Coffee houses, the opera, imperial sights, world-famous composers and sausage stands (YUP THOSE ARE A THING)
Vienna is Austria’s capital city and it’s clear why. From the stunning imperial palaces to the rich history of arts and culture, Vienna was and still is at the center of what’s happening in Austria. Walking around the city you will be dazzled by the baroque architecture, the cleanliness and the reverence its people have for coffee. Whether you’re just stopping for a few days or devoting your entire visit to this magical city, Vienna has a way of capturing your love that only intensifies with time.
CHECK OUT MY TOP 5 FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IN VIENNA VIDEO
Vienna has a continental climate but tends to be a bit cooler and milder than other parts of Austria. In winter months (Dec.-Feb.) expect average temps to be -1C (30F) and 19C (65F) in summer months (Jun-Aug). On the whole, this destination can be visited any time of year but I suggest visiting in autumn (October), the early summer (May) or during the early winter months (November).
In winter you’ll be able to enjoy the charming Christmas markets and ball season is in full swing! And in the early summer, you’ll be able to enjoy the lush green landscapes and the beautiful parks throughout the city. And don’t even get me started with how beautiful it is in autumn!
Vienna’s history is not one that can easily or quickly be recounted. So I’ll do my best LOL. From 1558 all the way to 1918 Vienna was an imperial city. Up until 1806 it was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and then became the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From 1939-1945 it was part of Hitler’s “Greater” Germany. Following World War II, Austria was occupied by British, French, American, and Soviet forces, and Vienna was divided into five zones. Finally, in 1955 Austria regained independence and Vienna once again became the capital of Austria.
WOOF…Sorry that was a lot of dates to throw at you…
If you can FLY AUSTRIAN AIRLINES PREMIUM ECONOMY OR BUSINESS CLASS (I used all caps for emphasis LOL). I can’t say enough about this airline experience. The seats were extremely comfortable (fully reclining in Business) and the food was PHENOMENAL.
Pro tip: You can actually bid on BusinessClass seats from the Austrian Airlines website when you’re in your reservation. I initially planned to fly Premium Economy both ways but on the way home bid on a biz class seat and got it! YAY ME!
Once you land at the Vienna Airport getting through customs is a breeze! When you’ve collected your bags you’ve got a few options when it comes to getting to the city center. You can take the City Airport Train (CAT), grab a taxi from a stand inside or walk outside and take a taxi (I don’t suggest doing this as I learned the hard way that this was a more expensive option LOL).
CAT (City Airport Train): This is a nonstop train that gets you from the airport to the center of town in just 16 minutes. The trains are modern, comfortable and super convenient.
Taxis inside the arrivals hall: You’ll find a grouping of various taxis inside the airport and to the left as you emerge from the arrivals area. There will be a few to choose from but you can expect to pay around 36 Euros which is a fair price.
Taxi stand outside: This is your last resort BECAUSE it will be more expensive to hire one of these taxis than it would be to set up service inside. I didn’t know this before snagging one and paid about 50 Euro for the trip.
Once you’re in the city maneuvering around is EXTREMELY easy. We often took public transportation and I couldn’t believe how clean and easy it was to navigate. If you can manage the subway in NYC (no shade) you will be THRILLED to take both the underground and above-ground trains.
You can purchase a pass online or at the U-Bahn stations. A pass is good for all forms of transit for 24 hours (8 Euros) up to a full week (16 Euros).
I took several Ubers while in town as well and found the service easy and accessible. But truly if you can, WALK!!!!
SOME STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Plug: Type E two-prong plug
Tipping: Tips are not included and you won’t often find the option to add them to the bill once your card has been run. When you get the bill it’s customary to add 10 percent and ask the waiter to add it on. I over-tip sometimes because 10 percent feels too low to me but it is customary and completely acceptable.
Common phrases: German is the official language but most Austrians speak English so you should have no problem communicating. I do find it helpful and polite to learn some words in the local language as a sign of respect.
Good morning/afternoon/evening: Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend
Thank you: Danke
‘Bitte’ can mean both please and thank you
Tourist office: I can’t say enough about the Vienna Tourist Board and the Austrian National Tourist Office. Both sites are excellent sources of information and recommendations. I highly recommend having a look at both of them before and during your visit.
