Vienna, Austria is one of our favorite cities in the world and we are fortunate to travel here often and know it quite well. Vienna is no stranger to tourism as it brings in hordes of tourists from all over the world and the number seems to be increasing every year. There is a wealth of knowledge on Vienna and a visitor can spend days if not weeks touring all the sights. However, if you are a tourist with a limited amount of time, these are the top tourist sights we would recommend. Stay tuned for our upcoming post on seeing Vienna as a local.
Take the Vienna Ring Tram
A great activity to start off a trip to Vienna would be to take the Vienna Ring Tram tour. The inner city of Vienna is surrounded by the Ringstrasse or “ring road.” This beautiful street passes by some of Vienna’s most beautiful and important buildings such as the opera house, Austrian parliament, Imperial Palace, City Hall, and many more. You can take a special yellow tram tour around the whole ring in about 25 minutes. Information in multiple languages is provided via headsets. This provides a wonderful overview of some of Vienna’s most important sights. The tour departs from Schwedenplatz subway station every 30 minutes. More information can be found here.
A more budget friendly option would be to rent a city bike and take the bike path around the ring road. More information about Vienna’s city bike program can be found here.
St. Stephens Cathedral and the Inner City
Vienna’s main landmark is without a doubt St. Stephan’s cathedral. This famous cathedral dominates central Vienna’s skyline and should not be missed. Visitors can enter the cathedral free of charge and even climb many steps up a tower for views across Vienna. Some of Vienna’s most famous streets surround this gothic cathedral.
Hard to snap a good shot with so many tourists!
Kärntner Strasse is a famous pedestrianized shopping street that leads to the Cathedral as well as the even more impressive Graben. Kohlmarkt is the high end-shopping street featuring many famous luxury brands and restaurants.
Vienna’s most famous supermarket, Julius Meinl, is located here and is well worth a visit if you are a serious foodie. This area is by all means the heart of Vienna and should not be missed.
Another sight that absolutely cannot be missed in Vienna is Schönbrunn Palace. This 1,441-room palace is a former imperial summer residence that sits in beautiful gardens. This area is a UNESCO world heritage sight and is one of the most important landmarks in Austria. The palace itself is beautiful with amazing architecture. There are a variety of tours that visitors can take of the palace interior.
The surrounding gardens are beautiful with stunning landscaping. The gardens are also home to the Vienna Zoo, a maze, and a palm house and desert house. It is easy to spend a full day in this area.
The Palm House
There are 2 subway stops serving Schönbrunn Palace on the U4 line. The one most people use is Schönbrunn but we actually prefer the next one called Hietzing. From Hietzing, it is a beautiful walk through the palace gardens to the palace. The area of Hietzing is nice as well. For a classic Viennese café experience, head to Café Dommayer where the famous Austrian composer, Johann Strauss, used to perform.
The dessert on the left is the famous Austrian Sacher Torte…delicious!
The Vienna Prater is a large urban park located in the 2nddistrict of Vienna. It is home to several attractions such as a planetarium, a large football stadium, and the Prater amusement park. The Prater amusement park is one of the oldest in the world and well worth a visit, especially on a Sunday when most shops are closed in Vienna. It is home to another of Vienna’s famous landmarks, the Riesenrad or Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel was constructed in 1897 and was the world’s largest Ferris wheel until 1985.
There are over 250 attractions in the Prater amusement park, both new and historic. The Prater is different than other amusement parks since there is no entrance fee and you only pay for the attractions you want to do. There are also over 60 cafes and restaurants.
We personally love going on the large swing in the middle of the park. The swing takes you high up in the air, which gives you an amazing view of Vienna. One time, while we were up in the air, we saw that a soccer match was about to start and spontaneously decided to follow the crowd once we got off the ride. We enjoyed a great soccer game and had an experience we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t gone on this ride.
View from above
The Austrian National Library
We always enjoy visiting the Austrian National Library. This is not the type of library where you can pop in and check out a book but it is a beautiful historic place that was built in the 1700s. The State Hall of the library features amazing frescoes painted on the ceiling in 1730.
Inside the library
The library is home to over 200,000 valuable books. There are usually 2 to 3 special exhibitions that take place throughout the year. It’s a great place to tuck into if you visit in the winter.
Spanish Riding School
The Spanish Riding School is one of the most famous attractions in Vienna. This historic place, which is located in the Hofburg palace, is a traditional riding school for Lipizzaner horses. At certain times of the year, the Spanish Riding School has equestrian performances showcasing the art of horseback riding for the public that sell out very quickly. It is best to book months in advance. The shows are well worth it and sometimes are paired with other performances such as the Vienna Boys Choir or the Vienna Philharmonic. The horses are beautiful and at times it almost seems as if they are dancing. Truly, it’s worth the money to go and have an amazing evening out. Plus, there are several great restaurants surrounding it that you can really make a nice night out of it.
Sadly, you can’t take any pictures inside the Spanish Riding School. We did try to snag a few pictures, but the pictures turned out blurry, so we’ll have to settle for a picture of the building!
Outside the Spanish Riding School
As previously mentioned, a visitor could be entertained in Vienna for a very long time. There are so many wonderful sights and things to do that it would be difficult to ever get bored. Our above list features some of our favorite touristy things to do but it is by no means complete. If you haven’t yet visited this amazing city, it should be on your list of places to visit where you can hopefully see some of the attractions we listed and discover many more on your own.
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