The Capital of Austria is home to nearly one third of the county’s inhabitants and is its primary city. This metropolitan city hosts the United Nations organisation and is a major centre for Austria’s culture, economy and Politics. With many different names like the City of Music and the City of dreams, Vienna is renowned throughout the world and has a plethora of stunning historical buildings, gardens and establishments.
Tip – Get the Vienna PASS, this all-inclusive sightseeing pass includes free admission to over 60 top attractions, lots of discounts and unlimited use of the hop-on hop-off bus routes
Ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world with its inhabitants enjoying a high quality of life, Vienna is a haven in central Europe and remains a popular tourist destination. Listed below are the top must do’s in Vienna and should provide you with more than enough information to plan your trip. Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Vienna:
Schönbrunn Palace – Standing since the 1600’s and holding a major role of cultural importance in Austria, the Schonbrunn Palace is a colossal 1441 room structure and complex that is the main tourist attraction in Vienna. The Habsburgs have held residence here for many years and indeed emperors of Austria have been born in the palace too. The palace itself is an immense building and designed in a Baroque style with a symmetrical main building that has hundreds of windows and statues on the rooftop. Inside the palace are an assortment of rooms all fully furnished and decorated in the original style – You can enjoy a tour through the rooms and admire the sumptuous furnishings and see how Austrian royalty lived.
Schonbrunn Gardens – Another exceptional part to the Schonbrunn Palace Complex and worthy of a separate visit in its own right, the gardens at Schonbrunn are simply magical. The grounds of the park extend from the Palace for over a kilometre and you could spend hours walking through the various sections and displays. You can walk through the Parterre and admire the uniform flower beds, or get lost in the beautiful hedge maze and labyrinth; Neptune’s fountain is a stunning piece of artwork, while there is even an artificial Roman Ruin complete with stone statues. The crowning glory to all of this is the Gloriette which stands opposite the palace and features a pool and a classical colonnaded long building – Enjoy a drink here in the cafe or simple admire the views of the whole gardens in front of you.
Hofburg Palace – This is another huge palatial complex that pays tribute to the power and influence of the Habsburg dynasty and served as the main winter palace for the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for hundreds of years. Today the complex is home to offices of the president of Austria and serves as a presidential base. The buildings have undergone many additions since their creation in the 13th century and the most impressive of which is the fabulous semi-circular Neue Burg. Visitors can admire the beauty and style of the baroque architecture, take a tour through the imperial apartments or visit one of the detailed museums in the complex.
St Stephen’s Cathedral – The beauty of this building is undeniable and its huge tower dominates the Vienna skyline and stands as the tallest church tower in Austria. Everything about St Stephen’s Cathedral oozes opulence – From the Romanesque and Gothic design of the exterior, to the dominating pointed tower, and the intricately decorated main roof complete with hundreds of coloured tiles forming an intriguing pattern. Inside the church there are a total of 18 altars, several smaller chapels, and even some tombs and catacombs. As an iconic building of Vienna, St Stephens cannot be missed!
Rathaus – Vienna is full of historical and significant architecture and the Town Hall located on Rathausplatz is a fine addition to this collection. A later addition to the city, the Rathaus was constructed in the 1800’s in a Neo-Gothic style to accommodate the offices of the mayor for an ever increasing city population. Similar in style to the town hall in Brussels, the Rathaus has five towers, the middle of which is the largest and is topped by the iconic Rathausman statue. Guided tours are available of the inside of the Town Hall on certain days, and this is well worthwhile just to see the extravagant style of the rooms and what it must be like to work inside such a wonderful building.
Tiergarten Schonbrunn (Vienna Zoo) – Located within the grounds of the Sconbrunn Palace, the Tiergarten Zoo is the oldest zoo in the world and touts itself as a centre for species preservation and educational fulfillment. Originally built as a menagerie, the Zoo has several original buildings from that era and mingled together with more modern structures, create a pleasant place to walk through. The Zoo is home to a myriad of animals from the endangered giant Panda, to Giraffes, Sea Lions and Sloths – There are many talks throughout the day by experienced Zookeepers and even a simulated Amazon rainforest environment to walk through. As Zoos go, the Vienna Zoo is one of the finest in the world and you can see the care the animals receive. Tip: The Vienna Zoo is included in the Vienna PASSBelvedere Museum – This gigantic palatial complex and gardens is split into Upper and Lower Belvedere and served as a summer residence for Austrian princes in the 1600’s. The two palaces themselves feature amazing architecture and stand out royally in the gardens – Upper Belvedere has a detailed façade with green domed semi-towers while Lower Belvedere has a simpler design; both palaces face the stunning gardens. Sights at the Belvedere Museum include the two palaces which hold a staggering collection of artwork and decorated staterooms and the expansive landscape gardens complete with pools and an Orangery.
