There are so many things you could and should see when visiting Vienna in Austria. The city is overflowing with history and culture, not to forget to the mention the incredible shopping and eating opportunities.
From visiting the palace to the flea markets and opera, keep reading for the top things to do in Vienna.
Here are the top things to do in Vienna on your next trip
Schloss Schoenbrunn in Vienna, a highlight and an UNESCO World Heritage
The Schloss Schönbrunn Vienna was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996, and it is perfectly located a close distance from the city centre, which make it significantly easier to get to by public transportation: All you need to do when visiting Schloss Schönbrunn is take the underground U4 (green line) and get off at Schönbrunn.
If you plan on catching a tram, make sure to take 10, 58, and detrain at Schönbrunn. Otherwise, take the 10A bus and alight at Schönbrunn
Schönbrunn is the ultimate palace experience in Vienna because the Habsburg summer palace can be found here. It is comparable in grandeur to Versailles and is definitely a must-see in Vienna.
Its exquisite gardens and interactive zoo (the oldest in the world, built for Maria Theresa’s husband in 1752) alone are worth a lengthy visit, so make sure that you add that to your list of the top things to do in Vienna. The palace has also seen its fair share of excitement over the years, including a meeting between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khruschchev at the height of the Cold War.
The Palace Park offers a lot of attractions, such as the Privy Garden, a Maze and Labyrinth, and the top-of-the-hill Gloriette with its Panorama Terrace.
There are two possible tours available without a guide (though guides are available): the Imperial Tour showing 22 rooms and the Grand Tour showing 40 rooms. The price of admission includes an audio or written guide.
The shorter tour of Schönbrunn Palace takes you into the west wing of the palace including the apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth (Sisi), as well as the imposing state rooms in the central wing.
With the Grand Tour you can visit, in addition to those rooms included on the Imperial Tour, the 18th-century rooms from the time of Maria Theresa.
You can view all of the different tour options here, or see below:
Just make sure to keep in mind that no photos, videotaping, or backpacks are allowed inside.
The palace is wheelchair-accessible and is open all year round:
- Apr 1—Jun 30: 8:30AM–5PM
- Jul 1—Aug 31: 8:30AM–6PM
- Sep 31—Oct 31: 8:30AM–5PM
- Nov 1—Mar 31: 8:30AM–4:30PM
The Naschmarkt with its flea market of Vienna, Austria
Need used lederhosen? How about a doner kebab at the Vienna Naschmarkt or an Austrian war bond from the first World War? Trust us when we say that this is the place to go.
The Naschmarkt is primarily a flea market, though there are some stalls that sell new items such as handwoven wicker baskets or food. Give yourself time to explore this market and pick through the detritus of an imperial society – you never know what you’ll find hidden under that stack of terrible fuzzy sweaters. From the most unique couture gowns to Communist medals from all the former Eastern Bloc countries, tobacco pipes and broken antique pocket watches; the flea market at the Naschmarkt is worth at least a full afternoon of your time. You won’t want to rush this experience as there are many hidden gems to be uncovered.
Once you have explored the Naschmarkt in Vienna, make sure to walk all the way from the flea market end of the Naschmarkt through to the food stall end and you will arrive at the Secession building, that is located on the left close to the Karlsplatz metro stop.
Here is how to get there & the relevant opening hours:
- Linke Wienzeile
- U4 stop Kettenbrückengasse
- Flea market each Saturday 6AM-4PM, all over the year
The opera house of Vienna, known for Viennese arts
The Opera House of Vienna (Wiener Staatsoper) is probably the most-beloved symbol of Viennese arts, and one of the first buildings to be rebuilt during the post-war era.
It was built from 1861-1869 under the direction of architects Eduard van der Nüll and August von Siccardsburg for then-emperor Franz Josef I. The first performance there was Don Giovanni, an opera by Austrian native Mozart, on 25 May 1869.
