Are you currently planning your trip to Vienna and still have no idea which places to visit in Vienna? Maybe you have arrived at this blog after desperately googling for recommendations? Let me assure you that you have come to the right place !
In this article I am going to share my personal Top-10 Vienna sights with you, including information on how to get there and great tips for tours and visits. I was born and raised in Vienna and I have been living here for more than 30 years, which is why I am convinced that you will love my recommendations!
1. Places to visit in Vienna: Stefansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral)
Let’s start with the famous Stefansdom, a jewel of gothic architecture and probably the most famous landmark of the city. St. Stephen’s is more than just a cathedral, it’s a symbol of a nation’s rise and fall, a proof of Austrian identity and the sight Vienna’s is probably most associated with. If you are interested in more detailed information, please read through my article “St. Stephen’s Cathedral- at Vienna’s heart”.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral is situated in the very center of the city, the heart of Vienna. It can easily be reached by public transport with the underground lines U3 or U1 “Stephansplatz”. Opening hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday and Public Holidays. When visiting St. Stephen’s I really recommend you to visit the South Tower. Yes, there are a lot of stairs – 343 to be exact – to climb up but you will be rewarded with a great view over the city and the climb in the narrow staircase is actually quite exciting. If you are not able to climb so many stairs you can take the elevator and visit the North Tower.
- Visit the South Tower– daily, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., entrance fee 4,50 €/adult, 2 €/children
- Guided tour through the catacombs– aprox. 30 min, meet at the entrance of the catacombs, Monday to Saturday between 10-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday or Holiday 1:30 -4:30 p.m. only. As needed every 15-30 min, check the board next to the stairways. Entrance fee 5,50 €/adult, 2 €/children
2. Places to visit in Vienna: Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace is probably the second best known sight in the city- and according to attendance – the most popular one. If you visit Vienna for the first time this is a must-see attraction and you should take your time to visit it. Schönbrunn Palace is situated a little outside of the city center but it can be easily reached by public transport (subway U4 “Schönbrunn”)
As Schönbrunn is a very famous and crowded attraction, I recommend you to book your tickets in advance in the online shop in order to avoid the crowds at the ticket office.
Extra-Tip: there are two tours you can choose from, the Imperial Tour and the Grand Tour. The Imperial Tour includes 22 rooms, whereas the Grand Tour provides you access to 40 magnificent rooms. Given the fact that the price difference is only 3,10 €, you should definitely go for the longer tour!
Schönbrunn Palace is surrounded by the imperial gardens. The palace and the gardens were appointed UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1996. When visiting Schönbrunn, you should definitely take your time and stroll around the beautiful park. Nice detail, the admission to the park is free, so if you are not interested in the interiors of the palace you can still visit the gardens and marvel at the palace from a distance.
There is a wonderful rose garden, a labyrinth, fountains and springs, as well as the palm house and the desert house. I also recommend you to walk up to the Gloriette, a beautiful building that sits on a hill opposite to the Schönbrunn Castle. It takes a little effort to walk up there but you will be rewarded with a great view over the imperial gardens and the city. The Gloriette is a fantastic photo location!
- If you visit the palace, choose the Grand Tour. Book your tickets online in order to avoid queues at the ticket office
- Walk up to the Gloriette and enjoy the view over the city
- The rose garden is really beautiful and well worth a visit!
3. Places to visit in Vienna: Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Zoo Vienna)
If you are an animal lover or travel with children you should not miss out on visiting the world famous Vienna Zoo, the oldest zoo in the world. The zoo is part of the imperial gardens, as it used to be the emperor’s menagerie during the Habsburg reign. Although the zoo has invested a lot in modernization and improvement, the historical buildings have been preserved. The difference to former times is that the small historic cages are now used for the visitors, whereas bigger enclosures have been built around it for the animals. Due to its history, the Vienna Zoo is certainly characterized by a very special and historic atmosphere.
The investments into modernization and conservation have been awarded several times. Schönbrunn Zoo was appointed “Best Zoo in Europe” 4 times in a row, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015 by British expert Anthony Sheridan.
