The sophisticated, baroque-styled historic center of Vienna Old Town is an open canvas of colorful history and people. For the most part, the city has kept its touch that historical influencers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud called home centuries ago. From the cobblestone streets, your eyes will drift through the cleanest streets you’ve ever witnessed to see the untouched simplicity of imperial architecture. The sounds of the world-renowned Vienna Philharmonic will bounce off the walls and echo in your mind as you take a stroll through the stunningly calm capital city. There are plenty of top things to do in Vienna Austria!
Have you ever dreamed of traveling back in time? Attend one of Vienna’s infamous balls for a night you won’t soon forget. Nowhere are balls so romantically formal as in Vienna. This tradition is intoxicating to locals and tourists for much longer than a single night. I’ve backpacked around over half of Europe in the span of three years, and I still believe the landscape, the European-culture, and its long history makes Vienna a top European backpacking destination.
Austria is a country geographically placed in south-central Europe. It borders its German neighbors to the north, Italian neighbors in the south, and shares a bit of its border with six other European countries. It is, truly, very well-located for any American tourist backpacking through Europe routes. Some of the most visually stunning cities in Austria, such as Salzburg, are only a short train ride away for great day trips from Vienna.
Vienna, together with Bratislava and Budapest, hold the distinction of being the most closely located capital cities in Europe. Any of these capital cities can be easily reached from Vienna using the European Interrail system. Now, all you need to do is prepare for your trip.
Top Things to do in Vienna Austria:
Don’t know what to do in Vienna Austria? There are plenty top things to do in Vienna Austria that can entertain you when you visit Vienna Old Town for one day in Vienna or long enough so you can see all Austria attractions – that’s part of the reason Vienna makes an excellent stop on anyone’s ‘Euro Trip’. Here are a few must-see places that should be on everyone’s top things to do in Vienna Austria itineraries:
Historic Center of Vienna – The historic centre of Vienna (the Innere Stadt) is rich in architectural ensembles, including Baroque-styled architecture. The inner city contains a number of medieval-era buildings worth seeing! It’s one of the most orderly places I’ve ever been. If you don’t know what to do in Vienna Austria, taking a stroll through the historic center of Vienna is a good idea!
Schonnbrunn Palace – A former imperial summer residence located in Vienna, Austria. The 1,441-room Baroque palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the country. Don’t leave without seeing the Gardens on your free walking tour Vienna first!
Kunsthistorisches Museum – The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an art museum and one of the top things to do in Vienna Austria. Housed in its festive palace-like building on Ringstraße, it is crowned with a one-of-a-kind dome. The term Kunsthistorisches Museum applies to both the institution and the main building, which may be confusing to some. The Kunsthistorisches Museum is an excellent idea for someone who doesn’t know what to do in Vienna Austria.
Schonbrunner Gardens – The fabulous gardens located behind the Schonbrunner Palace is an example of the signature of imperial palaces in Austria. Colorful, vibrant, and alive; these impressive gardens deserve a visit and is one of the top things to do in Vienna Austria.
Imperial Palace –The Hofburg is the former imperial palace in the historic center of Vienna. Built in the 13th century and expanded in the centuries since, the palace has been the seat of power of the Habsburg dynasty rulers, and today the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was the principal imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the Vienna summer palace residence.
Belvedere Palace Museum – The Belvedere is a historic Vienna summer palace, consisting of two Baroque palaces, the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The surrounding area has enough to keep you entertained for the entire afternoon.
Tiergarten Schonbrunn (Vienna Zoo) – Tiergarten Schönbrunn, or “Vienna Zoo”, is a zoo located on the grounds of the famous Schonbrunn Palace. Founded as an imperial exhibition in 1752, it is the oldest zoo in the Western world.
St. Stephens Cathedral – St. Stephens Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, OP. St. Stephens Cathedral, as historically significant it is, is worth a visit if only to please the eyes. You’ll end up walking past St. Stephens Cathedral even if you don’t know what to do in Vienna Austria.
