There’s something very awe-inspiring about Vienna. The city that was once on top of the world today stands as one its most beautiful capitals and still has that aura of a powerful empire around it. Vienna can keep you entertained for days with its rich architectural ensemble, world-class museums or its famous coffee houses. But even if you only have one day in Vienna, it will win you over with its old-world charm as soon as you step into its streets. You’re going to enjoy every minute of this trip.
What’s the best time to visit Vienna?
Vienna is a year-round destination where every season has its special charm. If you want to enjoy sunny and warm weather with temperatures above 25°C (77°F), make sure you visit Vienna in summer. Shoulder months, May and September also bring nice weather with less tourist crowds. Winter in Vienna is cold and dry, with the temperatures hovering around the freezing point, but this is when the city hosts some of its most famous annual events.
The Christmas Market in Vienna is the most famous and one of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe. From mid-November to Christmas, many of the city’s streets and squares become scenic spots with enchanting light decorations and wooden stalls selling everything from Christmas accessories to baked goods and hot punch. Make sure to visit the most famous Christmas market location in front of Rathausplatz where you can ice skate with the fairy-tale backdrop of the Vienna City Hall right behind you. Ice skating doesn’t stop with Christmas Eve, though. Vienna Ice World is another event that takes place at the same location from January all the way to March.
Besides the Christmas Market, Vienna also hosts the world-famous New Year’s Concert on January 1st.
A few facts about Vienna
Austrian capital and its largest city, Vienna is located in the country’s eastern part, close to the Slovakian border and only a 45 minutes’ ride from Bratislava. As the capital of the once powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna was for centuries a cultural centre of classical music, arts and science.
Vienna is home to some of the most beautiful examples of Baroque or neo-Classical palaces built during the reign of the Habsburg dynasty. These include the Schönbrunn Palace, the Belvedere Palace and the Hofburg Palace among many others. Besides that rich architectural heritage, new buildings and modern interventions are largely present in the city’s appearance.
Because of its musical legacy, Vienna is recognized as a world capital of music and was given the name City of Music. Today, this city is a cultural and economic central European hub and one of world’s most livable cities.
One Day in Vienna Itinerary
Top things to do in Vienna, Austria
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Vienna.
Start your day with the enchanting Belvedere Palace
It can be tough to decide which of Vienna’s famous palaces to visit first, but the Belvedere Palace is simply a classic. Start your day early and visit the enchanting palatial complex Belvedere right in the morning when the crowd is still reduced. It is actually within a walking distance from the city center, which also makes it a great pick for your one day in Vienna. The two palaces, Upper and Lower Belvedere, accompanied with vast gardens and an orangery, were built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy. Today, both of the palaces, along with an impressive collection of Austrian works of art, are a part of the Belvedere Museum, which is open every day from 9.00 am. The admission varies depending on the exhibits you want to visit, but you can check them all out here. The gardens can be explored for free, and once you reach the Upper Belvedere you’ll be confronted with the beautiful Vienna skyline, so even if you’re traveling on a budget don’t skip this on your tour.
Visit the Karlsplatz
After you’re done with the Belvedere, take a 15-minute walk to the Karlsplatz. There are many interesting sights in the area, but one is really hard to miss – Karlskirche, an outstanding baroque church with a large pool in front of it. The huge Resselpark dominates the square. Don’t miss the Art Nouveau pavilion of the former Karlsplatz station designed by the famous architect Otto Wagner. Another great example of Vienna Secession is the exhibit hall known as the Secession Building created by the architect Joseph Maria Olbrich, only a block away from the Karlsplatz. If you’re interested in touring it, check out their official page for the list of exhibitions held in the Pavillion.
