Vienna in Austria is a charming city, of course, rich with history and beautiful architecture. The city is also well known for its predominant musical and fine arts culture. Fine arts museums, universities and schools are well established in and around the city centre – with many attractions focused on fine arts. I have created a guide here with things to do in Vienna.
The city is also known as one of the most famous and influential cities in Europe for its music scene. Classical music, orchestra, the opera and more, Vienna is home to a wonderfully brilliant pool of talented artists and performers.
Vienna is nearby to many other prominent European cities. If you arrive at the main train station (Hauptbahnhof Ostbahnof Obb Station) you are just a short walk from the city centre (about 1 – 1.5km). You can easily take the tram into the city centre.
The train station is fully equipped with toilets, free WiFi, information booths with free maps and booking agents, and a shopping mall with international fast-food chains and many other stores.
Vienna has many things to do and see, although is most famous for its art museums and architecture. Of course, exploring all the beautiful architecture is free, and in one of the most expensive cities in Europe, taking a free city map and strolling around the amazing sites is also very budget-friendly.
If you wish to visit museums, this will add up so if you are on a budget it would be best to visit your favourite one or two (and just admire the rest from the outside).
Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square)
Heroes’ Square is home to the Imperial Palace. This building was home to the Habsburg Empire up until 1918 and today is of course one of the top tourist attractions. Take a look inside, wander the surrounding garden and admire its grandness.
It is named Heroes’ Square as, during the war, there was a battle just on the outer side of the city wall that once stood in this area. The wall was taken down approximately 150 years ago, however, many soldiers died and still remain buried deep under the surface, where the grass lawn is today.
This large open space was originally built to be a royal stable, however, this large open courtyard inside the walls of several museums creates a universe all of its own.
Large sun lounges, open-air cafes, snack bar stalls, free WiFi and toilets (these were the only public toilets I found in the city, besides two in a small park that I wouldn’t even consider). On another note, it is so annoying and weird having to pay every time you need to use the toilet, #EuropeFail.
The MuseumsQuartier is surrounded by art museums, including, MUMOK, Leopold Museum, and Kunsthalle. Also in the courtyard, you can find the Architecture Centre, Tanzquartier (dance museum) and Quartier 21 (a digital art museum).
A large square garden area with a prominent statue surrounded by some of the largest and most beautiful buildings in Vienna. One of these buildings is home to the Museum of Art History – which is not only impressive from the outside but is also home to one of the largest art collections in the world.
Another prominent building in the square is the Museum of Natural History. This place is a little different from the many fine arts or musical focused attractions. At the Museum of Natural History, you can find huge fossil spiders and even the biggest collection of meteoroids in the world.
If you choose to just wander around the square, admire the architecture, details and statues and relax in the beautiful garden surrounding then, of course, you can do so too without needing to purchase any tickets.
Ruins of Vindobona
Take a look at the ruins of the Roman legion Vinobona. This area is displayed as a feature in the centre of the pavement and are ruins left by the Romans, and in fact are the origin of the city of Vienna. It might not be too interesting to look at for a long period of time, but you will find yourself in the area at least once while wandering the city, so it is worth a look and knowing what it is.
The Parliament with Pallas Athena statue
This building is impressive, both in size and in its beauty. It is situated on one of the main roads through the city, which is lined with so many beautiful attractions, parks and monuments so you can not miss it.
The beautiful features, including the statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, as well as the many horse-drawn chariots atop the roof are breathtaking.
The horses atop the roof actually still contain bullet holes from past wars (young soldiers playing target practice).
The Burggaten Park offers a relaxing and diverse scene, and a lovely rest stop along the popular sightseeing route. The park is home to a large statue of Mozart and is very popular with tourists, locals, people sun tanning half-dressed, couples snuggling, families enjoying picnics, and a meeting and hang out point for local students.
Steffl is one of the most impressive attractions in Vienna, and also one of the most impressive Gothic churches in the world. It dates back to 1137. It is located in the downtown shopping district, along a pedestrian-only street. Unfortunately, construction was taking place on my visit (this is a very common occurrence when travelling to historical cities).
