20 great things to do in Vienna

Restaurants, cafés, bars, parks and shops in Europe's classical capital

20 great things to do in Vienna
Edited by David Clack

Looking for things to do in Vienna? Read on for our pick of the city's best museums, galleries, lunch spots, drinking dens and more.

1. Salute the city’s favourite film

The Third Man Private Collection houses one aficionado’s extensive collection of 'Third Man' marginalia and documentation on the aftermath of the war in Vienna. Posters, lobby cards and star portraits from around the world chronicle the movie’s marketing and its unforgettable rogues’ gallery of secondaries. You can see one of Anton Karas’ original zithers and hear the haunting theme tune; also on show are spin-offs such as board games, clocks and lighters. A visit also includes the showing of an excerpt from the film on a 1936 German Ernemann VIIb 35mm projector, the model in use when post-war Viennese audiences shivered through the première in 1949.
4, Pressgasse 25 (586 4872, www.3mpc.net). U4 Kettenbrückengasse. Open 2-6pm Sat; also by appointment. Admission €7.50; €6 reductions; €4 under-16s.

2. Grab a flea market bargain

One of Vienna’s most eclectic markets, the Naschmarkt opens Monday to Saturday. Admire the stalls’ bounty, from buckets of tulips to pickles, wines and plump, purple-flushed figs, stopping for breakfast at Do-An or Tewa. If it’s a Saturday, brace yourself and get here at 7am or earlier, if you can: the bargains at the flea market wait for no man. Alongside the market, look out for the lovely Otto Wagner Houses at nos.38 and 40 – the latter’s tiles embossed with vines and flowers.
4, Linke und Rechte Wienzeile. U1, U2, U4 Karlsplatz. Open 6am-6.30pm Mon-Fri; 6am-5pm Sat.

3. Experience Vienna’s arty trinity

Once the imperial stables, the Museumsquartier is now a lovely spot for lounging and people-watching, or some serious art appreciation. Before you stand three artistic behemoths: the white limestone cube of the Leopold Museum, the Kunsthalle Wien, occupying the old winter riding hall, and the black basalt MUMOK. If you’ve only got the energy for one, make it the Leopold, with its stellar array of Austrian greats and swish, glass-walled café.

4. Stroll through a musical park

The largest of the Ringstrasse parks, the Stadtpark stretches from just east of Schwarzenbergplatz to Stubentor, either side of the Wien river. Located beside Otto Wagner’s Stadtpark U-Bahn station, the main entrance is flanked by superb stone-carved Jugendstil colonnades. Just to the north is the park’s most emblematic building, the neo-Renaissance Kursalon, a venue for rather tacky Strauss concerts. Music is the theme here, and most visitors head for the schmaltzy but nonetheless finely executed gilt statue of Johann Strauss. Scattered around the park, you’ll also find busts of Schubert, Bruckner and Lehár (he of 'The Merry Widow').
Main entrance: Johannesgasse (beside Stadtpark U-Bahn station). U4 Stadtpark, U3 Stubentor/ tram 2. Open 24hrs daily.

5. Discover Viennese vino

The seven square kilometres of vineyards that lie within its boundaries make Vienna the world’s largest wine-growing capital city. The most extensive area is on the northern fringe in districts 16-19, but the highest quality vines lie over the Danube in the 21st district. On balmy summer evenings, join the Viennese for an evening in a Heuriger, one of the scores of rustic wine taverns dotted among the vineyards that skirt the Vienna Woods. The website www.heurigenkalender.at is a useful resource in English that provides up-to-date hours for venues in Vienna and beyond. The further you go, the higher the chances of finding the authenticity and breath-taking views that make a real Heuriger so memorable. The following are particularly recommended: Heuriger Göbel (21, Stammersdorfer Kellergasse 131, 294 8420/0664 2439835), Hirt (19, Eisernenhandgasse 165, 318 9641), Sirbu (19, Kahlenberger Strasse 210, 320 5928) and Zawodsky (19, Reinischgasse 3, 320 7978).

