The Austrian capital is famous for its elegant architecture, imperial past, opera and classical music, Christmas markets, and the annual Carnival with its opulent balls. With culture, history, great dining, and plenty of ways to have family fun, Vienna is a great European destination for all.
Vienna is a huge and sprawling city, which is divided into several distinct neighbourhoods. Some of the city’s best places are quite spread out and deciding what to add to your Vienna itinerary can be difficult.
We’re here to help! Stop stressing about your travel planning and tick off these best places to visit in Vienna for a great time in the sophisticated Austrian capital city.
With a blend of well-known spots, Vienna must-sees, and local hidden gems, some of these best places to visit in Vienna are bound to amaze you!
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Vienna:
Innere Stadt is the most central neighbourhood in Vienna, and where most of the historical sights are located. It is your best option to stay there if you are visiting the city for the first time, as you will be close to everything and in the centre of the action.
- Get a slice of Austria’s most famous cake at the Sacher Hotel;
- Get a glimpse of the Habsburg’s family life at the Hofburg;
- Visit Stephansdom, Vienna’s most famous religious building.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Vienna!
#1 – Schönbrunn Palace – An awesome place to visit in Vienna for half a day!
Why it’s awesome: The enormous Schönbrunn Palace as seen today was built in the mid-1700s. The area was previously owned by a mighty Roman emperor, who used it as a hunting ground, and it later became the main summer residence of the Hapsburg rulers. Today it operates as a museum and is one of the most popular attractions in Vienna, if not Austria. It is also a UNESCO-listed site. The huge palace has more than 1,400 rooms and visitors can explore the lush interiors on various tours. The gorgeous gardens are free to explore, with formal flowerbeds, beautiful sculptures, faux Roman ruins, vineyards, a maze, the Gloriette, and more. The Palm House and the Desert House contain interesting flora from around the world.
What to do there: Book a tour to admire the opulent interiors of Schönbrunn Palace, with glorious rooms that are filled with an abundance of treasures, art, antiques, and period furnishings. The Imperial Tour takes you through 22 rooms, including opulent state rooms and private residences of former leader Franz Joseph (Austria’s longest-reigning ruler) and Sisi.
If you want to see more of the stunning palace and delve even deeper into the lives of the Hapsburg rulers the Grand Tour visits 40 lavish rooms. See how the younger members of the imperial family lived at the Children’s Museum, visit the Carriage Museum, explore the lush gardens, try your hand at making strudel, and admire the various plant species housed within the Desert House and historic glass and iron Palm House.
#2 – St. Stephen’s Cathedral – One of the most religious places to see in Vienna
Why it’s awesome: St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Vienna. The impressive Gothic and Romanesque church dates back to the 1300s, and it stands on the site of earlier churches. It has seen many changes over the years and stood the test of time through major events. The tallest tower reaches 136 metres (446 feet) tall. It has served as an important lookout point during times of trouble. The multi-coloured roof is a striking feature with a mosaic of a double-headed eagle, symbolic of the Habsburg empire. Various statues stand outside. Inside, there are several chapels dedicated to different saints, statues, religious art, and a striking Gothic pulpit. Underneath the church, there are crypts and catacombs.
What to do there: Admire the spectacular façade of St. Stephen’s Cathedral before entering through the Giant’s Door. Look above and you’ll see intricate sculptures. Take a guided tour of the stunning cathedral, or take a self-guided audio tour, to learn more about the magnificent building and its long and interesting history. You’ll also learn lots of interesting facts about the beautiful artwork within the cathedral.
Don’t miss seeing the Byzantine Maria Pötsch Icon, thought to be miraculous, and the statue known as Christ with a Toothache. Step into the smaller statues, including those dedicated to St. Bartholomew, St. Valentine, St. Katherine, and St. Barbara, and spend some quiet time in contemplation or prayer. Descend into the gloomy catacombs and see the many bones on display, go up the North Tower to view Austria’s biggest bell, and ascend the South Tower for amazing city views.
#3 – Prater – Easily one of the most fun places to check out in Vienna
Why it’s awesome: Prater is a large public park in Leopoldstadt, one of the more popular neighbourhoods in Vienna. Green and leafy with a main path that’s lined with horse chestnut trees, the park is a great place to enjoy nature and relax outdoors. One section of the park has an amusement park. It’s one of the best places in Vienna to take kids. It is also one of the oldest amusement parks across the globe. The park also has a planetarium, a museum, shops, places to eat and drink, and various other attractions. There is no charge to enjoy the pretty park. Admission to the amusement park is also free; visitors simply pay for the rides that they wish to enjoy.
