At glance, Vienna is stunningly beautiful. But underneath the beauty lies a strong tradition in art and culture that still flows deeply in the veins of the city. The Austrian capital city is full of museums, palaces, architecture, and galleries. Culture and art lovers are sure to love the cultural attractions in Vienna and the Viennese attention to detail. Sprinkle in a few delicacies and some spectacular shopping, and you've got an ultimate European destination. So, now that I've convinced you that Vienna should be your next stop let's discuss what to do in Vienna with one week's vacation!
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Saving Money in Vienna
During our recent trip to Vienna, we made the most out of our time in the city by using the Vienna Pass to explore major attractions. (Read my full Vienna Pass review here!) The pass is a great way to save on admission to popular tourist attractions in Vienna; plus, it comes with access to the Hop-on/Hop-off bus, which is great for exploring!
Regardless of whether you purchase a Vienna Pass or not, the following list of things to see in Vienna should get you started when planning your ultimate vacation to Vienna. But, word to the wise, you'll want to buy a Vienna City Card if you plan to use the public transportation system! It's the best way to save money on multiple trips on the bus or Ubahn system.
Where to Stay in Vienna
If you're visiting Vienna to experience all the fantastic museums, you'll likely want to stay somewhere within walking distance to the top attractions in Vienna or the Ubahn, the subway system in Vienna. But if you're looking for a spot that'll offer you a taste of local life, plus access to great shopping and museums, then I highly suggest finding a place in Neubau. Look for a small apartment to rent via AirBnB or HomeAway to save money rather than spending a small fortune at any of the local hotels.
Neubau is known as the trendy hipster area of the city. There's plenty of great shopping, divine restaurants, and cool bars all within walking distance. It felt very safe, even at night. Plus, there seemed to be plenty of Ubahn stops in the area, perfect for sightseeing! Here are some of my pics for short-term apartment rentals at affordable prices!
What to Do in Vienna: Arrive
Arrive at the Vienna International Airport with bags in hand and sleep in your eyes. Take the time to orient yourself to the city by taking a taxi to your Airbnb. Hopefully, you'll pass through the Inner Stadt, or inner city, so you can see all the gorgeous architecture. While enjoying your taxi ride, pay attention. You might see areas you want to visit once you've gotten over your jetlag.
After checking into your home for the next week, spend a few minutes organizing the rest of your day based on how tired you are. If you're a good flyer, you might be full of energy and ready to go out and about in the city center. But, if jetlag kicks your butt, plan to explore the area around your Airbnb. There's nothing worse than getting lost in a city and not having the energy to find your way home.
Your first afternoon in Vienna should be spent on the streets, weather permitting. Wander the neighborhoods in search of shops, cafes, and restaurants. If you're unsure where to go, head to the Inner Stadt, or city center, in search of beautiful old buildings, boutiques, and cafes.
Find your way to the magnificent gardens in the Volksgarten. There are plenty of lovely spots in the garden where you can stop for photo ops, including the Imperial Butterfly House. Take it easy while taking in the beauty and magnificence that is Vienna. Remember, you've got a whole week to explore!
While in the area, opt for dinner at Bar-Restaurant Kanzleramt, a quiet little cafe close to all the major attractions in the city center. Opt for the HUGE pretzel and a massive beer to kick off your Vienna adventure!
visit Vienna in style
What to Do in Vienna: Day 1
Now that you've gotten some rest, you're ready to make the most of your Vienna vacation. You'll start your Vienna vacation in the heart of Imperial Vienna at the Hofburg Palace. Once the home to the illustrious Habsburgs, Hofburg Palace is now home to a series of museums (and some political buildings) dedicated to Imperial Vienna. The Imperial Palace complex was built in the 13th century.
The Habsburgs ruled from Hofburg Palace for centuries until the collapse of the Austrian monarchy in 1918. History lovers will love learning about Vienna's Grand Dame, Sisi. Crowned Queen in 1867, Sisi would become one of the most beloved monarchs in European history. The Sisi Museum features a unique collection of her belongings, including fashionable costumes, glittering jewels, and personal treasures. Seriously though, who would have thought someone's waist could be that small!
Next, you'll head to the Imperial Apartments for an even closer look at Viennese Imperial life. Getting a glimpse of the lavish day-to-day life of Viennese royalty will help put perspective on the rest of the incredible attractions in Vienna that you'll see over the next few days. Stroll through the Imperial Apartment, paying particular attention to the ornate carvings, gilded furnishings, and elaborate tapestries. Man, it must have been good to be Royal. While you're there, enjoy the display of royal dinnerware in the Silver Depot.
