top things to do in vienna, austria

Vienna, the capital of Austria, is not a city to skip over when exploring Europe. This city is full of grand palaces, museums, and delicious food. I visited this city on a solo trip and to be honest, considered not staying the full four days there because I thought I would run out of things to do or get bored. Well, I’m happy to report that I was very wrong and loved it so much that it has been added to my list of places to visit again. Since I was traveling by myself, I’ll add that I was typically back to my accommodation right after sunset as I don’t like to wander alone at night in any destination. So, my list will exclude any nighttime activities.

You don’t want to miss out on these activities during your trip to Vienna!

Prater amusement park

While the amusement park was closed during my stay in Vienna, I still made it a point to explore through the grounds. Home to what was once the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, you’ll feel a sense of nostalgia at the park. The Giant Ferris Wheel is a sight to see in itself and offers amazing views when it is running. Though the park wasn’t operating, I was still able to walk through the area and thought it was pretty cool (and little eerie) to see all the park has to offer. Make sure to stop by Schweizerhaus for a pork knuckle, schnitzel, and large beer when it’s open for the season.

Austrian National Library

Transport yourself to a Disney movie as you’ll feel like Belle in this library. The beauty is in the details here. The cost is a little high with an entrance fee of 8 Euros, but I still think it’s worth the visit. The library itself isn’t huge and of course the books are blocked off, but pictures are allowed and there are postings all over with historic information.

Hundertwasser house

This unique and colorful apartment building nestled between the classical architecture of Vienna is an absolute must visit. You can admire this artwork from the outside, visit the shops in the “village”, or grab a coffee at the Art Cafe Hundertwasser.

Eat a Schnitzel

I still think about the schnitzel that I had in Vienna. Made with veal, the meat was thin yet juicy and the exterior was perfectly crisp. Paired with potato salad and a nice cold beer, it was honestly the best meal I had in Vienna and considered going back to this establishment every night. I need spice (heat) with every meal, so it was a pleasant surprise that this restaurant had a carolina reaper pepper grinder. It added the best kick to the schnitzel. While you can find the infamous Vienna Schnitzel at many places, I went to Kaffe Alt Wein. This low key, casual restaurant located near Stadtpark was incredible. (Bonus: Go to PAREMI across the street for beautiful pastries and coffee after)

the Hofburg

The palace located in the city center of Vienna is the workplace of the Austrian president. You can tour the palace, which many would advise that you absolutely do so. However…due to my packed schedule I actually skipped doing the tour and just admired the building from the outside. I instead walked the gardens nearby, which was relaxing and enjoyable. If you have the time, definitely explore the palace complexes!

St. stephen’s catehdral

It’s hard to miss this amazing piece of architecture. Nestled in the city center, it is a beautiful piece of work. The interior is just as impressive as the exterior. For six Euro you can head to the top of the church for views of the city. While I did go inside the church, I did not pay to go to the top simply because it was very cloudy and gloomy when I visited and figured I wouldn’t be able to see much.

Try the infamous sachertorte

Sachertorte is a chocolate cake invented by Franz Sacher in Vienna. It is one of the most famous Viennese specialties and a must try when in the city. It is a pretty dense chocolate cake with apricot jam between the layers and covered in chocolate icing that has a similar consistency to fondant. If I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t anything mind blowing to me but I can appreciate the history and specialty behind it. To be fair, I’m not a fan of chocolate cake in general (I LOVE chocolate, but just don’t care for chocolate cake). If you want to try the original sachertorte you have to go to Hotel Sacher. Another popular place to try this cake is Demel. I decided to just have it during my visit at Cafe Central (see next item) to save myself some time especially since I knew I wouldn’t be crazy about it to begin with.

dessert and coffee at cafe central

This popular cafe is elegant, beautiful, and delicious. There’s a reason why you’ll always see a line outside the door. Skip the line by simply making a reservation! I made my reservation about a week before my trip and had no issues with time selections. The line did appear to go by pretty fast, but it can just be avoided all together. Majority of visitors appeared to just order dessert and coffee here, but I did end up ordering a bowl of goulash as well which was very satisfying.

Shop for chocolates at xocolat

While you’re visiting Cafe Central, be sure to go down a block and do some chocolate shopping at Xocolat. This small yet grand shop is filled with the most amazing chocolates from all around the world. While the majority is produced by Xocolat themselves, they also offer selections from various brands. I spent nearly 40 Euro on chocolates and was not disappointed in any of the ones I purchased. I still regret not purchasing more of the Xocolat milk chocolate with cardamom.

Karlskirche Church

Another beautiful church to visit in Vienna with its intricate and Baroque style. While I had planned to visit the inside and grab a view from the top, I didn’t have any cash on hand at the moment. So be sure to bring cash for the 6 Euro entrance fee.