Check out the Old City Walls
The inner area of District One in Vienna was once encased inside large brick walls, which were then surrounded by large bare fields. There were only a few entrance gates allowing access into or out of the city.
Around 150 years ago the city walls were pulled down – however, a small section still remains intact due to stubborn residences in the homes directly behind this section of wall. It’s hard to imagine this city once shot cannonballs from behind such walls!
The Baroque Karlskirche and surrounding pond, or water basin as it is referred to, is a wondering meeting point or rest stop for travellers and families. The nearby park has a large playground and picnic tables, and the pond and surrounding trees make for the most relaxing setting.
Other things to do
Stroll along the Danube Canal
The Danube Canal was once much longer and reached from east to the southwest of the city, surrounded by fields encasing the old city walls. Today, a significant part of the canal is covered with roads, buildings and parks making it much shorter, and reaching only the outskirts of the city.
The canal is lined with amazing street artworks, all unique and very interesting. In the summer months, you can also find beach bars set up along the river – of course, complete with sand and beach chairs.
Shopping or people-watching in the downtown exclusive Graben
In Graben, you can expect to find high end and international designer brand stores, countless open-air cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as a plethora of tourists and of course some street performers.
Naschmarkt – Exotic Food Market
Every day in Naschmarkt you can find international and local treats, exotic food, fresh produce stalls as well as a large array of bars, cafes, snack foods, and restaurants with their outdoor seating lining the sidewalk.
Saturday Flea Market at Naschmarkt
Just near to the Naschmarkt, on Saturdays only you can find a very large and extremely interesting Flea Market. Hundreds of people stroll through this unique market, filled with antiques and collectables, with some extremely interesting items being sold by stallholders. This Saturday market was my favourite attraction or thing to do in Vienna and the most interesting market I have visited.
The market sets up as early as 7 am, and ends around 6 pm. At the closing of the market, you can get amazing prices, with some stallholders announcing prices from 10 Euro cents! While wandering the market stalls I came across some beautiful antique wooden jewellery boxes, lovely original jewellery, and a taxidermy rabbit with deer antlers installed in front of its ears.
Listen to some of Vienna’s Famous Classical Music
Vienna, as mentioned easier, is home to not only fine arts but classical music and very talented musicians. Check out one of the many musical exhibitions (exhibitions change regularly) and you might find yourself surprised by how much you grow to love the sound of classical music.
Explore on foot
Vienna can be easily explored on foot and if you are staying within close distance or within District One (city centre), you probably will not find the need to use other means of transport at all – attractions are within close vicinity to one another and there are many other beautiful buildings, parks and things to see between each one.
Footpaths are clean, pedestrians are polite and quiet, and road crossings are plentiful and clearly marked. Grab a free map, events brochures or walking city route maps (and use the free WiFi while you are there) at the information centres (in the city centre as well as on arrival at the Hauptbahnhof Ostbahnof Obb Station – the main railway station) and you are ready to explore.
If you wish to cycle the city, you can find Vienna Citybike in over 50 bike stations in the city. You can pick up and drop off your bike at any of the stations convenient to you. A bike will cost just 2 Euros for a day, and you will either need to use your Master Card in the automated machine or purchase a Tourist Card for 2 Euros to use in this machine.
Choose only a few museums to visit
Museum entrance ticket prices are quite high in Vienna, so it would be extremely expensive to visit all of the museums you walked past. In order to prolong your travel budget, choose only one or two museums that you are most interested in, and just admire the beautiful architecture of the rest of the museums from the outside.
Picnic lunches in the park and supermarket stores
Vienna has several low-cost supermarket chains including an Austrian version of Aldi, as well as Billa Supermarket. With many easy to-go snack foods and fruit, purchasing supplies for a lunchtime picnic is not only very easy and convenient but also saves you a lot of money. Most of the supermarkets have pre-made sandwiches as well as pre-packed salads and other meals.
Many of the parks have tables and chairs, children’s playgrounds and beautifully kept lawns so you will have no trouble finding a suitable place for your picnic.
I hope this post is helpful to those thinking about visiting Austria or planning a European trip but unsure about what cities you wish to visit.