What to do there: Stroll along the tree-lined Hauptallee, take a seat on a bench to enjoy time in nature, and visit the Prater Museum. Turn your attention to the skies at the planetarium and step into a magical fairytale land at the Grottenbahn. Take a ride on the soaring Prater Wheel for amazing views over Vienna, discover the park on the historic Liliputbahn light railway, and feel the rush on the Vienna Rollercoaster. The wooden rollercoaster has an air of nostalgia and is suitable for people of all ages. Get a thrilling adrenaline rush on Praterturm, a huge flying swing.
#4 – Kriminalmuseum – Quite the quirky place in Vienna!
Why it’s awesome: It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but a visit to Kriminalmuseum definitely ranks highly when it comes to the most unusual things to do in Vienna. Filled with gruesome and grisly items, the museum takes a look at crime through the country’s past. From human remains and murder weapons to instruments of torture and death masks, the museum will definitely appeal to fans of dark tourism.
Exhibits have decent explanations in English, though you can also pick up a leaflet with more detailed explanations inside. Items are spread across some 20 rooms and, though it may look small from the outside, the museum is actually quite large and crammed full of unusual memorabilia.
What to do there: Prepare to be shocked when visiting Vienna’s Kriminalmuseum. Do note that it is not a suitable place to take kids, and even some adults may find the horrific displays a bit too much to handle. Learn about the nation’s criminal past as you wander through the maze-like rooms and see all types of bizarre and terrifying objects and artefacts. Travel back to the Medieval period and discover crimes from times gone by right up to the present day.
Various criminal activities are covered, including counterfeit currency, thefts, and prostitution, though the sections dedicated to murder are generally the most morbidly fascinating. Some of the more shocking items on display include a gruesome mummified head of a felon who was sentenced to death, bullet-hole-ridden skulls, exhibits were used in the horrific study of eugenics, large photographs of murder victims, and pornographic images.
#5 – Naschmarkt – A must-see for foodies!
Why it’s awesome: The large Naschmarkt is one of the best places to visit in Vienna for an incredible assortment of tasty fare. In operation since the 16th century, it’s one of the most popular markets in the capital. In times gone by vendors would travel to the market with goods from far and wide, bringing produce from local farms and from foreign lands.
Today there is still a wide variety of global cuisine as well as traditional Austrian favourites. From made-to-order meals to fresh ingredients, the colourful and vibrant market has everything that a foodie could possibly want. On Saturdays, there is also a small but interesting flea market, with diverse retro, vintage, and used goods.
What to do there: Walk around the bustling market, pausing to see what’s for sale at the 120-odd stalls. If you’re staying in self-catering accommodation you can pick up a range of fresh vegetables, meats, fish, and other ingredients to cook up a feast for dinner.
Visit the bakeries, delicatessens, and cheese shops to pick up tasty treats for a picnic. Grab quick and easy bites for a lunch on the go or sit down in one of the restaurants to take your time over your meal. You’ll find everything from sushi, kebabs, and curries, to Chinese stir-fried dishes, Austrian sausages, and pizza. It’s easy to see how the Naschmarkt is one of the best places to eat in Vienna.
#6 – Karlskirche – A great place to see in Vienna if you love architecture
Why it’s awesome: The stunning Karlskirche is one of the most beautiful architectural hotspots in Vienna. Building began in the early 1700s, and the church was completed in 1737. The story behind its construction is interesting: the striking place of worship was built to honour a saint called Charles Borromeo. When the city was struck by a plague epidemic in the early 1700s, the ruler vowed to build a church dedicated to the saint (a man known for helping victims of the plague) if the disease left the city.
It blends several architectural styles, including Byzantine, Roman, Greek, Baroque, and Renaissance. Topped with a green dome, it’s an impressive sight from the outside. Inside, there are fine statues and frescoes. The great composer, Vivaldi, was buried in the grounds, although his tomb has long since been lost. The church hosts regular concerts in his memory.
What to do there: Appreciate the splendid details, both inside and outside, taking time to admire the carved columns, colourfully painted ceiling, reliefs, and statues. There are plenty of symbolic features to spot too as light floods in through the main window. See the delicately carved wooden pulpit, scenes showing St. Borromeo ascending to heaven, angels, and an interesting painting that depicts the Virgin Mary praying for the plague in Vienna to stop.
#7 – The Hofburg – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Vienna
Why it’s awesome: Exploring the enormous palace complex of the Hofburg is a Vienna must do. Once home to the imperial court, there are many elegant buildings, some of which house fascinating museums today. Strolling around the complex really helps visitors to travel back in time and see what royal life was like in Vienna in times gone by. The royal home until the end of WWI, it was the place where much European history was made. Different emperors left their mark on the complex, creating a fascinating blend of architectural styles and details.
