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13 unmissable attractions in Vienna

These are the attractions in Vienna you absolutely shouldn’t miss, from the Naschmarkt to Amalienbad to the Hofburg

The Hofburg Palace
The Hofburg Palace
By Emma Hughes and Huw Oliver |
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You’ll probably feel like you’re familiar with much of Vienna already. The glittering State Opera, the museums, the grand coffee houses, the confectioners: everything here seems recognisable. But there’s so much more to this charming capital than just the picture-postcard sights and bucket-list things to do. Vibrant and cosmopolitan, Vienna is home to plenty of up-and-coming designers and brims with world-class restaurants, bars and cultural institutions. Whether you’re spending a full week here or only have a few days to see the sights, don’t overlook these brilliant attractions in Vienna.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Vienna

Best attractions in Vienna

1
The Naschmarkt
Photograph: Flickr / Kotomi_

The Naschmarkt

What is it? Running in a long line between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse, Vienna’s iconic open-air market is a foodie paradise. From Austrian specialities like white wine, pickles and cheese to stuffed olives, spices and exotic fruits, it’s all here.

Why go? If you want to taste your way around the city’s diverse culinary heritage, this is the place to do it. Spend a morning wandering up and down, stocking up on goodies to take home – and don’t be shy about accepting samples offered by traders. Pause for an antipasto or piping hot falafel.

2
St. Stephen's Cathedral
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Miguel Mendez

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

What is it? The symbol of the city, no less. Built in the 12th century, St. Stephen’s is the fixed point around which Vienna turns – and if you climb the 343 steps to the top of its mighty Gothic tower, you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views.

Why go? The cathedral’s baroque interior is full of treasures, from bejewelled relics to holy books, as well as the tombs of Viennese luminaries like Emperor Friedrich III and Prince Eugene of Savoy. Don’t miss the catacombs.

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3
Supersense
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Claudia L.

Supersense

What is it? The most stylish one-stop design shop in the city. Housed in an art nouveau townhouse, Supersense calls itself the ‘home of analogue delicacies’: expect to find everything from a working letterpress to hand-cut vinyl, a scent lab and a recording studio.

Why go? It’s half-way between a museum and a design boutique – so you can learn about wet-plate ambrotypes while running off some postcards in the printing press, or test-driving a beautiful typewriter. There’s a cafe selling fabulous coffee and pastries, too.

4
The Sigmund Freud Museum
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Siesta

The Sigmund Freud Museum

What is it? The father of psychoanalysis saw patients and wrote the books that would change the course of history in his apartment on Berggasse, before being forced to flee to England by the Nazis in 1938. Today it’s a thoughtful, beautifully maintained museum dedicated to his life.

Why go? As well as giving fascinating insights into how Freud developed his theories, the museum is a moving window on to Jewish life in Vienna in the 20th century. The displays are accessible and immersive, and the gift shop is a corker, too – how about some Freudian slippers?

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5
Demel
Photograph:Flickr / Adam Fagen

Demel

What is it? One of Vienna’s original salons, Demel has been serving confectionery masterpieces since 1786. Plush ring cakes, cream slices, the richest hot chocolate and strudels galore – if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll have to be dragged out of here.

Why go? It’s worth sticking around for a table for the full experience, but if you’re in a rush order a takeaway slice of Sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake made nearby in the Hotel Sacher and the subject of a fierce feud between it and Demel. Browse the displays of beautifully wrapped chocolates, then head to the back of the shop to watch the master confectioners at work crafting marzipan fruits.

6
Vienna Ring Tram
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Michael Day

Vienna Ring Tram

What is it? Trundling trams are as much of a feature of Viennese life as snowboots and teatime torte. The yellow ones do a full 25-minute circuit of the Ringstrasse boulevard – hop aboard and you’ll be able to spot some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

Why go? It’s the easiest (and most wallet-friendly) way to see the sights and get your bearings. Board at the Schwedenplatz, pop on one of the special headsets and enjoy an audio tour of the route, which takes in the Vienna State Opera, the museums, the Imperial Palace, the Burgtheater and the University of Vienna.

