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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) as well as some of our fave tours.
And yes, you will have that song in your head for the duration of the trip. I’ve now been to Vienna twice, that’s a testament to how much I enjoyed these things to do in Vienna.
If you’re planning more than a few days, you might want to consider these Vienna day trips.
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.
Coffee Culture in Vienna
If your hotel does not provide breakfast, consider kicking off day one in Vienna with breakfast and/or coffee at a traditional coffee house like Cafe Hawelka (Dorotheergasse).
We had the funniest of experiences at Cafe Hawelka.
Stereotypically the waiting staff in Vienna are a little grumpy so we were half expecting this kind of response from the server…
We asked for a menu and he replied ‘I am the menu’ while raising one eyebrow in a comedic way.
He then offered us apple strudel, cheese strudel, vegetable strudel or sausages.
We chose the sausages and he rolled his eyes.
Order a ‘Schwarzer’ for a black coffee, ‘Brauner’ for a black coffee with milk or a ‘Melange’ for coffee with cream.
Sit back and enjoy the coffee shop environment which consists of wooden seating arrangements and interesting people to watch.
- Address: Dorotheergasse 6, 1010
- Note: Sausages come with a dollop of mustard (not to my taste)
Rathaus Vienna/City Hall
This neo-gothic building could be confused for a cathedral at first glance.
During the festive season, visitors will find one of the many festive Christmas markets in Austria built up in front of the City Hall as well as an ice rink.
Considering a trip to Vienna at Christmas? It’s a truly magical time to visit with holiday markets around every corner.
You can’t miss it but the address is Friedrich-Schmidt-Platz 1, 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?
Hofburg Imperial Palace buildings at Michaelerkuppel 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 of 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.
Reserve your preferred entry time and ticket here.
The oldest area is the 13th century Swiss Wing, previously known as the Old Fortress.
Wiener Staatsoper/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.
There are a variety of options for seeing the Opera House such as a concert, dinner and even a Christmas show.
If you’d like to listen to a live Mozart Show it is possible at The Sala Terrena at Mozarthaus Vienna.
- 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
Burggarten (+ Lunch Stop)
Located at Josefsplatz, The Palmenhaus at Burggarten is a hotbed, literally as it is 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.
Otto Wagner–Pavillon (Karlsplatz)
This underground station turned museum is an absolute darling of a building and my favourite in Vienna.
Located at Karlsplatz, the art nouveau building covered in marble and gold was erected in 1898 and now houses the work of the architect Otto Wagner.
Enjoy free entry first Sunday of every month.
Food On The Go
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.
Alternatively, sausage can be served in a bread roll.
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.
One of the busiest Wurstelstands is located across from Cafe Mozart and has a hare sitting on top of it!
If you prefer a sit down meal consider a traditional meal at one of the Figlmüller locations (schnitzel), cute heated outdoor space at Griechenbeisl or an upmarket experience at Opus at Hotel Imperial.
Other options include Turkish food at Lokanta Oase, sushi at Mochi and burgers at Rinderwahn.
This is just a selection of the sights that Vienna’s 1st District has to offer.
Each can be reached by foot (approximately one hour with no stops) or via the efficient tram system or underground.
At the end point at Karlsplatz you are close to the hip and trendy MuseumsQuartier.
Here, you can pack even more in at the Leopold Museum (don’t miss the rooftop at MQ Libelle) or mumok, modern art museum.
You could then have a sundown drink at the boutique and never boring 25hours Hotel rooftop bar.
If I only had 1 day in Vienna, I would waltz around District 1, eat sausage from a stall and catch a sunset drink at one of the rooftop bars (below).
Additional Option – Belvedere Museum
If you whizzed around the above route and wanted to leave the MuseumsQuartier for day two (below) you could squeeze in a visit to the 18th-century Belvedere Museums.