6. Lunch like a local

Vienna is a city of bureaucrats and students, all of whom have to be fed and watered. Inside the city’s hulking ministries and cultural institutions, canteens are open from Monday to Friday – and access to these subsidised salons is generally unrestricted. If you’re on a budget or merely fancy a peek into the underbelly of the Austrian state, here are some central options.

Near Schottentor U-Bahn you can ride a hop-on-hop-off paternoster lift to the top floor of the NIG (1, Universitätsstrasse 7, 406 4594) to a penthouse MENSA with striking views of the Rathaus, Votivkirche and Josefstadt prison. The food is fairly pedestrian, though. In the Innere Stadt, the Musikakademie MENSA (1, Johannesgasse 8, 512 9470) combines historic surroundings, decent main courses and piano practice. Nearby on the Ringstrasse, another MENSA at the Akademie für Angewandte Kunst (Oscar Kokoschka Platz, 2) is a dirt-cheap pre-fab full of hipster art students. Another art school canteen, with a magnificent interior and large beers at €2.20, is the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (1, Schillerplatz 3, 588 16-1166). For basic Austrian dishes, the canteen of the state-run Akademietheater (51444-4740) is pretty faultless. Enjoy a cheap Schnitzel and sautéd potatoes on period Formica tables in the company of stagehands, actors and academics. Superior nosh is on offer at the Minoritenstüberl, the Education Ministry canteen (1, Minoritenplatz 5, 533 5281) where every Wednesday they serve Beuschel, Vienna’s classic offal dish.

7. Baroque your socks off

Located in the Baroque Archbishop’s Palace, the Cathedral and Diocesan Museum can only be truly recommended to devotees of Baroque painting. Highlights are works by Austrian masters such as Anton Kraus, Franz Maulbertsch and Michael Angelo Unterberger. However, there is a hotch-potch of curiosities typical of ecclesiastical museums: the first European portrait on panel, that of Rudolph IV (1360); a Giotto-esque stained-glass window (1340) with Jugendstil ornamentation (restored 1900); and the blackened remnants of the cathedral’s Gothic carved choir stalls, destroyed in a 1945 bombing raid.
1, Stephansplatz 6 (51552-3300, www.dommuseum.at). U1, U3 Stephansplatz. Open 10am- 8pm Tue; 10am-6pm Wed-Sat. Admission €7; €3-€5.50 reductions; €16 family; free under-5s.

8. Snaffle a street snack

Würstelstand (sausage stands) are a ubiquitous sight on Vienna’s streets, dispensing piping-hot sausages and hot dogs. Among the best stands are the Würstelstand am Hohen Markt and the impressively sleek Bitzinger outpost on Albertinaplatz. One delicacy perhaps best left to locals is the Käsekrainer – oozing with cheese, and fondly referred to as
an Eitriger, or pus-stick.

9. Hit the beach (no, really)

The banks of the Danube, either side of the Neue Donau channel, are the nearest Vienna gets to a beach. Take the U1 to Donauinsel and walk until you find a suitable spot. Head downstream for the nude spots, which are marked FKK on maps. Two stops further on the U1, the Alte Donau has paying beach clubs such as the sprawling Gänsehäufel (601 12 8044), which has both swimming pools and beaches, and a peaceful nudist area; take the U1 to Kaisermühlen-Vienna International Centre, then bus 90a, 91a or 92a to Schüttauplatz. On the opposite bank the best bet is the Bundesbad Alte Donau.

