30 Best Things to Do in Vienna, Austria
Vienna is famous for its lush green gardens, architectural marvels and historical significance which makes it one of the most notable and distinct cities of Europe. This is the same city where the whimsical Marie Antoinette lived and is the birthplace of actors Hedy Lamarr and Christoph Waltz and has played host to historical greats such as Mozart and Beethoven. Vienna has stayed frozen in time as it preserves its fascinating history while making a place for the changing landscape of cultural innovation. Here are 30 things to do while you’re in Vienna, Austria:
Feel Regal at the Hofburg Palace
The Hofburg palace is the perfect place for you to start your trip as it is the former seat of the Hasburgs, the rulers of Austria until the end of the First World War and has preserved Vienna’s imperial history very well. The oldest part of the palace, the royal chapel dates back to the 13th century and the Sisi museum holds 300 artifacts showcasing the Viennese aristocracy of the 19th century. The imperial apartments and the silver collection are the other two important parts of the complex and in total, there are 18 buildings and 2, 600 rooms in the building.
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too at Café Demel
The Demel café not only serves the most decadent and regal cakes in all of Vienna but is also legendary for being 230 years old. The most famous dishes served here include a coffee with orange liqueur called the Anna Demel coffee and the famous Demel cake which is a simple chocolate cake. The café serves other sweets too including Esterhazy cakes and a favorite of the royals, the candied violets. All the cakes and confectionaries are made in-house and you can watch the bakers at work from a glass window.
Live Your Fantasy at the Schonbrunn Palace
The Schonbrunn palace is only humble in regard to its name because the building complex houses 1,441 rooms which date back to the early 18th century. The most majestic rooms include Franz Joseph’s bedroom, the Walnut room, the room of Marie Antoinette, the great gallery and the hall of mirrors. In the outer area you can visit a greenhouse known as the palm house, Neptune’s fountain and the Tyrolean garden. The palace also has a zoo which houses Siberian Tigers, Pandas, Koalas and Penguins, among many other animals.
Get Psyched at the Sigmund Freud Museum
The Sigmund Freud museum was opened to the public in 1971 and was the permanent residence of the famous Psychoanalyst for 47 years till he fled to the United Kingdom to escape the Nazis. The museum houses Freud’s personal items, work papers, antique collection as well as 35,000 volumes of research which are its most valuable possession. The famous ‘couch’ where he must have conducted sessions with his patients and explained to them the Oedipus complex and the power of the unconscious.
Get Educated at the Austrian National Library
The national library of Austria was built in the 18th century and like every other building in Vienna, it is breathtaking at every nook and corner. The architecture includes hand painted walls, two baroque Venetian globes and statues. This used to be the former court library of the Hasburg rulers and the books in the collection date back to the 14th century. The current collection houses 2.5 million books which include classic literature, maps, papyri, prints and portraits.
Remember the Plague at the St. Charles Church
In the 18th century, a very deadly ‘black’ plague hit the city of Vienna and caused a number of deaths and after the plague had passed, the clergy of the city decided to build the St. Charles Church as a gesture of gratitude and remembrance. The church might be a reminder of a painful time in history but the architecture is dazzling considering the eclectic mix of Renaissance, Byzantine and Baroque styles. You will be mesmerized by the elegant structures of the dome, the twin columns and the main altar.
Quirky as They Come, the Hundertwasser House
The Hundertwasser house is the brain child of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Joseph Krawina. This building is best described as a cross between the weirdness of Tim Burton’s film sets and the uniqueness of an unwelcomed nightmare. The walls of the complex have an eclectic mix of mosaics and even though, a visitor isn’t allowed to enter the building it remains the most visited site of Vienna. There is a terrace restaurant as well as a small shopping complex opposite the building which includes shops, restaurants and a central bar.
Have a Laugh at the Museum of Art Fakes
The world of art has never made sense to most people yet it continues to fascinate us and twine on our curiosity. The museum of art fakes is a gallery which houses some of the most memorable and notable fake paintings copied from the works of Matisse, Rembrandt and Klimt. Instead of condemning these forgeries, the museum adds a bit of much needed humor in the art world by celebrating the works of forgers including the infamous Tom Keating.
Visit the Dead Royals at the Habsburg Imperial Crypt
Members of the royal family of Habsburg lived large and when they died, their funerals were a grand affair. The Habsburg imperial crypt is home to twelve emperors, eighteen empresses and 113 other deceased regal individuals who either left peacefully or took with them secrets no one will ever unearth. The heart room has preserved the hearts of 54 members of the royal family and the last person to be interred here is Archduke Otto who died recently in 2011.
Flutter Away at the Imperial Butterfly Park
The imperial butterfly park is home to innumerous varieties of colorful butterflies that flutter inside the massive greenhouse which includes lush green landscape inspired by the tropical rainforest and serene waterfalls. The magnificent building was opened in the year 1990 and its butterfly collection includes blue morphos, longwings, flame and owl butterflies, among many others. This is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beautiful little butterflies fluttering around you and the greenhouse also provides you with honey-coated artificial flowers which attract these vibrant creatures.