The complex is split into two Baroque palaces, Lower Belvedere (Rennweg 6) and Upper Belvedere (Prinz Eugen-Straße 27) divided by a beautiful garden.
You can enter via the Lower palace and walk through the gardens to the upper to purchase tickets.
Expect very long lines, even in December.
Save time and preorder your ticket here.
The Upper Belvedere is home to the largest Gustav Klimt’s collection including the famous print The Kiss.
Up close my personal choice is Judith I.
Karl Platz to Belvedere takes around twenty minutes by foot.
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, and a morning cake at Cafe Sacher was an absolute delight.
- Tip: The most popular place to try Sachertorte is Café Sacher
- Address: Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010
- Café Demel: Kohlmarkt 14, 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 loved by the gorgeous Empress Sissi.
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 have large lines out of the door, even in the quiet seasons, reserve a table if possible
Strudel Tasting at Schönbrunn Palace
Double up on all things Wein but taking part in a traditional strudel tasting session at the striking Schönbrunn Palace.
Every hour at the court bakery of the Café Residenz, an entertaining guide talks you through how to make original Viennese apple strudel and then you taste test!
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.
- Address: Habsburgergasse 10A
- Note: Tour in German with English translation speakers
St. Peter’s Cathedral/Peterskirche
While St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the most popular church for its exterior, visitors shouldn’t miss St. Peter’s for its interior.
The Baroque Roman Catholic parish church’s construction started around 1701, and is inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Inside you can expect lots of gold stucco, and an oval turret dome with painted frescoes.
Not far from St. Peter’s Cathedral is a cute street that photographers love to capture at Hafnersteig.
As well as the oldest restaurant in Vienna, Griechenbeisl at leafy Griechengasse.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St Stephen’s Cathedral should be visited twice, once during the day and once at night to see it lit up.
The multi-coloured tiles are unique, making it a landmark of Vienna.
This romanesque and gothic building at Stephansplatz can be viewed, with a drink, from the 6th-floor bar at the Do & Co Hotel or Lamée Rooftop.
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 or thirty-minute walk from MuseumsQuartier
- Note: Closed on Sundays, take note if spending a weekend in Vienna
A Vienna Food Tour
One of our recommendations for every city guide is to take some kind of tour on day one 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, Vienna 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.
Kicking off with a visit to Vienna’s famous Naschmarkt to sample seasonal Austrian produce and find out what goes on behind the scenes.
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.
- Website: Museums in Vienna
- Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Wien, Austria
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
Sunset Drinks at the “Beach”
Another way to end day two in Vienna is by sipping a daiquiri on a sun chair with views over the Donaukanal.
Strandbar Herrmann (Herrmannpark) is a beach bar with sand and live DJs.
Day 3 – More Museums, Walks and the Wheel
The Vienna attractions on the following itinerary are a little more spaced out and may require public transport to get to each.
City of Dreams
Head to Sigmund Freud’s house (Berggasse 19, 1090) to see why Vienna is known as the ‘city of dreams’.
This self-guided 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 and discount is included with the 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 (forty-minute walk from Sigmund Freud’s house)
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 (short walking distance from above)
- For lunch grab a kebab or dine at one of the local cafes
Get High at this Vienna Rooftop Bar!
Our second rooftop recommendation is sleek and stylish.
Take the elevator to Das LOFT at Hotel Sofitel Vienna (Praterstrassse 1, 1020) 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.
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.
If you want to avoid the crowds you can purchase this line skip for the Ferris wheel.
Prater has food vendors and a restaurant, as well a traditional beer garden called Schweizerhaus.
- Address: Riesenradplatz 1, 1020 Wien, Austria
- Opening times: 9am-11:45pm
If visiting Vienna in summer, you might want to make time for the Danube riverfront bars and restaurants such as Sansibar and CopaBeach that line either side of the canal and are connected by bridge.
The Donauinsel underground station is located on the island, so that you don’t have to attempt to walk there from the city center.
