Vienna is a historic gem with a modern outlook on life offering a little something for every type of traveller, whether you’re looking to experience historic palaces, scenic countryside hikes, award winning food and drink or exciting nightlife. Vienna really does have it all. Let our local guide Patrick help you plan your perfect Vienna trip with his top picks for what to see and do while you’re in town:
Vienna was home to the infamous Habsburg family, a sometimes glamourous, often insane European dynasty that ruled over an ever-changing structure of overlapping lands and kingdoms across Europe from the 13th century to the 20th. They created a series of pleasure palaces in the city, all of which are well worth a visit. The largest and most opulent is the Schönbrunn Palace, the main summer residence of the family located 15 min drive outside the city, where you can view up to 40 opulent state rooms on the Grand Tour, check out the world’s oldest zoo and stroll around the picturesque palace gardens. The Hofburg Palace in the city centre is a much smaller, yet no less grand affair. This is home to the Spanish Riding School as well as an epic collection of fine Habsburg homeware that you can’t help but gaze at in amazement (there’s a whole room dedicated to gold centrepieces!), plus an exhibition dedicated to Empress Sisi, the most beautiful and misunderstood Habsburg royal.
Our favourite is Türkenschanzpark, a 19th century park that contains a number of rare botanical plants, a pond, multiple playgrounds and a look out tower called Paulinenwarte that offers stunning views across the city. As it’s a bit of a trek from the city centre (20 mins by car, 1 hour on foot), there’s hardly ever any tourists here, but there are plenty of students in the summer months, picnicking, juggling, and playing frisbee; the atmosphere is joyful and relaxed. If you’re looking for a full day of nature-related fun, take yourself off to Lainzer Tiergarten, a nature preserve 45 minutes from the city centre by train (see Oebb for train timetables). The park was originally created by Ferdinand I of Austria in 1561 as a hunting ground for his family but it’s been open to the public since 1919. Plants, animals, guided tours, walking paths and multiple playgrounds should keep you amused for hours.
It’s the best kept secret in the wine world; Austria’s Wachau Valley is producing some of the planet’s best wines. The Grüner Veltliner grape is the star of the show; combine it with soda for a delightful spritz that the locals go crazy for in the summer months. There’s plenty of friendly vineyards to visit and quaint villages to explore, just one hour drive from the city; we love Johan Donabaum’s friendly tasting room (be sure to try his magnificent Riesling dessert wine) and Jager vineyard for pretty views across the vines towards the village and the Danube. And did we mention that the blue Danube ebbs and flows its way around the valley and her vineyards, offering spectacular views that rival that other famous wine mecca; the Rhine. Vienna Urban Adventures can help you organise a magical, wine-filled day in the Wachau Valley with our wine guru Pablo, the most knowledgeable and friendly sommelier in Vienna. Pablo can tailor the tour around you and what you like to drink and there’s an optional stop at a fabulous restaurant to give you a proper taste of authentic Austrian countryside cooking (best spatzle I’ve ever tasted in my life!). Contact us to start planning your best day ever. Or if you fancy a group experience in the city, check out our Wines of Vienna tour, which runs Tues-Sun all year round and offers travellers the chance to taste some of the country’s best wines in some fun and unusual settings.
Still one of Europe’s most famous gardens, a fabulous example of late Baroque garden-style, the Belvedere Gardens are a great place to lose yourself for a few hours. The gardens are free to enter and they also offer some wonderful views of the exquisite Belvedere Palace, which now houses a museum and arguably Austria’s finest art collection, boasting works by Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka.
The Kahlenberg is a hill within the Vienna Woods that offers sweeping views across the countryside towards Vienna. It’s a popular day-tripping location for locals. Great for a hike amongst idyllic scenery, there’s also a (touristy) restaurant with panoramic terrace and a church and a historic tower to admire. You can walk here as part of your hike (approx. 2 hours from city cenre) or take public transport.
Get a glimpse into the private life of a music legend at the Beethoven Museum, situated in the actual house where he used to live. You can view many of his private possessions as you make your way through 6 rooms and a pretty courtyard, all themed around certain periods in his life. Beethoven’s music is carefully curated and played in the background of each room, helping to really immerse you in the man’s life and work as you walk around his former home.
This is sacred ground for movie fans around the world, featuring in one of the all time great classic movies; The Third Man directed by the mighty Orson Welles. If you’re a movie buff, we’d highly recommend a visit to the Third Man Museum while you’re in town which not only celebrates the film but there’s also exhibits dedicated to its creator and his colourful life too. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to see and do at Wiener Prater, the city’s premier entertainment area; the nostalgia-fest that is the world’s oldest amusement park (showcased again rather beautifully, if slightly creepily by 007 in his 1987 outing, The Living Daylights), famous restaurants, miniature railway, planetarium and lots more.
We love the Naschmarkt every day of the week but if you go on a Saturday, you’ll catch the epic Flea Market too which is fascinating to stroll around, even if you’re not in the market for dusty books and ornate antiques. The Naschmarkt is made up of a mouth-watering mix of restaurants, shops, market stalls and street food vendors, it’s the perfect place for breakfast lunch or dinner because there are so many great options to choose from; Austrian, Italian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Chinese, American, Indian, we could go on… Urban Adventures visits the Naschmarkt on our Food, Coffee & Market Morning tour (and we’ll explore other, off the beaten track markets popular with the locals and help you discover the delightful and enlightening world of Viennese coffee culture). We also visit the Naschmarkt on our Good Evening Vienna! night tour too, taking you to different foodie spots amongst the 120 market stalls, including a chocolate tasting to remember…
Actually, it was more like the world’s 8th best chocolate in 2017 but that’s good enough for us and you’ll wonder why it wasn’t higher up the list when you taste one of Zotter’s near-perfect chocolate creations. The pumpkin seed chocolate is like nothing we’ve ever tasted before and their 60% Nicuaguran milk chocolate would probably make the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie but we digress; it’s easy to get distracted when you’re tasting so many wonderful things in a relatively short space of time! Zotter have a little shop at the Naschmarkt (see above) and we usually visit them during Urban Adventures’ Good Evening Vienna! tour. Not only do they create incredible chocolate but they’re also doing a lot of cool things to help the communities where they source their cocoa; they recently produced a limited edition chocolate bar with musical artist Sting to raise awareness for one of their many charitable projects. Zotter chocolate is also stocked in some of the city’s luxurious food emporiums, such as Julius Meinl and for those of you looking to pack light, you can grab a bar at the airport (but the choice of exciting flavours is limited here).
Zum Scwarzen Kameel (meaning ‘The Black Camel’) is a traditional culinary mish mash, part deli, part restaurant, part bar, part patisserie, that offers diners everything they could wish for from an Austrian dining experience; full of flavour local dishes such as beef tafelspitz (the best one we’ve ever eaten was cooked here) and the must-try while you’re in town sachertorte, service with a smile (dressed in an immaculate dinner jacket no less) and knowledgeable sommeliers who know their way around the superb collection of wines the restaurant has in its wine cellar, one of the biggest in the city.
Get to know Vienna with a local by your side on an Urban Adventures Vienna tour and have the Best. Day. Ever!