25 Fantastic Things to Do in Vienna on Your First Trip

25 Fantastic Things to Do in Vienna on Your First Trip

The magnificent city of Vienna, with its deluge of historical attractions and the many experiences to have, could take weeks to fully explore,

There’s no denying that the Austrian capital is a grand and beautiful city. Stunning architecture can be found around almost every corner and there are many historical sites. Classical music, art, opera, and imperial sites add to the cultural landscape, and there are peaceful parks if you want to sit for a while in quiet contemplation.

With something for everyone, here are some of the best things to see and do in Vienna:

1. Be blown away by beauty in the Austrian National Library

Image credit: Herbert Frank

Image credit: Herbert Frank

Not only is the Austrian National Library housed within a striking building, but the State hall is a real treasure too. The old collection of books, the painted walls and ceilings, along with the gleaming columns and polished floor, are simply divine.

2. Have fun at Prater Amusement Park

Image credit: Apartments Vienna

Home to a large observation wheel and a variety of other rides, Prater Amusement Park offers fun for the whole family. There’s a splendid park nearby too if you want to mix it up and go for a long walk or bike ride in nature.

3. Visit the mighty Stephansdom

Stephansdom, or St. Stephan’s Cathedral, is the biggest and most ornate cathedral in Vienna. You can see the colourful roof tiles from far and wide and the facades cannot fail to impress as you draw closer to the striking place of worship. Look inside and you’ll come across even more superb features, and you can go up to the viewing platform to enjoy sweeping views of the city spread out beneath you. Alternatively, descend into the crypt and see sparkling gems in the treasury.

4. Admire the architecture of Karlsplatz

Image credit: Nicolas Vollmer

Another stunning square in Vienna, Karlsplatz is surrounded by Art Deco gems. From the station to the marble pavilions, it’s a real treat for the eyes.

5. Observe an array of animals at the Tiergarten

One of the oldest zoos in the world and home to creatures from all over the globe, Vienna’s Tiergarten is a firm favourite with families visiting Vienna. That’s not to say that lone adults can’t enjoy the zoo too —they most certainly can! Built to house the royal family’s collection of animals, the zoo dates back to the 1750s. You can still see reminders from the past, with old cages and buildings throughout the extensive grounds. Animals are well looked after and healthy.  

6. Get a bird’s eye view from the Danube Tower

Image credit: Johannes Ortner

Known locally as Donauterm, the Danube Tower stands at 150 metres tall — it’s definitely a noticeable sight on Vienna’s skyline! Elevators carry people up to the viewing platform, from where you can soak up amazing views of the city. You’ll find the tower in the lovely Danube Park.

7. Tour the magnificent Schonbrunn Palace

The impressive and grand Schonbrunn Palace is one of the most popular attractions in the Austrian capital. Visitors can only look around the interior as part of a self-guided tour; several options are available, covering different rooms and areas of the large palace. It’s certainly eye-opening to see how the nation’s royalty once lived, and the audio tour also lets you into a few royal secrets! Expect beautiful artwork and furnishings, fine tapestries, exquisite architectural details, antiques, and more. (Note that, sadly, no photos are allowed inside.)

8. Conquer the maze at Schonbrunn Palace

The grounds surrounding Schonbrunn Palace are well worth a visit in their own right. Formal flower beds add bursts of colour to the expansive lawns, and there are many graceful statues and sculptures to admire. If you want to challenge yourself, head into the maze. Whilst not overly difficult, it is a little tricky to find your way out the other side; you may find that you are among the tall, dense hedges for a bit longer than planned!

9. Enjoy the Desert House

The Desert House is another attraction within the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace. Created on the orders of Franz Joseph I, it was built to house the emperor’s collection of exotic plants. The metal and glass building lets plenty of light and heat in to help the plants to flourish. A fabulous place for anyone interested in botany, the Desert House is split into three different zones: Madagascar, Old World Deserts, and New World Deserts. Various flora and fauna live in the large greenhouse.

10. Fall in love with the graceful horses

Image credit: when_night_falls

The handsome Lipizzan horses are a pride of Vienna. At certain times of the year, you can visit the Spanish Riding School to see the refined horses performing their early morning exercises and training.

11. Pay your respects at the Jewish City Temple

Constructed in the 1820s, the Jewish City Temple is today a memorial to Austrian Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis during WWII. One of few Austrian synagogues to survive the war, the building is flanked by apartment buildings; this is how it survived.

12. Become a classical music buff

Beethoven Pasqualati House | Image credit: Wien Vienna

Vienna is well-known for having produced some of the world’s biggest names in classical music. See two of Beethoven’s former homes: Beethoven Pasqualati House and Beethoven Residence Heiligenstadt. You can also visit the birthplace of Franz Schubert and the former home of Johann Strauss, or learn more about the city’s musical past at the Opera Museum.    

13. Enjoy art at the Kunsthistorisches Museum

An absolute must for art lovers and creative souls, the Kunsthistorisches Museum is housed within one of two buildings facing almost identical stately buildings. (The other is home to the Natural History Museum). The building itself is a spectacular piece of architectural art, with sweeping staircases, grand pillars, expansive rooms and halls, carved bannisters, balconies, and other fine touches. There are various types of art from around the world, but the paintings that adorn the ceilings and the inside of the dome are likely to be real show stealers (They were for me, in any case!).

14. Feel brainy at the Sigmund Freud Museum

Image credit: John Kannenberg

Learn more about the life, work, and studies of Dr. Sigmund Freud, one of the world’s most famous psychoanalysts and neurologists. The fascinating exhibits and artefacts are housed within the eminent doctor’s previous home and office.