The Unique Architecture of the Wotruba Church
The Wotruba church also known as the church of the most holy trinity was built in the 1970s by sculptor and artist, Fritz Wotruba. The church’s interiors may not be unique but its outer walls are unlike anything you’ve ever seen especially in regards to a church. The architecture looks like a disheveled stack of bricks and has a rustic color of light brown which makes it stand out. Fritz Wotruba died before the building could be completed but his creative freedom transformed the world of churches forever.
Fight for Your Rights at the Justizcafe
The Justizcafe is situated on the roof of Vienna’s palace of Justice and it is generally meant for lawyers and judges taking a break from the court work and proceedings but it is also accessible to the general public. The café uses simple and high quality ingredients to make their dishes and many famous celebrities have visited this place including Prince Charles. The most spectacular aspect of this café is the mind blowing views it offers from its glass windows which only enhances the experience.
Consume Fresh Produce at the Naschmarkt
The Naschmarkt is the largest and most famous outdoor market of Vienna and dates back to the 16th century but it was only in the 20th century that it became a sprawling marketplace. There are 120 stalls which sell fresh produce including asparagus, zucchini, olives and strawberries. You can also get the best quality of sausages, fillets, meat, olives and cheese’s. If you have a sweet tooth, you can visit one of the many bakeries serving cakes and pastries. The best time to enjoy the market experience is during the spring and summer months.
Admire Modern Art at the Museumsquartier
The Museumsquartier is a group of new, modern and contemporary art museums and it is also referred to as the Museums quarter or district. The quarter contains a number of shops, café’s, bars and restaurants for you to choose from. The most notable museums include the Leopold museum which is famous for works by Schiele, Klimt, Gerstl and Moser as well as the museum of modern art that is covered with basalt lava and contains thousands of abstract and avant garde works. The area also has the Zoom Kindermuseum for children and the architecture center.
Cruise Around the Danube River
The mighty Danube River is as rustic as it is regal and to experience the striking views of the city from every angle, a visitor can opt for a cruise on the Danube River. This cruise will take you on an epic ride around the city where you will be able to see places such as the Uniqua tower, the Vienna ring tower, the Urania observatory, the Otto Wagner’s Schutzenhaus, the Zaha Hadid-house and Rossauer Baracks. You can choose from a variety of cruise tours according to your price range and area of interest.
Be Dazzled at the Belvedere Palace
The Belvedere palace is another gem in the crown of Austrian architecture and was built in 1718 for the crown prince Eugene of Savoy. The upper part of the palace called the Oberes Belvedere is home to the famous painting by Klimt known as The Kiss and the Unteres Belvedere is the lower part and has the beautifully furnished marble hall which is replete with striking sculptures. Like any worthy palace, the Belvedere has awe inspiring landscaped gardens coupled with lush green gardens, sculptures and fountains.
A Gothic Dreamland, St. Stephen's Cathedral
Stephansdom is also known as the St. Stephen’s cathedral and may at first strike you as the home of the Addams family owing to its Gothic architecture and use of dark colored tiles on the roof which makes it unique and different than other churches of Vienna. This cathedral is 700 years old and dates back to the 12th century and is well-known for its classic music concerts. The church has a total of 13 bells and gets credit for successfully surviving the Second World War. Many legendary people have had their funerals here including composers Mozart and Vivaldi.
Get Serenaded at the Vienna State Opera
The Vienna state opera is one of the most beautiful and significant opera houses in the world and you must seize any opportunity you get for attending a show there. The building has a rich history which began when it opened in the year 1869 and later, during World War II suffered major damage from American and Nazi atrocities. The opera house took off in the post war years under the guidance of Gustav Mahler and some of the original architecture including the grand staircase, the façade and the Schwind foyer still remain intact and preserved as a memorabilia of a painful past.
The Beginning of a New Era at the Secession
The Vienna Secession was built in the year 1897 by Joseph Mariah Olbrich who created the first permanent exhibition space for contemporary artists from all genres and at the same time, marking the end of the old traditionalist views of the previous generation. The Secession holds a large number of important and visually appealing works belonging to its famous members such as Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann. The building itself is considered revolutionary and innovative for the time period it belongs to and houses a number of sculptures, paintings, graphic and decorative artworks.
Visit the Political Landmark at Rathaus
The Rathaus is Vienna’s city hall and is designed in the neo-Gothic style by its architect and completed in the year 1883. The building has major political and cultural significance but its most noteworthy element is its main spire which is 102m high, the arched windows and the Bronze statues of Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss I. Inside the city hall, the Arkadenhof is Europe’s largest arcaded inner courtyard and the glorious festival hall. The other important areas of Rathaus include the Senate chamber, Coat of Arms hall, the Stone Halls and the Council Chamber which has a flower shaped chandelier with gold-leaf rosettes.
