Vienna (Wien), Austria’s Imperial capital is a blend of imperial traditions and stunning modern architecture. Being one of Europe’s most visited cities, Vienna owes much of its charm and rich history to its splendid location on the banks of the Danube River.
Vienna continues to attract over 17 million visitors each year with its many great historical sightseeing opportunities, its fabled collections of art, glittering palaces, and exceptional musical heritage. This appreciation of the nation’s rich culture is still very evident in Vienna’s magnificent museums, its fine concert halls, and one of the world’s great opera houses. With an unmistakably cosmopolitan atmosphere, Vienna retains a distinctive charm and flair. This is very much accentuated by its fine old architecture; its famous horse-cabs, known as Fiakers; as well as its splendid coffeehouses with their famous Viennese cakes and pastries.
Vienna’s history dates back to the first post-Christian century when the Romans established the military camp Vindobona. Today’s cityscape is characterized by the abundance of Baroque buildings created mostly under the rule of Empress Maria Theresia (1740 – 1780) and Franz Joseph (1848 – 1916). If you are watching “The Empress” movie series in Netflix, it is a historical drama based on a true story about Elisabeth “Sissi” von Wittelsbach, Princess of Bavaria and her journey of becoming Empress of Austria and wife of Emperror Franz Joseph.
How to get to Vienna City Center
If you are flying into Vienna International Airport, it is located approximately 18 kilometers (or 35 minutes by car without traffic) from the Vienna city center (Stephanplatz or State Opera House). Here’s your options:
Ride the City Airport Train (CAT) – €14.9 single/€24.9 return
When you come out of airport arrivals, simply look right to find a ramp that leads you down directly to the train station under the terminal. This is a convenient way from Vienna airport to city center.
To the right of the top of the ramp there is the CAT Booth to buy your ticket at the counter or ticket machines. Or you can book online at CAT website.
– Vienna Airport to Wien Mitte Terminal: daily from 6.08 a.m. to 11.38 p.m. every 30 minutes
– Wien Mitte Terminal to Vienna Airport: daily from 5:37 a.m. to 11:07 p.m. every 30 minutes
Wien Mitte Terminal is only 15 minutes walking from Stephanplatz.
Book Uber Service – €32+
Another option is taking an Uber for your Vienna airport transfer. Uber has been operating in Vienna for many years and is now a reliable service that is more popular than a regular taxi. Uber drivers are usually waiting within a 5-minute distance of the airport, so the waiting times are really short. The cost of an UberX ride from Vienna airport to the city center is around €32 plus. The disadvantage of taking Uber compared to private airport pickup is you need to wait for your car and sometimes chase it in the parking lot. Also, the drivers’ quality varies and prices may go up during the rush hours.
Vienna Airport Train – from €4.30
The cheapest option to get from Vienna airport to the city center is by using regular public transfer which is very cost-effective.
The S-Bahn line S7 runs from the airport every 30 minutes and stops at the centrally located stops Wien Mitte and Wien Praterstern, where you can transfer to the Vienna S-Bahn and U-Bahn network. The journey from the airport to Wien Mitte takes 25 minutes, to Wien Praterstern just under half an hour.
You can find ÖBB ticket office and Vienna airport transfer ticket machines (Austrian railways and standard city trains to the center) immediately at the airport arrivals. A display board gives departure times for all trains leaving the airport for Vienna and elsewhere. A single ticket to the city on a normal municipal train service (S-Bahn) cost appx. €4.30. You can reach the S7 train platform quickly down the ramp (2-3min)
Vienna Airport to City Center Bus Lines
The Vienna Airport Lines bus stops are immediately outside the airport arrivals and they run various services to different destinations in Vienna, including routes to the city center.
Line VAL 1 will run around the clock for you from Wien Westbahnhof (via Wien Hauptbahnhof) to Vienna Airport.
Line VAL 2 takes you from Vienna Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz to Vienna Airport every hour between 04:15 a.m. and 03:15a.m.