10. Get an aerial view

No trip to Vienna is complete without a ride on the 19th-century Riesenrad or giant ferris wheel that features in 'The Third Man'. It’s the only remaining work of British engineer Walter Basset who also built wheels for Blackpool, London and Paris. It was completed in 1897 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Franz Josef. A full circle in one of the 15 wooden gondolas takes a gentle 20 minutes, and at its highest point you are 65 metres (213 feet) up.
2, Prater 90 (729 54 30, www.wienerriesenrad.com). U1 Praterstern, trams 5, N. Open Nov-Feb 10am-8pm daily. Mar-Apr 10am-9.45pm daily. May-Sept 10am-11.45pm daily. Oct 10am-9.45pm daily. Admission €8.50; €3.50-€7.50 reductions.

11. Take a two-wheeled tour

With over 1000 kilometres (620 miles) of bike paths in the city and around, Vienna is superb for cyclists. Popular locales for a bike ride include the Prater, along the Donaukanal and around the Alte and Neue Donau, and on the Donauinsel; you can also circle the Ring on a bike path. For out of town cycling, head west along the Danube, or go mountainbiking in the Vienna Woods.

Citybike is a public rental scheme. Register online (€1 registration fee) or at one of the 61 docking stations, using a credit card; alternatively, buy a Citybike Tourist Card (€2) at Pedal Power (2, Ausstellungsstrasse 3, 729 7234) or Royal Tours (1, Herrengasse 1-3). If you return the bike to another docking station within an hour, the ride is free; after that, a small charge applies.

12. Stomp along to modern tunes

Arguably the finest live music venue in Vienna, Porgy & Bess is far and away the best place to hear modern jazz, blues and world music. Its handsome split-level interior and friendly vibe make an immediate and favourable impression, while the programming is second to none. It also makes fruitful forays outside the jazz world, with recent appearances from the likes of Bonobo and Edwyn Collins.
1, Riemergasse 11 (512 88 11, www.porgy.at). U3 Stubentor/trams 1, 2. Open 7.30pm-late daily. Admission €5-€25.

13. Gobble a guilt-free lunch

As well as offering baskets of organic produce from local sources, deli and record store Tongues operates a waste-not, want-not policy that sees unsold organic veg and produce cooked up into wholesome lunches, sold at remarkably low prices. Soup is €2.20, mains a mere €2.80; not surprisingly, they’re often sold out later in the afternoon.
6, Theobaldgasse 16 (236 9291, www.tongues.at). U2 Museumsquartier. Open 11am-9pm Mon-Fri; 11am-6pm Sat.

14. Take a Freudian trip

Opened in 1971, the Sigmund Freud Museum is set in the apartment where Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, lived and worked from 1898 until 1938, when he was forced into exile by the Nazis. You’re offered a guide to the exhibits in a choice of languages, then let loose to explore; if you have any questions, staff are extremely helpful. Photos, letters, first editions and the ethnic bric-a-brac Freud so assiduously collected are displayed in glass cases, while one room shows 8mm films of Freud and family. Other items, such as a photo of the house daubed with swastikas, are more chilling.
9, Berggasse 19 (319 1596, www.freud-museum.at). U2 Schottentor/tram 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, D. Open Oct-June 9am-5pm daily. July-Sept 9am-6pm daily. Archive, library by appt. Admission €7; €4.50-€5.50 reductions; free under-12s.

15. Experience chocolate heaven

Go to chocolate emporium Xocolat, in the stone arches of the Ferstel passage, for the creations of Catalan chocolatier Enric Rovira, aromatic Californian Scharffen Berger and Austrian brand Zotter. In the 9th district, Xocolat-Manufaktur is a boutique and workshop, where you can watch chocolatiers at work and inhale the heady aromas. Workshops (€75) are offered by appointment, led by chef Christian Petz or pastry chef Thomas Scheiblhofer.
1, Freyung 2 (Palais Ferstel) (535 4363, www.xocolat.at). U3 Herrengasse. Open 10am- 6.30pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat; 10am-5pm Sun.

16. Get on the street art trail

The passageways of the MuseumsQuartier are home to changing art installations, covering comics, typography, sound art and street art. On the bridge that leads to Spittelberg, the Street Art Passage is particularly noteworthy, featuring a permanent piece by French artist Invader, a temporary artwork and a vending machine selling copies of street art magazine Betonblumen (‘concrete blooms’), designed by the featured artist.