Explore the famous Naschmarkt
No need to walk for this one, as you’re basically at the Naschmarkt. Right next to the Secession Building, this famous Viennese market stretches for around 1.5km, offering anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to exotic herbs, meats, seafood, cheeses and baked goods, while on Saturday it houses a flea market. This famous market is actually a very old Viennese tradition, since a variety of products have been sold at this place since the 16th century. Explore the colorful stalls, sample their food and later stop for some brunch at one of the many eateries offering both Austrian and international cuisine. Unfortunately, if visiting on a Sunday, you’ll find the place closed.
Tour the historic Ringstrasse
It’s pretty challenging to fit all of Vienna’s best attractions into one day. With that in mind, the best thing you can do is take the yellow Vienna Ringtram (Wiener Linier) that tours the Ringstrasse – a historical boulevard lined with some of the most significant imperial landmarks such as the Vienna Town Hall (Wiener Rathaus), State Opera, Natural History Museum and the Hofburg Palace. The round-trip with multilingual commentary takes approximately 25 minutes. The first tram departs at 10.00 am from the Schwedenplatz and later runs every half an hour. To reach the Schwedenplatz from the Naschmarkt, take the direct metro line U4 at the Kettenbrückengasse.
Stroll the Old Town
Vienna’s Old Town is the area of the 1st District (Innere Stadt) encircled by the Ringstrasse boulevard where the majority of cultural and architectural heritage is located. Climb the South Tower of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral for some spectacular panoramic city views, check out the St. Peter’s Baroque Church (Peterskirche) exterior, stroll the Graben pedestrian street and finally end your walk at the Michaelerplatz in front of the impressive imperial palace, the Hofburg. Unfortunately, since you only have one day in Vienna, you won’t have time to get inside the palace and visit its greatest attractions – the Sisi Museum, Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection, but hey, that’s a great reason to revisit Vienna.
Taste the delicious Viennese sausage
You don’t have to bother finding a restaurant to try the famous Wiener Wurst, since there are many stalls in the Old Town selling these delicious sausages. Just look for a stall with the longest queue in front, or check out the famous Bitzinger Würstelstand am Albertinaplatz in front of the Albertina Museum. There’s a variety of delicious sausages such as the cheese-filled sausage (Käsekrainer) or the spicy one (Scharfe). You can have it chopped up or stuffed in a baguette, and you can add the tomato sauce and mustard. This quintessential Viennese treat is also a great budget deal, since one portion costs less than €5.
Visit the Palmenhaus at the Burggarten
Coffee houses are such a big part of Viennese culture that the whole Coffee House Culture is listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Austrian inventory. And while most of the attention goes to Café Sacher and Café Demel, these cafes are queued out the door most of the time.
Instead of waiting in those lines, visit the Palmenhaus at the Burggarten, the most unique Viennese coffee house and a restaurant in a lush rainforest setting inside the former Emperor’s glasshouse. Filled with palms and other tropical vegetation, the Palmenhaus offers a perfect break from the busy streets. They also serve the popular Sacher cake (chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam), and there’s no better place to try it than Vienna.
Breathe in some tropical air at the Butterfly House
Within the Palmenhouse, under the same steel and glass structure, you’ll find the Butterfly House (Schmetterlinghaus). This greenhouse has a great butterfly collection of around 400 butterflies flying freely in the tropical forest under the glass arched ceilings. This green oasis should be visited not only because of these beautiful little creatures, but also because you have a chance to escape whatever weather conditions are outside and enjoy the hot and humid tropical climate in the middle of Vienna. It really is a unique experience!
Needless to say, Vienna’s culinary scene is of the highest standard and has a lot to offer. But out of many Vienna’s famous restaurants, Restaurant 1070 stands out with its unique concept. There’s no menu in the restaurant, you basically only tell the waiter what food you don’t eat and that’s it – the rest is left to the chef’s creativity. The portions are not that big, but you’ll be served an obligatory 3-course menu that will cost you 27.90€ (you can always add more courses later). The place is quite small and intimate and usually requires a reservation.