Line VAL 3 departs at 05:58 a.m. / 07:58 a.m. / 09:58 a.m. / 11:58 a.m. / 02:58 p.m. / 04:58 p.m. / 06:58 p.m. from Donauzentrum to Vienna Airport.
Refer to the website for more updated detail.
The most convenience if you are carrying heavy suitcases and travelling with young children. For the same price as a Vienna airport taxi, you will get a private driver with excellent English and knowledge of Vienna. The driver will be also wait for you with the welcome sign at the airport terminal exit and if your flight is delayed or canceled the driver will manage accordingly. Example of Private transport is the Welcome Pick Up company.
If you are coming to Vienna by train, you will arrive at Vienna’s Central Railway Station (Stadt Wien), including Bahnhof City mall, which was opened in 2014. It was constructed as a through station and for the first time, trains arrive in the capital from all directions to destinations in all directions.
It only takes five minutes to go from Vienna Central Station to the city centre (St. Stephen’s Square station) by underground, and a mere 12 minutest to reach Vienna International Centre (Kaisermühlen-VIC). U1 trains come in at short intervals, averaging three to four minutes during daytime on weekdays.
How to get around
Vienna has a well-developed public transport network. Buses, trains, trams and underground lines will take you almost anywhere in the city in no time at all. Vienna public transport Wiener Linien operates five underground lines, 29 tram and 127 bus lines, of which 24 are night lines. Night lines only operate between 0.30 am and 5 am. On weekends and public holidays the Vienna underground remains at the service of its passengers all night. The Wiener Linien vehicle fleet currently consists of over 500 tramcars and more than 450 buses. A single ticket costs EUR 2.40 and can be bought at the ticket machine and at Tobacco shop. There is also passes for longer periods of time. Passes are available for 24 hours and 72 hours, or as weekly, monthly or annual passes.
Austrian public transport in general is also family friendly, especially the Metro. All of their metro underground stop has elevators which made our life easier as we didn’t have to carry Alyssa stroller if she fell asleep. The train station also always have elevators.
Top Things to do In Vienna
Head to Naschmarkt first thing in the morning for breakfast and shop for delicacy such as olives and truffle cheese for your snack before embarking on your own walking tour around Vienna. Naschmarkt, Vienna’s most popular market is located at the Wienzeile over the Vienna River. It is known to be the longest open market about 1.5 kilometres long. Nowadays, people can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, exotic herbs, cheese, baked goods and seafood. There are also many small restaurants which offer e.g. sushi, kebab, seafood, traditional Viennese food and stalls which offer clothes and accessories.
Visit Vienna Museums and Galleries
Vienna has many museums and galleries of international reputation. You may not be able to visit all of them, here’s some of the museums and galleries worth visiting if you are an art’s lover.
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
This museum is housed in a magnificent building created expressly to show off the tremendous art collections of the Hapsburg royal family. The superb collection of Dutch art features the world’s largest collection of works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, including his masterpiece Tower of Babel. There are also paintings by Raphael, Titian, Bellini, Caravaggio, and Vermeer, plus portraits by Velazquez. While the museum’s specialties are late Italian Renaissance, Baroque, and Flemish painting, the collections go far beyond those with classical Greek and Roman art and Egyptian artifacts. The museum overlooks Maria-Theresien-Platz, the focal point of which is the grand monument to Empress Maria Theresa. The statue was commissioned by Franz Joseph I and was unveiled in 1887.
All the great names in modern art are represented, often by multiple works, in the magnificent Albertina museum. Representative examples from all the various schools and movements are to be found here, including French impressionists, Vienna secessionists, the Russian avant-garde, the expressionists, and fauvists, represented by their greatest artists. These include important works by the likes of Chagall, Picasso, Cezanne, Degas, Magritte, Vlaminck, Modigliani, Klimt, Munch, Kandinsky, Münter, Miró, Brach, and Ernst – all are here to compare and admire. All told, this must-visit Vienna attraction is home to over a million works of art plus in excess of 65,000 drawings.