Though now as well-loved as any member of the family, the architecture of the Opera was barely tolerated by the picky Viennese when it first opened. Van der Nüll did not take these criticisms of his work lightly and ended his life. A few weeks later, von Siccardsburg died of a heart attack. Doubly cursed, the Opera building succumbed to bombs less than 100 years later, during WWII. After ten years of Allied control after the end of the war, many cultural institutions reopened to celebrate the birth of the new Austrian state. This time the Opera opened with an adopted son of Vienna’s work: Beethoven’s Fidelio.
History of the Opera Hoise of Vienna aside, you will immediately notice that the lush curtains and overall elegance contribute to the overall atmosphere of the Opera (even the nosebleed seats, so steeply pitched and close to the ceiling a nosebleed becomes a distinct possibility).
For those not looking to spend too much, you will be happy to know that the inexpensive standing room tickets are made available for every performance and sold the day of the performance. Just keep in mind that the line forms about 2 hours prior to the performance.
Related tour: Tickets for Vienna State Opera Tour & Imperial Vienna
Republik Kugelmugel and the Prater with the Giant Ferris Wheel of Vienna
The Prater Park began its life, as so many European parks did, as a carriage-riding area for the nobility. It is still a popular place to spend a weekend afternoon with family, so make sure to add it to your list of things to do in Vienna.
An English engineering firm (Walter Basset) built the Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad) from 1896-97. Others of the same era, built for world exhibitions and other parks in Chicago, London, Paris, etc. have long since been torn down. The Riesenrad has become a well-known symbol of Vienna, featured in many movies (most famously The Third Man; also Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke) and picture postcards. It has 15 gondolas, some of which are incredibly ornate and large enough to host an extended family inside, offering a spectacular panorama of the city.
The weirdest attraction in the Prater, though, is the Kugelmugel. It is a spherical house (diameter 7.68m) that, after failing to get a planning permit, declared independence from Austria. Originally built elsewhere, it was forcibly carted off to the Prater by Austrian authorities and now sits uninhabited and fenced off with barbed wire.
Get a skip-the-line ticket to save time when arriving!
Here is how to get to the Prater in Vienna:
- U1, tram O, 5, 21: Praterstern
- S1-S3, S7, S15: Wien Nord
- Tel: 729 54 30
- May-Sep 9AM-midnight
The Imperial Treasury is a must on any tour of Vienna
Located in the Neue Hofburg, the Schatzkammer (also known as the Secular and Ecclesiastical Treasures) is the best part of the Hofburg and an absolute must-see on any tour of Vienna.
It contains the Habsburgs’ collection of jewels, crowns, and other valuables — perhaps the best on the Continent, that will both shock and delight you.
Second only to a tour of the Kunsthistorisches Museum itself, of which the Schatzkammer is officially a part, are the 20 rooms of priceless treasures that give a fairly accurate feel for Habsburg court life over the centuries opulence at its finest.
Entrance: €7 (as a combined ticket with the Museum of Fine Arts)
The Museum of Fine Arts, one of the world’s greatest art museums
One of the world’s greatest art museums is without a doubt the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna an all of its treasures and artifacts are in a palace that’s a work of art itself.
Like the Louvre, serious art fans may wish to devote more than a day to its treasures. The mother of all Austrian museums – there is no other word to describe the “Kunst” other than mind boggling – contains a world-class exhibit of the Habsburgs’ art collection, including Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Bosch, and Brueghel.
Its, at the very least, a full day’s worth of sightseeing, if you intend to go through it thoroughly and attempt to ponder the importance of each major work. The better approach here is to break up sections of the museum and visit them over a series of days, or if that’s not an option, pick one section and concentrate on it alone.
