Vienna City Guide
Vienna is a modern city that truly embraces its historic past and it’s packed with culture & stunning architecture, so obviously it had been on my travel bucket list for quite a while. There are so many beautiful things to see in Vienna that I’ve made a Vienna city guide for you.
If you love to have nice weather when you go on holiday then you’re in luck with Vienna. The summer lingers a little bit longer in Vienna than in more western European city’s. I visited Vienna in September and still had beautiful warm and sunny days to enjoy all the city has to offer.
This guide will give you a full picture on what to see and do in Vienna. Where to eat in Vienna. And of course I’ll give you a list of beautiful design hotels in Vienna.
Where to stay
There are a lot of beautifully designed hotels in Vienna, whether you like a more classic look or if you prefer modern design there’s a hotel for everyone.
My absolute number 1 recommondation for a hotel in Vienna is the Grand Ferdinand hotel on the Ringstrasse in Vienna’s city centre. Grand Ferdinand is designed in a classic Viennese style but with all the advantages of modern life.
The rooms are stylish and uncluttered with wooden floors and a champagne bar (yes, really!). Grand Ferdinand has a roof terrace with a lovely view over Vienna where breakfast (and dinner) is served when the weather is nice. On top of that the roof terrace also has a rooftop pool if you want to relax with a glass of champagne and a city view.
Downstairs there’s a second restaurant called Meissl & Schadn where you can enjoy the Austrian classic the Wiener Schnitzel, prepared in a traditional style (there’s an open kitchen and you can even sign up to learn to make your own schnitzel).
I couldn’t have been more pleased with my choice of hotel in Vienna. Grand Ferdinand is everything I wish for in a hotel, stylish, close to all the cultural sites and perfect hospitality.
Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere is a recently opened hotel by the Hyatt chain. It’s located in the museum quarter and beautifully designed.
SO/ Vienna is a lifestyle hotel in Vienna. The hotel is designed by Jean Nouvel and has a spa and a restaurant on the 18th floors with stunning views.
Melia Vienna is located in the highest skyscraper in Austria. The modern rooms have a beautiful view over Vienna. It’s not located in the city centre but with a metro station across the street you’re in the centre within 5 minutes.
25 Hours Hotelis a hip hotel in the Museum Quartier filled with quirky andfunky design. Every room has a unique design with modern and vintage furnishings
Hotel Daniel Vienna is the perfect hotel if you love raw urban design. The 60s building was the first building in Austria to be constructed using the Curtain Wall technique. Inside the rooms are hip and minimalistic (some even have a hammock to chill in) and it’s located in the Museum Quartier.
What to do
There are so many things to do in Vienna that you really can’t fit them all into 3 days, but you can do a lot in that timeframe. First I will show you my 3 day Vienna itinerary, and after that some additional tips on what you can do in Vienna.
After arriving at Vienna airport I took the CAT train (the City Airport Train) to Wien Mitte. The CAT is a direct line from the airport to the city centre which takes about 16 minutes and costs €21 for a return trip. A cheaper option is the normal S7 train which takes about 23 minutes and costs around €8 for a return ticket (depending on if you already have a travel pass).
Even though I thought the CAT was comfortable I would chose the S7 since it hardly takes more time but is considerably cheaper. Other otions to/from the airport are the bus or taxi.
From Wien Mitte it was a nice walk to my hotel through the Stadspark, you can choose between walking through all the lanes in the park or you can walk on the waterside, both are very nice walks.
After checking in to hotel Grand Ferdinand it was already around 4 o’clock so I decided to take a stroll and check out my surroundings, because the hotel is on such a central location I saw quite a few beautiful sights on a relative short walk.
One of the first sights I encountered was the Wiener Staatsopera. The opera house is one the most important opera houses in the world. Structurally it was designed by August Sicard von Sicardsburg while Eduard van der Nüll was responsible for the interior of the opera house.
The opera house was opened in 1869 with Mozart’s DON JUAN in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth. If you want to experience a real Viennese evening than you can visit an opera here (there are performances every day).
From the Wiener Staatsopera it’s a short walk to Burggarten, a lovely park with the Palmenhaus where you can sit for a cup of tea and enjoy the greenery and architecture around you.
From the Burggarten you walk to the Heldenplatz which is a historic square in Vienna in front of the famous Hofburg Palace. Many historical events happened here (f.e. Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Germany) so it holds a important place in Vienna’s history.
There is a big park area (including the Volksgarten) and when you walk through you come to the famous curved Hofburg view with the horse carriages that you suerely have seen pictures of. The Hofburg is a formely imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty and is now used as the official residence and workplace of the president of Austria.
You can go inside the Hofburg Palace to see the Imperial Apartment, the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Silver Collection.
