Franziskanerplatz in Vienna

What To Do In Vienna: 15 Key Trip Building Blocks

To find out what to do in Vienna within the time frame you have, don’t tick off random ‘must-do’ lists. Instead, use these 15 key building blocks to gain a comprehensive understanding of the city and make the most of your time. If you have been to Wien before or plan an extended stay, check out my insider tips in Vienna Austria: 10 Off Beat Travel Tips.

1. Start With Your Cornerstones

Gloriette at Schonbrunn gardens in ViennaTo start with the cornerstones, visit iconic Viennese landmarks like Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the neo-baroque Augarten, which features beautiful baroque gardens and the Augarten Porcelain Manufactory.  Moreover, spend time wandering through the city center. In particular, the opulent architecture and atmosphere along the Ringstrasse are key attractions. Do also consider hopping on and off the historic tram line to explore different neighborhoods. Additionally, seek out hidden gems like the rooftop cafés, which offer stunning views of the city skyline and a unique perspective on Viennese culture.

Personally, I always look for a reason to get into a tramway along Ringstrasse. There are many more sites that I think we both like…go to Vienna Sightseeing to get ideas.

2. Add Particular Attractions

Kaffeesieder Ball in HofburgWhen it comes to adding particular attractions, experience the centuries-old Lipizzaner horse training traditions at the Spanish Riding School, where you can witness the graceful “airs above the ground” performed by the white horses. Furthermore, ride the iconic Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) in the Prater amusement park for panoramic views of the city and a taste of Viennese leisure culture. Additionally, immerse yourself in the city’s rich musical heritage by attending an operetta performance or a lavish ball, where you can learn to waltz the night away. Finally, dive into the local culinary scene by taking a cooking class to learn how to make authentic Viennese dishes like Wiener Schnitzel and apple strudel.

Get the full listing of my favourite Vienna Attractions. As a fast track option, get an overview of available sightseeing tickets and passes.

3. How To Pick The Best Museums

Museum of Fine ArtsIncredibly enough, my friend Veronika spends an entire day in ONE Vienna museum. Lock her up there and she won’t even notice. However, you may prefer a little more variety.

Regarding choosing the best museums, as a culture-focused traveler, seek out museums that showcase Vienna’s diverse artistic and historical legacy. For example, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) and the Belvedere, which houses an impressive collection of Gustav Klimt’s works. Moreover, explore museums that offer insights into the city’s imperial past, like the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Albertina, which displays the Habsburgs’ extensive art collection. While lesser-known,  equally fascinating museums like the Sigmund Freud Museum offer a glimpse into the life and work of a famous Viennese. If you love Mozart, the Mozarthaus, the former residence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is worth a visit.

To build some synergies, some of the best museums are housed in splendid palaces. Access my shortlist of the best Vienna Museums.

4. Flesh Out With Self Guided Walks

What do to in Vienna: Spittelberg walkWien lends itself to walks. When it comes to fleshing out your itinerary with self-guided walks take advantage of the city’s walkability and embark on self-guided tours to discover hidden courtyards, charming neighborhoods, and architectural gems. For instance, follow the Old Vienna Walk to immerse yourself in the city’s historic past, or opt for the Art Nouveau Walk to admire the stunning examples of this decorative style throughout the city. Furthermore, explore the lively Neubau district, known for its trendy shops, galleries, and vibrant street life, or venture into the quaint Josefstadt neighborhood to experience a more residential side of Vienna.

I have collected six of my favourite walks through Wien, including maps, for you to follow my traces: exploring historic courtyards, seeing Vienna by night, and more. Go to Vienna Walks. By the way, the Vienna Municipality provides a great map including several mapped out city walks.

5. Add a Worthwhile Danube Boat Trip

Vienna Danube Cruise Shop

When in Vienna, change asphalt for water at least once between the spring and the autumn. To truly enjoy a ride, you need to know where the local Danube is at its best.

Taking a worthwhile boat trip can include destinations like the nearby city of Bratislava or the picturesque Wachau Valley. Additionally, consider the seasonal Danube Island Festival, a popular music and culture event held on a lush island in the Danube River, as an addition to your itinerary. Moreover, combine a boat trip with a visit to the Nationalpark Donauauen, the last great floodplain in Central Europe. Read my reviews and find out more about the best local boat trips.

