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Best things to do in Vienna

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

Jun 22, 2021 • 5 min read

Best things to do in Vienna

©Jacek Dylag

Walking through the center of Vienna is a privilege and its palaces and monuments complete the charm of the Austrian capital. Few cities are as elegant as this one, but Vienna is not only facade: it is history, art, architecture and gastronomy. These are my 10 must-sees in the city.

1. Visit Schoenbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace Pavilion | ©Dimitry Anikin
Schönbrunn Palace Pavilion | ©Dimitry Anikin
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You have probably heard stories about Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Sissi. Many of them have as their main setting Schoenbrunn Palace, which is located somewhat far from the center of Vienna, but easily accessible from anywhere in the city by public transport.

In addition to guided tours of Schoenbrunn Palace:, Austria's most important palace also offers premium experiences for travelers such as dinners or concerts.

2. Tour the city by tourist bus

Tourist bus passing by the Natural History Museum | ©Marco Verch Professional Photographer
Tourist bus passing by the Natural History Museum | ©Marco Verch Professional Photographer

Vienna is a big city and although walking through its streets is a pleasure, if you have little time available and want to see all its corners avoiding walking, I recommend buying a pass for the tourist bus::. There are several companies operating in the city, and the two main ones are Big Bus and Vienna Sightseeing.

3. Discover Vienna's surroundings

Wachau Valley | ©Jorge Cancela
Wachau Valley | ©Jorge Cancela

The Austrian capital has a lot to offer the traveler, but not only because of its landmarks; also because of its geographical location. Vienna is close to wonderful landscapes and other European capitals that can be seen on a day trip.

Some of the main experiences: are the excursion to Melk Abbey and the Wachau Valley, the excursion to Salzburg, the excursion to Budapest, the excursion to Prague and the excursion to the Mauthausen concentration camp.

4. Take a guided tour of the city center

Walking through the center of Vienna | ©Leyy .
Walking through the center of Vienna | ©Leyy .
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There are all kinds of guided tours of Vienna:; from electric vehicle rides through the city to walking tours with a local guide. Regardless of your budget and type of travel, there will be a tour tailored to your preferences and taking a tour is a way to learn more about the city and its way of life.

This experience is the next best thing to touring Vienna with a historical friend who has lived there for years and is fascinated by all the secrets it holds.

5. Visit the Hofburg Imperial Palace

Hofburg Palace | ©Richardjo53
Hofburg Palace | ©Richardjo53
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Schönbrunn is not the only palace you will come across in Vienna. Right in the center is the Hofburg, the residence of most of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty. Today, the architectural ensemble of the palace is the most visited place in the city.

If you want to focus on the basics, I recommend buying the Hofburg Imperial Palace ticket which includes access to the imperial apartments and the Sissi museum; it is most worthwhile for those who want to get a general impression of the palace and are not interested in more specialized tours such as the silver museum or the riding school.

6. Get to know the Vienna State Opera from the inside

Interior of the Vienna Opera House | ©a.canvas.of.light
Interior of the Vienna Opera House | ©a.canvas.of.light

It is no secret that Vienna is known by many as the city of music. If you have walked, even briefly, its streets you will have already seen that the figure of Mozart rivals in popularity with that of Empress Sissi in all souvenir stores. This is why the Vienna State Opera is one of the most remarkable and most visited monuments of the Austrian capital.

If you want to attend an opera in Vienna, I recommend two things when buying tickets: that you look online for the cheapest offers (because you will find tickets from 5 to 150 euros) and that you book with enough anticipation since with one or two days in advance it will be very difficult to find a seat.

7. Marvel at the Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace | ©Andreas *****
Belvedere Palace | ©Andreas *****

The list of palaces to visit in Vienna is considerably long. The Belvedere Palace is considered a masterpiece of baroque and houses inside the Austrian National Gallery where you can see works such as The Kiss by Klimt. In addition to visiting the interior, a tour of its French gardens is a must.

Depending on the areas of the complex you want to visit you can buy one or the other tickets both at the ticket office and online. Pay attention to what is included in each ticket since many of the areas to visit are located in independent pavilions away from the palace.

8. Recreate at the Museum of Fine Arts

Museo de Bellas Artes | ©Larry Koester
Museo de Bellas Artes | ©Larry Koester

A must for art lovers. The Habsburgs managed to gather a collection of masterpieces of world fame and they are all collected in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, also known as the Museum of Fine Arts. Caravaggio, Dürer or Brueghel the Elder are some of the protagonists of this museum. If you are going to visit it, pay special attention to its collection of Egyptian Art.

A word of advice: try to buy your tickets online and in advance to avoid, as far as possible, the long queues at the box office. Children under 18 years of age will be admitted free of charge.

9. Taste the Austrian gastronomy

Naschmarkt market ©Anne and David
Naschmarkt market ©Anne and David
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What is it like to eat in Vienna? Austrian cuisine is characterized by tradition and international openness and is accessible to all budgets. In Vienna you can eat at the typical street sausage stands (one of the most popular varieties is the Käsekrainer which mixes pork and cheese) and also at the typical Viennese restaurants known as "Beisin" which will serve you traditional dishes.

My advice is to go by the recommendations of the locals, but if you want to play it safe you can order the Wiener Schnitzel (veal escalope or pork in batter) or the Tafelspitz (beef stew). If you are curious about Viennese food, don't hesitate to visit the Naschmarkt, where you can also access great tastings.

10. Spend a day at the Prater

Prater amusement park ©Jorge Franganillo
Prater amusement park ©Jorge Franganillo

In any other city, going to the amusement park is usually more of an activity reserved for locals than for those who are visiting the city. There are too many sights to see in a new place to see things you can find anywhere else. So why do I recommend spending a day at Vienna's amusement park? Because the Prater is not just any amusement park.

The Prater is the oldest amusement park in the world, the one with the largest hanging merry-go-round ever built and the largest discotheque in Austria. To all this, we must add its 250 attractions open from March to October. In short, if you like amusement parks, going to the Prater during your visit to the Austrian capital is not a waste of time.

Things to do in Vienna