Vienna, the capital of Austria, is bursting with music, architecture, history, and art. The city has played host to a huge number of famous faces over the centuries, from Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Franz Joseph to Johann Strauss and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, many of whom still influence the vibrant city today.
As well as its exceptional roots and culture, Vienna also has a thriving food and wine scene that blends the traditional dishes that have been served up for generations with creative, modern ideas that are sure to impress!
Its staggeringly beautiful buildings, many pedestrian zones, and plenty of indoor and outdoor Vienna activities make this enchanting city a fantastic place to visit at any time of year. From festive holiday markets in the winter to epic cultural and music festivals in the summer, there’s always something exciting going on in Vienna.
With so many amazing activities to choose from, you might have a hard time knowing where to begin. To help you out, we’ve created a list of the absolute best things to do in Vienna. Add these things to your Vienna bucket list, and you’ll have an incredible time exploring one of Europe’s most magical and musical cities!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things to do in Vienna, Austria
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The 15 Best things to do in Vienna
1. Have Your Food Delivered by Rollercoaster
The first restaurant in the world where servers are replaced by rollercoaster tracks and bartenders are replaced by robots, a visit to the Rollercoaster Restaurant is one of the coolest things to do in Vienna. Ideally located in the center of Prater Park, this one-of-a-kind dining venue is a great place to grab something to eat after a day spent on rides.
The service here is entirely contactless. You order, customize, and pay for your drinks and food via a tablet at your table. A flashy robot then mixes your drink, straps it onto the rollercoaster, and sends it off to your table! The same goes for your food – except it’s made by talented chefs in a kitchen hidden away so as to not spoil the magic!
Unique food service, thumping dance music, and flashing neon lights all make an evening at the Rollercoaster Restaurant one you’ll definitely never forget.
2. Explore the Lavish Schönbrunn Palace
One of the most beautiful Baroque complexes in Europe, Schönbrunn Palace was once the summer home of the royal Habsburgs. Today it’s one of the top Vienna attractions that invites you to discover how some of the richest and most esteemed people lived centuries ago.
Up to 40 rooms that played host to the likes of President Kennedy, Napoleon, and Mozart are available to view. They’ve been kept in pristine condition just like they were back in the day.
Make sure you see the Bergl Rooms. They’re on the ground floor and are truly spectacular, with their impressive murals, which took around nine years to complete!
If you’re short on cash, you can explore the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens for free. Incredibly alluring, whichever time of year you visit, these gardens are a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and are a wonderful place for a relaxing walk.
Stroll past the lawns, and you’ll see almost one mile of tree-lined avenues, landscaped flowerbeds, imitation ruins, and bubbling fountains. If you’re lucky, you might even see a few red squirrels!
3. Have Fun at the Prater Amusement Park
When Vienna sightseeing gets to be too much for you, let loose at the Prater Amusement Park. Guaranteed to bring back nostalgia, this traditional theme park is home to classic fairground-style rides, such as a ghost train, bumper cars, and a pirate ship.
To make sure you don’t get bored, the park has introduced a handful of new, more modern rides over the past few years, too, including a 5D cinema, catapult-style rollercoaster, and indoor rollercoaster.
One of Vienna’s most emblematic landmarks can be found here – the giant Ferris wheel. Standing over 200 feet tall, the Ferris wheel provides you with incredible views all across the city and out over the Danube River. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, you can reserve one of the cabins all for yourself and use it for a cocktail party, a romantic dinner, or even a wedding!
Riding rollercoasters can be tiring work, which is why it’s a good thing there are so many food options at the Prater Amusement Park. Here you’ll find countless restaurants, beer gardens, and food stalls selling everything from Vienna sausage and German beer to burgers and pasta.
4. Marvel at St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Stephansdom (known as St. Stephen’s Cathedral in English) is one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture in all of Vienna. Construction of the Gothic tower began in the 12th century, and today the massive structure is 112 feet wide and 350 feet tall. The monument is also home to the Pummerin – the second-largest free-swinging chimed church bell in Europe.
The roof is one of the most amazing things about St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It boasts 230,000 glazed tiles carefully placed to form all kinds of shapes and patterns. On the south side, you can see a double-headed eagle, and on the north side, you can see two eagles carrying coats of arms that represent the City of Vienna and the Republic of Austria.
The outside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is so beautiful that you don’t even have to step inside if you don’t feel like it. But if you do, you’ll be greeted with impressive altars and side chapels, relics decorated with precious stones, and sarcophagi where several important people were laid to rest. For the change in your pocket, you can climb to the top of the tower and check out the fantastic city views.
