Vienna – the city of music, dreams and really impressive buildings. This laid-back and bizarrely quiet Austrian city is one which I (Gemma) thought would be vanilla for activities but oh how I was wrong. I would argue that a weekend in Vienna is just not enough if you love eating, people watching, museums, music, drinking, dancing, markets, sunsets, street art, and architecture. Here’s your dazzling guide on what to do with 3 days in Vienna (the opera is optional, eating cake is not). And yes, you will have that song in your head for the duration of the trip.
What to do in 3 days in Vienna
Day 1 – Innere Stadt (First District)
Vienna is a city packed full of history (even its cakes have a story) and much of the history is free to look at on the streets. The architecture of the city’s most important buildings is an incredible and massive throwback to times past. The First District is linked by the Ringstraße (Ring Road), which is not quite a full ring.
This underground station turned museum is an absolute darling of a building and my favourite in Vienna. The art nouveau building covered in marble and gold was erected in 1898 and now houses the work of the architect Otto Wagner.
- Address: 1040 Vienna, Karlsplatz
- Notes: Free entry first Sunday of every month
State Opera House
This is a place of worship for those who want to experience a famously intense Viennese opera show. Originally built in 1869, the Opera House was damaged during WWII then reopened in the 50s. Every year the prestigious Vienna Opera Ball takes place and for a mere 2K euros you can hire a circle box.
- Address: Opernring 2, 1010 Wien, Austria
- Cheap seats sell out fast but standing tickets are available for under 10 euros
- Fun fact: Ball season takes place every winter where dancers waltz in over 450 venues
The Palmenhaus at The Burggarten (castle gardens) is a hotbed (literally, a glass house) for casual diners looking to enjoy a glass of Riesling and is a potential lunch stop. This oasis in the city is also home to the Schmetterlinghaus, butterfly house, full of tropical plants and you guessed it, butterflies.
- Address: Josefsplatz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
These buildings make up one of the largest palace complexes in the world and the size of it is daunting. Up until 1945 the palace was home to the Habsburgs monarchy but now houses the office of the Austrian president and cabinet. Fans the ‘most beautiful queen in Europe’ Empress Elisabeth Sisi, can view over 300 of her personal objects, including those dresses, at the Sisi Museum within the Hofburg grounds. The oldest area is the 13th century Swiss Wing, previously known as the Old Fortress.
- Address: Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Wien, Austria
Parliament in Vienna
This Greek-inspired building was created between 1874 and 1883. Remember to always look up in Vienna; can you see the Greek scholars that line the roof?
This neo-gothic building could be confused for a cathedral at first glance. During the festive season, visitors will find one of the many Christmas markets in Austria built up in front of the City Hall.
- Address: Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 1010 Wien, Austria
This is just a selection of the sights that Vienna’s 1st District has to offer; each can be reached by foot or via the efficient tram system or underground.
Buy the guides
A trip to Vienna would not be complete without trying a sausage at one (or two or three) of the city’s Wurstelstand AKA sausage kiosks. These stands serve a variety of sausages chopped up or popped into a hollowed out bread roll and accompanied with condiments. The sausages range from Käsekrainer (cheese-filled), Scharfe (spicy) to Waldviertler (smoked). The Viennese take their sausages very seriously so don’t be surprised to see some of these food retailers queued out. These stands also sell alcoholic beverages and you are allowed to drink in the street. Don’t eat too much if you take on our recommendation for night one – a food tour in Vienna.
Night 1 – A foodie tour?
One of our recommendations for every city guide is to take some kind of tour on day 1 to get your bearings and to steal tips from someone who actually lives and breathes the city. Although one of the pricier types of city tours, food tours come packaged with enough edibles and drinkables to stuff you full for the three days and what better way to get to know a city’s past and present than through its produce.
Alternatively, take a food tour during the day kicking off with a Viennese coffee, a visit to Vienna’s famous Naschmarkt to sample seasonal Austrian produce washed down with three types of Austrian wines.
If I had 1 day in Vienna, I would waltz around District 1, eat sausage (see below) and catch a sunset drink at one of the rooftop bars (below).