Since opening in 2001, Vienna’s Museum Quartier has been home to a variety of first-rate museums that are well worth exploring. A mix of old and new architecture centered around an area that once served as the former royal stables, it’s easy to spend the best part of a day here. Must-visits include the famous Leopold Museum, noted for its large collection of works by Austria’s leading modern artists, such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and MUMOK, the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna, featuring more than 10,000 contemporary and modern pieces by renowned artists including Picasso and Warhol. Another highlight of a visit to the Museum Quarter includes the popular summertime Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen). The event’s main offices are located here, so it’s a hub of activity once tickets become available, and many of the surrounding buildings are used as venues for a variety of cultural events and concerts. Also located here is the Tanzquartier, the country’s leading dance center, along with artists’ studios and galleries.
Vienna City Hall (Rathaus)
Located in the heart of historic Innere Stadt and overlooking Rathausplatz, Vienna’s City Hall (Weiner Rathaus) is an impressive Neo-Gothic building that serves as the city’s administrative center. Remarkable for its size, it occupies nearly 14,000 square meters of the former Parade Ground. This attractive and much-photographed building was completed in 1883 and is notable for the famous Rathausmann on top of its 98-meter-high tower, a banner-carrying iron figure presented to the city as a gift from its master locksmith.
The arcade courtyard in the center of the building is the largest of seven courtyards and is used for popular summer concerts. Highlights of a guided tour of the building include the Schmidt Halle, the large entrance into which carriages would once drive to deposit their passengers, and the two Grand Staircases leading to the Assembly Hall. Other sights included in the tour are the Heraldic Rooms; the City Senate Chamber, notable for its coffered ceiling decorated with gold-leaf and its huge Art Nouveau candelabra; and the Mayor’s reception room. There is free guided tours in German language (audioguide in English is available) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1pm. You cannot reserve the tour and the counting cards will be issued on the meeting point (City Information in the City Hall, entrance Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1) from 8 am on the day of the tour and a maximum of 50 people can participate per tour.
Take a ride with the Horse-drawn Carriage
These horse-drawn carriage, also known as fiakers, are just as much a part of Vienna as St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Giant Ferris Wheel. Riding with the two-horse carriage is one of the highlights for us especially when your feet are tired with all the walking or if you are travelling with young chilren. There is almost no cozier way to explore Vienna’s attractions.
The term “fiaker” originates from the French and refers to the hackney carriage stand in the Parisian Rue de Saint Fiacre. In 1720, the carriages – which had previously been referred to as “Janschky” coaches in Vienna – were renamed “fiakers” (and numbered). Then the carriage trade really began to boom: more than 1,000 fiakers were on the road in Vienna between 1860 and 1900. The carriage drivers were often characters that were known throughout the city and also sometimes performed as singers.
You can find horse-drawn carriage stands in different areas of the city: Stephansplatz, Michaelerplatz, Albertinaplatz, Petersplatz and Burgtheater/Volksgarten. The short tour (approx. 20 min. through the centre of the Old City) costs € 55; the long tour (approx. 40 min. through the Ringstrasse and the Old City) € 95. You can also book individual sightseeing tours directly through the fiaker companies.
Stephanplatz or St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the symbol of Vienna and also the very center of the city. At 136 meters in height, it is the tallest church in Austria. The tallest of its four towers is the south tower at 136 meters. The tower room, from which there is a gigantic view across Vienna, is reached via 343 steps. A total of 13 bells hang here. However, the best known of them, the Pummerin, hangs in the 68 meter-tall north tower. It is the second-biggest free-swinging chimed church bell in Europe. On the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, colorful roof tiles were laid to create the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna. St. Stephen’s Cathedral also attained a particular reputation due to Vienna’s most famous sweet treat: It soars above the brand logo on the pink-red packaging of the Manner Schnitten slices.
In addition to valuable altars and side chapels, the impressive cathedral treasure can also be seen, including relics decorated with gold and precious stones, monstrances, liturgical texts and books as well as vestments. Numerous important people were also given their final resting place in St. Stephen’s Cathedral: Emperor Friedrich III. was buried in an impressive marble sarcophagus. The tomb’s cover slab alone weighs eight tonnes. Prince Eugene of Savoy has his final resting place in a private chapel. Buried in the catacombs of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is Duke Rudolph IV, “the founder”, who laid the foundation stone for the Gothic reconstruction of the cathedral in 1359. It is also the burial site of many other Habsburgs and Viennese cardinals and archbishops.