While there are three main parts of interest—the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments, and the Imperial Silver Collection—the huge complex has a wealth of other terrific things to see. Buildings are spread over 59 acres (24 hectares), with charming gardens and elegant squares between. Astonishingly, there are more than 2,500 rooms across the complex!
What to do there: Take at least a few hours to walk through the grounds of the massive Hofburg complex and admire the stunning buildings from the outside. Be sure to charge your camera as you’re likely to want to take lots of pictures! Ogle some 7,000 exquisite items in the Imperial Silver Collection. Learn more about the life of Empress Sisi as you view a wide collection of personal items in the Sisi Museum. See the lavish quarters where royalty once lived in the spectacular Imperial Apartments. Visit the Royal Chapel, which is the oldest part of the palace complex. Marvel at the wonderful interiors of the Austrian National Library. See the astronomical clock on the outside of the Amalienburg.
#8 – Spanish Riding School – One of the most amazing places in Vienna!
Why it’s awesome: The Spanish Riding School is part of the enormous Hofburg palace complex. Established in the 1570s, the high-class riding school is among the top-four most prestigious horse riding schools across the globe. Additionally, it’s one of the oldest such academies in the world too. A place where visitors can watch fine equestrian traditions, the school takes its name from the fact that the thoroughbred stallions had Spanish roots.
Today’s fine steeds are all bred in Austria, but all are graceful Lipizzaner horses. The training has military roots and the methodical training process can take up to three years for riders and four to six years for horses.
What to do there: See the fine building that houses the Spanish Riding School, a pale structure with plenty of natural sunlight. Get to the academy early in the morning to watch the elegant pedigree horses at their morning training sessions. Watch as riders salute to the large portrait of Emperor Charles VI before beginning to ride. Admire the smart uniforms of the riders and the perfect poise and condition of both man and beast and be impressed by the skilled manoeuvres. It’s well worth obtaining tickets to a special performance too if there is one scheduled for your time in Vienna.
Wonder how to spend a weekend in Vienna? Head over to our insider’s Weekend in Vienna guide!
#9 – Danube Tower – Great place to visit in Vienna for couples!
Why it’s awesome: The Danube Tower (Donauturm) is one of the most romantic points of interest in Vienna. Standing proudly at 252 metres (827 feet) tall, it’s the tallest structure in all of Austria. Constructed in the 1960s, the soaring tower is located alongside the banks of the River Danube. It is surrounded by pretty parkland.
A major sight on the Viennese skyline it’s not only good to admire from afar; visitors can go to the observation platform to soak up fabulous views of the city and beyond. There are also two rotating eateries (one restaurant and one cafe) where couples can relax with each other while enjoying the slowly changing vistas.
What to do there: Snap plenty of pictures of the iconic tower from outside before riding in one of the high-speed elevators up to the observation platform. Spot major landmarks in Vienna from your high vantage point and enjoy the bird’s eye views over the capital. Savour a tasty meal in the revolving restaurant or sink your teeth into a light bite in the café and admire the views for longer. The romantic dinners and special events help to inject even more romance and passion into your visit if you really want to impress that special someone.
#10 – Stadtpark – A beautiful outdoor place to visit in Vienna
Why it’s awesome: The lovely Stadtpark is the largest public park in Vienna. Located in the heart of the city, it’s a nice place to take a break and spend time in nature. Open since the early 1860s and free to enter, the park is set out somewhat like a traditional English garden. Pathways meander through the lovely landscapes and a river flows through the middle of the park. Bridges span the waterway. Statues, memorials, trees, flowers, and water features all help to add to the visual beauty. There are several places to eat and drink in the park too.
What to do there: Escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets and enjoy a peaceful walk through the greenery of Stadtpark. The open lawns are perfect places for kids to run and play and adults can follow the paths through the park, relax in the sunshine with a good book, or sip a drink in one of the cafes.
Enjoy the views from the bridge that crosses the River Wien and see ducks and large fish swimming below in the waters. Admire the flower clock and pause at the statues dedicated to various famous composers, including Franz Schubert, Anton Bruckner, Robert Stolz, and Franz Lehar. Don’t miss having a selfie with the gleaming statue of Johann Strauss.
#11 – Hundertwasser Haus – One of the more unique places to visit in Vienna!
Why it’s awesome: The unusual Hundertwasser Haus is certainly a conversation starter. One of the most unusual famous places in Vienna, the colourful block was created in the early 1980s and is the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an artist turned architectural designer.
