Vienna in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

Organize the best itinerary in the capital of Austria, one of the most elegant in the old continent.

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

9 min read

Vienna in 3 Days: tips, what to see, and much more

Vienna, Austria | ©Luca Sartoni

Vienna was the heart of the Great Austro-Hungarian Empire and its monuments remind us of this era of splendor. It is a fascinating, compact and easy-to-navigate metropolis, making it the ideal destination for a long weekend.

Day 1: The essentials of Austria's capital city

Belvedere Palace| ©Andreas
Belvedere Palace| ©Andreas

We start the first day with the essentials of the city. Stage number one takes us to the Landstraße district, an area halfway between the old town and the business district.

Stroll in the gardens of the Belvedere Palace

It was the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy and houses a large art collection. The jewel in the crown is Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss". This oil canvas is the artist's best known work, was painted during his "Golden Period" and is a tribute to love in its purest form.

The Belvedere Palace is surrounded by a large French-style garden. The work was commissioned to Dominique Girard, a hydraulic and landscape engineer who had worked in Versailles.

If you would like to delve deeper and learn more about the Palace from an art historian, you can book a private guided tour of the Belvedere Palace.

Book a private guided tour of the Belvedere Palace

Enter Vienna's eclectic jewel, Karlskirche

Walking for just over fifteen minutes along Prinz Eugen-Straße you will reach the next stop on the route: the Church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche). Its imposing central body is covered by a dome 72 meters high and preceded by two slender towers that pay homage to the Trajan column of Rome.

It was erected during a plague epidemic in honor of the archbishop of Milan who had fought against this plague two centuries earlier. In addition to masses it regularly hosts classical music concerts.

By the way, I recommend you buy your Vienna Flexi Pass or at least take a look at all it has to offer: free skip-the-line access to 40 tourist attractions, unlimited use of the tourist bus, boat trips on the Danube and much more.

Book your Vienna Flexi Pass

Visit the art collection of Prince Albert of Saxony

Habsburg residential palace| ©Diego Delso
Habsburg residential palace| ©Diego Delso

Housed in a former Habsburg residential palace, it houses paintings by artists such as Dürer, Klimt and Monet. The collection gathers an endless number of works of French impressionism, Russian avant-garde, German expressionism and other currents.

Among the highlights are Picasso's "Mediterranean Landscape" and Monet's "Water Lily Pond".

Booking a private guided tour of the Albertina Museum is the best way to get to know in depth this jewel of pictorial art.

Book a private guided tour of the Albertina Museum

Taste typical Viennese sausages

A few meters from the Albertina is a kiosk that is a must-visit stop in the city: Bitzinger Würstelstand. It is a family-run business that you can also find in the Prater, near the famous panoramic wheel.

The most popular choices are:

  • Bratwurst: spiced and fried sausages.

-Käsekrainer: a generous pork sausage stuffed with small pieces of cheese.

  • Ottakringer Wiener Original: a historic local beer.

Enter the Kaisergruft, the Capuchin Crypt

After lunch, head to the Imperial or Capuchin Crypt (Kaisergruft), the cemetery of the Habsburg dynasty that houses the tombs of 12 emperors and 19 empresses along with other royalty.

All the tombs are priceless pieces of art, although the most outstanding is the double sarcophagus of Maria Theresa and her husband, Emperor Franz I, made by Balthasar Ferdinand Molls.

The Kaisergruft is open daily from 10:00 to 18:00 and the last entrance is at 17:30. The entrance fee is 8 €.

Book a guided tour of Vienna

Walk to Stephansplatz

St. Stephen's Cathedral| ©Bwag
St. Stephen's Cathedral| ©Bwag

You are at "kilometer zero" of the Austrian capital and at the foot of a majestic church: St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom). It is the most important Gothic building in the city and a true symbol of the city along with the Prater wheel and Schönbrunn Palace. By the way, if you feel like taking a trip to the past and enter one of the most important palaces in Europe, I recommend you to book a guided tour of Schoenbrunn Palace. It will leave you speechless!