Albertina – The Albertina is a museum in the Innere Stadt (historic center of Vienna). It houses one of the largest and most important print rooms in the world with approximately 65,000 drawings and approximately 1 million old master prints. This serves as a wonderful alternative idea to the question of what to do in Vienna Austria.
State Opera House – The historic State Opera House is where the members of the infamous Vienna Philharmonic are recruited from. If you’re lucky, you can catch a performance here. But good luck getting tickets before they sell out!
Visit Vienna: Best time to travel?
Vienna is a great place to travel year round. The world-renowned Vienna Christmas Market makes it a perfect destination to travel to in the Vienna winter. It’s also near mountains making ski day trips from Vienna one of the most popular. If you visit Vienna in the summer, there are plenty of top things to do in Vienna Austria such as a visit to the Vienna summer palace.
Best place to stay in Vienna?
Ideally, to maximize your time, try to stay near the historic center of Vienna. However, as summer months can be very busy around the city (especially if you don’t book your accommodation in advance), I found another of the best place to stay in Vienna is in the third district of Vienna – Landstrasse. It doesn’t have the character of the first district, but it still has plenty of the signature baroque architecture to look at for a much more affordable rate.
However, Vienna has one of the most efficient and well-connected transportation systems in the world. So, no matter where you stay, you’re never too far away from where you’re going. You’ll get to see all of the top things to do in Vienna Austria!
What to do in Vienna Austria: The Eats
If you want a taste of the local cuisine, try out these traditional Vienna and Austrian foods:
A wiener-schnitzel is the Mecca of Austrian cuisine. It’s a large, battered, flattened, breaded and fried slab of veal. Despite what Germans will tell you, wiener-schnitzel comes straight from Austria.
Strudels are a pastry which usually has a layer of creamy and tastiness inside. You can have peanut strudels, chocolate strudels, strawberry strudels… but if you’re in Vienna, it’d be a sin not to stick with apple or cheese.
Tafelspitz is yet another distinctively Austrian dish, which is, in essence, boiled beef with vegetables and spices in broth. Very simple, yet, surprisingly tasteful and perfect for a cold Vienna winter day.
Wurstel – otherwise referred to as a budget traveler’s best friend – it’s a large sausage sold all over Vienna at stands that were so creatively named ‘Wurstelstands’. Either way, you’ll see locals and tourists alike flocking to these tiny stands day and night, rain or sunshine.
An unforgettable stroll through the Belvedere Palace Garden
I was visiting a friend who was a native speaker. We had just spent the afternoon catching up over a traditional strudel and a coffee inside a nearby café. A little lost, my friend asked for directions in a native tongue. As she did that, I couldn’t help but notice the preciseness of everything in Vienna: the detail on the baroque-styled buildings, the efficiency of their transportation, and even the cleanliness of the streets and sidewalks – it all added to the stunning scenery.
We arrived at Belvedere Palace (one of the top things to do in Vienna Austria) from behind the Gardens. Before we could even enter the gardens, we were stopped in our tracks by the beautiful fountain (along with a dozen other tourists). How could you walk right by a scene like it without stopping? Its majesty – in addition to the quartet orchestrated on the street in front of the fountain and the gorgeous Belvedere in the background – made for one of the most soothing mental images I keep from Vienna.
I had my “long way from home” moment while we sat and listened to the noises of Vienna and took in everything that Vienna history and culture embodies.
The Tale of the Tape on Vienna, Austria
Vienna is the largest city and the capital city of the country of Austria with around 1.8 million citizens within its city limits in the East of the country. Vienna is known worldwide for numerous things including its traditional Vienna Christmas Market, the historic Kunsthistorisches Museum, the culture-trip of Vienna balls, the mastery of its imperial architecture, the classical music of the Vienna Philharmonic and Mozart and Beethoven who both called Vienna home, or the life of the brilliant Sigmund Freud. There’s plenty of history and top things to do in Vienna Austria.
How to get there/get around: Visit Vienna
Vienna has a well-developed public transport network. Buses, trains, trams and underground lines will take you almost anywhere in the city in no time at all. The transportation system makes it clear and simple so all visitors know what to do in Vienna Austria.