National Library of Austria
From the Hofburg Palace it’s only a short walk to the National Library of Austria. I must admit I didn’t visit the library on my first day because it was already closed but I went back on day 3 and I wasn’t disappointed.
In the Austrian National Library you can visit the State Hall which is the biggest Baroque library in the world. Emperor Karl VI ordered the creation of library in one of the private wings of the Hofburg Palace in the 18th-century.
More than 200.000 volumes are exhibited in the library that’s 80 meters long and 20 meters high. On the ceiling are beautiful paintings by court painted Daniel Gran and in the collection you can find one of the largest collections of Martin Luther’s writings from the Reformation Era.
TAKE A LOOK AT THE BEST PALACES IN AND AROUND VIENNA
After a delicious breakfast on the roof terrace at my hotel it was time to start exploring again.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
My first stop that day was the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Construction of the church started in the 12th-century and today it’s one of the most important Gothic buildings in Austria. You can enter the church for free (but for a guided tour, the catacombs and the towers you have to pay).
I’m not sure if I can properly describe how beautiful this church is. There’s so much to see from impressive architecture to beautiful artworks. The St. Stephen Cathedral is a work of art. I chose to go in by myself but looking back I wish I’d done a guided tour of the cathedral. You can also climb to the top and from there you’ll have a lovely view over Vienna.
MAK Design Museum
From the St. Stephen’s Cathedral I walked through cozy streets with beautiful courtyards towards the MAK Design Museum. The MAK brings together applied arts, design, architecture and contemporary art. If you’re an art-lover this is a must visit. It also has a design shop and a café.
The Belvedere Palace isn’t just one palace but two! The park and its 2 Baroque palaces are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s an absolute delight to walk there. Now, the Belvedere Palaces are museums divided into 3 parts.
At the Lower Belvedere (which used to be the residence of Prince Eugene) you’ll find artwork from all periods and in the stables you’ll find treasures from the Middle Ages. The Upper Belvedere is the large Baroque palace and the most visited museum in Austria. Here you’ll find artwork from Klimt, van Gogh, Monet and many others.
Across the road from the palace grounds you’ll find Belvedere 21, which houses contemporary, Austrian and International art, film and music.
The Karlskirche is a Roman Catholic church at the Karlsplatz close to Belvedere. It’s an architectural beauty and during sunny days the square in front of the church is packed with people enjoying the sunshine. In the evenings the church organizes classic concerts which you can visit.
Day three was the day to venture outside the city centre to visit yet another palace.
Funny enough this isn’t the first time I saw the palace because I flew over it on my way to Vienna. It looked impressive from above and it certainly didn’t disappoint. In the 17th-century Emperor Leopold I commissioned to build a hunting lodge for his son (the future Emperor Joseph I).
In the 18th-century the palace grew into a palatial imperial residence. During the reign of Maria Theresia the palace turned into the summer residence for the Habsburgs which was the focus of court life.
The palace counts 1441(!) rooms and today you can visit 40 of them. In this tour you’ll see the state rooms and private apartments of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth (Sisi) plus the 18th-century interiors from the time of Maria Theresia.
But there’s so much more to see at Schloss Schönbrunn. On the grounds you’ll find several gardens (a privy garden and orangery garden), the Gloriette, a maze, a Palm House, a vineyard and even a Zoo. To get to the Gloriette you have to climb up a hill but from there you’ll have a beautiful view over the park and Vienna. To relax from the trip up the hill there’s a café.
I spend half a day at Schloss Schönbrunn but you can easily spend an entire day here, especially when the weather is nice.
Schloss Schönbrunn obviously isn’t located in the city centre but to get here is very easy. There’s a metro station close to the palace and from the city centre it takes about 15 minutes. You can buy your metro tickets at the station or online.
On my way back I exited on the Kettenbruckegasse metro station because it’s near the Naschmarkt which I’d read about, but honestly that wasn’t for me at all and I don’t really understand the fuss about it. Bút close to the Naschmarkt is Café Sperl which is a typical Viennese café and perfect after a long half day walking around.
From Café Sperl you can walk to the Museumquartier. There are 3 big museums here; the Leopold Museum, MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst) and Kunsthalle Wien) but also several other art buildings. I haven’t gone inside any of the museum so I can’t give a recommendation but if you love art, you should definitely visit.
From the Museumquartier you can walk to the Rathausplatz, here you’ll find Vienna’s city hall which is an amazing building (I know, I know.. Vienna is packed with amazing architectural buildings).
This is all I did on my 3 day trip to Vienna but of course there are more things to see in this beautiful city.
