As Austria’s capital and largest city, Vienna is a no-brainer to visit while in central Europe. The former seat of the powerful Habsburg Empire is today a destination synonymous with elegance and cultural charm. It’s home of the beloved Wienerschnitzel (Wien actually means Vienna in German), Viennese coffee, and world-renowned opera houses. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or making a repeat trip, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in Vienna.
The Hofburg is one of the largest palace complexes in the world and home to Austria’s former sovereigns. It started as a fortified medieval castle which grew and grew in size by each emperor, eventually becoming the seat of the powerful Habsburg Empire. Today, the Hoffburg’s many buildings are used by Austria’s current government, as well as museums that tourists can enter. This allows central Vienna’s largest buildings to have a cohesively beautiful look few other cities do.
The most popular museums in the Hofburg include the Sisi Museum (about the popular and mysterious Austrian queen), the Imperial Apartments, and the Silver Collection. Combined entry into all three will set you back €15, and you can purchase tickets online in advance at the official site.
Schönbrunn Palace & Gardens
As someone who is very much “over” touring European palaces, I did enjoy my visit to Schönbrunn. The tour inside the actual palace rooms was short and sweet, allowing ample time to explore the huge gardens, perhaps second only to the gardens of Versailles in Paris, in my opinion. Schönbrunn is located outside of central Vienna, so you’ll need to take either U4 and get off at Schönbrunn on the U-Bahn (metro) or take bus 10A and get off at Schloss Schönbrunn. The main Palace Park gardens are free to enter, and the Imperial Tour ticket will set you back €18. You can purchase in advance online and also view other ticket options on the official site.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
This gothic-style church and it’s unique, zig-zag patterned roof is practically a symbol of Vienna itself. Entry into the church is free, but you can learn more about the daily public tours and special access areas at the church’s official site.
Related reading: Best Things to Do and See in Salzburg, Austria (easy day trip from Vienna)
The Belvedere is a complex of two Baroque-style palaces-turned-museums and several gardens. Entry into Upper Belvedere is 16, entry into Belvedere 21 is 9, and you can buy tickets in advance online at the official site. If you’re not very into art, Belvedere Palace definitely still warrants a visit for it’s lovely gardens and fountains alone.
Pictures don’t do the size of this beautiful church justice. While I couldn’t enter during my own visit due to a wedding at the church, you can enter for €8 and ride the elevator up to the cupola. From up there, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views and get up close with the frescos on the ceiling. You can double-check opening times at the official site before your visit.
Spanish Riding School
Vienna’s Spanish Riding School is the oldest of its kind. Here, a particular breed of horse as well as the horse riders are carefully trained according to the school’s traditions, which date back over 450 years. There are several ways to experience the Spanish Riding school, from a performance starting at €53, to trainings starting at €16. View the full ticket options and prices at the official site.
Vienna State Opera House
Is there anything more synonymous with Vienna than the opera? There are three opera houses in Vienna, but the one revered worldwide is the Vienna State Opera. Here, the likes of Mozart and Richard Wagner performed for the elite. But these days, you don’t have to be wealthy or powerful to enjoy! Check out what performances will be on during your visit at the official site schedule.
Maria-Theresien-Platz is a large, public square in between Vienna’s Ringstraße and Museumsquartier. Here, you’ll find beautiful landscaping, sculptures, and fountains, as well as the Art History (Kunsthistorisches) Museum and Natural History (Naturhistorisches) Museum. And across the street, at the Museumsquartier, you’ll find…you guessed it; even more museums.
Austrian Parliament Building
This gorgeous building behind an impressive water fountain is where Austria’s two houses of parliament meet. The Parliament offers free guided tours of the building and of the Hofburg. You can learn how to book your free ticket at its official guided tours page.
Vienna’s City Hall building definitely stands out. You can just observe from outside (where a dirt bike tournament took place during my own visit!), or you can get a free tour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1:00pm.
This quirky and colorful apartment building in Vienna has become a popular image worldwide. Across from the Hundertwasserhaus is Hundertwasser Village, which is open to visitors, unlike the Hundertwasserhaus itself. Walking through this cute little area feels almost like stepping into a cartoon world!
Peterskirche is similar in style to Karlskirche. The church looks simple and clean from the exterior, but the inside is extremely intricate and colorfully decorated. Entry into the church is free. You can double-check opening times at the official site.
Prater Park & Giant Ferris Wheel
Prater Amusement Park and its giant ferris wheel have become a famous symbol for Vienna. The amusement park runs from mid-March to October, except for the ferris wheel, which is available for a spin year round. Each ride is between €1 and €5, so you can walk around the actual park itself for free.
So, What Do You Think?
Have you been to Vienna? Is it on your list? Let me know in the comments below.