Have lunch at brasserie palmenhaus

I have a slight obsession with greenhouses and grabbing dinner or drinks in one is pure bliss for me. I’m always looking for a beautiful or unique dining experience, so I made sure to snag a reservation at Brasserie Palmenhaus. It’s located near museum quarter, which made it easy to work into my plans. The space is stunning and the food did not disappoint. It is a little on the pricier side, but definitely worth it in my opinion.

Belvedere gardens

Belvedere Palace consists of a lower and upper building and is home to a museum as well. The area is stunning and perfect to hang out for a bit sitting on one of the benches located in the gardens and just read a book. While I didn’t go inside the building itself, I loved exploring the gardens which is free to visit.

Albertina Museum

Albertina is home of one of the largest print rooms in the world. It contains old prints, modern art, and beautiful rooms exhibiting that transports you to a palace. You could spend hours here admiring all the pieces of art and the exhibits featured. Be sure to grab a coffee in the elegant cafe here on the way out. It was the perfect ending to a long exploration of the museum. Tip: bring coins for the lockers offered – although they are free, there is a deposit required to secure the locker. As you can see, I didn’t have any coins and had to carry my large jacket everywhere.

Eat a doner kebab from the berliner

I know…this isn’t Berlin or Turkey where delicious doner kebabs can be found all over the place. But, you do not want to miss out on this doner spot in Vienna. You likely won’t find an open spot to hang out at and indulge in your doner, so just do what I did and eat in right there along the street. This combination of perfectly baked bread, thinly sliced meat (chicken was my selection), fresh and pickled vegetables, and yogurt and spicy sauces is the best quick meal. I imagine after a few drinks it would be an amazing late night drunk food.

Naschmarkt

This outdoor market is about a mile long and offers up a variety of stands for visitors to shop, eat, and drink at. You can visit this link to see all the culinary offerings at the market.

Walk around the city

The best thing you can do in Vienna is walk around endlessly. The only time I took another form of transportation (rail) was to/from the airport and to Schonbrunn Palace. The city is very walkable. I stayed near Stadtpark at the Hilton Vienna Park and it was a great location as it was central to all the attractions I planned to visit. I walked around admiring the classic architecture and came across all the Christmas market set ups around the town. It’s even how I stumbled across an early market, which I’ll touch on later. It’s the ideal way to explore the city.

Eat an apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel aka apple strudel is a traditional Viennese strudel with a thin layer of pastry, apple filling, and must be served with a vanilla cream sauce. Okay, so it doesn’t HAVE to be served with cream but it’s absolutely delectable that way. You can find this dessert at almost every restaurant or cafe you visit in Vienna. I ended up getting it at the cafe located on the grounds of Schronbrunn, but regretted not getting it more often during my stay. I’m not even a fan of apple desserts, but loved this strudel.

Visit many coffee shops

Vienna’s cafe culture is incredible. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I was planning out my itinerary, but I had about 20 cafes bookmarked as if I could possibly visit them all during my 4 day stay. You can find cafes around every corner and every single one I did end up visiting was great. My absolute favorite would have to be Vollpension (last two photos). I was seated with strangers as they were packed, which I didn’t mind at all as it gave me an opportunity to speak with some locals and get recommendations! This cafe gave unlimited hot drinks and sparkling lemonade along with a huge slice of cake for around 10 Euro. A steal if you ask me.

Schonbrunn palace

Schonbrunn Palace is a short subway ride away from Vienna’s city center and is not something you want to skip like I almost did. I originally was going to do a day trip to Bratislava during my last day in Vienna, but ultimately decided against that and wanted to explore more of Vienna including Schonbrunn Palace. The palace itself is quite amazing, but to be completely honest…the grounds is what really impressed me. So, I’d say if you’re on a budget then just explore the grounds as it’s free. I paid the extra cost (22 Euro_ for the Grand Tour to see more rooms and while they were beautiful and quite surreal, I kind of flew through the extra rooms.

You could spend hours walking the grounds and taking in the gorgeous views. I strolled down the trails with a cup of mulled wine while admiring the fall leaves. That is, after some photoshoots with my tripod and a coffee and strudel break at the cafe. Also located on the grounds is a small zoo and greenhouse.

Winter edition: Christmas Market

I arrived in Vienna early November, which is a bit early for Christmas markets. I was a bit bummed every time I came across a market set up as I knew they’d be magical. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I randomly stumbled across a small market during my last day in the city. There were various stalls that served up boozy drinks and carbohydrates to soak it all up. This is why it’s so important to walk through the city, you may come across a hidden gem!

So, there you have it! Top things to do in Vienna, Austria. Now, there is PLENTY more to do there but I only provided activities that I did and really enjoyed. I always knew I wanted to visit Austria, but mainly for the nature aspect that the country offers. I’m beyond happy that I made the choice to spend a few days in the Vienna and I will be sure to stay there again the next time I explore Austria.

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