5. Attend the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna Festival)
One of the best things to do in Vienna at the start of summer is take part in the Wiener Festwochen. This annual event (also known as the Vienna Festival) takes place over several weeks between May and June and injects a whole new lease on life into the city.
More than 30 different events take place throughout the festival, from music concerts and theatrical performances to lively parades and dance recitals. In addition to many local performers, remarkably talented people from all around the world also take part, making the Vienna Festival one of the biggest and best multicultural events of the year. Events take place at all hours of the day and night, with multiple showings, so you can easily fit everything into your itinerary.
The program changes every year, so you’ll need to check for the latest version to see what’s happening on your dates. While you need to buy tickets to see most performances, a handful of them are totally free to enjoy.
6. Visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
On a rainy day, one of the best things to do in Vienna is to embrace your artistic side at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. The city’s art history museum, this magnificent gallery was originally designed to house the imperial family’s huge collections. Today, it’s open to the public and considered to be one of the most distinguished art galleries in the world.
Here you can see several famous works you’ve probably already heard of: Raphael’s Madonna in the Meadow, Velazquez’s Infanta paintings, and Vermeer’s The Art of Painting. There’s also a great number of pieces from Rembrandt, Rubens, Tintoretto, and Titian. Don’t miss the Near Eastern and Egyptian collections – they contain all kinds of glamorous treasures from millennia ago!
Another highlight of the museum is the Kunstkammer Vienna (Chamber of Art and Wonders), where you’ll find valuable pieces that the Habsburgs once owned. It contains some of the most precious pieces of artwork from the Baroque era, Renaissance, and Middle Ages.
7. Sample Authentic Wiener Schnitzel
Trying a genuine wiener schnitzel is one of the top things to do in Vienna! This classic dish is simple but delicious.
A delicate piece of veal is hammered flat, covered in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until perfectly crispy and golden brown. For a true Viennese experience, enjoy your wiener schnitzel with a side of Austrian potato salad.
If you’d rather avoid veal, you can still enjoy wiener schnitzel. Most restaurants serve at least the original veal version and one alternative – often pork, but sometimes beef or chicken. You’ll struggle to find a vegetarian or vegan option, but it’s not impossible!
For regular wiener schnitzel, we recommend Schnitzelwirt. They dish up huge schnitzels, which are literally larger than the plate they’re served on.
They also come in tons of varieties, including a super delicious one stuffed with ham and cheese. For vegetarian and vegan options, check out Landia. This restaurant dishes up two types of meat-free schnitzel – one made with celery root and one with seitan.
8. Step Back in Time at the Hofburg Palace
Also called the Imperial Palace, the Hofburg Palace is so large it’s considered to be a city within a city. Spanning 59 acres, the grand palace includes 18 building collections, 19 courtyards, and 2,600 individual rooms. With so much to explore, you can easily spend a whole day here!
The Hofburg Palace was originally the seat and residence of the Habsburg emperors, but it has since been transformed into a spectacular tourist attraction home to various art museums and the Spanish Riding School. There are three primary areas to explore: the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and the Silver Collection.
The Imperial Apartments need to be seen to be believed – that’s how incredible they are. Here you can explore the residences of some of the most important Viennese people, which have hardly been altered in hundreds of years. Dedicated to Empress Elisabeth (nicknamed Sisi), the Sisi Museum features 300 personal artifacts, allowing you to see what life was like as a 19th-century aristocrat.
Finally, the Silver Collection is where you can admire more than 7,000 unique treasures. Keep an eye out for the stunning ruby service collection that was used to cater to up to 140 guests during grand events.
9. Sample Delicious Freebies at the Naschmarkt
Vienna’s most famous market, Naschmarkt, has been thriving since the 16th century. These bustling streets are a fantastic place to pick up fresh, seasonal ingredients, as well as nibble tempting freebies along the way.
Naschmarkt started off selling humble bottles of milk, but over the years, it developed into a remarkable marketplace where you can find almost any type of Austrian food you can think of. From fresh fruits and vegetables, oven-warm bread, and drool-worthy baked goods to colorful bunches of flowers, locally-produced white wine, and some of the best coffee you’ll taste in your life – it can all be found here!
In addition to local classics, the 120 stalls that make up Naschmarkt also provide ingredients from around the world. Treat yourself to everything from pasta from Rome to spices from Delhi. If the free samples you pick up along the way simply aren’t cutting it, you’ll find many cafes and restaurants dotted throughout the market where you can pause and enjoy something a bit more filling.
10. Hang Out at the MuseumsQuartier
With so many attractions in such a small area, exploring the MuseumsQuartier is one of the must-do things in Vienna. As the name suggests, this neighborhood is best known for its many museums. The famous Leopold Museum, where you’ll find pieces from Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, and the Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna (MUMOK), home to 10,000 contemporary and modern pieces, are two of the most popular.
