I will start this post with a disclaimer. I absolutely love Vienna and hence my view of this city may be biased. You may not find any objectivity in my view of the city, and hence if you have been there and differ with my thoughts, please read ahead with a pinch of salt!
It had been long since we had made memories as travellers, soaking in the sights and the environment of a different place. We (when I mean ‘we’, I am referring to the composite entity of I and the husband) were itching to pack our bags and leave for the known and unknown pleasures of travel. And that’s when we thought of Vienna, the capital of Austria.
Known for its vibrant culture, the opulent Baroque monuments, stunning architecture, coffee houses, lovely green spaces and super efficient transport system, Vienna has always been on our travel list.
So one fine June, we book the tickets to Vienna, get our visas, pack our bags and fly down to Vienna.
For ten consecutive years (2009–2019), the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Vienna first in its annual “Quality of Living” survey of hundreds of cities around the world. Monocle’s 2015 “Quality of Life Survey” ranked Vienna second on a list of the top 25 cities in the world “to make a base within.”
It is a nice sunny afternoon when we reach Vienna after a 14 hour flight from Bombay. First thing which strikes when we are about to land in Vienna is the grandeur. It looks stately even from the skies. The immigration process is smooth and we proceed to the the City Airport Train (CAT) platform, located under the airport building.
(Put your cursor on the flip boxes below for more information)
While on the little walk from the train station to the apartment, we are already in awe. All the buildings breathe art including the apartment where we are going to stay. We reach our apartment at Innerstradt. The kids are really excited and just don’t want to sleep. We are tired but decide to head out and there starts our Vienna exploration.
Things to do in 3 days in Vienna
Three days can be less. I have visited twice and I can say with confidence that I have touched only the periphery of this majestic city. Here I have listed out the things which are a must do, especially for a first time traveller in Vienna and can be done in 3 days.
Prater Park and the Giant Ferris wheel
We start our trip with the Prater. It has an amusement park with various rides, roller coasters, ghost trains etc. and the Giant Ferris wheel. It is fun time and we feel great on seeing our kids having so much fun. There is no entrance fee though different attractions have different charges.
We have an amazing time at the different rides, but the pick of the lot is of course, the Giant Ferris Wheel ride.
The Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel has been operating since 1897 and is an iconic landmark of Vienna. The wheel turns slowly and we get stunning views of the city of Vienna from the top.
Riesenradplatz 2, A-1020 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 729 20 00
Opening Hours – 10 AM to 10 PM
Normal Price: Adult: €12,00 ; Child: €5,00, Free entry with Vienna Pass
Exploring the historical centre
Our next stop is Stephanplatz, the centre of Vienna or quite literally, the heart of the city. The place is vibrant and alive, buzzing with crowds. There are many charming cafes, some of them iconic, and luxury shops. This is a place we kept on coming back to all three days of our stay in Vienna.
The street performances by talented artistes add to the atmosphere of Stephenplatz. For a moment, I feel far removed from the worries of the world. Vienna, the city is art in its purest form. Everywhere you see, it seems the streets and the building are telling a story.
We stop at Kurt, a place famous for its frozen yoghurt and have the most amazing desert topped with luscious and juicy berries. Sure feels like we are in seventh heaven.
St. Stephan’s Cathedral
The eight hundred years old St. Stephan’s Cathedral or the Stephansdom towers over the historical district. It is one of most beautiful and tallest churches in the world with an ornate roof with intricate details and rich colours.
The Church is the most significant religious structure in Vienna and has been witness to many important events in Austrian History. The magnificent multi-coloured tile roof is iconic and for a small fee, you can climb up the church towers for an awe-inspiring view of Vienna.
Stephansplatz 3, 1010 Vienna
Opening Hours – 6 AM to 10 PM
Normal Price: Adult: €6,00 ; Child: €2.500, Free entry with Vienna Pass
Have coffee at Cafe Mozart
Do try and have coffee at Café Mozart, one of the first legendary Viennese coffee house, serving classic Viennese cuisine for more than 200 years. The place is always teeming with people and has a very traditional-modern vibe.
Take a walk along the Danube
The Danube and the city, both look beautiful at night, all lit up. Take a walk along the beautiful Danube. There is a bevy of small joints which are selling Chinese food in woks. The smell wafting through the air is really tempting and we have our dinner sitting by the banks of Danube.