Honey, Let’s Visit Wald and Wiese
The Wald and Wiese collects the highest quality honey from 600 bee keepers and 5000 bee colonies that is entirely locally produced in various areas such as the Staatsoper, the Secession and the rooftop of the Rathaus. This is a boutique which uses this honey to make new and innovative products including honey and whiskey liqueur, grappa, beeswax candles, toothpaste, hand creams, royal jelly, mead and honey truffle which is only sold during the truffle season. If you’re obsessed with honey and have a sweet tooth, Wald and Wiese is your paradise.
Shop on a Budget at the Flohmarkt
This is undoubtedly the best flea market of Vienna and is situated opposite the Naschmarkt but has a more rustic and authentic vibe to it than its counterpart. The market is meant for those with a penchant for second hand and antique items as well as those who are travelling on a tight budget. There are a total of 400 stalls which sell various products including ancient electrical goods, books, records, clothes, postcards, ornaments and carpets, among many other items. Be aware that this place will be crowded with people and you must be ready with your best bargaining techniques.
Have a Picnic at Prater
The Prater is a famous landmark of Vienna and is the one of the largest parks in this city owing to the fact it contains beautiful woodlands of Poplar and chestnut trees as well as numerous playgrounds for children, a race track, a swimming pool and a golf course. The Prater is perfect to spend a lovely time with your loved ones in the outdoor but is made even better in the summer season when it hosts the Wurstelprater which is a fair that includes 250 attractions ranging from a human canon ride to ghost trains. The most significant element of Prater is the Ferris wheel known as the Riesenrad which was featured in the romantic movie, Before Sunrise.
Visit the Naturhistorisches Museum
The natural history museum of Vienna has an extensive and detailed display of natural history dating back to four billion years and it includes numerous fossils, minerals and dinosaur bones such as the Venus of Willendorf which is 25,000 years old. The 19th century building has a meteorite collection of 1,100 pieces and the best part of the museum is its ‘night in the museum’ experience which includes a flashlight tour where adults can enjoy a dinner at the roof terrace while the children watch a film at the planetarium.
Get in Touch With Royalty at Kaiserliche Schatzkammer
The Kaiserliche Schatzkammer holds the key to escaping your everyday mundane experience by taking you inside the world of the life of Vienna’s royals. The museum holds priceless and spectacular treasures including the devotional images, altars, diamond studded Turkish sabers’, a golden rose, a Colombian emerald and the grand imperial crown. The Sacred treasury contains a piece of the tablecloth from the last supper, a piece of the True cross and a thorn from Christ’s crown. This museum will leave you gasping for breath as you take in the sheer magnificence of the various displays.
Pay Your Respects at the Jewish Museum
Even though, it can often get mentally exhausting to visit numerous museums as a tourist but the Jewish museum is not only significant for being the world’s oldest museum for the Jews as it was founded in the year 1895 but has successfully honored the memory of the 50,000 Austrian Jews who were killed during the Second World War. It should be a must-visit on your list as it is important to remember the ones who were unjustly taken away from the world on grounds of racial discrimination and as a reminder of a dark past.
Quench Your Thirst at Nussberg
Vienna is often referred to as the wine-growing capital of the world and it all began many decades ago in traditional wine taverns known as the Heurigen where people would gather on long benches and enjoy a rustic meal with a perfect glass of wine. Nussberg is situated right outside of the city and serves authentic Austrian cuisine accompanied by Gemischter Satz which is a special Viennese wine. The view of the city offered by the location of this winery uplift the experience and is a great way to spend some time with your family and friends.
Solve a Crime at the Kriminal Museum
The Kriminal museum is only for those who can stomach the visual experience of murders and crimes otherwise, I highly doubt you will enjoy this unusual museum. The Kriminal museum showcases various artifacts pertaining to unjust killings and police investigations from the middle ages to the present day. A visitor may get a chill down their spine while looking at skulls of victims and perpetrators as well as murder weapons and images of crime scenes. As you can already tell, this museum is not for the faint hearted.
Become a Hipster at Supersense
Supersense is the work of an old-school hipster who had an immense love for analogue machines such as typewriters. The 19th century neo-Gothic mansion has a café which serves some of Viennese favorites such as cakes and coffee after which, you can visit this shop which houses a vinyl recording machine in an elevator and the world’s largest historic Polaroid camera. The surprises don’t end there, you can also visit the printing press which makes postcards and lastly, the scent lab where there are 7,000 airtight jars containing multiple scents.
Eat a Cheesecake at the Café Pruckel
The café Pruckel is considered to be one of the historic coffee houses of Vienna and was opened up 100 years ago. The interior is breathtaking with its high ceilings coupled with classy furniture from the 1950s. After a tiring day of roaming around the city, you can give your legs some rest and relax on their armchairs while sipping a cup of coffee and browsing through a newspaper. They are famous for their Viennese cakes, pastries and cheesecakes which are as delicious as they are sinful but in Vienna, satisfying your sweet tooth is a priority.
Vienna is one of those places which will satisfy your wanderlust and compel you to revisit this city as well as inspire you to fulfill your creative pursuits. The capital city of Austria has no potential of disappointing any tourist and provides for a wholesome, magical and sugary experience unlike any other you will have in your lifetime.