In case you’re not into surprises when it comes to food and you want something more local, Centimeter is the place for you. The place serves Austrian classics like Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet) and a 2-meter Wurst (Austrian sausage), but you can also order stuff like spare ribs and burgers, plus they have a great beer selection. This budget restaurant chain serves XXL portions, so you won’t need to order more than one dish per person. They have 4 locations in total, with two of them located within a walking distance from the city center.
Spend the night in the NeuBau District
The Viennese 7th district, NeuBau, is at the moment the trendiest local spot and the most exciting area to spend the night in Vienna. This vibrant neighborhood is packed with trendy cafes, independent boutiques, art galleries and museums and offers plenty of things to do in Vienna at night. In summer, you’ll find crowds at the courtyard of the MuseumQuarter, a huge museum complex that houses Vienna’s top museums.
If you’re into spending a night at a cozy bar, check out places like R&Bar, Le Troquet, Radio, The LabelBar. On the top floor of the 25 Hour Hotel, Dachboden bar will welcome you with a great cocktail selection and a spectacular panoramic view. DonauTecho brings late night drinking and partying until the early hours to the techo beats accompanied with great visuals.
Vienna with Kids – Prater Park
In case you’re spending your day in Vienna with kids, nightlife is not an option. Instead of spending your night in Vienna exploring its bars and clubs, head to Prater park, the oldest amusement park in the world featuring all sorts of fun attractions. The famous Wiener Riesenrad is a 65 meter high Ferris Wheel and one of the city’s most popular landmarks. Both adults and kids will enjoy the exciting 10-minute ride with the breathtaking 360° panoramic view which gets even more exciting at night.
Where to stay in Vienna?
Very comfortable and with a dash of Italian design, Hotel Kärntnerhof offers fantastic value. It is located right in the city centre, but is secluded from the crowds and the noise. You’ll get a buffet breakfast every day, and if the weather is nice you can enjoy the roof terrace, too. Shopping streets, underground stations and numerous attractions are all nearby, so practically all you have to do is get out and you’ll experience Vienna to the fullest.
Hotel Beethoven Wien
Hotel Beethoven Wien is in a quiet street, but still located at the very heart of Vienna. The building dates from 1902, but the rooms are very much modern and quite elegant. However, no smoking is allowed in them. What will surely leave an impression on you is the fact that a free concert of classical music is held every Saturday and Sunday at 6 pm, plus you get a glass of champainge to go along with it. It’s quite an experience.
Hotel Schani Salon
Small, but very comfortable and cozy, Hotel Schani Salon boasts four stars and a fantastic location. It is on Mariahilfer Strasse, which is Vienna’s main shopping destination. Not only that, but it also has a metro station right in front of it and is just 10 minutes away from the Ringstrasse boulevard. The rooms are airy with plenty of natural light, and they serve continental and buffet breakfasts here.
wombat’s CITY Hostels Vienna – Naschmarkt
In a great location and just a couple of minutes away from a metro station, wombat’s CITY Hostels Vienna – Naschmarkt is a perfect place to stay for young travelers who want to explore the city. They will even throw in a map free of charge! Apart from that, you get comfortable beds, great breakfast and the chance to meet people from all over the world at the hostel’s bar. What more could you ask for?
Extra tips for visiting Vienna
Even though most of Vienna’s main attractions are within walking distance, it’s good to know that Vienna’s public transportation is very efficient, so use metro and trams instead of spending loads of money on taxi rides.
Vienna is considered to be an expensive city, especially for travelers from Eastern Europe. However, there are many free things to do in Vienna, some of them covered in this itinerary (Belvedere gardens, Naschmarkt, Christmas Market, a night out at the MuseumQuarter).
Tipping in bars and restaurants is not mandatory, but it’s customary to round up the bill or to tip 7-12%.
Should you need help with getting around town, booking tickets, tips on what to visit or anything of the sort, don’t hesitate to contact Welcome. They offer a superb service which is guaranteed to make your visit to Vienna a fantastic one.
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