Have Breakfast at Demel
Have breakfast at Cafe Demel, an institution in itself in Vienna. We wait a long time to get a seat. We have the absolutely delightful ‘Sachertorte’ which is a dense chocolate cake normally served with whipped cream.
The coffee is nothing to talk home about. You might find better coffee at one of the numerous small cafes in Vienna. The service is a tad slow.
Still, since it is a very Vienesse thing to do and with good reason too. You must have the delicious ‘Sachertorte’.
Cappuccino was invented in Vienna. The Vienna Coffee House has been named as a UNESCO world heritage site and is on their list of the ‘National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage’. The coffee house has been described as a place ‘where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill’. You just need to buy a coffee and you can spend hours in the coffee house , chatting, lazing away while admiring the interiors and the ambience of the coffee house.
Explore the Schonbrunn Palace
At least half a day is needed to visit the Schonbrunn Palace and the Vienna Zoo or the Tiergarten, the world’s oldest zoo.
A quick read of our guide book reveals that Schonbrunn Palace is the former summer residence of the imperial family of the Hapsburgs since 1569. It is one of the most visited attractions of Vienna and for good reason. The Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage looks majestic.
Inclusion in the UNESCO list confirms the importance of the palace and its gardens as a unique Baroque ensemble.
The Palace and the Gardens are spread over a vast area and we begin with a tour of the Palace. There are a total of 1441 rooms out of which only 40 are available for public view. We do the audio tour and enjoy it a lot.
The palace looks out onto a gravelled pathway, called the Great Parterre which is divided into eight sections of symmetrical gardens. The gardens are beautiful, lush with flowers and have many fountains. The park at Schonbrunn was first opened to the public around 1779 and is a great and relaxing place to spend some time in.
We climb the hill to the Gloriette from where one gets an amazing view of the Palace.
Take the winding stairs to reach the roof for a glorious view of the Palace and of Vienna. You will be able to see the St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the Karlskirche Church and the Danube Tower.
Schönbrunner Schlossstraße, 1130, Vienna
Phone: +43 1 811 13-239
Opening Hours – 10 AM to 5 PM and 8:30 AM to 5 PM depending on the season. Check the website for the opening hours.
Normal Price: Adult: EUR 26.50; Child: EUR 16.50, Free entry with Vienna Pass
Vienna Zoo or Tiergarten
The kids are super excited to be visiting the oldest zoo in the world, and so are we. The Vienna Zoo or the Tiergarten as it is known, was established in 1752 as the private royal menagerie. If you are in Vienna with the kids, do make it a point to visit this special place.
Once upon a time, the Zoo was very lively and had over 3500 different animals earlier but was bombed during the World War II, reducing the number of animals to around 400. Later it was again restored and now is one of the major attractions of Vienna, and especially when you are visiting the Schönbrunn Palace, since it is located inside the palace grounds.
The zoo is very good and has a variety of animals which the children find very entertaining.
Schönbrunn Zoo (Tiergarten Schönbrunn), 1130, Vienna, Entrance via Hietzinger Tor / Hietzinger Hauptstraße
Phone: +43 1 877 92 94-0
Opening Hours – 9 AM to 4:30/6:30 PM depending on the month. Check the website for the opening hours.
Normal Price: Adult: €21,50 ; Child: €11,00, Free entry with Vienna Pass*
( *also included: Panorama Train (€8,00 / € 4,00) and Desert Experience House (€ 6,00 / € 4,50))
While on your way, have some yummy hot chocolate and shop for your chocolate fix at the Lindt Cafe.
The biggest of its kind of Palm House in Europe, this has an array of beautiful flowers, trees and exotic plants from the Mediterranean, tropical and subtropical regions. There is a 23 meter-tall palm on display and in spring/summer, you can see the largest water lily in the world (with a leaf diameter of 1.20 meters).
The Palm House has length of 111 meters, is 2,500 square meters in area and has 4,900 square meters of glass and has 45,000 glass panes installed.
If you love plants, then do make it a point to visit it.