Also, you can snag a Vienna card if you know you’ll be visiting some of the main sights and taking advantage of public transportation. You can check out all the benefits right here.
Districts: Vienna has 22 different districts within the city. They start in the center (1) and spiral out in a sort of snail shell. It’s easy to know what district you’re in just by looking up at the street sign. Most will clearly post the number or you can look at the two middle numbers in an address. AKA 1140 would be the 14th District and 4067 would be the 6th.
What the heck is Wien: The German way of saying Vienna (don’t worry I was confused too)
Coffee: COFFEE CULTURE IS HUGE! And there are a few things you should know when visiting a traditional coffeehouse in Vienna. First things first. You’re meant to visit and relax and you won’t be rushed if you’re sitting too long at a table. That’s the Viennese way. And if you want to order the way locals do, ask for a Melange (milky coffee) or a Mocca (black).
WHERE TO STAY IN VIENNA:
When it comes to picking a great place to stay in Vienna, there is no shortage of superb hotels. From over the top opulence to edgy modern and cool - you can find ANYTHING that suits the type of traveler you are. But knowing how the city is set up should give you an understanding of where you might like to stay.
The city’s neighborhoods look like a bunch of concentric circles with the 1st District in the center and the others moving outward in sort of a spiral shape. Visitors tend to spend most of their time in the 1st District (Innere Stadt) and that’s where you’ll find many of the “main sights”. I would HIGHLY encourage you to venture outside of the city center during your stay.
Many of the most iconic and historic hotels can be found along the Ringstrasse (the circular boulevard that serves as a ring road around the historic Innere Stadt district of Vienna). But there are some really cool hotels in the 7th District that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Here’s my recs (in no particular order):
If you want an iconic hotel LITERALLY right across from the Vienna State Opera House - Hotel Bristol is the best bet. The hotel is steeped in history and was the place to be for the rich and famous back in the day. The hotel played a vital role in the second World War and actually housed American soldiers. You can still see traces of that time in the breathtaking marble and gold staircase - if you look closely at the railing it still has notches from the soldier’s guns hitting into it as they walked down the staircase.
Fun fact: the hotel’s main dining room was modeled after the main dining room on the Ttitanic. HOW COOL IS THAT?!
What’s unique about Hotel Bristol is that you can choose to stay in one of the more traditional style rooms or opt for some of the more modern furnished rooms. Either way, your stay will be lavish and comfortable and without a doubt take you back to the golden age in Vienna.
PALAIS HANSEN KEMPINSKI
If you’re looking for the perfect mix of modern with a touch of classic style, look no further than Palais Hansen Kempinski. I’ve been a huge fan of Kempinski properties ever since my visit to Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi (IT WAS INSANE). This group knows a thing or two about how to treat their guests.
Palais Hansen is located in the 1st District and only a short 10 min walk away from Hofburg Palace. While the area isn’t super lively with restaurants and cafes there is a U-Bahn station right around the corner that can zip you anywhere you want to go.
The building itself dates back to the 1800’s and is actually a compilation of a few historical buildings all meshed together to create one cohesive hotel with a massive atrium in the center. My favorite feature is the upside-down chandelier in the hotel’s lobby bar area.
The rooms are spacious and the beds are divine. This is certainly a property that makes you feel relaxed the second you walk in.
If you’re looking to get out of Vienna’s 1st District, I HIGHLY recommend the Hotel San Souci Wien. It’s fun, funky, has an incredible spa AND has the most beautiful bar I’ve ever seen. The hotel is smack dab in the middle of the city’s most artistic neighborhood (just a short walk from the museum quarter) and greets guests with beautiful lilac accents when you walk through the doors.
The staff members are friendly and helpful and the rooms truly make you want to nestle in and not leave. I ADORE their beds and the chandeliers in the bathroom. And if you’re into champagne you absolutely must do one of the hotel’s champagne tastings hosted in their gorgeous golden Le Bar.
And truly… book yourself a spa treatment while you’re there or take a dip in the indoor pool. You won’t regret it.
If you’re looking for a hip fun funky hotel there is no place better than the Andaz. The hotel opened in 2019 and offers incredible views of the Belvedere Palace from its rooms and rooftop bar. The minute you step into the hotel you’re greeted by the funky and eclectic artwork expertly positioned on the lobby wall. Inspired by Prince Eugine of Savoy, the hotel aims to showcase local art and design that encourages guests to immerse themselves in Vienna’s culture.
