Vienna has an infectious stately presence that’s hard to ignore. It has an appealing mix of old and new, and the city is now more diverse than ever. With all the things to do in Vienna, even a few days will leave you inspired and rejuvenated.
1. Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace is one of the grandest and most visited palaces in all of Vienna, and for good reason – it’s pretty spectacular! This former imperial summer residence has more than 1,000 rooms, its own Roman ruins, vast perfectly manicured gardens, a forest, and sublime views from the Gloriette structure on the hill. And the best part? Entrance to the main gardens is free.
Insider tip: Pack your running shoes and go for a jog up the steep paths through the forests to the Gloriette.
Belvedere Palace is worth a visit even if you don’t venture inside. The palace is beautiful and houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Austrian art, but the gardens outside are equally impressive. You’ll find clipped hedges, ornate fountains, and panoramic views of the city.
Insider tip: Entrance into the general gardens is free, and a walk to Upper Belvedere is rewarding even if you don’t enter the museum.
Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier in the 7th district is one of the largest cultural centers in the world. The mix of Baroque and modern architecture contribute to an unusual but intriguing atmosphere. It would be a shame if you didn’t explore at least one of the museums here. There are 10 interesting institutions to choose from, all of which are worth the price of admission.
Insider tip: The MuseumsQuartier, with outdoor restaurants and cafés, is a great place to go if you’re looking to start a night out.
4. Vienna Ring Road
You’ll hear a lot about Vienna’s Ring Road or Ringstrasse. This circular ring road surrounds the inner city district of Vienna, and a walk or cycle around it will expose you to some of the city’s most spectacular buildings. These include the Vienna State Opera, Imperial Palace, Vienna Stock Exchange, Parliament, and the Museum of Applied Arts, among others.
Insider tip: The Vienna Ring Tram offers a good way to see the main attractions if you don’t want to expend any energy on foot – you can purchase tickets on board.
5. Vienna State Opera
The Vienna State Opera is world-famous. It dates back to the mid-19th century and is still one of the busiest opera houses in the world. Even if opera isn’t your first choice, a visit to the Vienna State Opera is a spectacular affair. With more than 50 staged productions each year there’s a good chance you’ll find a performance that you enjoy.
Insider tip: There are cheap standing room tickets available for most performances – you can request these at the box office just before the show starts.
6. Vienna coffee houses
Vienna may not have been the pioneer of coffee houses in Europe, but they’ve certainly worked hard on refining their very specific café culture. Vienna’s coffee houses have a distinct atmosphere, and there are currently more than 2,500 to choose from, including the famous Kaffee Alt Wien, Café Central and Café Bräunerhof. Avoid the chain stores and go for a classic coffee house that’s been around for a few years.
Insider tip: Be sure to order an Einspänner coffee – a Viennese specialty.
There are several museums in Vienna that are celebrated as being among the best in the world. You can expect beautiful buildings, expertly crafted displays, and a mixture of cutting-edge and classic exhibitions. The most popular museums include the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Albertina, Vienna Museum of Natural History, and the Leopold Museum.
Insider tip: These museums are vast and can easily eat up an entire day. The Museum of Natural History alone has 5,000 items on display. Review the museum websites and focus on those that have specific exhibitions that appeal to you.
8. Explore Vienna by foot
There are few better ways to explore and experience Vienna than by foot. Start by taking a walk through the beautiful historic center in the early evening. Then, if you have the time, explore other districts just outside the center. You’ll find different and authentic neighborhoods that add a whole new dimension to the city.
Insider tip: If you want to explore the streets of Vienna with a local, get in touch with Vienna Greeters at least two weeks before you arrive – they offer free walking tours through the city.
9. Take a whirl on the giant ferris wheel
Vienna’s famous ferris wheel dates back to 1897, and it’s been delighting both young and old visitors ever since. The wheel offers spectacular views from its 15 spacious cabins, four of which are equipped for a full dining experience.
Insider tip: Plan your trip around sunset to get the most dramatic views of the city and its surrounds.
A trip to Vienna feels like a trip back to a time when music, art, and architecture reigned supreme. Yet it still manages to stay relevant to young and old travellers alike.
Originally published on Eurail.com