Schlosspark Schönbrunn , 1130 Vienna
Opening Hours – 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Normal Price: Adult: €7, discounts on entry with city card
Visit the vibrant Naschmarkt
After exploring the castle, we head to the famous Naschmarkt (yes, the ‘e’ is missing :-)), a market existing in Vienna since the 16th century when mainly milk bottles were sold. As milk bottles were made out of ash or German for “Asch” (German for “ash”), the name “Aschenmarket” came into being.
Naschmarket is very vibrant and has culinary offerings from various nationalities, right from Italian to Vietnamese to Indian. Neatly arranged rows of colourful fresh fruits and vegetables almost tempt us to buy them. There are almost 120 market stands and several restaurants and several kinds of exotic foods and spices are on display. Some of the places even offer free Wifi.
The shop keepers are very friendly and enticed, we end up buying a lot of knick knacks. Lunch is a relaxed affair at an alfresco restaurant, of which there are many.
Saturday is the best day to visit, as on Saturday there is a flea market conducted at the end of the Naschmarkt. The market is undoubtedly the best place in the city for people watching, where you get to see people from different nationalities as well as local people, people both young and old, all enjoying themselves. Naschmarket is truly an experience not to be missed.
Wienzeile, 1060 Vienna
Opening Hours – 6 AM to 9 PM, 6 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays
The Ringstrasse is a beautiful circular boulevard that encircles Vienna’s historical centre, and is home to the rich architectural heritage of Vienna. You can choose to take a walk along this beautiful street or even better, take the line #1 on the Tram and ride around town. This is the perfect way to see some of the prettiest buildings of Vienna.
Stop by at these three attractions on the Ringstrasse.
(Put your cursor on the flip boxes below for more information on Rathaus, Burg theatre and Parlament).
If you are into art, you must explore the Museumquartier, home to the Museum of Modern Art, the Kunsthalle Wien and the Leopold Museum for Art Nouveau and Expressionism.
The MuseumQuartier is spread over a huge area of over 90,000m2 in central Vienna and has 60 cultural institutions, thus making it one of the districts for contemporary art and culture in the world. The Museum of Modern Art has the largest collection of modern art in Central Europe. Several art festivals are held here throughout the year.
Belvedere Palace in one word is ‘GRAND’. It ticks all the boxes – majestic structure, instagrammable views, home to one of the most famous paintings in the world, opulent Baroque style Palace, and more.
Explore the ceremonial Palace, the Upper Belvedere, which has an amazing art collection including “The Kiss” by Klimt. It is difficult to say if the Palace is more impressive or the art it houses. Lower Belvedere holds temporary art exhibitions and has a classic baroque architecture. Currently it is closed for renovations (till 2021).
Take a walk through the beautiful Belvedere Gardens and witness the beauty of the pathways, the flowers and the fountains.
Prinz Eugen-Straße 27 | 1030 Wien
Phone: +43 1 79 557 0
Opening Hours – 9 AM to 6 PM only for Upper Belvedere
Normal Price: Adult: €22 ; Child: Free, Free entry with Vienna Pass*
Hofburg Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace was the residence and seat of government of the Hapsburg emperors until 1918. It is one of the biggest palace complexes in the world with construction beginning in the 13th century and continuing right into the 20th century.
Now, the Palace is home to many museums with great collections, the Spanish Riding School, a congress center, the seat of the Austrian Federal President as well as the historic Heldenplatz.
Hofburg – Innerer Burghof, 1010, Vienna
Phone: +43 (1) 525 240
Opening Hours – 9 AM to 5:30/6 PM depending on the month
Normal Price: Adult: €15 ; Child: €9, Free entry with Vienna Pass*
Kunst Haus Wien – Hundertwasser Museum
Opened in 1991, Kunst Hause is a legendary contemporary art gallery and is dedicated to the works of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The gallery houses Hundertwasser exhibition on two floors and includes major paintings, art and architectural designs created by Hundertwasser. Two floors are also devoted to temporary exhibitions.
We love the Hundertwasser Haus, Vienna’s colourful and original public housing complex designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and visit the place, well, just to take a picture. The exterior of the house looks colourful and beautiful and reminds me of the Rainbow Village in Taiwan.
Go to the ground floor of Café “Kunst und Cafe” and if you have some time, catch a movie for free about a guided tour with Hundertwasser himself presenting “his own house”.