15. Appreciate the architecture of Georg Coch Platz

Georg Coch Platz is an elegant square with gorgeous buildings surroundings a small patch of grass at the centre. Many of the pale buildings have statues, sculptures, and carvings; look above doors and windows and on top of the roofs and see what you can spot!

16. Marvel at the majesty of the Hofburg

The Hofburg is an old imperial palace in the heart of Vienna. Home to royalty between the 1270s and 1918, it was originally built as a protective fortress. The massive palace boasts diverse architectural styles, including Gothic, Baroque, Neo-Classicist, Renaissance, and Rococo. After admiring glorious facades, pass through graceful archways, walk through gateways, and cross gorgeous courtyards to come across even more striking external walls. If the outsides are impressive, the interiors are almost sure to delight too, with lashings of opulence.

The Imperial Apartments and Sisi Museum are among the palace’s highlights. Major features of the palace include Michaelertrakt gate, with its fabulous sculptures, bluey-green dome, and beautiful fountains that stand either side, the expansive In der Burg courtyard, the regal monument of Franz II, Leopoldinschertrakt, which is closed to visitors as it’s the official home of the Austrian president, a statue of Archduke Charles on horseback, the unique Amalia’s Wing, the Burgtheater, and the astronomical clock of Amalienburg. Even more striking features and sections include the Redoute Wing, the Imperial Castle Garden, Heroes Square, the Temple of Theseus, the Augustinian Church, and Stallburg, the former home of the crown prince who was removed from the main building for favouring Protestantism. Plan to spend many hours exploring the huge palace complex to fully appreciate its amazing splendour.

17. Snap a picture of Karlskirche

Known in English as St. Charles’s Church, the Baroque Karlskirche was built in the 1730s. In keeping with the rest of the city, the building is stylish and impressive. There’s a collection of historic clothing inside and the church also regularly hosts classical music concerts and recitals.  

18. Feast your eyes on the Austrian Parliament Building

Built in the late 1800s, the Austrian Parliament building was constructed in a Greek Revival style. The large building has more than 100 rooms, many of which feature striking statues, chandeliers, artworks, and opulent furnishings. The building is not open to visitors, though you can learn more about parliament and its stately home at the building’s visitor centre.  

19. Be awed by the splendid City Hall

Image credit: Thomas Ledl

Vienna’s City Hall is an attractive Neo-Gothic building that dates back to the 1870s. The tall central spire is complemented by smaller pinnacles, and the many arches and windows add to the visual appeal. The insides are as grand as the exterior, with a number of Baroque-style interior courtyards and in excess of 1,500 rooms. The statue on top of the building, the Rathausmann statue, is one of the city’s symbols.

20. Hop between Vienna’s fantastic museums

Museum of Modern Art | Image credit: Wien Vienna

Vienna has many excellent museums, and everyone is sure to find a museum that appeals to their interests. You will need to be selective, though—unless you’re planning to spend weeks in Vienna, it will be impossible to enjoy all of the city’s museums! Madame Tussauds is a fun place for families to get up close and personal with their favourite (waxwork) celebrities. The Museum of Modern Art, MAK, and Hundertwasser Museum will keep art lovers entertained. Others include Albertina, the Jewish Museum Vienna, the Technology Museum, the House of Music, Vienna Museum, the Leopold Museum, and the Globe and Esperanto Museum.

21. Pick up something charming and unique

Image credit: Cha già José

From large department stores to small speciality shops and souvenir sellers, there are many places to indulge in some retail therapy in Vienna. You’ll find typical souvenirs, like t-shirts, key chains, fridge magnets, snow globes, painted plates, and ornaments of major city sights. You’ll also find a great selection of more quirky and edible gifts too if you’re looking for something a bit different to the norm.

How about some Austrian beer, in a gift set with a glass? Or a tin of Manner wafers? Local porcelain, glassware, jewellery, Christmas tree ornaments (all year round), hand-made teddy bears, and the truly local Mozartkugel (a ball of chocolate, marzipan, pistachio, and nougat wrapped up and decorated with Mozart’s face) are other options to consider.

22. Take a boat ride along the River Danube

The River Danube runs through Vienna and a boat ride is an ideal way to enjoy the city’s sights from a different perspective. You can take romantic strolls alongside the water too and, in the summer months, locals relax and bathe on sandy river beaches alongside the water.

23. Sink your teeth into tasty street food

The abundance of restaurants, cafes, and bars means that you’ll never go hungry or thirsty in Vienna. There are plenty of street stalls too for a real taste of Viennese local life. Grab a hot sausage and smother it with condiments, satisfy your sweet tooth with a variety of delicious cakes and pastries, indulge in a strudel, or savour a large pretzel. And that’s just for starters!

24. Discover the local coffee scene

Vienna is a world-famous coffee city. The country may not grow its own beans, but that doesn’t mean that locals don’t love the caffeine-loaded beverage. There are many coffee houses around the city, and the coffee scene is recognised by UNESCO as a part of the city’s intangible culture. From modern coffee joints with all mod cons to traditional drinking establishments where you can settle into a comfy seat and spend hours poring over the newspaper, coffee lovers are sure to be in heaven in Vienna.

25. Spend an evening at the Opera

Image credit: Yuan

The Viennese opera is famous around the globe. Buy tickets for a performance and do something different come evening time. The building is magnificently opulent both inside and out; if you don’t want to watch a performance you can also take a peek inside on a tour.

There are even more palaces, museums, churches, and splendid architectural gems to discover, and the city has many great shops if you want to treat yourself or a loved one to something special. There’s plenty to keep you entertained come evening time too, with a wide section of shows, numerous restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that keep the music pumping until the early hours of the morning.

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.