The Andaz is literally steps away from the Vienna Central Station and in the brand new Quartier Belvedere. It’s a short walk from the Belvedere Palace - a must-visit. While you’re not in the 1st District, only a short taxi or train ride will get you to any of the main sites.
The rooms are HEAVENLY and I love the sleek and modern touches mixed with art and color. My favorite is the personalized map in each room of all the Vienna “highlights” not to be missed.
Whether you’re staying at the hotel or just stopping by make sure to have a drink at their rooftop bar. The views are out of this world.
WHAT TO DO IN VIENNA:
The classic sights everyone should see are Schönbrunn and Hofburg palace, the Ringstrasse, the Belvedere and Albertina museum and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. But TRUST ME when I say there’s TONS to do outside the city center and the typical attractions.
Walking Tour to get your bearings
I always LOVE to plan a walking tour on either the day I arrive in any city or the next. Mainly because it gives me the lay of the land from someone who is an expert and I ensure that I gather the important information for the city I am visiting. Because if I’m honest, merely walking around a city is great and all but there’s no context.
If you’d like help setting up a walking tour and planning your visit to Vienna, contact Scorby Travel and Cruise. We have a few incredible tour guides we’d love to recommend!
No trip to Vienna is complete without a visit to Schonbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs. This place is MASSIVE and it's one of the most popular attractions in Austria so I highly recommend to arrive as early as possible. No matter what time you arrive, you can expect crowds.
Nevertheless, it’s COMPLETELY worthwhile. You can decide to walk through the palace on your own with an audio guide or hire a private guide. I personally despise audio guides and find that REAL humans tell the best stories. Plus when you hire a private guide you get to skip the line at the entrance inside the palace, SCORE!
Once again, if you would like a recommendation on a guide, shoot me an email
There’s so much to do that you can quite easily spend half a day here. I suggest starting with a tour of the Palace and then heading outside to the gardens. But before you get to the gardens...stop at Culties. You can dress up like Franz Joesph and his wife Sisi. It’s a total blast and 100 percent worth it for the photos.
Once you’ve dressed up in those beautiful costumes, head outside to marvel at the magnificent grounds. They’re really quite breathtaking - especially in the summer months. From here you can visit the zoo, walk all the way up to the Gloriette to enjoy a coffee at the cafe or head to the Palm House to snap a few photos on the epic staircase there.
FINALLY, finish your visit off with lunch or a snack at Landtmann's Jausen-Station. This cozy outdoor spot right on the grounds of the palace serves excellent food and it’s so charming. I LOVED all the colorful chairs! Great spot to kick back after walking around the grounds.
I am not always one to recommend museums, but this one blew me away. The reason I wanted to go was to see the opulent Habsburg staterooms. I love to see how the other half lived back then! But I also adored the Monet and Picasso collection that’s a permanent fixture in the museum.
This is definitely worth a visit to escape the summer heat or the winter cold - depending upon when you’re visiting.
Tour the Opera or see a performance
The Opera is a BIG DEAL in Vienna and has been a staple in Viennese culture since it was built in 1869. Vienna’s State Opera House is one of the busiest in the world with a different Opera each day of the week and more than 300 performances a year. From ballet to opera there’s really a performance for everyone.
Oh and once a year the Opera House is transformed for the Vienna Opera Ball. An event where visitors dress to the nines and dance the night away at this super classy social affair. I WANT TO GO SO BAD.
I highly recommend a tour here at the very least.
If you’re looking to snag tickets - click here.
THIS WAS MY FAVORITE ACTIVITY I ENJOYED WHEN I WAS IN VIENNA. Vienna chef and former economist Bianca Gusenbauer-Hoppe is one of the best tour guides and food experts I’ve ever met. She puts on what she calls a “Food Safari” that takes you on a tour of some of the best Viennese spots throughout the city. While you’re on the tour Bianca shares fun stories about Vienna, the city’s history and of course the world-famous Viennese cuisine.
From the only cheese producer in town to a classic coffee house our safari had many fun and delicious stops in between - this food tour really gives you a taste (pun intended) of the city. I mean...who doesn’t love a cheese tasting?