Not only are there few straight lines and a lot of colours, but it’s also a living, breathing building thanks to the many plants and trees that grow from balconies, trellises, on the roof, and in pots. Indeed, there are more than 200 plants around the building’s exterior. Inside there are apartments and offices and there are both shared and communal terraces. Do note, however, that the insides are not open to visitors.
What to do there: Marvel at the unique building from the outside, appreciating the balance between nature and the man-made. Call into the ground level coffee shop for a quick pick-me-up and to watch a free short film about the house. Visit the cool Hundertwasser Village across the street, created in the early 1990s. It’s a quirky shopping centre designed in the artist’s signature style and it features a pretty square, diverse shops, and a bar. You can also take a short stroll along the street to see another of Hundertwasser’s creations: Kunst Haus Wien.
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#12 – Vienna State Opera – A great place to visit Vienna at night
Why it’s awesome: The fabulous Vienna State Opera House is a Vienna must see. Originally built in the 1850s, the city’s first opera house was largely destroyed during bombing in World War Two. It was later renovated and rebuilt, in keeping with the original style. The building has a grand façade and stunning interiors, with ornate lobbies, grand marble staircases, luxurious chandeliers, and a large sophisticated auditorium.
Often said to be among the top opera houses across the globe it is also one of the busiest performance venues. The program is diverse. Various famous composers and performers have graced the stages over the years, and members of the Vienna Philharmonic are recruited from the musicians in the Vienna State Opera’s orchestra.
What to do there: Gaze upon the elegant building from the outside, noticing the two equestrian statues, the two fountains (that symbolise happiness, music, joy, and dance against revenge, love, sorrow, and seduction), and the five bronze statues that represent love, comedy, fantasy, tragedy, and heroism.
See the stunning interiors on a 40-minute guided tour, visiting the foyer, the opulent staircase, the ornate state rooms, and the auditorium. You’ll also hear interesting facts and anecdotes about the building and performers. Spend a memorable evening at a spectacular performance, with various operas and ballets on the ever-changing schedule.
#13 – Schönbrunn Zoo – Awesome place to visit in Vienna with kids!
Why it’s awesome: Wondering what to do in Vienna with children? The large Schönbrunn Zoo (known locally as Tiergarten Schönbrunn) is one of the best Vienna vacation ideas for families. Found within the ground of the extensive Schönbrunn Palace, the zoo was built in the 1750s to house the imperial menagerie. It is one of the oldest still-operating zoos in the world today.
Despite many setbacks over the years, today the zoo contains an exciting selection of animals from all four corners of the globe. The large enclosures are well maintained and clean and there are various habitats for visitors to explore. There’s a good selection of places to eat and drink throughout the zoo too.
What to do there: Observe an array of creatures from different parts of the planet, including koalas, elephants, tigers, orangutans, penguins, zebras, sea lions, wolves, otters, polar bears, camels, bats, and deer. The giant pandas are usually popular with kids and adults alike.
There are several habitats and themed areas to explore, including the rainforest house (which simulates conditions in the Amazon Jungle), the polarium, an aquarium, the big cat house, the desert house, and a children’s petting zoo. Take a ride on the quaint Schönbrunn Panorama Train, watch various species being fed, and sign up for special behind-the-scenes and interactive tours.
#14 – Vienna City Hall – One of the most incredible free places to go to in Vienna
Why it’s awesome: Vienna City Hall is a striking building that dates back to the late 1800s. Built in a Neo-Gothic style, it emulates other fine non-religious Gothic structures around Europe. The large building boasts five towers and a number of interior courtyards. There are more than 1,500 rooms inside, spread across six storeys, along with two basements.
The interiors can be visited on a free guided tour (various languages are available on audio devices, though the main tour is in German). There are often events, like markets, just inside the main entrance, and there’s also a stylish onsite restaurant that is open to members of the public.
What to do there: Admire the beautiful building from the outside and see the interesting Rathausmann statue perched atop the tallest tower. Affixed in 1882, the figure is today one of the city’s symbols. Rest for a while in the grassy Rathauspark in front of the building. Take a free tour to see parts inside the building; tours include the Festival Hall, Arcade Courtyard, Council Chamber, Stone Halls, Senate Chamber, and Coat of Arms Halls. Treat yourself to a nice meal in the restaurant before continuing your sightseeing in Vienna.
#15 – Graben – A great place in Vienna if you love to shop!
Why it’s awesome: Located in the heart of the city, Graben is a busy shopping street with Roman roots. It was a popular shopping area during the times of the Habsburgs, with many fine stores with long traditions remaining today. A lot of the buildings date back to the 17th and 18th century and there are many beautiful architectural details.