Beginning with another section of the museum, it’s possible to have a lunch or light dinner in the café and then continue through the Picture Gallery until closing time (especially on Thursdays, because the Picture Gallery is open until 9PM). The Museum has an excellent collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art. The coin & medals collection is also exhaustive in its scope. The Museum cafe is a bit pricey though, but good, and in a beautiful setting too. Like the Louvre, hand-held photography is permitted to help store and recall the numerous beautiful works of art at the Kunst.
- €10 (students €7.50 / map €0.50)
- Picture Gallery daily except Monday 10AM–6PM, Thursday 10AM–9PM,
- U2, U3: Volkstheater;
- tram D, 1, 2, 46, 49 bus 2A, 57A: Burgring Maria-Theresien-Platz (entrance),
- phone 525 24 0.
Hofburg Palace, Vienna, immense palace complex of the Habsburger
Hofburg Palace, this immense palace complex grew into a large, unwieldy series of buildings over the years and was the imperial residence of the Habsburg emperors until 1918.
What began as a medieval castle (whose chapel is the only original element of that building to survive) was expanded and redecorated as the Habsburgs’ power increased correspondingly. The Palace Stables and Amalia’s Wing were added in the sixteenth century. The Imperial Chancery Wing, Court Library, and Spanish Riding School was added in the eighteenth. In the last century, St Michael’s Wing was tacked on and around 1900 the New Palace was completed.
The contents of each separate building contain so many treasures that the time spent moving from one to another is like opening box after box of fabulous jewels – it’s difficult to know when to stop.
The Imperial Palace itself now houses the offices of the Austrian President, a convention center, and the Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzaner stallions.
The Palace also houses several museums which are open to the public, including the “Imperial Apartments, Sisi Museum and Imperial Silver Collection” (Kaiserappartements, Sisi Museum, Silberkammer) where you can visit 22 state rooms (open daily from 9AM-5PM; July-Aug: 9AM-5:30PM. The museums are wheelchair-accessible).
These are the residential and state apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph I. and Empress Elisabeth (popularly known as Sisi) and show 19th-century imperial life. The Imperial Silver Collection displays unique items of the glittering world of imperial dining.
You can purchase a single ticket for all three museums or purchase the “Sisi Ticket”, which entitles you to visit the Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg with Audio Guide (Imp. Apartments, Sisi Museum, Imp. Silver Collection), and Imperial Furniture Museum.
How to get there:
the nearest underground station is: U3 Herrengasse;
tram: Lines 1, 2, D, J, alight at Burgring;
bus: Lines 2A or 3A, alight at Hofburg,
The Central Cemetery, with its famous musicians
Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery), Mozart, Beethoven and other luminaries of the musical world (Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, Schönberg and others) are all buried, or at least memorialized, here.
Mozart’s body is in a mass grave (as required by the law at that time) in another cemetery – but his memorial is located here amongst the others.
The graves of the composers and other “Ehregräber” (graves of honor) are located in section 32C, near the main road leading from the church.
The cemetery has served as a giant park for weekend ramblings since its creation. There are also immense monuments shaped like 10ft tall iron canopy beds (within eye shot of the musicians memorial) and other unique shapes.
Though it does take some time to get out to the Zentralfriedhof (25 to 30 Minutes total from Stephansplatz), it is definitely worth the trip.
Getting there & opening hours:
- Simmeringer Hauptstrasse 234,
- Tel: 760 41.
- Nov-Feb 8AM-5PM: March, April, Sept, Oct 7AM-6PM,
- May-Aug 7AM-7PM.
- Take the U3 to Simmering and then take tram 71 (there’s even a Viennese expression “taking the #71 tram” as a euphemism for death) or 6 to get there. The tram stops are named after the cemetery gate next to it, “Zentralfriedhof 1. Tor” is where the old Jewish section is, “Zentralfriedhof 2. Tor” is the main gate.
When it comes to discovering all the things to do in Vienna, you will be happy to note that there is plenty on offer to keep you well and busy throughout your entire stay. And so, if you haven’t already booked your ticket to Vienna what are you waiting for?