But art galleries aren’t the only thing MuseumsQuartier has to offer. Here you’ll also find the family-friendly Zoom Kindermuseum, Libelle viewing platform, and the frei_raum Q21 exhibition space. As an added bonus, this area hosts various events throughout the year, including the fantastic Wiener Festwochen.
Even if you’re not in the mood to go anywhere, the MuseumsQuartier is an amazing place to wander. There are countless hidden passageways with art displays decorating the walls, as well as cafes, kiosks, bars, and restaurants where you can take a break.
11. Watch the Ballet of the White Stallions
Not into ballet? Think again!
At the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, you can see the world-famous Lipizzan horses perform the Ballet of the White Stallions. After years of training and incredible trust between each boisterous stallion and its trainer, the dazzling Lipizzans are ready to put on a show.
The most prestigious events held at the Spanish Riding School are the gala performances. But these can be really difficult to see as tickets can easily sell out months in advance. Thankfully, there are several other ways you can see the horses perform.
The second-best thing is to purchase a ticket for a Lipizzaner Special Vienna, which is similar to a mini gala performance. You’ll get to see the horses and their trainers show off their best skills in a compact program. Alternately, you can grab a ticket for a training session for the chance to watch the horses develop their skills in time with classical Viennese music.
12. See a Spectacular Outdoor Opera
Vienna is one of the best places in the world to watch an opera performance. For a truly unique experience, visit the city during the summer and watch an outdoor opera for free!
Vienna’s Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper) is spectacular, but nothing beats standing on the city’s bustling streets on a warm evening and watching some of the most incredible opera singers perform with the stars twinkling above you.
The operas performed inside the Opera House are projected onto a huge screen outside the building for everyone to see. There are a few benches available, but if you want to be sure of a seat, get there early.
You can check the timetable by visiting the Opera House’s website. Around 200 to 300 people show up for each performance, but the screen is so large you should still get a great view, no matter what time you show up.
13. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Sachertorte
If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat and you’re wondering what to do in Vienna, head for the nearest cafe that serves sachertorte. One of the most emblematic desserts in the city, sachertorte is a dense chocolate cake with layers sandwiched together with apricot jam, all topped with a smooth chocolate coating. It tastes amazing and is the perfect thing to give you a boost of energy while discovering the best sights in Vienna.
Practically every cafe, coffeehouse, and restaurant in the city serves up sachertorte, but if you’re looking for an exceptional indulgence, visit Cafe Sacher. This upmarket cafe bakes its sachertorte using the exact same recipe that was used in 1832 when the dessert was originally created.
Cafe Central is a great alternative. This famous cafe is where Trotsky and Freud used to stop by for a coffee break. Today, it’s where you’ll find possibly the very best sachertorte in all of Austria!
14. Explore Vienna’s Bustling Christmas Markets
One of the most magical times of year to visit Vienna is around the holidays because of the city’s whimsical Christmas markets. These festive pop-up shopping streets appear all over Vienna from mid-November until Christmas Day. Afterward, they evolve into New Year’s markets and continue until early January.
Each Christmas market is so incredible that it’s almost impossible to name the best one. The City Hall Christmas Market is the biggest and most famous, with more than 150 stands selling Christmas goodies.
It also hosts choir performances and offers themed workshops for children, teaching them how to make Christmas cookies and festive candles. The best part is the huge ice rink, which allows you to skate under the stars.
For a traditional Viennese experience, visit the Christmas Village in the Former General Hospital. This market is made up of around 60 alpine hut stalls with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Here you’ll find all the best Austrian foods to try, from perfectly-cooked meats and cheese fondue to baked potatoes and roasted chestnuts.
15. Attend a Ritzy Viennese Ball
Attending a Viennese ball is one of the most fun things to do in Vienna if you visit during winter. The city’s ball season begins around mid-November and goes on until February, giving you plenty of time to get organized. There are two types of Viennese ball – standard and elegant.
Standard Viennese balls are black tie events when you and your dancing partner can watch a glamorous opening ceremony before taking to the dancefloor to carry out beautiful waltzes and other traditional dances. Elegant Viennese balls are white-tie events, which are a little more prestigious than the standard balls.
Both balls usually include a lavish buffet meal to enjoy after you simply can’t dance another step. And with most balls beginning at around 9 pm and not ending until 5 am, you’ll definitely be hungry for some hearty Austrian food.
Whichever type of ball you choose to take part in, you’ll have a great time. Practice a few dances at home, pack your fanciest clothes, and get ready for a night you’ll never forget!