If you want to visit the zoo, you should combine the palace’s visit with the zoo visit in one day, as they are located quite close to each other within the imperial gardens. Tip: If you want to start your visit at the Schönbrunn Palace, get off the subway U4 at “Schönbrunn”, if you want to visit the zoo first, travel on to “Hietzing” and get off there, as this station is closer to the main zoo entrance. After your visit or in between, make sure you enjoy the imperial gardens!
If you travel between November and mid-March, the Winter-Pass enables you to visit the palace (Grand Tour) and the Vienna Zoo at a discounted price. (minus 25% compared to two single admissions) You can visit the attractions – even on different days if you like – within one month of the purchasing date. Free admission is granted for children under 6 years of age.
- The feeding of the sea lions (daily at 10:30 a.m. & 3:30 p.m.) is a highlight for the young and old.
- Visit the panda twins, a true sensation, the only naturally conceived panda babies in Europe! Click here for the panda baby diary.
- Walk up to Tirolerhof, an original Austrian farmhouse that was removed carefully from its original location and rebuilt in Vienna. Now it’s home to endangered Austrian domestic animals, including sheep, cows and horses.
4. Places to visit in Vienna: State Opera House
The Vienna State Opera House is one of the leading opera houses in the world and one of the buildings you should not miss when in Vienna. It’s situated at the Ringstraße, the renowned Imperial Boulevard that leads around the city center. Ringstraße is famous for its magnificent buildings and the State Opera House is one of them. It’s actually also a good place to start your (walking) tour aroung the impressive boulevard. If you prefer a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour, the departure point is located right in front of the opera house.
If you are interested in visiting the interior of the opera house, there are guided tours that take you behind the scenes of this world famous opera. The tours are held in German, English and Spanish on a daily basis and cost 7,50 € for adults. There are discounts for retirees and students.
If you are in to classical music and operas, you might want to consider visiting a performance during your stay. Please note, however, that the tickets sell out very quickly. The earlier you know, the more likely it is that you can purchase tickets for the performance of your choice. Please find further information regarding ticket sales here.
If you are looking for tickets spontaneously, please refer to this website. If you fancy a bargain opera experience you can try to purchase standing room tickets. Those are sold 80 minutes before the performance starts at the ticket office in Operngasse at a price of 3 or 4 € each. Please be aware that the queues may be very long, especially for performances that are in high demand!
- walk around the opera house and marvel at its beautiful facade
- the best photo spot to take a great picture of the opera house is Albertina- Augustinerbastei. Just walk up the stairs and enjoy the view
- if your time allows, join a guided tour through the interior of the theater
- Tickets sell our very quickly and are quite expensive, a standing room ticket might be an alternative
- If you have tickets, please respect the dresscode! A formal dresscode is expected; if you arrive in shorts or a casual outfit you might not be admitted despite valid tickets!
5. Places to visit in Vienna: Albertina- Augustiner Bastei
Next to the State Opera you can find the Albertina. This bastion is the last remaining part of Vienna’s old city wall. The palace on top of it is a museum and contains one of the biggest and most valuable graphic collections in the world, including work from Schiele, Picasso and Dürer. If you are interested in fine arts, you should definitely put this place on top of your bucket list- you will love it!
But even if you are not into art, the Albertina or at least the plattform where the museum is situated on, is worth a visit. From there you have one of the nicest view over the State Opera House and the Burggarten on the backside. There are also some benches where you can take a seat an relax a little.
Albertina is also a good place for great culinary experiences. There is an exclusive restaurant – Do & Co Albertina – situated right next to the museum. There you can enjoy traditional Viennese dishes and international delicacies in a beautiful and stylish ambiance. In summer you can enjoy your meal at one of Vienna’s most beautiful terraces with a great view of the State Opera House and the Burggarten. (reservations are recommended)
- Walk up to the bastion and enjoy the view
- If you are interested in fine arts, take your time and visit the collections.