6. Finetune With Classical Concerts

What to do in Vienna: concertWhen it comes to concerts the Wiener Symphoniker or Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra dominate Vienna’s world-renowned classical music scene. Mostly, their performances take place at the historic Musikverein or the Wiener Konzerthaus.

Furthermore, smaller, more intimate concert venues, provide a more personal setting to experience the city’s classical music tradition. To discover the next generation of Viennese musical talent consider attending a concert or recital featuring up-and-coming classical musicians.

Because the demand for classical music from travellers outweighs the traditional offer in Wien be careful about choosing the right musical experience.  To make your choice find out more in Vienna Concerts.

7. Any Music Festivals In Town?

What to do in Vienna: Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Sylvain CambrelingEach year, the ‘city of music’ stages a good dozen festivals. If you love festivals time your visit to coincide with one of Vienna’s many local events, such as the Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen), or the Klezmore Festival. What I love most about them is the festive spirit of the grand opening events, which are mostly free. In particular, they often feature grand performances and a celebratory atmosphere.

Additionally, explore niche music festivals that cater to your specific interests, whether it’s classical, baroque, jazz, or contemporary music.

To get an idea of what will be on during your stay, use my Vienna Music Festival Guide, listing my favourite local festivals.

8. A Night At The Vienna Opera House

Vienna State Opera

Why should you attend a performance at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera)? Not only is it one of the world’s leading opera houses it also allows you to catch a glimpse into our deeply rooted opera culture: On normal night, you will meet a mix of elegantly dressed international travellers and local subscription holders to students bringing along a Wurstsemmel to their standing place.

Furthermore, consider exploring the opera house’s impressive backstage areas and attending a guided tour to learn about its rich history and architectural details.

At the Vienna State Opera, performances sell out on average 98 percent. Quite a few people think that the best tickets are the most expensive. They get on ticket waiting lists. And don’t know that the other three opera houses provide great plan B’s. If you’re unable to secure tickets to the Staatsoper, explore the city’s other excellent opera houses, such as the Volksoper or the Kammeroper, which offer more affordable and accessible options. As a native, I’ve been to the various opera houses many times. Let me share a few tips in Vienna Opera House.

9. Where To Fit In Local Shopping?

Rozet and Fischmeister shop in Vienna

To shop for local treasures seek out independent boutiques, artisanal workshops, and concept stores that showcase the work of local Viennese designers, craftspeople, and artists.

Moreover, explore neighborhoods like the Seventh District (Neubau) and the First District (Innere Stadt). There you can find unique souvenirs, fashion, and home goods. Additionally, consider joining a guided shopping tour to discover the city’s best-kept shopping secrets and learn about the stories behind the products you’ll encounter.

When I visit my hometown Wien I want gifts: something typical that is authentic, traditional fashion and Austrian jewelry, and sometimes international luxury brands. The shops need to be fairly central yet original. Over the years, I have collected my personal ‘best of shopping’ list. Find out more in Vienna Shopping.

10. Where To Lunch And Dine? Restaurants in Wien

Mezzanin 7: private dining in Vienna

When it comes to dining at excellent restaurants seek out places that offer authentic Viennese cuisine. For example, traditional taverns (Heurige) and cozy neighborhood eateries. Other than that, the city’s growing gastronomic scene features innovative chefs putting a modern twist on classic Viennese dishes. Additionally, consider booking a private dining experience in a local’s home to gain an even deeper understanding of our culinary traditions.

In Restaurants in Vienna, you will find various tips and restaurant reviews. I have also included my favourite private dining places. If you need a restaurant booking site, access my independent review of a great local booking tool that provides up to 30 percent discounts.

11. Smart Stopovers: Viennese Coffeehouses

What to do in Vienna: Cafe DiglasNever miss out on visiting an old coffeehouse when in Vienna. It’s the same as not having pizza in Italy.

To start with, our coffeehouse culture is listed as a UNESCO Immaterial Cultural Heritage. Though that only partly explains why we love to hang out in cafés over Melange and Torte. The other part is easily explained, with a couple of examples of my favourite Vienna coffeehouses. Historic establishments like Café Central, Café Sperl, and Café Landtmann each own a unique ambiance and traditions.