Love horses - you gotta check out the Spanish Riding School. Okay so get this, this is the only place in the world where the classic equestrian skills are still practiced in their original form. This is where you can watch the world-renowned Lipizzans almost dance to the music in what’s called the riding hall (I had no clue that was a thing).
You can watch one of their performances or catch their morning exercises. Click here to have a look at the performance schedule and snag tickets.
Walk along the Danube Canal in the summer
If you want to find the spot where all the locals hang, this is it. Come here around sunset and you’ll find the walkways packed with locals hangin out and drinking with friends. There are tons of restaurants and bars in this area - some are even set up like beach bars
Amusement park? Sign me up! I haven’t been to one in ages but if you’re looking to break out of the museum and palace cycle, this is definitely the place to do it. The park’s Giant Ferris Wheel is a symbol for the city and is open year round. The park itself is open from March - October but some attractions are year round.
It makes for a super cute spot to take photos too.
Photoshoot / Video Shoot
I love a good photo op and I truly don’t think there’s a better way to remember a vacation than capturing moments through photography or videography. When I travel I love to use Airbnb experiences to find local photographers and videographers.
This was a first, but I worked with Irene to create my top 5 things to do in Vienna video. This girl is an angel and SUPER talented. You can find her experience here. And if you’d like to check out her work - click here.
Did you know that Beethoven lived in Vienna for more than 35 years up until his death? He originally came to the city to study under Mozart but had to return home to be by his mother’s deathbed. If you’re a classical music fan or just love you some history, check out the Beethoven museum in Vienna’s 19th District.
It’s a great adventure that takes you a little outside the main part of town and almost back in time as you walk through the former residence of this famous composer.
BONUS: the museum is just a short walk away from some pretty incredible wineries and wine taverns.
This palace is a twofer - an incredible building with stunning architecture and grounds plus a museum housing one of the country’s most valuable art collections. The Belvedere palace is home to works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. The most famous of all - The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.
Go to a Ball
Every year more than 450 balls take place in Vienna. If you’re wondering what the heck a ball is, it’s literally like the ones you see in Disney movies. A ball is a society event where guests get dressed to the nines and dance to live classical and contemporary music. In Vienna “Ball Season” kicks off in November and runs through March. But one of the biggest and most highly regarded balls is, of course, the New Year’s Eve ball hosted at the Hofburg Palace.
If you want to attend a ball I HIGHLY recommend having a guide to help you with the experience. You can take Waltz lessons beforehand, rent a ball gown and then enjoy the event with an expert who can walk you through the entire process.
If you’d like help booking a guide or planning your trip, be sure to contact Scorby Travel and Cruise.
This is one of the most famous markets in Vienna - rightfully so. It has more than 120 different stands and restaurants filled with everything from spices to sweets and some of the freshest food you’ll find in town. Come hungry and ready to explore. You can spend an entire afternoon just sampling different foods and finding great souvenirs to take home.
WHERE TO EAT IN VIENNA:
Viennese Cuisine is the only cuisine in the world to be named after a city - pretty cool right?? The cuisine consists of a mix of flavors and dishes that reflect the extremely diverse cultures and countries that surround the city. Some classic dishes to make sure to try include Wiener Schnitzel, Sachertorte (famous chocolate cake), Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), Melange (Viennese coffee) & Wiener Wurstel (Viennese sausages).
This was one of my favorite restaurants in Vienna. It’s outside of the 1st District and is definitely a more local spot. It’s trendy, the cocktails are great and the food is fun. Plus you can find some great healthy options on the menu. If it’s nice outside make sure to ask if you can get a table in the back courtyard.
IF YOU DON’T GO HERE WHEN YOU’RE IN VIENNA I WILL BE REALLY MAD AT YOU! This restaurant is run by Viennese Grandmas! And it’s essentially decorated so that it looks like your grandmother’s living room. There are wonderful cakes to enjoy - essentially all of the food is delicious. I highly recommend going here for breakfast or lunch!
This stunning restaurant is a year-round hit. Sit in the ornate dining room during the cooler months or outside on the patio in the summer. The restaurant is right across the street from the Vienna City Hall and is located in the southern wing of the Burgtheater. The cuisine is a contemporary take on some classic Austrian dishes. It’s the perfect place to grab dinner after a long day of wandering throughout the city!