Kegelgasse 37-39, 1030 Vienna
Travelling in Vienna
Public transport in Vienna is very convenient and easy due to the the super efficient transport system. You can buy a 24-hour pass for €8, a 42-hour pass for €14.10 , and a 72-hour pass for €17.10. You can use the pass on local trains, buses (Auto bus), tram and subway. Taxi service like Uber is also available along with normal taxis.
Also, if you are staying at the historical centre, you can explore a lot of places on foot since most of the attractions are placed close to each other.
Vienna Pass/City Card
Vienna is a city which has a lot of museums and other attractions, most of which have an entrance fee, which can end up expensive if you want to explore the city properly. There are two options which are available – the Vienna Pass and the Vienna City Card. I have listed down some of the benefits and suitability of each. You can choose one depending on your needs.
The Vienna PASS is a sightseeing city card which gives visitors free entry to over 60 top attractions, museums and monuments in Vienna. It is good if you are interested in all the main sights and offerings like bike tour, boat tour etc. and you want to skip lines. You can book your pass here.There is a option of a 1,2,3 or 6 days pass. The 1 day pass is €59, 2 day is €89, 3 day is €119 and the 6 day pass is €154. Buy it only if you want to see most of the major sights. A two day option is good if you can choose the attractions you wish to visit carefully and fully utilise it.
The Vienna city card is really great and offers 24 hrs., 48 hrs. and 72 hrs. versions. There are many benefits like free travel on any bus, subway, train or municipal tram. These cost, respectively, €17, €25 and €29. Sometimes you can get discounts, if you buy online. The only major exceptions are the airport bus lines, the Ring Tramsightseeing service, and private bus and rail initiatives like the sightseeing tours, Westbahn train service or CAT airport train.(You can book some of those exempted services as an add-on to the basic card, though.)
Where to stay
Well, almost anywhere! So you can plan your stay according to your budget since Vienna has an awesome network of trains, buses, trams and subways and it is very easy to reach from one place to another. The city is quite safe and travel is totally hassle-free.
However, due to close proximity to the historical quarters, it is recommended to stay in the Innere Stadt during your first visit. All the major attractions are nearby and thus staying at Innere Stadt makes it easy to explore.
For other places, you can make use of the train or the bus network. However, Innere Stadt is expensive at most times because of its location and in case you want to stay there, then book in advance to get good deals.
Leopoldstadt is also a good option and this is also where Prater Park and the iconic Ferry Wheel is located. This is a great location, quieter than Inner Stadt and very well connected to the subway.
Landstraße and Wieden are also places worth considering and are also home to some beautiful monuments.
Best time to visit Vienna
Honestly speaking, I think Vienna is great at any time. I have been to Vienna twice now, once during the shoulder season and once during the summers. The summer time is very pleasant (July-August) but also the peak season for tourists, so expect prices of accommodation to be high. Also, it really gets very crowded.
In my opinion, shoulder season (May-June and September-November) is a good time to visit Vienna because crowds are less and the temperatures are mild.
Winters start in December and continues till March. Temperatures can be really low. However, a lot of tourists visit Vienna this time to experience the charm of the Christmas spirit. The vibrant Christmas markets make it one of the best time to experience Vienna.
Day trips from Vienna
Vienna is a good place for day trips, being close to many historical and beautiful cities. You can visit Bratislava, a charming city only an hour away from Vienna. Budapest makes for another great though a long day trip.
Salzburg, a picturesque city, surrounded by mountains and the birthplace of Mozart is 2.5 hours by train from Vienna. Hallstatt, the picture perfect Austrian village is a 3 hour journey from Vienna.
Read my post on:
Hallstatt – HALLSTATT-A DAY IN THE FAIRY TALE VILLAGE
Budapest – BUDAPEST-THE JEWEL OF EAST EUROPE
I absolutely fell in love with Vienna from the word ‘go’. It is not distinct like other cities of the world, but seems like it has a bit of every city or as it is said, best of all worlds, be it art, culture, architecture, the food and coffee house culture, green spaces.
Some day, I wish to go back and want to spend more time, exploring the surroundings of Vienna. Till then I will live with the memories.
Hope you find my blog useful. Have you been to Vienna or do you wish to visit Vienna? Do drop in your comments/experience in the comments section below.