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7
Wiener Riesenrad
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Clark & Kim Kays

Wiener Riesenrad

What is it? You can see Vienna’s giant ferris wheel for miles around. Towering 200ft over the Prater park, it’s a gorgeously gaudy fin-de-siècle landmark, built in 1897 to mark Emperor Franz Joseph’s 50 years on the throne.

Why go? If you’re minibreaking with someone special, watching the sun set over the rooftops and into the Danube from one of the cabins is about as romantic as it gets (you can even book one to yourselves).

8
The Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace

What is it? A century ago Vienna was the centre of a mighty empire. The Hofburg was the home of the Habsburgs until 1918 – one of the largest and grandest palaces in the world, it looks a little like a huge, iced cake. Today you could happily lose yourself here for days.

Why go? If you’ve only got time to visit one attraction in Vienna, make it this. The palace complex houses paintings by the likes of Klimt and Dürer, the Spanish Riding School (home to the dancing Lipizzaner horses), a butterfly house and the Austrian Film Museum. Whewf!

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9
Central Cemetery

Central Cemetery

What is it? A short tram ride from the city centre, the Zentralfriedhof, or Central Cemetery, feels more like a beautifully maintained park than a graveyard. It’s the final resting place of a huge number of Viennese luminaries, and well worth a respectful stroll.

Why go? You can pay your respects to the likes of Strauss, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert (maps and audio guides are available to help you find your way around). It’s worth visiting the Jewish section, too – vandalised by Nazi sympathisers after Austria was annexed, it’s been kept as it was left as a reminder of the horrors of fascism.

10
The Jewish Museum
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Istvan

The Jewish Museum

What is it? The world’s first museum dedicated to Jewish culture, history and religious practices opened in Vienna in 1895. It was closed and looted by the Nazis, but reopened in its current form on Dorotheergasse after extensive renovation in 2011.

Why go? Vienna’s Jewish population was decimated by Nazi rule – some 130,000 fled the country and more than 65,000 were sent to concentration camps (of whom just 2,000 survived). Miraculously, the collections are full of objects that have been carefully handed down the generations, from family photographs to copies of underground resistance newspapers.

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11
Weingut Cobenzl
Photograph: Unsplash

Weingut Cobenzl

What is it? Austria is famous for its fresh, fruity wines – and Vienna’s outskirts are home to a number of the country’s top vineyards. High above the Danube, Weingut Cobenzl boasts 60 hectares of lovingly tended vines, producing everything from Grüner Veltliner to Riesling, and even a couple of unusual reds.

Why go? A guided tour of the winery is a fantastic way to brush up your vinous knowledge. Watch the grapes being pressed, nose around the cellar and finish up with a tasting of six of Cobenzl’s finest vintages.

12
Zuckerlwerkstatt
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Evamari K.

Zuckerlwerkstatt

What is it? If Willy Wonka had been Viennese, this is where you’d have found him. Zuckerlwerkstatt – meaning ‘sugar workshop’ – produces exquisite handcrafted sweets. If you’re travelling with kids they’ll go bananas, but adults will find it just as enchanting.

Why go? As well as being the perfect souvenir stop, you can watch the confectioners working their magic in the demonstration kitchen, creating everything from rock to jellies, lollipops and candy cane. It’s all made using pure Austrian sugar, natural flavouring and plant extracts for colour, and you can call ahead to order personalised candies.

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13
Amalienbad
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Katrin S.

Amalienbad

What is it? An unbelievably gorgeous indoor pool in the 10th district. Built in the 1920s, the Amalienbad blends art deco and art nouveau design to stunning effect (the tiling in the women’s sauna is particularly eye-catching) – run-of-the-mill leisure centre this ain’t.

Why go? For a handful of euros you can treat yourself to a leisurely swim, followed by a full spa experience. Keep an eye on the calendar for the late-night pool parties, which feature top-flight DJs and light installations.

Need more sightseeing inspiration?

Vienna’s skyline
Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do

The 15 best things to do in Vienna

Vienna has topped every quality of life survey going in recent years and it doesn’t take long to work out why. With clean air, a low crime rate and cheap, reliable public transport, tourists can benefit from a trip here as much as the locals.

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