17. Visit the oldest zoo in the world

Built on the site of Franz Stephan’s royal menagerie (1752), on the western side of the gardens, the Tiergarten is the world’s oldest zoo. The cages are laid out radially around the 18th-century central octagonal pavilion (once the imperial family’s breakfast room), while many of the original Baroque buildings and cages are still in use, alongside more modern enclosures. Attractions include a polarium and rainforest house, but the Giant Pandas are the stars of the show – especially after Fu Hu was born in August 2010.
877 9294, www.zoovienna.at. Open Nov-Jan 9am-4.30pm daily. Feb 9am-5pm daily. Mar, Oct 9am-5.30pm daily. Apr-Sept 9am-6.30pm daily. Admission €14; €6 children; free under-3s.

18. Meet the city’s modern art masters

What looks like a smart shop front is in fact the entrance to Georg Kargl Fine Arts – a deceptively large sky-lit basement space. Kargl is a major player in the Viennese art world, both as a personality and for his work at the now-defunct Galerie Metropol. He exhibits seriously saleable art by the likes of Elke Krystufek, Inés Lombardi, Herbert Hinteregger, Mark Dion, Thomas Locher and Cerith Wyn Evans. Younger artists are shown in next door’s BOX, a bijou but beautiful space designed by prized American artist Richard Artschwager.
4, Schleifmühlgasse 5 (585 4199, www.georgkargl.com). Tram 62, 65/bus 59a. Open 11am-7pm Tue, Wed, Fri; 11am-8pm Thur; 11am-4pm Sat.

19. Drop in at Mozart’s

Mozart’s only remaining Viennese residence reopened as a museum on 27 January 2006, the day of his 250th birthday, and is known locally as the Figarohaus (he wrote The Marriage of Figaro here). Mozart lived on the first floor from 1784 to 1787, reputedly his happiest (and most prosperous) years in the city. The museum offers a thoroughly documented portrait of Mozart’s years in Vienna, with numerous drawings and paintings of the clan, original sheet music, letters and musical instruments and a host of interactive audio-visuals; most of his personal effects are in his home town of Salzburg, however.
1, Domgasse 5/Schulerstrasse 8 (512 1791, www.mozarthausvienna.at). U1, U3 Stephansplatz. Open 10am-7pm daily. Admission €9; €3-€7 reductions; €18 family

20. Meet the rising stars of classical music

Given the city’s prestigious classical alumni, talented young musicians come from all over the world to study at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, which runs an enormous array of concerts and performances around the city to showcase their talents. Consult www.mdw.ac.at for the packed schedule of events, some of which are free.

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By Cara - Mar 10 2015

Your list could use an update, a lot of things here are wrong. The Paternoster at the NIG for example has been gone for 10 years.

By Amy - Jan 5 2015

Thank you for a wonderful list of places to visit in Vienna! I was looking for some alternatives to operas, city halls, etc. I found several places that are now on my list!

By Thomas - Oct 25 2014

As a founder I have to recommend PolaWalk (It is also the #3 activity on TripAdvisor). Explore Vienna with a local and through the lens of an original Polaroid camera. Create your own unique photo souvenir from Vienna. To learn more check www.polawalk.com

By silia - Oct 21 2014

I would like to share with you my Vienna tips as an insider:


By Ralph Maver - Sep 18 2014

I am very impressed with all the things to do in Vienna - traditional yet fun. Doing lunch like a local as in item 6 is what appeals to me most. When in Rome...
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By lori - Sep 16 2014

going to Vienna soon, can't wait!

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Shopping malls in Vienna and affordable hotels

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By Maria Lígia Ribas - Jan 9 2013

I'm planning to stay in Vienna by mid May, so it will very helpful to follow your suggestions. I'll also print Time Out Prague and Budapest for May as well. Thank you.