Vienna State Opera – Opera and fine architecture is synonymous with Vienna, and the Vienna State Opera provides both in abundance. This outstanding building is located centrally in the Innere Stadt district and is considered one of the finest Opera Houses in the world. The exterior has a Neo-Renaissance style and is characterised by its many arches and arched windows, while the interior is extremely decadent and feels more like a palace than a place of musical celebration. Daily guided tours are available which last around 40 minutes and give a good overview of the building. If you wanted to see a live concert or Opera, you would need to research what is showing before your visit and buy tickets.
Vienna Natural History Museum – Housed in a sophisticated palace complex that is typical of the historical architecture in Vienna, the Natural History Museum has a huge collection of minerals, precious stones, meteorites, fossils, skeletons of animals, displays of various insects and mammals and even some taxidermy of extinct species. With over 30 million objects the museum’s collection is one of the most important in Europe and new additions are arriving all the time. This fascinating venue also has a digital planetarium where you can see intriguing films about the earth and its development. Adults and children alike will love the sheer amount of information and eye-boggling displays in this epic museum.
Prater Amusement Park – What could be a more enjoyable way to experience Vienna than having a fun packed day at the Prater Amusement Park? The Wiener Prater Park was once a hunting ground that developed into a public space for food stands and small amusement stalls, it now hosts the impressive Amusement Park and is free to enter (You pay for the individual rides instead). Inside the park is a multitude of rides and stalls including a huge Ferris wheel, bumper cars, carousels and hair-raising rollercoasters. There are also such things as shooting ranges, a wax works display and a light gauge railway to keep you entertained. If rides and thrills are not your kind of thing, there are several restaurants and cafes in the park to sit back and enjoy the scenery in.
The Spanish Riding School – One of the finest institutes for classical dressage in the world, and a long-standing renowned tradition In Austria, The Spanish Riding School has been responsible for training horses in the art of dressage for hundreds of years. The riding school as built during the Habsburg Monarchy and has stood ever since. The building is open to the public and you can watch demonstrations and in some cases training sessions too. For anyone who loves riding this is a must see in Vienna, while even for non-riders you can still appreciate the passion and love that is put into this art form.
Donauturm (Viewing tower) – Listed in the tallest 75 free-standing towers in the world at a whopping 252m, the Donauturm stands as an observation tower in the Donaustadt district of Vienna. The Donauturm stands out against the relatively low-rise skyline of Vienna and is easily recognisable; the structure contains radio transmitters and cell phone antennae, two revolving restaurants, and observation platform and even a bungie jumping gangway. The tower provides a fantastic and different way to see Vienna and it is easy to see why it draws so many visitors.
Naschmarkt – Market places often define a city and give a good representation of its heritage and culture, they are engaging places to walk through and provide tourists with an authentic slice of local life. The Naschmarkt is held on the Wienzeile street and stretches for around 1.5km, full of stalls selling anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to herbs, cheese and seafood. The atmosphere, sounds, sights and smells are tantalising and the grand scale of the market make it famous world-wide.
Vienna Ring Road – The opulent Ring Road that surrounds the Innere Stadt district of Vienna was especially constructed in the 19th century after the removal of the city walls. It features eclectic architecture and has many famous buildings lining its pavements. The road itself is wide and is framed by the cities tram line which remains an important mode of transport, there are also sections lined with trees and the road proves a great cycle route. It is well worth walking on parts of the ring road to see its importance and also the beautiful buildings that frame it.
Vienna Woods – At the foothills of the Northern Limestone Alps, the Vienna Woods lie to the west of the city and span some 45km. Several rivers form the boundaries of the woods or Wienerwald and the area is popular with both Austrians looking to escape the city, and tourists looking to enjoy the beautiful Austrian countryside. The woods are full of hidden gems from underground boat rides (The seegrotte) to Hunting Lodges and small villages untouched by the expanse of Vienna.