- Looking for an exclusive dining location? Make a reservation at Do & Co Albertina!
6. Places to visit in Vienna- the Twin Museums
After visiting the opera house and the Albertina, make your way up the Ringstraße or through the Burggarten. Soon you will see two identical buildings on your left – the twin museums. When you walk up from the opera house, the first building you will see is the Museum of Fine Arts and the second one is the Museum of Natural History. Both are identical, apart from the statues on the top. There is a female sculpture on top of the Art’s Museum and a male statue on top of the Museum of Natural History.
On the square between the two buildings sits Maria Theresia, empress of the Habsburg Monarchy in the 18th century and well known for numerous national reforms that were implemented during her reign.
In my opinion, both museums are worth a visit. However, most tourists don’t have time to visit all the recommendable locations during their first visit. If you travel with children, go for the Museum of Natural History. There is a nice dinosaur exhibition in hall 10.
Insidertip: the Museum’s coffeehouse is a really nice place to enjoy pastries or a light meal below an impressive cupola. In addition, each Wednesday you can savor a mussle (from October to March) or an asparagus (from April to June) dinner. (49 € per person including the entrance fee to the museum but excluding drinks.)
Whether you choose to visit the Museum of Fine Arts oder the Museum of Natural History, however, I can assure you that you will love not only the extensive collections but also the beauty of the buildings themselves. Take your time and marvel at the light-flooded cupolas, the marble staircases and the jaw-dropping ceilings. You will notice that the museum’s architecture is definitely a great pieces of art itself.
Extra-Tipp: The view from the roof-top of the Museum of Natural History is really breathtaking. There are guided tours each Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. (in German) and on Sundays (3 p.m. English, 4 p.m. German). The price is 8 € per person plus the entrance fee for the museum.
- Visit the Dinosaur exhibition in the Museum of Natural History
- Say “Hi” to Empress Maria Theresia on the Square
- Take part in the guided roof-top tour in the Museum of Natural History
- Enjoy a coffee and a cake in the impressive dome hall
7. Places to visit in Vienna: Hofburg – Imperial Palace
The imperial palace “Hofburg” is probably the most impressive building in the city center of Vienna. The Hofburg used to be the winter residence of the imperial family and the political center of the monarchy. Nowadays it holds numerous collections and exhibitions like the National Library, the Sisi-Museum, the Imperial Treasury and Imperial Apartments and the Spanish Riding School. It also houses the office of the federal president and the secretaries of state.
You could literally spend several days exploring the Hofburg and its cultural highlights. If you want to get a deeper understanding and an insight into the world and life of the Habsburg families, this is the place to go. Learn how the magnificent imperial banquets were set by marvelling at the dining services in the Silver Chamber and get closer to Sisi by visiting the Sisi-Museum that holds a great collection of personal objects owned by this unique woman.
The Imperial Apartments will provide you with an insight into the daily life of Emperor Franz Josef and his famous wife Sisi. You will be surprised how modest Franz Josef actually lived! In the Imperial Treasury on the other hand you will be able to marvel at a valuable collection of secular and ecclesiastical treasures, including jewels and precious stones. The treasury is entered through the Swiss Courtyard, one of the oldest parts of the imperial palace built in Renaissance style.
Just around the corner you can find the Spanish Riding School, home to Vienna’s famous white horses, the Lipizzaner and one of the best known attractions in the city. The ballet of the white stallions is known all around the world for their grace and beauty.
The Spanish Riding school is one of the oldest riding institutions in the world and the only one that has practiced for more than 450 years and still continues to practice and cultivate classical equitation at a world class level.
Tickets sell out very quickly and are expensive. If you want to make a bargain, you have the opportunity to watch the morning excercises with music at 10 a.m. at a price of 15 € per person. They don’t take place everyday, so please check the schedule here.
If you want to visit both, the Spanish Riding School and the Imperial Treasury I recommend to book a combined ticket here.