Inside you will see the marble sarcophagus of Emperor Frederick III, the catacombs and an extensive collection of relics. If you want to go shopping you can opt for a walk in Kärntnerstrasse, one of the main shopping streets of Vienna.

Book a guided tour of Schönbrunn Palace

Wiener Riesenrad and Kugelmugel

Take the red metro line at Stephansplatz and get off at the Praterstern stop. Arriving on the surface you will see the silhouette of the Vienna Ferris Wheel (Wiener Riesenrad), a gigantic panoramic wheel built to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph I located in the Prater, the most famous park in the city.

In this same green area is a unique attraction: the Independent Republic of Kugelmugel. It is a wooden sphere that housed the studio of the artist Edwin Lipburger. The man entered into a dispute with the Austrian government, refused to pay taxes and declared the autonomy of his circular residence (Antifaschismusplatz 2).

Book a ticket for the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel

Day 2: The nearby capital

Bratislava Castle| ©Jorge Franganillo
Bratislava Castle| ©Jorge Franganillo

For the second day I suggest you leave Vienna for an excursion to Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia is less than 60 km from Vienna and is very easy to reach by train, bus and boat, although my recommendation is to book an excursion to Bratislava from Vienna so that you can forget about any logistics and just focus on enjoying yourself.

What to see and do in the center of Bratislava

Bratislava is a peaceful city with a rich history. It does not have the same fame as Vienna or Prague, yet it is gaining more and more popularity.

Book a Bratislava excursion from Vienna and you will arrive by catamaran and then travel to the old town, a beautifully preserved area around the old town hall.

Here are the must-see attractions of the capital:

  • Hlavne Namestie, the main square. It is surrounded by sights such as the Kutscherfeldov Palace, the Old Town Hall and the King Maximilian Fountain. A few meters away is one of the best cocktail bars in the city: Spin. In December it hosts a picturesque Christmas market.
  • St. Martin's Cathedral, the church that hosted the coronation ceremonies of the Hungarian sovereigns. If you look up, at the top of the bell tower you will see a golden royal crown.
  • Bratislava Castle, the fortress that resisted the Tatar raids. It is very elegant and has four wings and a tower at each corner. It houses the Museum of History that gathers impressive works of goldsmith and silverware.
  • St. Michael's Gate, the only survivor of the 14th century fortification system. The dome and the figure of the saint fighting the dragon were added in the 18th century.
  • Blue Church, an Art Nouveau jewel dedicated to the Empress of Austria, St. Elisabeth, who was born in Bratislava. On clear days, its silhouette blends with the sky.

Book a tour to Bratislava from Vienna

Eat in a traditional restaurant

bryndzové halušky| ©Matus Kacmar
bryndzové halušky| ©Matus Kacmar

Booking a tour to Bratislava with lunch is a super convenient option, because it includes two traditional dishes of Slovak gastronomy and you won't have to worry about choosing a restaurant. You might try some of the typical Slovak dishes, such as:

  • Bryndzové halušky, dumplings made with grated raw potatoes, egg and flour.
  • Bryndza, a very tasty sheep's cheese.
  • Soups, such as garlic soup, served in a bread bowl is a classic.
  • Game dishes.
  • Freshwater fish, especially trout, carp and pike.

If you haven't chosen this option, don't worry, because Bratislava's Old Town has no shortage of dining options:

  • Slovak Pub is a city institution, the ingredients come from their own organic farm as well as bread and pastries that are baked daily by local farmers (Obchodná 62).
  • At Meštiansky Pivovar I recommend you try the spicy pork ribs and duck leg confit with red cabbage.

Book a tour to Bratislava with lunch

Enjoy the best panorama

Before returning to Vienna I recommend you to climb the Slavín, the monument commemorating the Soviet soldiers who died in World War II. It stands on a hill near the castle and offers a beautiful view of the whole city.

