As Austria’s beautiful capital, Vienna is renown for it’s artistic and intellectual legacy; imperial palaces; historic and contemporary buildings; fine food & drinks and of course the vast array of cultural events hosted in the city. It is full of class and charm, whilst having such a mix of things to see, experience and do. Heading to this impressive city? Then here’s the top 10 things to do in Vienna, speaking from our ‘best bits’ and top recommendations.
1. St Stephen’s Cathedral
I honestly see no better way than to kick off the list with this stunning, iconic cathedral, set in the heart of the city within the Stephensplatz district. Towering at nearly 500 ft tall St Stephen’s Cathedral dominates the Vienna skyline; holding the record for the tallest church tower in Austria and impressively so! With a mix of Romanesque and Gothic design, the thing that makes it so special is it’s beautiful tiled mosaic roof. Completely and utterly extraordinary. Such intricate details and beautiful colours, brightening it all up. I’ve definitely never seen anything like it!
2. Spanish Riding School at The Hofburg Palace
As a former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers, today the Imperial Palace it is home to numerous museums, a congress center, the seat of the Austrian Federal President, not to mention the Spanish Riding School within the Hofburg Palace. The palace as a whole is one of the biggest palace complexes in the world, with the oldest parts dating back to the 13th century. It’s quite remarkable and well worth exploring in itself. Situated in the centre, you’ll instantly recognise the building; set with the most beautiful baroque architecture. It’s difficult to show the scale of it in photos, but this is the entrance of the Riding School and it it arches all the way around, spotted with powerful sculptures around.
Now, a visit to Hofburg is not complete without seeing these beautiful horses in action. You can witness the training of the Lipizzaners and their riders during their morning exercise; with the training of the gray colts and the fully-trained school stallions, the “white stars”. It is absolutely incredible and the inside interior matches that too! To secure your tickets for this, click here– with these you will then also skip the que on arrival (it gets pretty busy so this is super handy!) AND it works out cheaper (win, win!) Honestly, it’s one of the things you have 100% got to do so you certainly won’t be changing your mind or regretting it! The alternative to this is to take a Guided Tour and really get behind the scenes. Or, why not do both?! Whatever you choose, it’s so heartwarming and totally bucket-list worthy, so you’re going to absolutely love it- I promise! You’re not really allowed to take photos or videos, but here’s a sneaky shot I got to show the incredible interior inside the building- a venue fit for a princess, I totally fell in love!
3. Belvedere Palace
Well up there in your Vienna Wishlist is a visit to the beautiful Belvedere Palace. We were lucky enough to be based just a short walk away from here which made it a hotspot for us; seeing it both in the day and on the evening after sunset (just before closing time- which was possible heading there later in the year!) The gardens were the absolute highlight for us and because they are so big- it doesn’t matter how many visitors come and go, there’s plenty of space for everyone to find their own place to sit back, relax and really take it all in. Belvedere Palace was definitely one of my favourite spots in Vienna and hands down the prettiest palace I have visited to date. It’s also -as you can probably tell- great for photography… see how much you can capture, I challenge you!
4. Prater Amusement Park
Next up on your Top 10 Things To Do in Vienna has got to be the Prater Amusement Park. You can reach this by taking a quick tube, dropping you just a short walk away from the entrance. (By the way, if you’re nervous about getting around in Vienna- don’t be. Their trams, trains and tubes make it super super easy. Simply by a day pass and whip around to wherever you like. Each area is clearly signposted, although don’t be shy to ask for help if you’re unsure… it all adds to the adventure!) The park itself is totally free to visit… yup, you heard right! Zilch. No cost. 100% free! Which is amazing, because walking around you’ll be able to really soak up the atmosphere- music coming from the different rides, delicious smells wafting from stalls, everyone chatting and laughing. As they say,
Adventure, tradition, and Viennese charm all at once – no other place radiates so much energy and ‘joie de vivre’ as the Vienna Prater.
And I agree, that’s actually pretty spot on! There’s a great mix of rides – fairground style and theme-park style. You can pay per ride you go on, or grab a day pass if you want to experience everything it has to offer. There’s also arcade games which can be pretty fun. We stopped there for an ice-cream, some beer and a nice meal in the sunshine, before heading onto my next big recommendation for Vienna…
5. The Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel
One of Vienna’s trademark sights is the Giant Ferris Wheel located at the start of the Prater Amusement Park, which has acquired global fame by featuring in several movies. Originally created in 1897, the wheel unfortunately didn’t survive WWII intact, being burnt down in 1944, only to be soon rebuilt and returned to operation in 1947- where it has stood strong ever since. It still stands as one of the oldest operating Ferris Wheels in the world and has provides exceptional panoramic views over Vienna. Entry is FREE with the Vienna Pass or a discounted price of £8.99 when you buy online here.
