Vienna isn’t like other capital cities. Vienna is different and renowned for its quality of life (top of the Mercer ranking in 2019 for the tenth consecutive time). Even we can’t help but be impressed by the imperial flair of the magnificent buildings every time we stroll through the Austrian capital’s streets. In this post, we reveal some of the things to be seen and done in Vienna besides the main attractions like Schönbrunn Palace and St Stephen’s Cathedral.
1. The best way to start in Vienna
A perfect day in the former imperial capital wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the traditional coffee houses. The best thing is to kick off the day with a big breakfast and a Melange – the famous coffee served with milk. Try the historic Café Central, the somewhat less elaborate Café Bräunerhof or – if you prefer a bit of kitsch – Café Demel, the former imperial confectioner. All of these are situated in the first district. When you’ve finished breakfast, you can take a leisurely walk through the Hofburg palace complex with the Spanish Riding School, Imperial Treasury and Sisi Museum, crossing legendary Heldenplatz to the Ring boulevard.
2. Culture in Vienna
The Museum of Art History, surely one of the most beautiful museums in the world, can be found just a few steps away. In winter, it will already be dark when you come back out and you can head straight to the Christmas market (from mid-November to end of December) just outside or the one in the nearby Museumsquartier to fortify yourself with a glass of punch or mulled wine. After a quick breather back in your hotel, you should head off to one of the theatres or opera houses, or perhaps attend a concert in the Musikverein. Afterwards, you can let the day draw to a close in one of the city’s many trendy bars and restaurants, for example DO & CO with its jaw-dropping views of St Stephen’s Cathedral – perfect for a romantic meal.
3. Vienna for the adventurous
Vienna has plenty of surprises in store, even for those who know the city well, and there’s always something new to discover. Highlights like the Prater park should be at the top of everybody’s list, of course – there are six square kilometres of green spaces and the amusement park, offering something for every taste – even if all you want is a satisfying beer with roast pork and pickled cabbage in the legendary Schweizerhaus restaurant.
4. Thrilling Vienna
You can discover the creepy side to Vienna on a variety of tours of burial vaults and underground passages, such as the Third Man Tour, based on the classic 1949 thriller of the same name, which takes you to the film’s underground locations in Vienna’s sewage canals. The Mystery Tour also gives you a glimpse behind the scenes, taking you in search of mysterious codes, cryptic messages and the Holy Grail on tours of vacant buildings steeped in spine-chilling history, and following the trail of the Knights Templar or the Da Vinci Code, with sacral mysteries and mystic secrets guaranteed.
5. The Supertramps
A very specialised tour on offer, though no less interesting for it, provides the opportunity to make a social contribution: you can be shown round Vienna by those who know its most secret corners – the homeless. The so-called Supertramps know the city’s hidden nooks and crannies, have dreamt up ingenious methods of survival and are true characters from fascinating backgrounds. Whether your tour is led by someone who once came to Vienna from abroad with fanciful dreams, those who fell upon hard times and have now hauled themselves back out of their misery or survival artists who know the secret places where the homeless in Vienna sleep, it is sure to be a fun and moving experience.
6. Vienna with Children
If you come to Vienna with your kids, you will probably never want to leave again, since the choice of activities is so varied and wide-ranging. There’s the Zoom Children’s Museum in the Museumsquartier, where explorers young and old alike can investigate the world with all of their senses, finding answers to their questions with hands-on exhibits and games. Meanwhile, the Haus des Meeres aquarium is housed in a Second World War flak tower and more than 10,000 creatures from seas and rivers around the world can be admired there, from sea turtles and piranhas to reef sharks. A turn on the Giant Ferris Wheel in the Prater park is a must for both children and their parents on a trip to Vienna. Like the Prater, Schönbrunn Palace – the Habsburgs’ former summer residence – used to be an integral part of imperial life. Vienna’s zoo is located in the palace grounds and some of the animals – the zoo boasts apes, giraffes, lions, penguins and much more – still live in the old imperial pavilion. Definitely worth seeing! If you still haven’t had enough, the Technical Museum is just a few minutes’ walk from Schönbrunn and its interactive exhibits are sure to keep everyone happy.
7. Surroundings for snow lovers and skiers
Those who wish to enjoy Austria’s skiing slopes and mountain huts will have to head outside Vienna. The best way to do so is to hire a car or take the train. Just a few hours later, you’ll find yourselves in the Alps – either in Carinthia, Tyrol, Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria or Vorarlberg. Numerous events mark the beginning of the winter season in the many skiing regions. Things get particularly exciting in Obertauern, for example, with celebrations continuing through the night for two whole weeks when the season opens at the end of November. Ischgl also pushes out the boat to celebrate the start of the season, with live concerts being held 2,000 m above sea level.
Vienna truly is worth visiting at all times of the year. If you find yourself here during the summer, then we’ve gathered even more tips for you. Take a look at our recommendations for summer activities in Vienna here.