Personally, I saw it fit to purchase a week-long pass at the beginning of my stay in Vienna. With it, you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Tickets are available at ticket machines at most underground stations or at points of advance sale. Tobacconists also sell tickets.
If you are arriving by train at the Vienna Central Train Station, I highly recommend sticking to public transport to take you to the historic center of Vienna. It is a twenty-minute ride by train and couldn’t be simpler to navigate. One of the perks of traveling in Vienna is the ease of the public transportation system which will get you to the top things to do in Vienna Austria quicker than you’ve experienced in any other city!
American Survival Guide
Traditional Austrian Meal
A traditional dinner near the historic center of Vienna will cost you more than in rest of Austria; $13-16 will usually cover a delicious traditional entrée.
A Night Out
A beer in the heart of the historic center of Vienna isn’t exactly cheap, but nothing in Vienna can be considered ‘cheap’. It’s fairly standard to pay around $4.30 for a pint in Vienna.
A Wurstelstand in the middle of the historic center of Vienna will cost you about $6 for a nice budget lunch. The price is even a little lower as you get further out from the historic center of Vienna. The best part about these places (besides the taste) is their convenience.
Bus or Train
Public transport is fairly inexpensive in Vienna when compared to other cities more regularly on a backpacking itinerary. It will cost you under $2.40 for a single, one-zone ticket. Apart from single tickets, there are passes for longer periods of time. Passes are available for 24 hours, 72 hours, weekly, or monthly. You may also purchase a ticket on board the bus or tram at an increased rate of $2.50 per ticket.
From Vienna’s International Airport (Schwechat) directly to the historic center of Vienna, you can call an UberX for less than $35 – or an Uber Van for the whole family under $60. Not exactly the best budget option, but convenient.
AirBnB Vienna: Best place to stay in Vienna
AirBnB Vienna doesn’t have the widest selection especially to travel Europe on a budget, but it’s still the best option when trying to find the best place to stay in Vienna. Generally speaking, you can usually find an entire apartment near the historic center of Vienna for anywhere from $100-$130 on a nightly basis.
For an individual room, one person can normally find a bed for less than $50 per night on AirBnB Vienna.
However, if you journey outside of the heart of the city just a bit, prices drop dramatically and you can find a bed for as cheap as $13. And with the great public transportation system, you’re never far away from the top things to do in Vienna Austria.
Austrians are German speakers with their own dialect. Check out this basic German language guide before you go! However, overall, everyone can speak pretty clear English in this region of Europe.
If you want cell service, it’s important to check with your provider about international charges. In addition, it’s always a good idea to alert your provider (and your bank) that you’ll be traveling internationally.
Credit Card Transaction Fees
It’s important to check your credit company’s policy on international transactions before using it abroad. There are plenty of credit cards available that advertise “No International Transaction Fees”. If you want to get a new card before leaving, find one like this.
Things to have before you arrive
It’s not imperative; however, I’ve always found travel much more relaxing when you arrive without a dire need of any essentials. Here are a few of them:
- Electrical Adaptors
- Power Bank
- Offline Map (app)
- Directions to your accommodation
Vienna – or Austria, in general – is a country a part of the European Union – which means Americans are granted 90-days in a 180-day period to travel freely throughout the E.U. This means if you plan to be in Europe for longer than three months, you should take a look at this.
There are a lot of stereotypes that Americans have adopted over time. There are, also, a lot of stereotypes made about Europeans that just aren’t true.
With that being said, there are some cultural differences in everywhere you go. Embrace those – they’re the best part about traveling because those differences educate you.
In Austria, tipping is common. A 5% tip is an acceptable amount as waiters tend to make a higher salary in Austria. Be careful that gratuity isn’t already included in your bill!
Discover Top Things to do in Vienna Austria
Vienna left me with a very lasting impression of a place that cares about its city and history. Its style and character are hard to find throughout Europe.
If you want to find out more about how to travel Europe on a budget, and all that it has to offer, click on over to our Europe travel blog page. It’s dedicated to tips for backpacking Europe! You will find these to be informative, giving you excellent insight into planning a trip through this multi-cultural continent.