Vienna is a great city to make your next travel destination. Austria’s capital is a vibrant and fascinating city, rich in culture and history and full of activities to do and sights to visit. Vienna is most popular as a winter destination to get a glimpse of the snowy streets and icicle lined monuments, but in the summer the city is just as much alive with outdoor markets and bars and vast parks to sit and enjoy the sun. So whatever time of year you are visiting Vienna, here are eight of the best things to do!
1. Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace and gardens is one of Vienna’s main tourist attractions. In 1996 it became a UNESCO site with countless tourists visiting each year to see the elaborate art, architecture and greenery of Austria’s Imperial family. To get the full experience of this palace, take an audio tour around its interior that guides you through each room accompanied with the story of its previous residents – namely Empress Maria Theresa and Empress Elisabeth “Sisi”. The interior decoration is uniquely elegant and elaborate so it is definitely worth taking a tour.
The gardens of the palace are just as impressive as its inside, so make sure to take a stroll through the grounds whilst you’re there. These formal gardens are expansive, lined with trees and filled with impressive flowers and greenery. Watch for the maze of hedges that can make these gardens difficult to navigate, but even if you do, anyone could happily spend hours here exploring the grounds. The gardens are free to visit, so it is an unmissable attraction to visit whilst you’re in Vienna.
Vienna’s most popular market Naschmarkt definitely has to go on your itinerary. This permanent street market sells fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, cheese and seafood – all fresh and local. You can also find clothes and miscellaneous antique items within the stalls.
Naschmarkt is also home to many small restaurants, bars and cafes that you can stop at. Naschmarkt is open Monday to Saturday so you have plenty of time to explore it whilst you’re in Vienna.
If you’re only in Vienna for a short time, stop by Naschmarkt for a quick breakfast; you’ll find a huge variety of small cakes and pastries which are perfect accompanied with a coffee from one of the stalls. Or, in the evenings you’ll often find live music playing outside of the restaurants on the fringes of the market.
As well as Austrian delicacies, you’ll also be able to find international cuisine like kebabs, kimchi and some Middle Eastern specialties like hummus and baba ganoush.
3. Prater Amusement Park
The ferris wheel at Prater Amusement Park is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Vienna, open all day every day and free of charge. Known as Riesenrad, this ferris wheel is over 120 years old – one of the oldest ferris wheels to still exist. Visit the ferris wheel at sunset for the best view of the city in its golden hour – this is an absolute must while you’re in Vienna.
Other attractions at Prater differ in price, but none of them are overly expensive. The rides vary from classic carousels to bigger (and slightly rickety) rollercoasters, so you could easily spend a whole day here exploring the park and going on different rides.
Whilst you’re there you can also ride on the 4km long railroad, Liliputbahn, which is over 75 years old and the other most famous attraction to be found at Prater.
Another popular tourist destination within Prater Park is the rollercoaster restaurant, just next door to the Madame Tussauds wax figure museum. This bizarre collage of neon lights, rollercoaster rails and cocktail making robots is a great (albeit slightly odd) place to end a busy day at the amusement park.
4. Vienna State Opera
Seeing an opera whilst you’re in Vienna is definitely a bucket list item – and you can do it for only 3 Euros! All you have to do is arrive really early before the performance that you are wanting to see and queue up to purchase one of these cheap tickets for standing room – be aware that you will be queuing up for a pretty long time, but if you’re really desperate to get into the opera without paying 200 Euros it is definitely worth the wait.
A tip for ensuring that you will get in – dress nicely. Often people are turned away at the door after queuing up for hours as they are not dressed formally enough.
Even if you don’t make it to a show, the State Opera House is still worth a visit. The building itself is breathtaking and you can go on a guided tour inside even without going to an actual opera.
Just in front of the Volksgarten park, you will find the Burggarten. These were once a private garden of Emperor Franz Joseph I, now a public attraction. Here you can find both a Palm House and a Butterfly House – a great place to take a leisurely stroll around to take a break from the rest of your sightseeing.
The Palm House is a cafe-restaurant, about 15 metres high and filled with ceiling height palm trees. This cafe is definitely a very picturesque spot to stop for coffee or lunch whilst you’re in Vienna, and it also allows you to look into the neighbouring Butterfly House. On a warm day, the terrace of the Palm House is a great spot to sit and enjoy the views out onto the rest of the gardens.
The Butterfly House has an entry free of 7 Euros, and allows visitor to watch exotic butterflies fly around the greenhouse building.
The park is open April to October, so is a good destination for when you’re visiting Vienna in the summer.
6. Museum of Illusions
Opened in summer 2017, Vienna’s museum of illusions is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, especially for families with younger children. The museum is designed to trick your eyes and your mind, and fully immerse you into the world of illusions.
There are numerous exhibitions within the museum, including the Vortex Tunnel – a stable bridge within a turning cyclical tunnel that tricks your brain into thinking that it is the bridge itself that you are standing on which is moving. You will also find the Ames Room within the museum, in which you will appear bigger in some parts of the room and smaller in others – very disorientating to visit in a group!
The museum are constantly creating new exhibitions and illusions for their guests so make sure to check this out whilst you are in Vienna!
7. St Stephen’s Cathedral
The architecture in Vienna is one of its biggest draws, and St Stephen’s Cathedral is undeniably one of the city’s most impressive sights. Wherever you are in the city, you’ll be able to see the cathedral spires, so you can’t miss this landmark.
The church was dedicated to St Stephen in 1147, but was completely renovated in 1511 after a fire destroyed most of the building. It was again almost completely destroyed during WWII and its reconstruction lasted from 1948 to 1962. It is now a symbol of Austria’s past and the country’s united strength.
Not only is the history of the cathedral fascinating, but the architecture itself is the main draw to this landmark, which no photograph can quite do justice.
8. Take A Boat Trip
If you have time whilst you’re in Vienna, take a boat trip down the Danube to get a new perspective of the city and enjoy a relaxing day on the water. A popular trip begins and ends in Schwedenplatz, made up of a one hour cruise as well as a two-course lunch which changes seasonally. The trip will show you some of Vienna’s most important sights, including the Uniqa Tower and the Urania Observatory.
There are so many cruise options to take in Vienna, including an evening cruise so you can enjoy views of the city as the sun goes down.