The Albertina museum was also a residence of the Habsburg dynasty but now it hosts a collection of paintings, drawings, photography, architecture ánd state rooms.
I can’t believe I didn’t visit the Hunderwasserhaus but I simply didn’t have more time. The Hunderwasserhaus is colorful social housing apartment complex designed by Hundertwasser. Built in the 1980s it was a reaction to the boring, conventional architecture that was built at the time. There are no straight lines at this interesting building and I’m kind of hitting myself for not seeing it in real life (thank god for the internet).
The perfect spot for a good photo session, the Sünnhof is a cozy street decorated with colorful umbrellas.
Wiener Secession is a building built in 1898 by architect Jospeh Maria Ohlbrich. It was a place for artist of the Secession movement (the Austrian version of the Jugenstil movement) to come together.
Among the artist were Gustav Klimt and the architect Joseph Maria Ohlbrich. Modern day artist still expose their work here and the museum program is decided by the artists themselves.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is the largest museum in Austria. It was opened at the same time as the National History Museum in 1891. The collection of the museum mainly comes from the private collection of the Habsburgers with many old masters such as Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens and Caravaggio.
Let yourself get transported to Japan at the Setegayapark. Designed in 1992 by Japanese landscape gardener Ken Nakajima the Setagayapark emulates a Japanese landscape with several ponds and streams, and it contains the densely-planted garden elements that are typical of Japanese gardens.
There is a Japanese tea house, a “Yukimi style” stone lantern, several stone sculptures and a fountain, as well as a poem set in stone at the entrance to the garden. This park is perfect in the spring if you want to see the cherry trees in bloom. (note: the park is only opened april-october)
Do you have a bit more time on your hands? Go venturing outside the city center! Just east of Vienna you can find the Lainzer Tiergarten, which used to be the hunting grounds of the Emporer. In the park you will also find the Hermesvilla aka ‘The Palace of Dreams’ which was built for Empress Elisabeth. The Hermesvilla is now a museum.
The vineyards of Austria are closer than you think. Just outside Vienna there are multiple vineyards that you can tour and where you can dine (with of course a glass of wine). You can find vineyards around Kahlenberg, Cobenzl, Grinzing and Bisamberg.
If wine isn’t your thing than there are plenty of hiking and mountainbike trails outside Vienna for a sporty day. On these trails you’ll find platforms where you will have beautiful views over Vienna, Austria and even into Slovakia.
Where to eat & drink
When you’re in Vienna you can’t miss a visit to a typical Viennese café. Luckily there are many of them.
If you’re constantly on the go you might want to grab a bun and take it with you. Joseph Brot has several locations in Vienna (some with a bistro) where you can get delicious bread
Phil isn’t just a café/bar but also a bookstore! Phil is a hip hotspot if you want something else than a ‘typical Viennese coffeehouse’. And honestly coffee/tea, a pastry and books is the perfect combination don’t you think?
Heuer am Karlsplatz
A modern restaurant with outdoor seating in a pretty garden and all of that in the center of Vienna. The restaurant is decorated with preserving jars where chef Peter Fallnbügl stores his pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables.
Café and Restaurant Motto am Fluss
Motto am Fluss is a new restaurant overlooking the Danube Canal, there’s an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy meals from breakfast to dinner.
Probably the most famous café in Vienna especially for their Sacher torte. Please note though that this is very touristy and there’s usually a line all the way outside for a spot in the café.
Again, a tourist hotspot, so you can expect to have to wait a bit before you can eat. But they say that Figlmüller makes the best schnitzels in Vienna.
I’ve already mentioned this café above, it’s a typical Viennese coffee house with a large open plan sitting space, high ceilings, old charm and plenty of coffee to choose from.
Café Central has been a popular hotspot since 1876. Here, the greatest poets, philosophers and storytellers got together to talk about life while enjoying a coffee and a Viennese pastry. Not only the history of café Central is impressive but the neo-renaissance building is equally breathtaking.
A hip a modern restaurant using mainly local ingredients next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Nice thing about Labstelle is that you can read on their website exactly where all their ingredients used in their dishes come from.
Botanical garden lovers should visit the Palmenhaus (above) in the Burggarten. Here you can sit under the leaves or enjoy a coffee outside overlooking the park.
Where most Viennese cafés transport you back to the 19th-century in café Prückel you’re transported back to the 1950s. With original mid-century furniture this café is a beauty for design lovers.
Another great café if you love design. Not only do they serve you a fairtrade coffee here but you can also buy all the furniture you see in the café. The pieces of furniture are constantly changing and come from young innovative designers.
Does this guide get you in the mood for a trip to Vienna? I honestly can’t wait to get back and explore everything I missed on this trip, hopefully I won’t have to wait too long!