- Stroll over Heldenplatz and enjoy the 360 view (as the Parliament is under construction, the view is unfortunately affected by the container offices at the moment!)
- Marvel at the magnificent view at the backside of the palace at Michaeler Platz
- Enter the State Hall of the Austrian National Library, one of the most beautiful library halls in the world!
- Visit one of the numerous collections depending on your personal preference
8. Places to visit in Vienna- The Parliament
The Austrian Parliament building is one of the most impressive buildings on the Ringstraße. Its neoclassical facade reminds visitors of a Greek temple. This impression is intensified by the massive Pallas-Athena fountain in front of the building. Pallas Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom. Sharp tongues claim that she turns her back towards the building because inside there is no wisdom to be found….
If you want to get an insight into this impressive work of architecture you can take part in a public tour. The price is 5 € per person and tickets can be purchased at the visitor center. A prior appointment is not necessary. If you are interested in the sittings of the National or Federal Councils you are also welcome to attend. Please note that you have to bring a passport for identification and that your bags and coats have to pass through a scanner due to security reasons. The tickets for the sittings are free of charge.
Once stepping inside, you will be surprised by the architectural diversity and the surprising artistic details of this historic building.
- Take part in a guided tour inside the Parliament and marvel at the architectural details of the building
9. Places to visit in Vienna: Karlskirche (St. Charles Church)
St. Charles church is located a little off the beaten tourist path but still centrally located. It is totally worth a visit as it is well known as the most beautiful baroque church north of the alps. It’s not only the unique facade, also the interior, especially the colorful and detailed frescos is stunning! It’s last work of the famous baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and certainly a true jewel of baroque architecture!
There is a panorama lift/elevator inside the church which takes you up to the dome where you can marvel at the world famous frecos by Michael Rottmeyr at close range. You should only pay for this lift if you are interested in arts and the paintings, as the viw through the windows is limited. There are far better viewpoints in Vienna!
St. Charles Church is easily reached by public transport as the neighbouring station is one of the biggest public transport hubs in the city! Undergroundlines U1, U2 and U4 connect here with various busses and trams!
- Marvel at the splendid interior of this church.
- Listen to a classical concert inside the Karlskirche, there are various options, for example Mozart’s “Requiem” or Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. Tipp: During winter times it can get quite cold in the church so make sure you dress appropriately!
- Take a photo of the great reflections in the pond during the summer months! Click here for more info!
- In December, visit the Christmas market in front of the church and have a “Punsch” or “Glühwein”
10. Places to visit in Vienna: Belvedere Castle
Belvedere castle is a spacious, baroque palace ground situated on a hill close to the city center. The Belvedere castle was built by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt for Prince Eugene of Savoy. Nice to know, the name “Belvedere” stems from the Italian language and means “nice view”, which is certainly true, as the Upper Belvedere for sure offers one of the most beautiful views over Vienna’s historic city center!
The Belvedere ensemble – consisting of the Upper and the Lower Belvedere – is one of Europe most stunning baroque landmarks and therefore listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today the Belvedere houses the biggest and most important collection of Austrian arts. A highlight is the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt’s paintings including the world famous art nouveau masterpiece “The Kiss”.
For Austrian’s the Belvedere is also connected to another major event in the country’s history. In 1955, 10 years after the end of world war II, the Austrian State Treaty was signed in a ceremony at the Upper Belvedere accompanied by the famous words “Austria is free!”
The Belvedere castle can easily be reached by tram “D” (Schloss Belvedere). The museum opens daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.. The gardens open at 6:30 a.m. in the summer months and 7 a.m. in winter time. Closing hours depend on the season!
- Stroll around the Belvedere Garden & the Alpine garden
- Visit the gallery and marvel at Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece “The kiss”
- In winter, visit the Christmas market in front of the castle
- If you have time, combine the Belvedere with St. Charles Church and Schönbrunn Palace in a fully guided tour for the complete baroque experience!
I hope you liked my recommendations and suggestions for your perfect stay in Vienna. Have you been in Vienna before? What’s your favourite attraction in the city?