Shops sell an assortment of wares and it’s a popular place for both locals and tourists to spoil themselves and indulge in some retail therapy. There are elegant restaurants and cafes too. The marble plague column is an interesting sight along the street.
What to do there: Walk along the refined mostly pedestrianised streets and admire the beautiful buildings. Fine examples include the Grabenhof and the Equitable Palace. Don’t miss seeing the plague column, built in the late 1600s to remember those who died during the devastating epidemic. The sculpture is highly ornate with many symbolic elements.
You can also pause to admire the lovely fountains. Window shop in time-honoured establishments like Augarten porcelain factory, Nägele & Strubell perfumerie, and the high-class jewellers of Heldwein. You’ll find shops selling a wide array of other goods too, including clothing, homewares, accessories, and souvenirs. Stop at a café for refreshments and a spot of people watching along the bustling street.
#16 – Kunsthistorisches Museum – A great place to visit in Vienna if you are alone/traveling solo
Why it’s awesome: The splendid Kunsthistorisches Museum is the biggest art museum in Austria. The glorious palace-like building was constructed in the late 1800s and the museum was opened by Franz Joseph I in the early 1890s. The emperor wanted the museum to house some of the amazing pieces of art from The Hofburg and make collections accessible to the public. Inside, the building has opulent interiors and numerous eye-catching artworks. Collections include portraits, Greek and Roman antiquities, coins, sculptures, and items from Egypt and the Near East.
What to do there: Walk across Maria-Theresien-Platz and see the almost identical facing buildings of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Natural History Museum, both built at the same time. A large statue of Empress Maria Theresa stands at the heart of the square. The dome-topped museums are architectural masterpieces. Step inside the museum and you’re sure to be impressed by the glorious interiors, complete with polished marble, sweeping staircases, gold leaf, colourful frescoes, and intricate ornamental plasterwork.
Take time to view the impressive art collection spread through the museum, with pieces by European masters and ancient artefacts among the exhibits. Once you’ve finished, you might want to visit the nearby Modern Art Museum, housed in the old imperial stables, to see even more interesting artworks.
#17 – Capuchin Church – One of Vienna’s coolest historical sites!
Why it’s awesome: Officially named the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels, the 1632 Capuchin Church is one of the most historic hotspots in Vienna. The fairly plain exterior and simple experience gives no clue as to the building’s significance, and it would be easy to stroll right on past without realising that, in fact, the church is a major attraction.
The inside of the church is also fairly plain, with no aisle, whitewashed walls, orderly seating, and a pretty but unremarkable altar. The real interest, however, lies underground in the crypt. The Imperial Crypt contains the tombs of many people from the Imperial Family—it is here that many mighty emperors and empresses were laid to rest.
What to do there: Enter the church and absorb the tranquil and spiritual air, perhaps taking a seat to rest for a few moments in thought. Descend into the Imperial Crypt to see the tombs and funerary urns of deceased royals.
More than 140 Royals have been laid to rest here, including 12 former emperors and 18 empresses. Some of the tombs are fairly simple, while others are highly ornate. The tomb of Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Franz I is large and detailed. You can visit independently, though there also tours that will help you to learn more about the people buried beneath the peaceful church.
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Enjoy the best places to visit in Vienna
Wonderful Vienna offers a wealth of things for people of all ages, though there is definitely a strong focus on history, culture, music, architecture, and the arts.
Kahlenberg and Volksgarten are pretty outdoor spots if you want to get away for a while and spend time in nature, and the Krapfenwald Pools are a top place for soothing relaxation.
Discover the wealth of knowledge housed in the establishments of the MuseumsQuartier and tour the city’s other top-class museums. Fantastic museums to add to your list when you explore Vienna include the Sigmund Freud Museum, Albertina, the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Ethnology, the Jewish Museum, the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art, and Time Travel Vienna. Fans of classical music shouldn’t miss the Johann Strauss House, and if you’re more into places that are a bit quirky the Globe Museum and Clock Museum may be right up your street.
Spend a day exploring the Danube Island, get off the beaten track in Ottakring, enjoy more imperial grandeur at Belvedere Palace, stroll through the quiet Central Cemetery, and visit the lesser-known Church am Steinhof. You can even take an easy day trip to Bratislava, the capital of neighbouring Slovakia.
For your travel plans, be sure to check out our guide on whether Vienna is expensive or not. Be prepared with the right budget!
There is certainly no need to ever feel bored in the Austrian capital! Add these best places to visit in Vienna to your bucket list and discover one of Europe’s most elegant destinations.
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