10 Best Things To Do In Vienna

With the special Viennese charm, Vienna felt like a very welcoming place with its cultural events and imperial sights. It is a clean and green city, and has been named one of the world’s most livable cities by The Economist Intelligence Unit, now for the second consecutive year. Vienna is also one of the world’s richest nations, but on the expensive scale is considered just above average, and is said to be less expensive than New York.

Wandering around Vienna, we loved how much history there was to come alive and how picturesque it was. We could have wandered the historic city centre for days. The city lit up at night was absolutely stunning. We found the city to be clean, classy and, of course, architecturally impressive.

All of the gothic, renaissance and modern touches give Vienna great character and charm. It felt like there was something interesting and historical around every corner. It was almost as if we were wandering around a huge open-air museum, packed with historic buildings and pleasant little parks. Vienna is a prosperous, historical city and it really shows in the beauty of the wonderfully maintained architecture and the Viennese’ reverence for the past.

Vienna is a very walkable city and is one of Europe’s top pedestrian-friendly cities. The city center is surrounded by ring road, making it easy to find your way around. If your legs do get tired, you can jump on the U-bahn, a rapid transit system.

We visited Vienna in peak season during summer. If you are not one for crowds, we recommend you visit during the shoulder seasons of April-May or September-October.

In the main tourist areas, many people do speak English, but recognize that it is a German speaking country. Learn some basic German words and phrases before you go so that you are able to ask for assistance.

Most supermarkets and shops in Vienna are closed on Sundays and public holidays, but most restaurants, bars and bakeries are open. If you did not get to buy groceries, you should still be able to find necessities. However, do keep in mind that what you are able to purchase on these days is limited by law.

The Vienna Pass – Should You Buy One?

A city pass can be a great way to save some money if you’re planning on seeing a lot of the big attractions. The Vienna City Card offers free travel on public transport, discounted entrance fees and reductions in shops and restaurants. We found the Vienna Pass helpful for our trip and had some great savings because of it.

These are 10 of the best things we suggest you do in Vienna:

The National History Museum

Photo: mendhak – Flickr

We have a huge love for natural history museums, so this was one we could not miss. We were absolutely blown away by how the beautiful architecture of the building, the informative collections and interactive elements combined to create a scope of exhibits that can be seen at few science museums.

Vienna’s Museum Of Natural History  is one of the most important natural history museums worldwide. The museum has 60 scientists carrying out research related to earth, life and human sciences. This makes the museum one of the largest non-university research centers in Austria and an important public institution.

The highlights of the Vienna’s Museum Of Natural History were their remarkable collection of dinosaur skeletons (big dinosaur enthusiasts here), meteorites and insects from around the world.

The Museum Of Natural History in Vienna will help you regain your child-like sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. You’ll enjoy wandering through galleries of hundred-year-old cabinets stuffed with incredible oddball specimens. This is truly a place full of wonder and amazement, with beautifully crafted exhibits, charming models and stunning displays spanning its vast collection.

Schönbrunn Palace

Photo: Domenico Laviano, Flickr

Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and since the 1960s it has also been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The magnificent architecture and the exquisite décor of its state rooms are what makes the the 1,441-room  Schönbrunn Palace such a  cultural treasure and tourist attraction today. In 1996, Schönbrunn Palace was put on the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites, further showing the importance of the Palace and its surrounding attractions.

Photo: David Fettback

From the 18th century to 1918, Schönbrunn was the residence of the Habsburg emperors. It was designed by the architects Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Nicolaus Pacassi and is full of outstanding examples of decorative art. Together with its Gardens, as well as the site of the world’s first Zoo (1752), it is a perfect example of Gesamtkunstwerk (meaning: a total work of art). 

It was quite exciting to be going to such a place of grandeur. Touring the palace, you get an excellent idea about how members of the Habsburg Dynasty lived and worked. What is impressive is the ceiling decoration around the chandeliers because each room has an original gold design. The designs will take your breath away.

Photo: Dimitry Anikin – Unsplash

Exploring the Gardens, you can walk around and get lost, or even walk up the hill and enjoy the view of the Palace from the Gloriette.

