This is your free Vienna City Guide! This Austrian city has an immense history and is full of pretty, classical looking buildings. Amongst other things, visitors enjoy dancing horses and Christmas markets. Here are our personal recommendations to you…
WHAT TO DO IN VIENNA
Riesenrad Ferris Wheel – It’s Vienna’s most prominent landmark and it’s been spinning visitors around for well over a hundred years. The wheel was built to mark the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef in 1896, but its long term future was secured in 2002 with a huge renovation project. When you ride the Riesenrad you get terrific views of Vienna, but also a sense of history with its wooden cabs and distinctive square windows. You’ll probably remember it from the movie “The Third Man”. You do get the feeling though that wheel hasn’t had the love and attention it deserves over the years. This maybe because it is part of the Vienna Prater – a huge amusement park with traditional fairground rides and attractions. Whilst the fairground attractions look best and are busiest at night, bear in mind that there’s not much to see from the wheel when it’s dark. Riesenrad is in Vienna’s second district of Leopoldstadt.
Riesenrad Wheel: Full review, directions, pictures & map…
St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) – This gothic cathedral is right in the centre of Vienna and has brightly coloured zig-zag roof tiles. It’s another of the city’s landmarks and it’s well worth looking inside as it’s packed with history. You can see Austria’s largest bell in the North Tower, but our recommendation would be to climb the steps up the South Tower for a terrific view of central Vienna. If you fancy going down, rather than up, you can also visit the catacombs on the regular guided tours which run at the Cathedral.
St Stephen’s Cathedral: Full review, pictures & map…
Mozart’s House (Mozarthaus) – This grand city centre apartment was home to Mozart whilst he composed the “Marriage of Figaro”. It was also the former home of Strauss though and he wrote the “Blue Danube” waltz here. Mozart lived here longer than any other apartment from 1784 to 1787. Today Mozarthaus is filled with Mozart and Strauss memorabilia spread over 6 levels. Mozart’s House is just behind St Stephen’s Cathedral on Domgasse.
Vienna Mozarthaus: Full review, tickets prices & map…
Imperial Palace (Hofburg) – The imperial family lived here until 1918, but now its houses the offices of the president of Austria and you can enjoy it as a tourist attraction. You can visit the former private apartments of the imperial family and see the splendour in which they lived! Your Hofburg ticket will also allow you to see the Imperial Silver collection and the Sisi Museum. The Imperial Palace is the large building in the historic centre of Vienna. Nearest underground stop is Herrengasse on the U3 orange line.
Vienna Imperial Palace: Full review, ticket prices & map…
The Ring Boulevard – This is the circular route which takes you past most of the impressive historic buildings in Vienna. It’s around 4km long and spaciously planned out and along the way you’ll see the State Opera House, the Hofburg, the Austrian Parliament, Vienna City Hall (Rathaus) and the Musuem of Fine Arts. You can take the Ring tram if you don’t want to walk or do it in style with the many horse drawn carriages.
Vienna Ring: Trams, pictures & map…
State Opera House – It’s one of the most impressive opera houses in the world and apart from seeing a performance, the best way to see it is to take one of the guided tours. It was built in 1869 and the guided tours take you to the auditorium, the Gustav Mahler Room, the impressive main staircase, the Marble Room and the Tea Salon. There is also an Opera Museum on the same site which you can pay extra to visit, although we chose just to stick to the Opera House tour. You can’t miss the State Opera House, it’s on the Ring.
Vienna State Opera House: Full review, tour prices, pictures & map…
Spanish Riding School – If you like horses, you’ll love this! The horses look like they are dancing and the horsemanship is superb. The school uses Lipizzaner stallions and there are regular shows to see them and their riders literally “perform”. For a cheaper alternative than going to an actual show, we’d recommend going to one of the open training sessions (mostly available Tuesday to Saturday). These normally take place in the morning and you can stay as long as you want to watch the horses. They are usually accompanied by music. The actual building is another star here, dating back to the 1730s, it has to be the most beautiful riding hall in the world! You can also take a guided tour which allows you to visit the stables. Both the tours and the exercise sessions are quite expensive, but much cheaper than going to a proper performance. The riding school is between Michaelerplatz and Josefsplatz near the Hofburg in central Vienna.
Vienna Spanish Riding School: Full review, tickets & map…
The Blue Danube – Last time we went to Vienna, we decided to take a trip out to see the infamous ‘Blue Danube’ as it’s not really within walking distance of the city centre. It isn’t blue – more a dirty grey colour, and it certainly doesn’t feel at all romantic to see it! A better option is the Danube Tower (Donauturm) which is a huge concrete needle. It’s not exactly pretty to look at, but the idea is that you take elevator and look out at Vienna from it and maybe have a meal or snack while you’re there. It’s at Donauturmstrasse 4. The Danube Park below the tower is a lovely place to spend time with large meadows and beautiful flower beds. You’ll need to take the U1 underground to get to the Danube Tower, the stop is Kaisermühlen.
The Blue Danube: Recommended tour
Christmas in Vienna – At Christmas time Vienna takes on a different feel with mini market’s all over the place and lots of Gluhwein available. All the mini markets sell gifts, crafts and food and the largest in central Vienna is outside the City Hall (Rathaus) in the Rathausplatz. You’ll also fine a really nice market at Spittelberg and a large one at Schonbrunn (see below).
Christmas In Vienna: Read more, markets, pictures & map…
OUR TOP TIP IN VIENNA
Schonbrunn Palace (Schloss Schonbrunn) – This palace is slightly out of the city centre of Vienna, but is easy to get to on the metro and is a real treat. It’s one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and is essentially a huge yellow palace which illustrates the tastes of the Habsburgs who ruled Austria for centuries. The audio tour of the building is fascinating and the gardens are equally impressive. At Christmas there is often a large craft market at the front of the palace too. We could have spent an entire day here and it’s the place that sticks in our minds when we think of Vienna.
Schonbrunn Palace: Full Review, tours, directions & map…
MORE THINGS TO DO IN VIENNA
To soak up the culture and musical history of Vienna, there are a number of regular concerts you can enjoy. Most popular is the Schonbrunn Palace Evening Concert which includes dinner and a tour of the palace but the Vienna Mozart Concert at the Musikverein also gets great reviews. You can see the Danube at it’s best in the Wachau Valley. This can be done on the Danube Day Trip from Vienna. Also, you can very easily use Vienna as a base to visit other historic European cities. Here are the most popular options…
Day Trip to Budapest
Day Trip to Saltzburg
Day Trip to Prague
More Vienna Trips & Tours
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We stayed at the Hotel Nestroy which is a modern feeling hotel with funky, unusual rooms. The service was superb and the location is good for the Riesenrad wheel and also for walking into central Vienna. As always, check out the latest reviews before booking here but we would certainly recommend it.
GETTING AROUND VIENNA
We walked almost everywhere except to Schonbrunn and the Danube Tower. The Underground lines are easy to use and colour coded and the busses and trams are frequent and reliable. You’ll have no trouble getting around as the public transport is top notch. We had a private taxi transfer to get to and from the airport which was a great door-to-door service. You can see the options and latest prices for this by clicking the Airport Transfers button.
MORE ON VIENNA
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