You can walk from from Stephanplatz to State Opera House while passing the square which also serves as shopping center, restaurants and coffee houses.
Watch the Opera at Viena State Opera House
Vienna is also home to many celebrated composers who lived and worked here including Strauss father and son, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the world’s best, the Staatsoper one of the world’s leading opera houses, and the Vienna Boys’ Choir one the world’s most famous. Vienna has established itself as a great musical metropolis.
One of the world’s largest and most splendid theaters, the Vienna State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) has hosted many of the world’s most prominent composers, conductors, soloists, and dancers. Operatic and ballet performances are staged at least 300 times a year, fueled by an obsession with music that goes as far back as 1625 when the first Viennese Court Opera was performed.
The current massive Opera House was built in 1869 and is notable for its French Early Renaissance style, while interior highlights include a grand staircase leading to the first floor, the Schwind Foyer (named after its paintings of famous opera scenes), and the exquisite Tea Room with its valuable tapestries. Capable of accommodating an audience of 2,211 along with 110 musicians, the Opera House is also home to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. English language behind-the-scenes guided tours are available.
You can check the performance schedule and book your ticket at the official website here.
Watch Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
If you are into music, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the best orchestras in the world and many think it is the best. For decades, the Vienna Philharmonic has given its New Year’s Concert in the Grand Hall of the Musikverein. Works by the Strauss dynasty and their contemporaries ensure a successful start to the year. Those who would like to be there ‘live’ need to strike lucky in the annual ticket draw through the Philharmonic’s website. The audience of millions glued to TV sets in 90 countries takes part for free.
The second annual mega-appearance of the Vienna Philharmonic is of a very different nature: the Summer Night Concert in Schönbrunn, an open-air event for 100,000 visitors, with free admission and set against the fabulous backdrop of Schönbrunn Palace.
You can pay a visit to Wiener Musikverein, a concert hall that serves as home for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Performance schedule and ticket can be accessed here).
Visit The Prater and ride the giant wheel
The Prater is a popular public park and green space in the city, and is home to one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Its ferris wheel, at over 200 feet (65 m) tall, is one of the symbols of Vienna. Used for centuries as the imperial hunting grounds, Vienna’s Prater was opened to the public in 1766. In 1895 the amusement park, Wurstelprater, was opened, of which many of the original attractions have been perfectly preserved, contributing to the charming historic feel of the park.
Since being opened in 1897 during the celebration of Franz Joseph’s Golden Jubilee, Vienna’s Riesenrad, or Giant Wheel, has been one of the city’s most iconic symbols. Throughout its history, the ferris wheel has lived on through war and disaster. It managed to survive the threat of demolition and lay unused for two years during World War I, but in the final days of World War II, it was bombed and burnt down. While it was reconstructed in record time, only 15 of the original 30 gondolas were restored.
Those remaining gondolas now form an exhibition space underneath the wheel, where visitors can explore the different eras of Vienna’s history: the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the World Exhibition, and the different wars fought in the city.
Schonbrunn Palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers, located in Hietzing, Vienna. The name Schönbrunn (meaning “beautiful spring”) has its roots in an artesian well from which water was consumed by the court. The 1,441-room Rococo palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historic monuments in the country. The history of the palace and its vast gardens spans over 300 years, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs. It has been a major tourist attraction since the mid-1950s.
Schonbrunn Palace had a large and beautiful garden. we could walk further to see Gloriette. Gloriette is a building in a garden erected on a site that is elevated with respect to the surroundings. The structural execution and shape can vary greatly, often in the form of a pavilion or tempietto, more or less open on the sides. The largest and probably best-known gloriette is in the Schonbrunn Palace garden in Vienna, built in 1775 and was the last building constructed in the garden. It is easy to spend one day to properly explore Schonbrunn Palace and Garden to see the museum inside and explore the garden. There was even a zoo and a maze inside the garden.