For lunch, walk a few blocks to Cafe Central. There you'll enjoy a choice selection of Viennese delicacies, including some of the most exquisite cakes and pastries in the world. Opened in the 19th century, this historic coffee house, or cafe, is an excellent example of what makes Vienna so special.
Find your way back to the Spanish Riding School, where you'll see a show of horsemanship like no other. If you're not into watching animals in captivity, walk a little further to the Imperial Treasury. It's the perfect place to see the most beautiful treasures of the Habsburg Empire and finish your day-in-the-life of a Habsburg!
Find a quiet spot to enjoy a drink and dinner near the city center. Places like Glacis Beisl are great for enjoying fresh, local specialties with a crisp, clean beer from Ottakringer, the local brewhouse. Plus, you can enjoy outdoor dining at Glacis Beisl, too! Next, head back toward your Airbnb for an early evening.
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What to Do in Vienna: Day 2
Start your morning with a strong cup of coffee at any of the local coffee houses near your Airbnb. You'll need it to beat the jetlag that's starting to set in! Today, you'll find out more about the Austrian empire at several of the museums.
First up is the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, home of the art collection of the Habsburg empire. To say that this museum is lavish is the understatement of the century. Your neck will hurt after a while from all the craning to see the beautiful ceilings! The 19th-century building's interiors will take your breath away more than the art it holds.
When you're done there, head to Café Sperl or Café Museum for lunch. While not as well-known as some of the other coffee shops in Vienna, these spots are perfect for a quick no-fuss lunch!
Next, walk to the nearby Albertina Museum. Though not as ornate, the Albertina will wow you with treasures from far and wide. Now home to an extensive collection of fine art, the Albertina was once the Habsburgs' guest home. Don't miss the spectacular staterooms, which feature original furnishings worth drooling over.
After spending so much time indoors, it's time to get some fresh air! Walk from the Albertina to St. Stephen's Cathedral in the historic Stephansplatz district. The medieval Catholic church draws thousands of visitors per year. The ornately tiled roof and gothic spires loom large, casting shadows over the surrounding square.
Be sure to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to catch the right light. Shooting during the harsh light of the midday sun will wash out the shot and diminish the colors of the tiles! If you have time to kill, check out the view from the South Tower or explore the catacombs.
Finish your day at any of the local biesels in Stephansplatz. Figlmuller Wollzeile gets high marks for the authentic schnitzel and inviting decor! Wash it all down with a few beers and then find your way back to the Stephansplatz Ubahn stop for a quick ride home.
What to Do in Vienna: Day 3
You've spent lots of time indoors over the past two days. It's time to get out and about, taking in the sights of the historic city of Vienna. Today, you'll experience the city in a new way: on a tram. Yep, today you're riding the Ringstrasse Tram. Experience one of Vienna's most famous boulevards via the bright yellow Ring Tram, available for under 10 euro per person. Ride the full ring road in 35 minutes or hop off and on to explore different areas of the city.
Pass some of the most popular (and most ornate) buildings in the city from the comfort of the tram, which features an educational multi-media system (available in multiple languages). You can plan a free ring road tour using the local transportation system, but why not leave it to the pros! The first tram leaves Schwedenplatz at 10 am and circles every 30 minutes until 5:30 pm.
Once you've had your fill of the ring road, take the Ubahn from Schwedenplatz to Museumsquartier. There you'll find the perfect place to discuss your experience with your travel companions over an unbelievably good (and affordable) lunch at Cafe Halle. The bright, cheerful cafe will be buzzing with activity, as folks from the nearby museums look for lunch. But the wait (if there is one) is worth it!
When you're done, walk across the courtyard to the Leopold Museum. This modern museum is one of the crown jewels in the list of Vienna attractions. It features only Viennese contemporary art and is home to the world's most extensive collection of paintings by Vienna's own Egon Schiele. Plan to spend an hour or two exploring his canvases, where it's easy to get lost in the fantasy of his art.
Hang around in the Museumquartier courtyard for a while relaxing and people watching. Then meander back toward your Airbnb on your way to dinner at Gaststatte Schilling. This old-school beisl is what your Viennese dreams are made of! On the way, stop by Siebensternbrau, a local brewery, and tasting room. Relax tonight in preparation for a big day tomorrow!
visit Vienna in style
What to Do in Vienna: Day 4
Get up early to catch the train after a quick breakfast at Tullnerfelder, a local bakery in Neubau. From there, you can quickly walk to the nearby Ubahn stop at Burggasse-Stadthalle and set off palace hunting!
