Things to do in Vienna

Must-see Vienna sights

Vienna conjures a vivid image of romance and opera houses, imperial nostalgia and exquisite cakes. The city can overwhelm visitors with its architectural styles, from High Baroque edifices and Art Nouveau U-Bahn stations, but this is all part of the city’s charm.

  1. Visit the Gothic Stephansdom
  2. Stroll around Judenplatz
  3. Mooch along Karntnerstrasse and Graben
  4. Go back in time at The Belvedere
  5. See nothing else like it at Hofburg
  6. Go in circles around The Ring and Rathausplatz
  7. Meet the Old Masters at Kunsthistorisches
  8. Get your culture on at Museumsquartier
  9. Sample Austrian wines
  10. Get lost in Schonbrunn  

Vienna is pretty compact, with its historical centre (or Innere Stadt) just 1km wide and housing the main swell of sights, along with the Ringstrasse. The public transport is efficient with tram-clogged boulevards, and with its high-valued arts and cultural spaces, Vienna can be best explored at a leisurely pace.

1. Visit the Gothic Stephansdom

The pedestrianised central square of Stephansplatz has the Gothic church of Stephansdom at its centre. A visit to this medieval edifice is one of the best things to do in Vienna; you can pay extra to explore the interior section, which features masterpieces like the Wiener Neustadter Altar and the eerie catacombs.

Best for: The Medieval character of the city.

While you’re there: Appreciate an expertly made cocktail at Loos American Bar (daily noon to 4am).

2. Stroll around Judenplatz

One of Vienna’s prettiest little squares, Judenplatz lies northwest of Stephansdom. It marks the site of the medieval Jewish ghetto, where there’s a deliberately bleak-looking Holocaust Memorial. There are two museums worth your time here: the Museum Judenplatz houses the foundations of a 14th-century synagogue while the Judisches Museum focuses on Jewish tradition and culture. 

Best for: Learning about Jewish culture and its significance in Vienna.

While you’re there: To the west of the square is Beethoven's Wohnsitz, a piece of artwork marking where the composer lived for two years between 1815 to 1817.

3. Mooch along Kärntner Straße and Graben

Pedestrianised Kärntnerstraße will see you entertained by street performers and illustrious shops. Along the way is Haus der Musik, a hugely enjoyable museum of sound. Nearby is upscale Graben, featuring an extremely ornate plague column built to commemorate the 1679 plague. 

Best for: Seeing local arts and entertainment first-hand.

While you’re there: Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) is unmissable here.

4. Go back in time at The Belvedere

Looking for one of the finer things to do in Vienna? The Belvedere Museum has you sorted. It’s one of Vienna’s finest palace complexes, with two magnificent Baroque mansions facing each other across a sloping formal garden. Each mansion houses incredible artworks and temporary exhibitions.

Best for: Getting a perfect snap of the Belvedere ‘floating’ on the small lake that lies in front of it.

While you’re there: Stroll around the well-landscaped gardens

5. See nothing else like it at Hofburg

What to do in Vienna if you’re after something cultural? The highly ornate Hofburg palace houses most of Vienna’s key imperial sights: skip the dull Kaiserappartements for the more impressive Schatzkammer, where you’ll see some of the finest medieval craftsmanship and jewellery in Europe. There’s also the Vienna Boys’ Choir that you can listen to, and take in an extraordinary classical dressage performance from the Spanish Riding School.

Best for: A day of classic Viennese culture..

While you’re there: Also check out the Albertina Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest art graphic collections.

6. Go in circles around the Ring and Rathausplatz

The Ring and Rathausplatz is part of many Vienna holidays. The Ring is the large boulevard that encircles the Innere Stadt, with most of the buildings housing interesting museums (some lesser so). On the western section is the showpiece Rathausplatz, a square framed by four monumental public buildings: the Rathaus (City Hall), the Burgtheater, Parliament and the Universitat – all completed in the 1880s. 

Best for: One of the most significant squares in central Austria.

While you’re there: Go for dinner at Cafe Landtmann for a classic dish of schnitzel and seasoned potatoes.

7. Meet the Old Masters at Kunsthistorisches

Of all Vienna’s museums, the Kunsthistorisches Museum outshines them all. It’s one of the world’s greatest collections of Old Masters; there’s an unrivalled collection of 16th-century paintings by Brueghel the Elder, and Greco-Roman antiquities add breadth and variety. 

Best for: Rainy days - you’ll need ages here.

While you’re there: Stop for lunch at the on-site cafe.

8. Get your culture on at the Museumsquartier

The Museumsquartier is accessible to all and is a highly memorable part of any trip to Vienna. The area houses a collection of museums and galleries in the old imperial stables, and is a popular hipster hangout - and you’ll probably want to join them, what with plenty of stylish outdoor seating, good cafes and an interesting calendar of events to enjoy.  

Best for: Seeing Vienna’s cultural lifestyle in a snapshot.

While you’re there: If you visit only one museum here, make it the Leopold Museum.

9. Sample Austrian wines

To sample Austrian wines on a scenic excursion, visit one of the wine-producing villages on Vienna’s outskirts. To the north of the Danube, Stammersdorf, just half an hour away from central Vienna, is surrounded by vineyards and filled with traditional, family-run Heurigen (wine taverns).

Best for: Excursions from Vienna.

While you’re there: Start at Wienhof Wieninger restaurant, with a pleasant garden, good-value meals and an excellent selection of white wines by the glass.

10. Get lost in Schonbrunn

The imperial summer palace that is Schonbrunn isn’t too dissimilar from Versailles in France. Here, you can visit the palace rooms (Prunkaume), where short and longer tours are available - it gets busy in the summer, so best to book your ticket in advance. Aside from the palace rooms, there’s the splendid Schlosspark (free) and the city’s excellent Tiergarten or zoo (€18.50).

Best for: Family fun.

While you’re there: The ‘Imperial Tour’ of the Prunkraume takes in 22 state rooms, while the ‘Grand Tour’ includes 40 state rooms.

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