The perfect mix of a restaurant, cafe and bar. Plus it’s in the trendy 7th District which has tons of great boutiques and museums to pop in to. Ulrich is a great spot for breakfast or just a drink in the evening. The wooden interior makes the space cozy in the winter. But in the summer I suggest sitting in the little garden area outside and taking in the sights.
This restaurant has been given a Michelin Star every year since 2014 - so you know they must be doing something right. Attached to the Palais Hansen Kempinski Hotel - Edvard is one of the top fine dining restaurants in Austria. The restaurant takes a Mediterranean and Alpine spin on fresh and seasonal ingredients. It’s true modern cuisine with a twist and it’s definitely a great spot for a special dinner.
If you want to try Austrian cuisine with a modern spin this would be the spot. Situated in the lobby of the Andaz Hotel, Eugen21 is the epitome of a modern Austrian tavern. The cuisine is inspired by Prince Eugen’s travels but still pays homage to tradition (table side service is a highlight of some of the more decadent dishes). The restaurant is the perfect blend of old and new. And once you’ve enjoyed an amazing meal you can head to the hotel’s rooftop lounge for cocktails and incredible views.
This was Beethoven’s favorite hangout back in the day! Heurigen is German for wine tavern and it’s the perfect spot to try traditional Viennese cuisine in a pretty historical spot. The winery has been producing wine since 1683, so I’d say they know what they’re doing. Make sure to sit outside on the terrace under the vines during the warmer seasons!
WHERE TO GET DRINKS & COFFEE IN VIENNA:
This is the place where the Viennese literati used to hang. Its STUNNING architecture and delicious homemade cakes make this cafe an absolute must. Here is where you can fully immerse yourself in the Viennese coffeehouse culture. Enjoy a leisurely meal or even just a coffee and take comfort in the fact that no matter how long the line outside (there will be one) you will not be rushed out of your table.
Pro tip: skip the inevitable line and make a reservation online!
This hole in the wall (literally it’s a hole in a wall) cafe serves some of the best coffee in town. And I know it’s good because a local told me it’s her favorite spot! Named one of the 50 best coffee shops in the world! Oh and you should know, you can order a cappuccino in a chocolate-covered ice cream cone. BOOM.
If there was a rooftop bar that was my spirit animal - Lamee would be it. It’s bright and colorful, the drinks are fun and creative and the views…JUST WOW. This would be the perfect spot to rest your feet after a long day wandering around the 1st District (it’s super close to St. Stephen’s Cathedral)
You cannot forget to visit the wineries in Vienna - YES THERE ARE WINERIES WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS. The great thing about Vienna is that you can quickly get to the countryside / wineries in under 30 minutes without leaving the city. There are 1,730 acres of Viennese vineyards within the city - music to my ears! This particular winery has KILLER views and super yummy snacks to eat while you sample their delicious wines.
Heads up red wine drinkers - white wines are grown in 80 percent of the the vineyards. But as someone who pretty exclusively drinks red wine - I LOVED the white wines I drank in Vienna.
You can find the Onyx Bar at the top of the Do & Co hotel in the heart of Vienna. It’s a perfect spot to kick off the evening and enjoy the cityscape! Oooo the bartenders are cute too…
BEST PLACES TO TAKE PHOTOS IN VIENNA:
There are SO MANY fun spots to shoot in Vienna and this is just a snapshot (there’s plenty more)! I’ll add the addresses so that you don’t have any problem locating these spots. And if you want to shoot with a professional make sure to check out Airbnb experiences and Flytographer.
ADDRESS: Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria
ALBERTINA STEPS + MUSEUM
ADDRESS: Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
PALM HOUSE AT SCHONBRUNN
ADDRESS: Schlosspark, 1130 Wien, Austria
ADDRESS: Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Wien, Austria
VIENNA CITY HALL
ADDRESS: Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
ADDRESS: 1010 Vienna, Austria
CAFE CENTRAL COURTYARD
ADDRESS: Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien, Austria
I hope this guide inspires you to visit one of the most BEAUTIFUL countries in Europe! Vienna, by far, has been one of the most enchanting places I’ve visited in 2019.
I want to give a MASSIVE shoutout and thank you to the Austrian National Tourist Board for sponsoring this magical trip. While a portion of my trip was hosted by the tourist board , the opinions and views are my own. My friends at the tourist board could not have put on a more perfect trip and I am forever grateful for the experience.