Be sure to try a Radler beer with lemonade (shandy) before your trip ends.
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.
Day 3 Alternative
There really is so much to pack into your perfect trip to Vienna that you could extend it by another day or two.
This impressive Baroque palace was the summer home of Emperor Franz Joseph and Sisi. The palace has over 1400 rooms spanning over three centuries of differing decor!
- Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130
- U4 Schönbrunn (underground), 10 and 60 (tram)
- Large lines form all year round, consider the ‘skip the line’ + entry ticket guided tour
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 the following.
Approximate Totals for 2:
- Accommodation: £260 (apartment) £450 (hotel) – check out our guide on where to stay for more
- Food and Drink: £440
- Transport: £85 (mostly Uber, can be done much cheaper)
- Activities: £334
- 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.
It’s a city that I keep revisiting during all seasons.
What to See in Vienna Bucket List
- First District Architecture
- Austrian waiter stereotype at a cafe coffee
- Hofburg Palace
- Wiener Staatsoper Opera House
- Burggarten Garden Cafe
- Otto-Wagner Pavillon
- Wiener Wurstelstand
- Belvedere Museum – give Judith a wave for me
- Cafe Sacher
- Schönbrunn Palace
- Time Travel Vienna
- St. Peter’s Cathedral interior
- St. Stephen’s Cathedral exterior
- Cool bars at 7th District
- Freud’s Home Museum
- Hundertwasserhaus Museum
- LOFT at Sofitel Rooftop
- Prater Fairground
The Vienna PASS offers visitors free entry to over sixty of Vienna’s top attractions as well as line skipping and free passes to the Vienna hop on/off tour.
Where We Stayed in Vienna
The 4-star Am Konzerthaus Vienna MGallery by Sofitel (Am Heumarkt 35-37 1030) 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 Konzerthaus offers a Frühstück of kings.
Staff are friendly and can point you in the right direction of the closest Wurstelstand for a midnight snack.
We’ve also stayed at 25Hours Hotel Vienna but I wasn’t as impressed with the experience as I was with Sofitel, which is a shame because I was really excited about staying there.
Another hotel worth noting is the Hilton Waterfront, it is a little out of the way but it has an outdoor pool with sun loungers and Danube facing bar.
Finally, we have also stayed in an apartment in the 7th District.
Getting to Vienna
Flights leave with Jet2.com from Edinburgh, London Stanstead and Manchester airport in under three hours.
- Check the flight prices: website
Vienna Airport to Vienna city
The airport and city are very well connected by train.
The CAT journey takes under 20 minutes for €14 one way.
There is also the cheaper, ÖBB Railjet, or Express train S7, public trains – thank you to the lovely reader for advising us.
Heading to Budapest next? Check out our Hungary guide.
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.
There are a number of tours which will take you to the main attractions by foot or bike.
There’s even a private motorised cart tour which you can read more about here.
In my opinion, the best way to get to know a city is by taking a tour with a local. It’s always one of the first things I do for three reasons.
Firstly, you get to see the city’s top attractions and learn more about them.
Secondly, tours help you get your bearings.
Finally, I like to bombard the local with lots of questions about their lives and local tips!
Check out these Vienna tours as you build your itinerary.
- Time Travel Vienna interactive museum, especially if visiting with kids
- Vienna food tours to learn about culture through food
Vienna Packing List
- Cute dresses that can be layered with tops.
- 1 x jeans/pants.
- Leave the umbrella at home, invest in a decent but stylish waterproof like my brilliant Mountain Equipment Rupal US / UK.
- 1 x comfortable waterproof boots (I love Salomon US / UK.).
- 1 x eco water bottle such as TreeTribe which keeps hot drinks hot and cool drinks cold (international shipping).
- Electrolytes US / UK. for the schnapps hangovers.
- Phone battery pack like our US / UK.
- Camera, charger and SD card.
- If you find a missing yellow scarf, it’s mine!
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.