Day one alternative: A photo tour with Sophort
If you like photography, an alternative way to see Vienna is through a Polaroid camera. Step back in time, slow down the snaps and take a souvenir home with you. This vintage photo tour of the city is one of the romantic things to do in Vienna. The tour takes you by Vienna’s iconic buildings above and the local guide (ours was Jackie, a super cool expat) supports you in taking the right shot since you don’t have the capacity to take hundreds that you’ll never print as you do with your phone or DSLR. Another option is the urban tour, which goes off the beaten track and takes a look at the other side of the city. Like all tours, I love finding out about local life and also stealing tips for things to do! Jackie recommended the 25Hours Hotel rooftop bar, my spirit hotel described below.
Day 2 – Cake, history, art and views
If your accommodation does not offer breakfast, you definitely want to brunch out at one of Vienna’s cafes or why not taste one of Vienna’s famous cakes?
Cakes to try in Vienna
In 1832, a teenager called Franz Sacher created the Sachertorte cake that fast became the hallmark of the celebrity sought after Sacher Hotel and a symbol of Vienna. Today the recipe for chocolate sponge, apricot jam and a thick crust of hard dark chocolate casing continues and is sold in most of Vienna’s coffee houses. Coffee culture is a big deal to the people of Vienna.
- Tip: The most popular place to try Sachertorte is Café Sacher.
- Address: Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010
The cake advice does not stop here! There was an actual cake war between Café Sacher and Demel over who owned the original Sachertorte. The whisks were put down when Café Sacher was awarded the rights. However, many still flock to Demel, the once bakery of the Royal Family and favourite of the gorgeous Empress Sissi.
- Café Demel: Kohlmarkt 14, 1010
Café Central’s twist on the Sachertorte is also hugely popular and favoured by the intellects of the city such as Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud, the thinking man’s haunt. Food for thought…
- Café Central: Herrengasse 14, 1010
- Warning: These cafes are queued out the door even in shoulder season
4D history tour
If you are keen to discover Austrian history but on a lighter note check out the Time Travel Vienna interactive museum. Travel back in time and walk amongst the rats and the plague doctors, observe a beautiful Viennese ball before meeting Vienna’s famous composers and some royalty too. This interactive experience is more than just the answer to what to do in Vienna on a Sunday.
- Price: 15.60 euros (adult)
- Note: Tour in Austria with English translation speakers
Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier is a neat collection of museums such as Architecture Center Vienna, The Kunsthalle Wien (contemporary art), mumok (modern art) and the beautiful Leopold Museum collection. MuseumsQuarter is a cool place to hang out, people watch and grab some Schnitzel for dinner. These galleries are surrounded by the edgy Street Art Passage for fans of graffiti.
If you love street art, why not check out this 2.5-hour street art tour which takes you around three districts of Vienna discussing the patter behind the paint!
- Website: Museums in Vienna
- Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Wien, Austria
If you are not planning on taking a food tour which passes through Naschmarkt you should dedicate a lunch stop to taste the fresh, seasonal produce on offer at the market.
- Address: 1060 Vienna, Austria
- Public Transport: U4 Kettenbrückengasse
- Note: Closed on Sundays, take note if spending a weekend in Vienna
Hip District 7th
My hipster radar gravitates towards the area of each city that offers alternative bars, music, and people, and for Vienna, this is the 7th District. You will find bars with cool artwork, disco balls and vintage photos dotted along the main drag. A nightcap at my spirit hotel, 25Hours Hotel rooftop bar, The Dachboden Loft is a must for things to do in Vienna at night if you can elbow your way in amongst the locals admiring the city views.
- Address: Lerchenfelder Strasse 1-3
Day 3 – More museums, walks and the wheel
City of Dreams
Head to Sigmund Freud’s house to see why Vienna is known as the ‘city of dreams’. This self-service museum takes you through the rooms of Freud’s home, which was also his office, with an audio guide and numbered artefacts. You really don’t need to set aside much time for this item on your Vienna itinerary.