You'll spend most of the day at the summer home of the Habsburgs, also known as Schloss Schonbrunn. Built in the 1800s, the Baroque palace has over 1,400 rooms and acres of gardens, greenhouses, labyrinths, and even a zoo. The palace is now one of the most famous attractions in Vienna. And it offers plenty to do and see, including a children's museum and zoo. The best part is that your Vienna Pass gets you access to all the attractions and a free ride to/from the palace! And don't worry You'll find cafes on site, so don't stress over lunch, either.
Leave plenty of time to get back to the city (approx 40-60 minutes) via the Ubahn or bus. You've got a show to catch! You've bought tickets to see the famous Vienna Philharmonic at a classical music venue the Konzerthaus or Musikverein. Or maybe you've got tickets to an operatic performance at Staatsoper. Either way, you'll need plenty of time to dress to impress for your show!
If you're up for it after the show, grab a quick dinner at Cafe Mozart (open until 12 am). The famous cafe has served local musicians, poets, and men and women of leisure since 1929. It's the perfect way to end a day full of palaces and princely music!
What to Do in Vienna: Day 5
Sleep in a little, but don't be late for your date at Naschmarkt. You've booked a guided tour of the world-class food market. Taste all the flavors of the world for breakfast! Now, you don't have to opt for the guide, but why not! You're on vacation!
Next up, head south to Schloss Belvedere for on last art exhibit. You've saved the best for last, as The Belvedere is home to some of the most famous artworks in Vienna, including Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. But the art isn't the only attraction at this location. The historic palace was once the home of Prince Eugene of Savoy, a member of Louis XIV's royal court.
The Baroque complex consists of two separate palaces, as well as sprawling gardens. The views of Vienna from the upper levels of the main palace are spectacular, and the photo ops from the lower grounds are second to none.
When you're finished exploring the grounds of the beautiful Belvedere, walk a few blocks to Cafe Goldegg for a late lunch. The classic Viennese-style cafe is slightly less stuffy than other cafes you've visited, but the food and drink are just as good.
Now head back toward the Inner Stadt (city center) via the Ubahn (U1) or bus (S1) to the Prater. Whiz through the amusement park toward the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel. Watch the sunset over Vienna from the famous ferris wheel, featured in one of my favorite film noir movies: The Third Man.
the view from the top
Now it's time for dinner at Alt Wiener Gastwirtschaft. The classic restaurant offers traditional Viennese fare in a cozy atmosphere perfect for intimate dinners. If you're up for it, how about a nightcap at nearby Cafe Bygos? This cute little dive bar is the ideal place to meet locals.
a local made me drink that!
What to Do in Vienna: Day 6
Rise and shine for an early breakfast at Pure Living Bakery, the cutest little bakery/cafe you've ever seen. The California vibes are strong in this Viennese cafe, making it a quality spot for photo ops and fruit tarts! While enjoying your coffee and pastries, create your plan of attack for the rest of the day.
Today, my friend, is the day you'll shop till you drop in the Neubau district! Whether you're in search of vintage finds or looking for department store deals, the Neubau District has what you're looking for. If it's vintage treasures you seek, take a sneak peek at this vintage shopping map I made for Vienna. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to vintage hunt during my Vienna trip, which is why I scheduled a full day of it for you!
Looking for boutique shops and artisan gifts? Don't miss the area between Westbahnstrasse, Neubaugasse, and Kirchengasse Blvds in the interior of Neubau. It's filled with fun little boutiques you'll undoubtedly love. And if department stores are your thing, head down to Mariahilfer Strasse. The shopping along this boulevard is enough to impress just about any shopper.
A good shopper knows to pick up a bite to eat somewhere along the way. Luckily, there are plenty of quick dining options in this area for you get the sustenance you need to keep going. After shopping, relax over drinks at Tredici e Mezzo or Acabar.
Next, head back to your Airbnb to drop your bags, massage your feet, and rest for a while before heading out for dinner at Marks. This whimsical little cafe offers a fresh take on traditional Viennese courses.
What to Do in Vienna: Day 7
Depending on what time you arrive back, you might have time for one last dinner. Gastwirtschaft Wratschko is the ideal place to kiss Vienna goodbye! This cozy cafe is popular with young people for it's dark, comfortable atmosphere. The food is unbelievably good, too!
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