When you first enter, you’ll step into this magical, theatrical miniature world. You’ll then make your way through to the wheel itself which will slowly take you around, with windows all the way around so that you can really take everything in. For that special occasion, they even have a dining option available, fully set up with a table and chairs- dinner with a view for sure!
With it’s history, character and all-round enjoyable experience- the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel is an absolute must when looking at things to do in Vienna. We went around sunset which gave the sky such a beautiful colour.
6. Vienna State Opera
Now this one has got to make the list! For us, it wasn’t actually the highlight of the trip- more a passing notice, but I wanted to include it, not so much for the building itself, but for attending an opera there. Opera -along with ballet- are massive in Vienna and the State Opera House -which opened all the way back in 1869- enjoys an outstanding global reputation that you should definitely try not to miss! Now tickets don’t come cheap, I’ve got to be honest. BUT as opera is an art to be enjoyed by all a quick insider tip: every show has standing tickets which are released on the night of the show, getting you in for a fraction of the price! Now there is a catch… you’ll have to que for hours to get them in a lot of cases, but if you want the experience and can’t afford the full price- this is a great solution. Read into it! (There’s ways around everything!)
Love opera? Got a big occasion coming up you want to celebrate in style? Well if you’re looking for a really unforgettable experience, this certainly ticks all the boxed, including – 4-course meal including aperitif – Ride by horse-drawn carriage – Concert ticket for the Vienna Mozart Orchestra (best category) – Cloakroom fee – 1 glass of sparkling wine or orange juice during the intermission – Backstage meeting with the artists – 1 program booklet – Assistance provided by a guide in Mozart costume – 1 CD by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra. Find out more here.
7.Vienna City Hall (Wiener Rathaus)
Now if you’ve googled this, you’ll probably think: yep, pretty impressive building. Vienna has a lot of them! But did you know about all of the parklands and gardens around it? We didn’t! In fact, we headed here -as you do- to check out another iconic building you see on a lot of lists, but, it certainly surpassed all our expectations- a nice surprise!
It’s just so goddam pretty! And yep, the building itself isn’t bad either 😉 Opposite it you’ll also see majestic buildings and around the area you’ll find a dotting of cute restaurants and cafes: the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat. It’s also not far from the museums I mentioned earlier, so it’s definitely an area you’ve got to branch into!
8. Karlskirche Church
Now this one has 100% got to make the list for us. It was on our route into the city centre so we kind of stumbled upon it by a stroke of chance. NOTE: Vienna is absolutely massive, so whether you stay for a few days or a few weeks, you would still struggle to see it all. There are so many incredible buildings, so tick off the big ones then take the time to explore what’s close to you. There will be so many hidden gems- get out and see what you can find! In front of the church there is a beautiful lake and pretty little gardens. They also have some food and drink stalls dotted around, which creates a really lovely atmosphere.
Visiting in the day, it completely took our breath away. But it was actually when it came to the night that it really come alive! On the Friday evening, we were heading back towards the city centre for a couple of drinks, but (totally by luck!) stumbled upon an event going on at Karlskirche Church square. There was street food, circus-style acts, beer, music, entertainment, more beer(!) and even fire breathing. Honestly, it was unbelievable!
It was such a great find, and so unexpected, actually becoming one of the highlights for us, so top tip: check out local events when visiting Vienna to see where’s worth heading to, but also get out and see what you can find yourself! We stumbled across other events around the city in the days too; particularly over at the MuseumsQuartier, it’s pretty exciting when you come across something different and new!
9. Do a Spot of Shopping
Okay so Vienna is pretty much Austria’s version of London, which means it would be pretty rude NOT TO do a spot of shopping whilst over there, right?! I for one certainly fell in love with the city, and found there were so many different places to do shopping! Charming boutiques, lively markets, huge high-street stores and let’s not forget ingenious shop displays- Vienna is massively underrated when it comes to top shopping destinations; particularly within Europe. With central locations and great transport links (with tubes, trams, taxis and buses)- you’ll find it easy to get around and grab everything you need and more! Just be careful of the price tags as it’s not the cheapest of cities, although you can find some good deals and offers if you have a good look around!
10. Local food and drink
Last one to finish off and it’s kind of a given for most places you visit, but whilst over in Vienna- you have got to try the local food and drink! You’ll be spoilt for choice with great cafes, restaurants and bars, so get out and try a few… cheers to that!
We visited here during out multi-country Europe adventure in September, starting in Bratislava, traveling through Vienna and Salzburg before finishing off over in Munich for Neuschwanstein Castle. Want to get out and explore more? Check out this Six Months Ultimate Saving Plan: Getting You Across The Globe.
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