- Address: Berggasse 19, 1090
- Price: 12 euros – discount with Vienna City Card
The Whacky Museum Hundertwasser
Jump on the tram to Vienna’s first green, Museum Hundertwasser. A shrine to one of Austria’s most important artists, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this three-story museum displays Hundertwasser’s work (including his Teletubby style dream housing project) and the changing exhibition on the third floor. Again, this is a quick stop for Vienna’s places to visit.
- Address: Kegelgasse 37-39, 1030
A few streets (about five minutes apart) away you can visit ‘a house in harmony with nature’, Hundertwasserhaus – home to the unique artist.
- Address: Untere Weißgerberstraße 13, 1030
- For lunch grab a kebab or dine at one of the local cafes.
Now it’s time to get some fresh air and stretch the legs. Head to the city’s Donau Canal for a stroll along the water and to check out the vibrant street art.
Our second rooftop recommendation is sleek and stylish. Take the elevator to Das LOFT at Hotel Sofitel Vienna to watch the sunset through the 360 (well, nearly) glass windows of the rooftop bar. Absolute bliss. You can see the striking St Stephens in the skyline from here.
- Address: Praterstrassse 1, 1020 Wien, Austria
Our final stop on our Vienna three-day itinerary is the fairground! As night falls, ride the 64.75-metre-high Wiener Riesenrad, eat Langos (without the sour cream, sadly) or win a teddy at this throwback fairground. A true step back in history.
Visiting Vienna as a romantic trip? What about a three-course meal in one of the Ferris wheel cabins? Yes, you read right!
- Address: Riesenradplatz 1, 1020 Wien, Austria
- Opening times: 9am-11:45pm
For two days in Vienna itinerary, I would select to suit your own travel needs and consider the hop on/off tour if you are pressed for time. Definitely eat cake, visit a museum and see the fairground for some nostalgia.
How many days in Vienna?
I would argue that even three days in Vienna is a tough gig. I felt I missed out on so many of the museums during our stay and that was even without dancing at a ball. Use the above itinerary as a pick and mix of activities to help build your own to suit your holiday needs.
Is Vienna expensive?
To drink and dine in Vienna is certainly not Hungarian prices. Over three days we spent
Totals for 2:
- Food: £78.18 (food tour included in activities)
- Taxi: £22.71
- Transfers: £48
- Activities: £334
- Socialising: £141.92 (£4-6 glass of wine)
- Disclaimer: Vienna’s tourist board gave us two City Cards, thank you
Is Vienna worth visiting?
Yes! I had my reservations about visiting Vienna. It has never been top of my bucket list or even on my radar if I am honest but I was mighty impressed with the architecture the cool 7th and the helpfulness of the locals.
The Vienna City Card offers visitors discounted rates to many of the above places as well as discounts for restaurants, shopping, and free transport for 24, 48 or 72 hours card depending.
- Prices: Start from €13.90
- Note: Does not include airport train link to city
Where We Stayed
The 4-star Am Konzerthaus Vienna MGallery by Sofitel offers quiet rooms close to Karlsplatz and other city centre attractions. Rooms are equipped with TV, hairdryer, toiletries and an in keeping image by Gustav Klimt above the bed. I always judge a hotel by its breakfast and the Konzerhaus offers a Frühstück of kings. Staff are friendly and can point you in the right direction of the closest Wurstelstand for a midnight snack.
- Address Am Heumarkt 35-37 1030
Getting to Vienna
Flights leave with Jet2.com from Edinburgh, London Stanstead and Manchester airport in under three hours.
Vienna airport to Vienna city
The airport and city are very well connected by train. The journey takes under 20 minutes for €21 one way
Getting around Vienna
You are never more than 40 minutes away by foot in between Vienna’s biggest city attractions, however, the city can boast of great transport links served by trams (remember to time stamp the card), buses, underground, taxis and Über.
Whether you are waltzing through Vienna in a day or visiting for a long weekend, since it is home to over 100 museums and events change seasonally, there will be a reason to return to tick off more of these places to see in Vienna.
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