, and here.
36 Hours: Vienna
Check out the latest New York Times Travel article about spending 36 hours in Vienna.
Please comment below if you know of or experience other highlights that we should add to our list. We'd love to hear what you find special about Vienna!