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The capital of Austria, Vienna is a clean and friendly city full of glitz, glam, and oozing charm. In a way it feels Paris-Esque, very regal and timeless. As you walk through Vienna you might feel as though you’ve been transported back in time; like you’re suddenly walking through a museum of history, art, and culture. As you pass buildings adorned in beautiful details you’ll see horse-drawn carriages trotting down cobblestone streets, and small cafes dating back to the 1800s filled with people taking their time enjoying a cup of coffee. Live music, oftentimes the piano, fills up space in small buildings, leaving you nostalgic for a time that you weren’t around for.
If I’m certain of one thing, it’s that Vienna is one of the most glamorous cities in Europe. It’s lively, fun, chic, and worthy of a visit if only for a day. Below you’ll find a complete guide to Vienna that will guide your travels, ensuring you see the best of the best and enjoy your time in this incredible city.
A Complete Guide to Vienna – Everything You Need to Know When Visiting Austria’s Capital
Arrival in Vienna, Austria
With Austria being at the center of Europe, there are many ways to arrive in this country. If you’re flying internationally you’ll be arriving at Vienna International Airport (VIE). From here the easiest transportation would be to hop on the City Airport Train, known as the CAT. A one-way ticket costs approximately $13, and in 16 minutes will drop you off at Wien Mitte, a train station close to the city center. From here you can walk, catch a taxi, or use the U-Bahn – the underground railway to get to your final destination. If you’d rather take a taxi, book here ahead of time.
If you’re already in Europe there’s a chance you might be arriving by train. The main train station in Vienna is Wien Hauptbahnhof, located less than two miles from the city center. From here you can walk, catch a taxi, or use the U-Bahn (depending on where you’re going U1 takes you into the center).
Or, if you’re like me, you’ll be coming to Vienna by bus! I hopped on FlixBus and took the short one-hour journey from Bratislava to Vienna and was dropped off at Vienna Erdberg, Vienna’s main international bus station.
Please note, Uber does operate in Vienna. Make sure to download the app ahead of time in case you run into any issues with transportation.
Where to Stay in Vienna
One of my favorite ways to see a new city is by staying in an Airbnb. This way you can choose the experience you want. If you prefer to be in the city center, or on the outskirt. Pick attractions that are close by, or perhaps you stay on a street with fun coffee shops and restaurants. Luckily, in Vienna, there are no shortages of Airbnb listings offered. And, if you’re new to Airbnb make sure to use my referral code for a credit towards your first stay.
If Airbnb isn’t your thing, there are also some pretty incredible hotels in Vienna. From luxury hotels to boutique hotels, and even hostels, there’s something that everyone can afford. When I visited Vienna, I stayed at the Hotel Beethoven Wien. This four-star hotel is centrally located for a reasonable price. It’s close to the Naschmarkt, Museumsquartier, many coffee houses, and great restaurants. My favorite part of my stay at Beethoven Wien was the weekend piano sessions where we were served complimentary champagne and were able to enjoy live music before going off to bed or out for the night.
Another good hotel option is Hotel Daniel Vienna. Like Hotel Beethoven Wien, Hotel Daniel is another four-star hotel, only a bit further from the city. A plus is that it’s only a two-minute walk to the nearest train station.
Important Information About Vienna
The official language of Austria is German. However, most everyone speaks English very well.
Austria operates on the Euro. There are plenty of ATMs around town that you can receive cash from. But be careful, most machines charge a fee! And yes, I highly recommend carrying a little bit of cash around with you.
Fun Facts About Austria
Austria is well known for its coffee and the art of spending time in a coffee house. As it turns out, Viennese Coffee House Culture is a real, UNESCO heritage tradition. It is the practice of taking up space and time while enjoying coffee and/or cake if desired. You are welcome to sit at any coffee house as long as you’d like with only ordering one cup of coffee. Oh, and don’t miss out on ordering a cappuccino… it was originally made in Austria.
In Austria, it is considered dirty to wear shoes in one’s home. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or visiting someone’s house, make sure to remove your shoes first, and leave them outside.
The Best Restaurants in Vienna
Home to the famed Austrian schnitzel. Figlmuller serves classic Austrian fare priding themselves on wiener schnitzel (breaded veal). This restaurant is open seven days/week from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm.
Labstelle is located in the Old University Quarter and is a cozy and laid-back restaurant in a glamorous building. Expect to be served farm-to-table food with an emphasis on fresh, quality food. Labstelle is open Monday-Thursday from 11:30 am to midnight, and Friday-Saturday from 11:30 to 2:00 am and closed on Sundays.
ULRICH is a quaint little restaurant located on one of Vienna’s more charming streets. I was partial to the brunch, and highly recommend coming for delicious breakfast food and a cappuccino before starting your day. ULRICH is open Monday-Friday from 7:30 am to 11:00 pm, and on Saturday-Sunday 9:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Where to Grab a Drink in Vienna
Gerstner K. u. K. Hofzuckerbacker
Famously known for their wide selection of bubbles, Gerstner K. u. K. Hofzuckerbacker is an incredibly indulgent experience for both your stomach and your eyes. Come for a glass of bubbles as you watch the talented pastry chefs pipe away at creating some of the most magnificent pastries. The biggest problem you’ll face when visiting Gerstner is deciding which pastry to pair with your bubbles.