When at a Kaffeehaus order a Melange, a Viennese take on a cappuccino, and enjoy it with a slice of Dobostorte or Apfelstrudel. As the coffeehouse is a central part of Viennese social life take your time to lean back and observe.

 To help you choose the ideal place for you, see this unique list of best Vienna Coffeehouses to match your personal preferences.

12. Refuel At Iconic Cake shops

What to do in Vienna: Simply Raw Bakery

While many cafés offer a good choice of cakes, it is the cake shops that provide the icing on your vacation. Konditoreien are as popular as Kaffeehäuser. The difference: People go there to indulge in cakes and chats, less to read the papers or to surf on their smartphones. On another note: Unlike coffeehouses, cake shops do not serve lunch or savoury snacks.

When indulging in Viennese cakes and pastries, seek out the city’s renowned cake shops, known as Konditoreien. Furthermore, try traditional favorites like Sachertorte, Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), and Kaiserschmarrn, a shredded pancake with raisins and powdered sugar.

For a modern twist, explore artisanal bakeries and patisseries that showcase their own unique interpretations of classic Viennese cakes and desserts. Find a shortlist and brief reviews in Cake Shops Vienna.

13. Wineries And Wine Tastings

Schreiberhaus winery in Vienna

As a culture-focused traveler, venture beyond the city center to explore the Viennese wineries, known as Heurigen. Most of those are located in the surrounding vineyards and suburbs. In a traditional Heurigen atmosphere you can savor homemade wines, enjoy classic Viennese cuisine, and soak up the lively, convivial ambiance. Additionally, consider joining a guided wine tasting or tour to learn about our long-standing winemaking traditions and the unique grape varieties cultivated in the region.

Even if you are not into wine or alcohol the typical Austrian food served at a Heurigen is reason enough to visit.

Other than Wiener Schnitzel, do expect crispy roast pork, cold meat and cheese platters. Some wineries regularly offer a buffet. Access my top tips, a primer about the Heuriger, and a winery calendar in Vienna Wineries.

14. Evening Treat: Cocktail, American and Jazz Bars

Best Bars in Vienna: Rote BarMany travellers skip bars because of an evening concert or to put their feet up. While I can’t blame them they could easily explore Vienna’s thriving bar scene before dinner.

Conveniently, most of the best cocktail bars, American bars and jazz bars open when museums and attractions close, or even earlier. While a few bars are non-smoking your best chance for clean air in the other bars is before 8.00 pm. Besides, the modernist, Art Deco and 1930s interiors of some establishments will extend your architectural insights! Find out more in Best Bars in Vienna.

If you prefer a more intimate and exclusive atmosphere speakeasy-style bars or hidden gem establishments are perfect. At the city’s jazz bars you can attend live music performances.

Are you or your grown up kids are up for something more crazy? The outer ring road Gürtel and some spots in the center boast a vivid scenery of night clubs, student bars and nighttime cafés. Guest writer Sam, who loves loud clubs and hot dogs, shares his insight in Vienna nightlife.

15. Special Treats: A Local Spa Afternoon

Vienna's Park Hyatt luxury spaSince Austria’s capital celebrates the good life why not add extra wellness to your cakes? But where best to have tired legs massaged, backs embalmed, faces rejuvenated, and tummies toned?

At Vienna’s best luxury hotel spas, such as the Park Hyatt Spa or the Ritz-Carlton Spa, therapeutic treatments incorporate local ingredients and traditions, like the use of thermal waters or Austrian-made products. To crown the experience, dip into the elegant indoor pools or relaxation areas. Some of them offer stunning city views or serene garden settings.

I have tested some of the best luxury hotel spas in Vienna, and found brilliant external day spas. Read more in  my Vienna Spa Guide.

By incorporating these 15 key building blocks into your Vienna itinerary, you’ll gain a well-rounded understanding of the city’s history, culture, and modern-day charm. This comprehensive guide will help you make the most of your time in this captivating city.

If this sounds all overwhelming, I can help plan an amazing itinerary for you that you will love. Find out more in Vienna Travel Planning

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