The walk is very pleasant as it runs in an upscale neighborhood, between mansions and embassies. The column measures almost 40 meters and at its top there is a sculpture depicting a soldier holding a flag.

Book your tour to Bratislava with lunch and beer tasting

Day 3: Classic Vienna

Inside the Votivkirche| ©Juan C
Inside the Votivkirche| ©Juan C

After a day in Bratislava it is time to return to Vienna. There is much more to see and the route on the third day will not disappoint.

Make your way to the old Stock Exchange

The old Stock Exchange building was opened in 1771 in the name of Empress Maria Theresa and was operational until 1860, when it was moved to the Palais Ferstel.

This neoclassical building is the perfect place to start the tour: it is located in the heart of Vienna and is surrounded by numerous cafes with excellent breakfast.

Buy the Vienna City Card

Marvel at Vienna's second-highest church

The Votivkirche is a temple of rare beauty. This imposing neo-Gothic building was completed in 1879 and commemorates the failed assassination attempt on Emperor Franz Joseph. From the outside, the two twin towers and the three portals with archivolts that make up the entrances stand out.

You can visit it from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 18:00. On Sundays the opening hours are shorter: from 13:00 to 18:00 because masses are celebrated in the morning.

It also houses a museum whose flagship is the Antwerp Passion Altar, a 15th century Gothic tabernacle depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ. Restoration in the 1960s has restored it to its former splendor.

Book a seat on Vienna's Big Bus

Step into the most prestigious classical riding school

The Spanish Riding School with its famous Lipizzaner horses is another must-see in the Austrian capital. Horse enthusiasts flock here to admire the ballet of the white stallions. Riders and animals train every day and the constancy provides an incredible harmony.

Please note that some jumps (e.g. Courbette, Levade and Capriole) are not performed every day to avoid overworking the horses. It is well worth attending a training session at the riding school and seeing these extraordinary animals.

After the show, you can take a break at the riding school bar.

Attend atraining session of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

Discover the charms of the Imperial Palace

Hofburg Imperial Palace| ©Jorge Láscar
Hofburg Imperial Palace| ©Jorge Láscar

Vienna's Hofburg or Imperial Palace has a long history behind it. The building was first mentioned in an official document in 1279 and hosted the rulers of Austria until World War II. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire it has maintained its political vocation, becoming the official residence and workplace of the country's president.

It is so large that there is space for a museum dedicated to Princess Sisi, which aims to show the true personality of the empress, who is often misunderstood.

Book your Vienna Pass

Stroll through the Stadtpark

It was Vienna's first public park and is best known for the Johann Strauss memorial. It extends over an area of 65,000 square meters and is a true oasis of peace.

The pond and its ducks make for a very romantic scene. If you are traveling with children, you will be pleased to know that there is a large playground with swings, slides, skate park and soccer field.

Book a seat on the Vienna sightseeing bus

End your trip with a classical music concert

The tour on the third and final day concludes at Annakirche, the church dedicated to St. Anne.

Although its exterior appearance is rather nondescript, the most beautiful thing is hidden behind its walls: it is a Baroque jewel that enjoys exceptional acoustics, so a good way to enjoy this setting is to book a classical music concert at the Church of St. Anne.

You will listen to the melodies of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert while admiring the frescoes on the vault and the elegant statues that decorate the temple. The finishing touch to your stay in the city.

Book a classical music concert

Is a three-day excursion in Vienna worthwhile?

Vienna Rooftop| ©Alexander Annenkov
Vienna Rooftop| ©Alexander Annenkov

Of course it is! It was one of the most important cities in Europe and the capital of a great empire. It has countless monuments and three days is the minimum to explore it thoroughly.

Keep in mind that our route is designed for a long weekend but there would be no shortage of plans in case you choose to stay four or five days.

Book your Vienna Explorer Pass