Schonbrunn Palace open from 9.00-17.00 while the garden open from 06.30-20.00
How to get here:
Underground: U4, get off at Schönbrunn
Trams: 10 and 60, get off at Schloss Schönbrunn
Bus: 10 A, get off at Schloss Schönbrunn
You can purchase Sisi ticket for a better deal which includes 3 imperial attractions in 1 ticket: Schonbrunn Palace + Sisi Museum + Imperial apartment and silver collection in Hofburg palace + Vienna furniture museum. You can book here or if you just want a tour at Schonbrunn Palace you can book your ticket at the official website.
Hofburg Imperial Palace
Hofburg Palace was once the home to the Hapsburgs but is now the official residence and office of Austria’s President. It is also home to a lot of Vienna’s best Museums and galleries as well as the home of the Spanish Riding School. Hofburg Palace is one of the largest palace complexes in the world and is located in the heart of Vienna.
Walking through the palace grounds gives you a real appreciation for the size and beauty of this complex. Make sure to check out the incredible semi-circular Neue Burg and take a tour through the imperial apartments. There is no doubt you will be impressed by this stunning example of baroque architecture. A real highlight of the Hofburg complex is an Art Nouveau greenhouse – the Palmenhouse. Once used by the emperor as a place of relaxation, it contains the Schmetterlinghouse (Butterfly house). It is a beautiful display of hundreds of butterfly species living in a large tropical rainforest setting and is the perfect place to enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine while touring the complex itself. Hofburg Palace. In the summer, the terrace of the coffee house opens to views of the Burggarten. This was the former Emperor’s garden and is now a popular city park. The Schmetterlinghouse is the perfect place for people watching for tourists and locals alike.
One thing you will notice in Vienna is that there is no shortage of Palaces and the Belvedere Palace is simply beautiful. This incredible baroque castle was built in the early 1700s and was used as a summer palace (Hofburg Palace was the Winter Residence). Consisting of two Baroque palaces, the Upper Belvedere and the Lower Belvedere this is one palace you do not want to miss if you love art and architecture.
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the Belvedere Palace also hosts the Austrian National Gallery and the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection as well as other Austrian art. The Belvedere Palace is open an hour earlier (9.00 am) than most local museums. We suggest starting your visit at the Upper Belvedere and National Gallery before strolling down the manicured baroque gardens to the Lower Belvedere Palace that opens from 10.00 am. Book your ticket with time slot here.
Stadtpak is the oldest public park in Vienna located right in the heart of Vienna’s centre. Stadtpark stretches over 28 acres of land in the city and divided by Wien River. One of the park’s most photographed monuments is the statue of Johan Strauss, a gilded bronze sculpture built in 1921 in honor of the iconic Austrian composer. A stroll throughout the park would not be complete without a visit to one of its most important buildings, the Kursalon. Opened in 1867 as a spa pavilion where visitors could enjoy hydrotherapeutic treatments, it was soon turned into a concert hall instead, and to this day hosts around 500 concerts and balls every year.
Vienna’s coffee houses
A visit to Vienna is not complete if you haven’t tried their coffee houses and taste Sacher Torte with cofee. Great works of art have been created in these ‘living rooms’ of the Viennese. Patronised by luminaries such as Mahler, Klimt, Freud, Trotsky and Otto Wagner in their day, Vienna’s Kaffeehäuser (coffee houses) were added to the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011. Many retain their opulent original decor, and often specialise in a particular cake, such as the Sacher Torte, an iced-chocolate cake with apricot jam once favoured by Emperor Franz Josef, at Café Sacher. New-wave coffee houses are putting their own twist on the tradition.
There is so much to do and experience in Vienna and you need minimal of 3 days to really enjoy the city. You can take day trip to Hallstatt from Vienna or if you have 1 week you can continue your journey to Hallstat (stay one night) and Salzburg (stay 2 nights). You can also make Austria part of a 2 weeks trip to Europe (check this itinerary). Austria may not be a big country but there is a lot of beautiful places you can visit for your next Europe trip. Enjoy Vienna!