Vienna is a travel destination packed with cultural and historic attractions, and breathtaking baroque architecture.
The captivating capital of Austria attracts around seven million visitors a year and is the gateway between Western and Eastern Europe. Chances are if you are travelling through Eastern Europe, you will end up in Vienna at some stage. Plan to stay at least three or four nights. There’s plenty to keep you occupied!
Vienna’s old city centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in 2001. The Ringstrasse — the ring of wide boulevards that surround the old centre — is one of the city’s greatest assets. It’s lined with museums, magnificent buildings, parks and gardens. The Ringstrasse replaced the old city wall, which was demolished in the mid-1800s by order of Emperor Franz Josef l. That decision is largely what led to the open and airy city residents and visitors enjoy today.
This Vienna city guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.
Watch our video of ten great things to do on a Danube River Cruise:
Cruising the great rivers of Europe is what holiday dreams are made of. Along the way you’ll see grand hilltop castles and chateaus, and visit medieval towns and atmospheric old-world cities. And unlike doing a coach tour of Europe, the big attraction of a river cruise is that you only have to unpack once.
Vienna for history lovers
There’s no shortage of ways to step back in time in Vienna.
The imposing Hofburg (imperial buildings of state) is a historical must-see. This was the seat of power of the mighty Hapsburg dynasty that ruled Austria for six centuries. There are three areas of the Hofburg that are open to the public, but if you have limited time, don’t miss the Kaiserappartements — the former home of Emperor Franz Josef l.
Franz Josef ruled Austria from the mid 1800s until his death in 1916 during World War l, and was the longest-serving of the Hapsburg emperors. The apartments — which Franz Josef shared with his wife Elizabeth (known as Sisi) and their family — are largely undisturbed and provide a fascinating insight into imperial life.
The Hapburgs didn’t travel far for their summer holidays — just seven kilometres to the rococo vision that is Schönbrunn Palace on the outskirts of the city. The palace started life as a humble hunting lodge in the 16th century, and ended up anything but humble!
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The Albertina museum is home to an incredible collection of artworks by the great masters, including Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Cezanne.
Good things do come in small packages. The Albertina’s most famous piece is Albrecht Durer’s small unassuming watercolour Young Hare — painted in 1502.
You might recall seeing or hearing about the Vienna Art and Design exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne a few years ago. It focused on the Vienna Secession artistic movement led by Gustav Klimt at the end of the 19th century. You can visit the Secession building in Vienna and see its famous Beethoven Frieze.
No visit to Vienna would be complete without attending a Mozart recital. Mozart was born in Salzburg but spent much of his life in Vienna composing around six hundred musical works. Purchase a ticket to the chamber concert of your choice in the main square around St Stephen’s Cathedral. The Vienna Residence Orchestra is an excellent option and performs at the wonderful Palais Auersperg.
Great places to eat in Vienna
The kaffeehauses (coffee houses) of Vienna are an absolute institution, and an important part of Viennese history.
Traditionally a breeding ground for innovation and social change, the who’s who of Viennese society would gather at coffee houses across the city in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to debate the issues of the day.
Today the coffee hours are a must-visit for caffeine-crazy Aussies, but be warned, the Viennese take their coffee drinking very seriously. There are no takeaways. You sit, relax and enjoy every sip of your coffee in the undoubtedly opulent surrounds. Cafe Sacher in the old city centre is an excellent option. While you’re there, try a slice of their famous Sacher Torte.
Top rated Vestibül restaurant in the foyer of the gorgeously historical Burgtheatre (or Burg as it’s known to locals) is a must for connoisseurs of fine food. The Burg is located right on the Ringstrasse. Vestibül features a fine dining menu with an emphasis on local produce and a fusion of Austrian and French styles. Try their signature dish of the unlikely combination of lobster and cabbage in paprika sauce.
You can’t come all the way to Austria without trying a traditional Wiener Schnitzel: paper-thin veal, deep-fried and served with fresh lemon. The place to do it is the Griechenbeisl — a traditional Viennese restaurant established in the late 1400s (parts of the building date back to the 1300s!). Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert all dined here.
Where to shop in Vienna
As you would expect, the shopping in Vienna is fabulous.
The pedestrian Kohlmarkt is the place to head for big name brands and luxury goods. It hosts a ‘who’s who’ of top jewellers, including Wagner, Tiffany and Co, and Cartier. The holiday for your credit card is definitely over!
Watch our guide for Sky News Business Class to top places to eat, stay and shop in Vienna:
Hotel Sacher Vienna is one of the city’s finest accommodation options; in fact, it’s one of Europe’s top luxury hotels. Famous guests have included John F Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II. The hotel is located in the old centre and features classic styling, sumptuous furnishings, and exquisite attention to detail. The executive suites offer up to 70 square metres of internal space.
The Guesthouse Vienna
For something a little more boutique, you can’t go wrong at The Guesthouse Vienna. Also located in the centre of the old city, it has just 39 rooms and a contemporary feel.
British designer Sir Terence Conran informed the hotel’s design choices. Every room comes complete with a stocked wine fridge (complimentary, apart from the spirits) and Molton Brown toiletries. There are only four room types and they’re all amazing.
Top Oz Tours offers a great range of Austria day tours, guided experiences, and attraction tickets and passes. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book through us, and you’ll have access to the widest choice of activities and most competitive prices.
Do you have any tips to add to our Vienna travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.