Demel is an ultra-fancy (and quite famous) café that was built in 1888. It’s the perfect place to experience the true Viennese coffee culture. Belly up to the bar, order a cappuccino (or champagne), and delight in Austria’s famous cake – Sachertorte. Sachertorte is a chocolate sponge cake, cut into three layers and generously spread with apricot jam. It’s then iced with a velvet-like chocolate and served with whip cream. It’s an Austrian delicacy created in 1832 by chef Franz Sacher for the Prince of Austria and the Austrian State Chancellor. The famed sachertorte recipe was sold to Demel, which is why Demel is one of the leading cafes in Vienna, people flock to try this tasty treat!
While Das LOFT is located in a hotel, the Sofitel Hotel, this bar is anything but ordinary. Here you’ll have access to floor to ceiling windows giving you 360-degree panoramic views over Vienna. While it’s a bit pricier, in my opinion, the views make it worth it for a drink or two.
Café Central is an incredibly beautiful and glamorous café in the heart of Vienna. Here you can experience what it’s like to sip on coffee, eat some cake, and take your time as you watch other patrons come and go. This icing on the cake is that there is also live piano daily from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
The Best Things to Do in Vienna
Visit St Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church, standing 446 feet tall located in the heart of Vienna in Stephansplatz. You can enter the church for free, but to go to the top you’ll need to pay. There are two different ways to gain access to the roof and the panoramic views, by visiting the north tower or the south tower. The south tower costs five euros and is taller than the north, but it doesn’t have elevator access meaning you’ll have to walk 343 steps to the top. Visiting the north tower is six euros, and while it’s shorter than the south, it allows for better views. Plus the north tower has an elevator.
Eat at Naschmarkt
The Naschmarkt is an elevated food market in the heart of Vienna. Here you’ll find a plethora of local produce and Austrian goods along with shops, restaurants, and bars located throughout the market.
Visit Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens
Only a 20-minute drive outside of Vienna, Schönbrunn is an incredible 1,441 room palace sitting on an extensive network of gardens, and even comes complete with the world’s first zoo. Originally occupied by the Habsburg rulers, visit this palace to get a taste of what being royalty was like. You can make an entire day of visiting the palace, just make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time to avoid lines and to ensure that you’re able to get into the palace. Once you buy your ticket you should be given an allotted time when you’re allowed to go into the palace, this is to ensure it doesn’t get too crowded at once.
If you want to take public transportation to Schönbrunn you can either take the underground, U4 to Schönbrunn. Or the tram, 10 and 60, get off at Schloss Schönbrunn. Or you can take bus 10 A also getting off at Schloss Schönbrunn.
Day Trip to Bratislava
If you’re spending a few days in Vienna and want to explore beyond Austria, the perfect getaway is to Slovakia, particularly the capital city Bratislava. Bratislava is only a one-hour bus ride from Vienna, and easy to get to. By using Flixbus, you’ll see that buses are operating between Vienna and Slovakia cheaply, multiple times a day. For a complete guide to day-tripping to Bratislava, make sure to read How to Have the Best Day Trip to Bratislava.
Visit the Colorful Hundertwasserhaus
The Hundertwasserhaus is an unlivable apartment complex in Vienna created and built by Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Joseph Krawina. The two artists wanted to create a place where you not only saw movement but felt it as well (which is why it’s unlivable).
Experience the Opera at Vienna State Opera
An elegant experience, at the Vienna State Opera you have the opportunity to witness the beauty and intimacy of the opera in Vienna. With a different show being performed every day the opera is quite popular and can sell out fast. Standing room tickets are available and sold for cheap as long as you’re willing to queue in the morning. If you’re wanting to spend more money you can always reserve seats ahead of time.
Walk the Danube River
A particularly fun summertime activity, as you walk the Danube you’ll see tons of people out, restaurants and bars open, and even many make-shift beaches that people are crowded around. Make sure to stop at one of the more popular beaches, Tel Aviv Beach to see the area come alive.
I have been incredibly lucky to visit Vienna on two separate occasions now. I’ve seen the city come alive in the summer, with blue skies and sunshine allowing locals to go down to the river, hang out in parks, and just generally enjoy the outdoors. And I’ve also been able to see the city in the winter when enchanting Christmas markets pop up and the city is adorned in twinkle lights and big red bows. Both seasons offer different feels, but both seasons are equally as magical. There’s so much to see and do in Austria’s capital that there’s no doubt I’ll be back for round three.
Do you plan on spending a couple of days in Vienna? Don’t miss 48 Hours in Vienna
For more recommendations on things to see and do in Vienna, plus a more visual look, make sure to watch my Instagram story highlights by searching “Vienna”