Keep in mind that they do not allow photography inside the Palace, so you may want to pick up a couple souvenir postcards or other memorabilia with images. Between the facade, Gardens and Zoo, the  Schönbrunn Palace can give you quite a full day of exploring.

Vienna Zoo

Tiergarten Schönbrunn,  or the “Vienna Zoo”, is located right on the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace.  The Vienna Zoo is the oldest Zoo in the world. The Zoo believes that its main purpose is to be a centre for species conservation, general nature conservation and the fulfillment of the education mandate requirements.

Völkerkunde Museum

When we visited Vienna back in 2008, we really enjoyed the Völkerkunde Museum. Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs ran from March to September and it was said that it became the most successful exhibition in Austria’s history.

We found the exhibit absolutely breath-taking. The exhibit featured artifacts from ancient Egyptian history; many coming from the tomb of King Tut.

One of the most interesting facts we learned was that after someone had passed, the brain was thrown away as it was deemed to be not important. However, the heart and other internal organs were removed carefully and preserved.

How interesting is that?

Mozart Museum & Grave

The Mozarthaus Vienna was Mozart’s residence from 1784 to 1787, is his only surviving Viennese residence, and is now a museum. The museum showcases the life and work of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart, with emphasis on the time he spent in Vienna from 1781 to 1791.

If you’re a big Mozart fan, you can also visit St. Marx Cemetery, where he was buried. Unfortunately, the cemetery is not in the most convenient location, as it is sandwiched behind a bend of the A23 Autobahn.

However, once you make it through the main cemetery entrance at St. Marx Cemetery, it is easy to find the grave. Walk down the aisle of trees until it forks and look left. You’ll also see a  sign pointing to “Mozartgrab” (plot 179).

Walk Ring Road

It is easy to spend the afternoon wandering along Ring Road, admiring the spectacular architecture. The Vienna Ringstrasse is known as “Lord of the Ring Roads” because of the architectural beauty and it is designated by UNESCO as part of Vienna’s World Heritage Site.

This grand boulevard was built to replace the city walls, that were built during the 13th century. The buildings around Ring Road were intended to be a display of the splendour of the Habsburg Empire.

Along Ring Road you will find sights such as City Hall, the Natural History Museum, State Opera,  and Museum of Fine Art.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral – Hannes Rada – Flickr

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the most important religious building and Gothic structure in Vienna. The Cathedral has witnessed many important events within the Habsburg and Austrian history.  The main entrance of the cathedral is free to enter. However, if you want to get into the catacombs or tower, there is a fee. The multi-coloured tile roof has become one of the city’s most recognizable symbols. The tiles show the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna.

Walking Tour

During our first European adventure, we quickly learned how valuable a walking tour can be. Walking tours offer a great way to get to know a city and to start to find your way around. In Vienna there are a few free walking tour to choose from: Original Europe Tours Vienna, Prime Tours, Welcome Tour Vienna – The Free Walking Tour, and Good Vienna Tours.

If you’re doing a free tour, remember to tip your guide. Also, the above companies may offer other tour options that are paid tours.

The Hofburg

Photo: boesijana – Unsplash

Originally a medieval fortified castle built in the 13th century, and expanded several times after, The Hofburg served as the imperial winter residence of the Habsburg dynasty. Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence.

Imperial Palace is one of the biggest palace complexes in the world. Today, The Hofburg is the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria.

Today you can purchase admission to view the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection.  It is also home to the Spanish Riding School, a congress center, and the historic Heldenplatz.

Belvedere Palace

Photo: Krzysztof Kowalik – Unsplash

The Belvedere, a historic building complex, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vienna. Together, the Upper and Lower Belvedere and the substantial garden,  is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today the Belvedere houses the Belvedere museum, where you will find the greatest collection of Austrian art. The selection dates from the middle ages to present day, while also accompanied by famous international artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh.

 

Is Vienna Worth Going To?

A visit to Vienna is definitely worth it. A great hub of art and culture, we found three full days to be a good amount of time, though there was still plenty to experience and explore. We would suggest visiting for three days as a minimum.